Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

Permalink to Chirp – Summer, Anniversary Issue

Chirp – Summer, Anniversary Issue

Chirp is 20 years old and I have illustrated a story in its anniversary issue this summer!
It’s about a cute little seagull. Check it out, it’s available now!


Permalink to Almost Done! – Book Two and Three in the On My… Series

Almost Done! – Book Two and Three in the On My… Series

After On My Walk being a favourite of many toddlers and parents in- and outside of Vancouver, Tradewind Books has decided to publish the sequels On My Bike and On My Skis.
Both books will be out this Fall! Kari-Lynn Winters and I are beaming with joy. Now the images are in the hands of the amazing Elisa Guiterrez, who will for sure add her magic!
Here is a sneak peak of some of the illustrations from the books.

sCover_Bike copy

spread3 copy

spread8 copy

spread11 copy

Cover copy

spread3 copy

spread9 copy

spread12 copy

Permalink to The Last Year and a Bit

The Last Year and a Bit

My last year was filled with a variety of fun projects and creative endeavours and with great people to work with in different settings. I was so busy that I never got to make note of it on the blog…

The Knowledge Network

My full-time job for a year was to replace the Art Director at British Columbia’s Knowledge Network while she was on maternity leave. Although I was challenged to work regular hours in an office setting, I ended up really liking it! From previous engagements there I knew I would be surrounded by very talented, friendly people and it was such a great experience to get to see them every day. I was lucky to work on diverse projects – my favourite being the development of a streaming app for the Knowledge Network’s children’s channel Knowledge Kids. After its launch, the app quickly became Canada’s most successful app for Kids in the itunes store and we were a very proud team.
To find the free app, search for Knowledge Kids Go in the apple or google app store.


I Love You One to Ten – Groundwood Books

I Love You One to Ten was published by Toronto’s Groundwood Books in September of 2015. It was a pleasure working with the publisher Sheila Barry and I am sure hoping for a repeat.


Prinzessin Piepenbrink – Arena Verlag

While working at the Knowledge Network, I was finishing-up an illustration project with the Arena Verlag in Wuerzburg, Germany. The book Prinzessin Piepenbrink und der Fuerchterlich Nette Drache became available in January 2016. It’s a fun read for German-reading first graders. Available in German book stores or on Amazon.


Chirp Magazine

Also available since January is the new Chirp Magazine with a Dino Day ABC written and illustrated by me.


Permalink to New Work – I Love You One to Ten

New Work – I Love You One to Ten

Today I am pleased to announce that another project is finished – at least from my end. In Fall 2015, ‘I Love You One to Ten’ written by Caroline Adderson, illustrated by me, will be published by Groundwood Books in Toronto. So now it’s time for the book designer to apply his magic and for the book to be printed.

Here is a little write-up:

In this poem addressed to a young child, author Caroline Adderson outlines the ten things a mother loves about her little one. From his scaley elbows and knees all the way to his twitchy tail, every inch of this little “monster” is itemized and admired. Gentle and humorous illustrations by Christina Leist show how one tired parent decides to participate in a bit of rowdy play at bedtime, with the result being a happily tired child and a mother who is even more in love with her offspring than she was at the beginning of the book. This satisfyingly unconventional bedtime story will encourage children and parents to appreciate each other just a little bit more every time they read it.

And here are a preview of the cover and a couple of illustrations.



Permalink to On My Walk

On My Walk

Permalink to Latest Projects – Book Design for Silk Web Publishing: Pom Pom

Latest Projects – Book Design for Silk Web Publishing: Pom Pom

As much as I love writing and illustrating, I also enjoy working as a book designer. Yesterday my latest project was launched.


It’s the second book I designed for Linnie von Sky and Silk Web Publishing. Once more the R.A. Bender illustrated Linnie’s text. I think the outcome is another charming book, which you will soon find at stores all over Canada.

Linnie is already sourcing funds for the next project. It looks like it will be another cool one and I am hoping to be part of the team again. If you are curious about Sadly, the Owl, please look here.

