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KUED's online series exploring creativity

Illustrating for Children

“Since I was little I was taught to entertain myself. My parents were busy working, and so drawing was always there as my friend,” recalls Leo. “And I get really amused drawing the simplest thing. I can be stuck with that drawing for a long time.”

Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Leo moved to New York City 25 years ago to pursue a career in graphic design. Since then his work has appeared in The New Yorker, Wired, Esquire,The New York Times, and The Atlantic. He has also done work for Nickelodeon, Nobrow, Penguin, Random House, Swatch, ESPN, Hasbro, American Greetings, Coca-Cola, Facebook and more.

“Fast-forward to when I became a father, I realized that it was really necessary to tell good stories to children," Leo says, "and I started getting involved.” His first children’s book, Otis and Rae and the Grumbling Splunk, was a collaboration between him and his wife Laura, recalling a moody skunk who would frequent their yard. He has gone on to illustrate, collaborate and/or write five additional children’s books including Jackrabbit McCabe and the Electric Telegraph, Goldfish on Vacation, and Islandborn.

In 2012 he was asked to illustrate a new edition of the Colombian classic El Libro Magico De Pombo (The Magical Book of Pombo), which is a collection of fables written at the turn of the 20th century by one of Colombia’s most famous poet, Rafael Pombo. “These fables became the most important thing to read as a child in Colombia, and it went on for generations and generations,” says Leo. Composed of about 114 illustrated pages and spreads, the new edition of The Magical book of Pombo was launched at the 2012 International Book Fair in Bogotá, where it became the #1 best-seller of children's publication.

“It’s incredibly time consuming,” Leo says of illustrating children’s books. “And sometimes, economically, you might think, ‘hmm, is this the right thing that I should be doing?’ but the payoff is terrific.”

To see more of Leo’s work visit his website, Studio Espinosa, as well as his Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages.