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Artist Spotlight: Erin Lefler

I first came across Erin, when BBC America shared a piece of art that Erin did on their official instagram. It was a picture she created of Bill Potts from the television series Doctor Who. But I didn’t really start to pay attention to Erin, who is better known by her handle @butternut_gouache, until the news broke about who was cast as the 13th Doctor. I was writing an article on the fan’s reactions to the news.  I shared a piece of art work that she made in tribute to the first woman to be cast as The Doctor. At that point I took the time to really check out her page. I fell in love. Her art work included so many of the fandoms that I loved. From Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy to Doctor Who. She even seemed to share my love for Taylor Swift and great fashion.  I have shared her art as part of several different Fan Art Friday posts, that we host weekly on our blog. And since we had featured her art so often,  I figured it was time to get to know her a little better and share her story as well as her art with our audience.

Tell us about yourself. 
Hi there! My name is Erin Lefler, and I’m a New York based freelance character designer and illustrator. I’m an all around nerd, so a lot of the times when I’m not doing illustration and character design work, you can usually find me doing fan art or cosplay!

How long have you been making art and how did you get started?

Oh that’s a tough one! I can’t put my finger exactly when I started making art, but I’ve been drawing for pretty much as long as I remember. As soon as I was able to pick up a pencil, I just doodled in pretty much anything I could. But I started really taking it seriously when I met a Disney fine artist by the name of Greg McCoullgh, and he encouraged me to keep drawing. I was really thinking of giving up at that point with my art, so if it wasn’t for his encouragement I don’t think I’d be where I am today with art.

What tools do you use to create your art?

Well I do most of my art digitally, but when I do paintings I use gouache paint! It’s by far one of my favorite mediums. I also have been getting into doing ink drawings, in preparation for inktober which I’m so excited to participate in again this year. When I’m out and about I use my iPad and Wacom stylus as well, which allows me to do digital art as well!

What is it that inspires a design?

Oh just about anything I lay my eyes on! I find life so inspiring! There’s so many beautiful things in life, that it’s hard not to find inspiration from it! A lot of the times I’ll just type the words ‘people’ or ‘fashion’ on Pinterest or google and I typically will combine some photos I find to make a piece. Or sometimes I’ll just draw people I see out and about as practice. Cosplay is also a very huge inspiration for me. I love finding different cosplayers and drawing them. Also music is VERY key for inspiring me. More often then not when I’m working, you’ll find me with over the ear headphones or my laptop playing playlists that I create for each piece. It really really helps me get inspired for sure.

How long does it take to make one of your creations?

That typically depends on how many things I’m drawing in the piece. But normally, it takes me around 3-5 hours to do one piece.

What has been the reaction to your designs been like?

Oh the reactions have been the best! I just love getting to see and hear how happy my art has made people. I’ve had people tell me that my art has made them so happy that they’ve made it their phone screens, that they were so touched by a piece I’ve done that they’ve started crying, and it’s things like that that really make my work worth it.

You have a website that showcases your art and where people can purchase your art, what lead you to put up your website?

I always wanted to have a place where I could keep my art organized, like a bit of a portfolio. So that led me to sitting down and completely coding my own website. And I always get asked about owning a piece I’ve done, so that led me to adding a shop where people could get their own print of whatever piece I’ve done.

What are your hopes for your art and yourself in the future?

Well first, I hope I get to keep doing this for as long as I can. It’s been one thing that’s brought me great joy, and I hope I never stop getting to do it.

Do you have any highlights from your artistic career so far?

Oh I have several! One of my very favorites, is getting to do sketch cards for topps Star Wars Episode VIII Sets. I grew up watching Star Wars so it’s been a childhood dream to get to do something like this. And now that it’s happening, it feels so unreal! Another thing that’s been a real highlight for me is having some of my favorite actors and actresses reposting my art on their social media accounts, and even getting to give some of my art to them in person. I never ever expect that my art will get reposted by an actor or actress, but when It does, I kinda fangirl! I mean it’s really really cool, and I just feel so honored that they actually took the time to look at it!

Are you interested in other types of art?

Oh their are so many different types of art that peak my interest, but the one that REALLY interests me is paper cutting art! I’m trying to do some paper cutting pieces, and it really requires a TON of patience. So hopefully I’ll be able to share some paper cutting pieces with you all soon!

Are there other makers who inspire you?

Oh there’s so many, it’s hard for me to list them!!! But if I had to name a few, I’d definitely say that Brittany Lee, Mary Blair, Liana Hee, and Lorelay Bove have been HUGE inspirations for me. I absolutely adore their work, and they all are such lovely ladies who have helped pioneered girls being in the animation and art industry. Another favorite of mine, I’d say is Glen Keene. He just is an absolute Wonder with concept art (and art in general!) and he has got to be one of my all time favorite artists.

What would you say to someone who is first starting out as an artist? What advice do you have from them?

Good question! I think the best advice I could give is never give up, draw everyday, love what you do, and do it for the right reason. So many people today just do what they do for the likes or the comments, and if they don’t get what their hoping they give up on it. Or when people put them down about doing what they love, they give up. DON’T!!! One of my favorite artists is Vincent Van Gogh. And one of the reasons is because Vincent Van Gogh was hated when he was alive. People mocked him, and yelled at him, just because of what he painted. They said his paintings were rubbish. But he kept on painting because it was what he loved. He never gave up, despite the hate and the anger thrown his way. And now, Vincent Van Gogh is one of the most widely known artists! His work is featured in museums such as the Louvre, the Guggenheim, and he even has his own museum! If he had given up, so many beloved paintings would disappear from these museums. The people who mocked him, well they aren’t even known by name today. So yeah, people will always have something to say about what you do. But DO NOT give up on your art. If you love what you’re drawing, that’s all that matters! If others like it too that’s just an added bonus! And do it for the right reason. Don’t do it for the likes. It’ll just get you discouraged if you do it for that reason. And finally, draw everyday. It’ll give you great practice and will help you to improve little by little. And don’t think it has to be perfect. That’s the great thing about art, each persons art is their own perfect. So don’t compare yourself to others. Practice everyday. Don’t do it for the likes. And love what you do! I think that is the best advice I can give to anyone just starting out as an artist. That advice was given to me when I first started and I think it’s what’s kept my focus in the right place with my art.


Monica Duarte

Born and raised under the California sun. Monica can be found around the Southern California comic book and pop culture convention scene. She can usually be seen either behind the lens of her camera or in cosplay. Lover of all things geeks but especially Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Star Wars and Star Trek.