Permalink to Keeping a Secret over the Summer – On the Jury for the Governor General’s Literary Awards 2014

Keeping a Secret over the Summer – On the Jury for the Governor General’s Literary Awards 2014

This Summer I had the great honour of being selected as a jury member of three for the 2014 Governor General’s Literature Awards in Children’s Illustration.
For my non-Canadian friends: the Governor General’s Literary Awards are considered one of Canada’s most prestigious prizes – they are a big deal…

So in Spring I got this very mysterious email from Canada Council for the Arts, in which I was asked when it would be best to call me. It didn’t mention what the call would be about. When I learnt later on the phone what I was invited to do, I was thrilled. What an honour! And I certainly wondered: Em, why me?
The only sad thing was that I wasn’t allowed to share the good news. It was to be kept secret. Not easy to do when all the sudden you find yourself trying to hide boxes full of the most amazing books in your not too spacious one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver’s Kitsilano. Or when you have to come up with excuses for cancelling invites for a weekend in August, as you can’t say that you will be flying to Ottawa to meet up with the other jury members Ron Lightburn and Ange Zhang to select the final 5 books for the GG’s. I managed somehow. But really, it wasn’t easy.

ReadingFun_for _the GGs

Now that the finalists and the winner are announced, the gala was held yesterday, I am free to spill the beans.
Congratulations to Marie-Louise Gay, Renata Liwska, Qin Leng, Julie Morstad and especially to the winner Jillian Tamaki, the illustrator of This one Summer !
Also good to know: Jillian’s cousin, Mariko Tamaki – the author of this one Summer – is a finalist for Children’s text.

Here is what our commitee had to say about the winning work:

“The tender and touching story of This One Summer comes to life with Jillian Tamaki’s cinematic and evocative illustrations. Fondness for detail, insightful character development and realistic body language convey complex emotions from the first through to the last page. A tour de force of powerful visual storytelling.”

Check out the finalists and the winners of the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Awards here!

Permalink to Latest Projects – Groundwood Books: Left-over Monsters for Halloween

Latest Projects – Groundwood Books: Left-over Monsters for Halloween

Currently I am working on an exciting picture book for Groundwood Books in Toronto.
Unfortunately the illustration briefing was changed while I was working on the project – the first round of characters (monsters) didn’t fit the concept anymore and I had to start all over (with human characters).
Although having to let go of the work done was not easy, the project is coming along really well in its new direction and I happen to have a couple of not-too-scary spare monsters in the drawer…:)
Since it’s Halloween this weekend I decided to let them out and share them on the blog. I hope you like monsters and seeing a bit of the developmental process behind them. I have grown really fond of those guys and am hoping they can be re-purposed.

Monster mom, baby and cat




development – random shots


christinaleist_monsters_along the way







Permalink to Note to Self!

Note to Self!

A little while back I was teaching painting to seniors. Some of the students hadn’t held a brush since they were little kids and they were hesitant to start with their artwork.
They were wondering what was expected of them, as they didn’t want to mess with the utensils they were provided with and make mistakes.
When we established that messing around was part of what we were doing in class, they managed to drop their fears and plunged into the experience – with beautiful outcomes.
I am working creatively (almost) every day and still I experience those moments of being totally paralyzed, not sure what is expected of me, not wanting to make mistakes.
Therefore note to self: Get to it, be messy, enjoy the experience and don’t be afraid of not meeting expectations! Who knows maybe the outcome is going to be just beautiful…





Permalink to Latest Projects – Highlights Magazine

Latest Projects – Highlights Magazine

It’s summer, I am in sunny Greece and drawing a snowman for Highlights Magazine.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 12.13.00 PM
The little icons seeming to float around, will be replacing words in a poem.

Nothing better than setting up office camp on an island with a close friend. Photographer Chris Spira and I found office heaven.

Permalink to New Work, etc.

New Work, etc.

Again, it has been a while.
I have been busy with mountain adventure, travel, design work (e.g. for BC’s Knowledge Network) and illustration.
For example I just finished a new story for Chirp Magazine, featuring my Little Unicorn character. Below you see the last two versions of the art for this story (to be published in their September issue). The first version is the one I liked an created initially. The second version is the altered version as per client request. The changes make absolute sense in context of the text and considering the magazine’s paper.

