Leo Espinosa is a freelance illustrator and designer from Bogotá, Colombia. His illustrations have graced the pages of magazines and children’s books earning recognition from American Illustration, Communication Arts, Pictoplasma, 3×3, and the Society of Illustrators.
Growing up in Colombia, Espinosa drew all the time, like many others in his family; his great-great-grandfather was a painter (who while fighting for the revolution in Colombia would paint many famous generals), his father was an architect and mother was an art teacher. His mother’s varied artistic endeavours and work ethic were a big influence on him.
He studied graphic design and began working as an art director in advertising, which he continued after he moved to New York. But he really wanted to give illustration a try, so he quit his job, rented a studio with another graphic designer and started a career as a freelance illustrator. He put out promotional materials and submitted his work to illustration directories, getting his work under the noses of art directors. He worked for the better part of a decade in editorial illustration for clients including The Wall Street Journal, Time, Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Fortune, and Fast Company.
In 2004, he created Studio Espinosa in partnership with his wife, Laura (who’s also a designer). Their goal was to have a stronger presence in the licensing arena by developing ideas that had been circulating in their brains for years. Studio Espinosa has created children’s books, worked on animations and designed an entire product range with Coca-Cola.
In 2012, Espinosa illustrated El Libro Magico De Pombo (The Magical Book of Pombo), which compiles popular fables written by one of Colombia’s most famous poets, Rafael Pombo. These fables are deeply embedded in Colombian culture, with many generations growing up reading them. The book was one of the largest and most demanding projects of Espinosa’s career. Putting all his heart into the project, in less than three months he illustrated about 114 spreads and full pages. The Magical book of Pombo launched at the 2012 International Book Fair in Bogotá and made it to the fair’s top 10 list, competing with adult literature.
If I love a piece of art I’m doing, then it’s likely that I’m doing it right. First there is the process of doing it, but second there is the expectation of what is going to happen when somebody else sees it.
— Leo Espinosa
Last year, Espinosa collaborated with Lucy Margaret Rozier on the tall tale picture book, Jackrabbit McCabe and the Electric Telegraph. Espinosa brings the race between man and machine to life with joyful illustrations reminiscent of Golden Age children’s books.
Espinosa has given lectures and workshops at schools and institutions including Parsons School of Design, Pratt Institute and The Leonardo Museum of Science and Art. And since 2011 has served as faculty member at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Nowadays, Studio Espinosa is mostly Leo with the occasional collaboration with Laura. He divides his time between some editorial, design, and animation projects, with the majority devoted to children’s books.