Leia Bell always knew she wanted to do art but she didn’t know how to make it a career. “Luckily, my parents were really supportive,” she recalls. “They didn’t tell me I needed to do some other kind of ‘real job.’”
After graduating from the University of Utah with a degree in printmaking, her now husband, Phil Sherburne, suggested she start printing posters for his music venue, Kilby Court. He helped her set up a screen printing studio and she began to create posters for all the shows.
“It was not only an advertisement, but it was a cool way to display art without getting into a gallery,” she says. “We just put them around town, and it snowballed from there. I fell into it by accident.”
Leila describes her art as illustrative and cartoon-like. “I simplify things,” she says. “I draw characters using the least amount of lines possible to get the point across. I use thick, black lines, like a coloring book. It’s how I see things; when I look at something I’m going to draw, I see the lines.”
Drawing inspiration from her own life, Leia began by depicting young adults, but once she and Phil began having children, she started drawing animals with personified child-like characteristics relatable to children. “It has become more childlike as I’ve gotten older,” she says. Every morning, she draws art on the lunch bags of her three boys, ages eight to thirteen, fulfilling their personal requests, from animals to movie characters. “But now that my kids are getting older, I may shift again. My art is basically the story of my life.”
However, working 60 hours a week at a poster and framing shop she and her husband opened in Salt Lake City has left her little time for creativity in recent years. Moreover, her website was stolen by a hacker demanding money to return her site.
But instead of allowing circumstances to derail her passion, she’s using them as an excuse to reinvent herself. “It’s a great way for me to start over,” she says. “I’ve been doing these rock posters for so long, and now I’m ready to move on and do something different with my art. I want a fresh start. Now that the business is taking off and we have employees who can handle some things, it’s easier to feel creative.”
The timing couldn’t be better.
“It’s a wonderful time to be a self-employed artist, since you don’t have to necessarily get into galleries. Anyone can do it these days because of the Internet.”But she cautions that artists have to really stand out to get noticed.
“If it’s your passion, pursue it,” she recommends. “If you don’t have enough time for all you want to do, if your brain is just swimming with ideas and you can’t get them all out, then you should definitely pursue art. However, if you have difficulty coming up with things to do, then it probably isn’t for you.”
Leia’s work can be found at her store, Signed and Numbered, located at 2320 S. West Temple.