There will be more posts again soon. I am about to sign my first contract to illustrate a Erstleser book for Arena in German and illustrations for a new picture book with Groundwood Books in Toronto is on the horizon, which I am very excited about. Also, I am lucky to design another book for My Silk Web.

The Red Mountain – Christina Leist for Chirp Magazine

The Red Mountain – Christina Leist for Chirp Magazine

The Red Mountain – Christina Leist for Chirp Magazine

The Red Mountain – Christina Leist for Chirp Magazine

The Red Mountain – Christina Leist for Chirp Magazine

The Red Mountain – Christina Leist for Chirp Magazine

Permalink to After a long silence

After a long silence

It’s been a busy few months of no posts on the blog.
Time flew by and a lot happened. Here’s the roundup:

This spring I went to Germany for a few weeks to see family, friends and my dear 29-year-old horse Kalle.
I also spent time in Bologna, Italy where I met-up with friends – fellow illustrator Scot Ritchie and writers Annett Stuetze and Britta Vorbach from Germany – and attended the world’s biggest children’s book fair.
It was a chilly spring in Europe, but I still had a fabulous time.

On my return to Canada, I finished a really fun illustration piece, inspired by the long-distance-relationship with my horse in Germany. The illustration will be in the Uppercase magazine’s third issue of Work Life, which will be coming out in September of this year. I will be one of 100 international illustrators (and their lives) featured in there.
So if you want to know more about my life – get one of these books.

Currently I am designing a book for Silk Web Publishing, a new local publisher. It is a very enjoyable book design project and it was interesting to work with the very young, talented and very eager illustrator Rebecca Wright. It made me aware of all the things I didn’t know I knew. We are in the last stages of proofing at the moment. Our Canadian Love Story, written by Linnie von Sky will be coming out this fall.

I am writing and illustrating a piece for Chirp magazine, too! The topic is grandparents. The text is written already and it is now time to add the visuals (I will show some sketches in the coming weeks. It is going to be FUN!).
My book On My Walk is going to be re-printed and a new series with Tradewind Books is on the horizon.

Finally summer has arrived in Vancouver! It is gorgeous outside. A tough time to get work done, but I will hang in there and take breaks on the balcony!

Permalink to Thanks to the Kids and teachers at Vancouver’s Captain James Cook Elementary School!

Thanks to the Kids and teachers at Vancouver’s Captain James Cook Elementary School!

With a little delay I would like to say thank you so much! for the amazing letters I received after my visit to the school in December. I had great fun looking at the artwork and reading through them! Great work, kids!

A lot of children were asking in their letters, if Vitus has made it back from his involuntary trip in the washing machine… Well, I haven’t heard from him in weeks. The last sock letter was that he said he was going to search for a friend who could help him to get back to me.
Please keep your fingers crossed!

Also thanks to Deloitte for organizing the great event.

Permalink to Back then

Back then

Kids usually ask me since when I have been drawing and if I have always been good at it.

Since I am doing a school visit at the Captain James Cook Elementary School in Vancouver tomorrow, I thought I am going to prepare for this question, in case it comes up. So I asked my dad to search for some childhood drawings, scan and send them.

This is what he found (he received my request kind of in the middle of the night)…
I have no idea when I drew the pictures and I can’t recall creating them. But since I was able to write and my lettering was tilted to the left (which is not what we initially learnt) when I finished the second image, I think I might have been about 8 years old… At that point I was also into ballet – I guess that’s where the foot position has its origin.
I wouldn’t say, I was a great artist back then. But I enjoyed drawing a lot and was encouraged to continue…! Thanks, dad!

Permalink to SOS to the World

SOS to the World

My little friend Vitus is stranded in the Land of Socks after getting lost in my washing machine.
How he got there, what he’s up to over there (he writes letters) and for plans on how we could get him back, visit his NEW website (which he made me set-up for him…)!
Just click on the image here!

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