Landmark Presents exists to amplify artists whose work encourages inclusivity and stewardship of our public lands.
Stevie Lewis is a children's book illustrator (Fatima's Great Outdoors) and animator living in Flagstaff, Arizona. She is an avid climber and even traveled and lived out of her van for four years!
Is art a side hustle or hobby for you, or is it your day job? How has your career evolved?
I've been working in animation and children's book illustration for over 10 years now. I interned at DreamWorks Animation back when I was a junior in college, in the art department. After graduating I went back to DW for 4 years, until moving into my car and traveling around North America. Now, I illustrate children's books and occasionally do animation on the side.
Tell us about yourself.
I've been living in Flagstaff, Arizona for the last three years. I've been drawing since I can remember. I would draw on napkins, the margins of my notebooks, any blank space I could find. After going to art college, I specialized in visual development for animated films.
In 2015, after working at DreamWorks for many years, I decided to quit my job and move into my Honda Element. I built out a bed in the back and sold all my belongings. I wanted to travel by myself around North America and climb while doing art based on my travels. It was such a wonderful year, that I upgraded to a larger van, so I could work on the road more comfortably. Soon after, I met my wonderful partner and we traveled to Alaska and much of the western US with our two dogs, Kiki and Tigger.
Currently, I illustrate children's books and work on animated projects (part-time). I especially love books that show a different perspective on life, culture, feelings, etc. Also, any books about the outdoors! I think more children should be exposed to the beautiful places our world has to offer.
Where does your passion for art and nature come from?
I discovered the outdoors later in life as an adult. I grew up during the age of the internet, and played a lot of video games during high school. If I was to talk to my younger self, she would think I was crazy for being so outdoorsy now. Climbing changed everything for me. I caught the bug, after climbing in a gym near when I lived in the Mission in SF. Soon I found myself scouring mountain project for partners to take me up climbs in Yosemite. I bought a double rack and all the climbing gear, and soon realized I wanted to be even closer to the outdoor community. I love the lifestyle because the community is so welcoming. Without the wonderful people I've met over the years, I'm not sure I would be where I am today!
What do you enjoy most about your creative process?
Seeing it all come together in the end. The journey of creating art has it's ups and downs. With films, the struggle is not being attached to your work (many times, your work gets cut from the film or they decide to go a different direction). With books, it takes 6-8 months to complete a project, and often times it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when there are so many stages in the process. The best thing for me is seeing it all come together in the end. My hope with the books I've worked on, is that someone out there will feel empowered or inspired by my work, whether it's a motivation to draw or create, or an inspiration to explore the outdoors.
What does the phrase "outdoors for all" mean to you?
For me, the outdoors has always felt like a safe place for people to be themselves. Even though much of the outdoor community is white, there has been more and more people of color and minorities feeling empowered to explore their local outdoor areas. I think having more books and media that highlight stories of immigrants or children of immigrants, or the LGBTQ+ community, or women, will help people feel more comfortable being in outdoor spaces. Sometimes it really helps to see someone who looks like you, or someone in your family, getting outside and feeling confident about their decisions. Education and inclusivity is our way forward to building a more diverse outdoor community.
Did you really live in a van? What was that experience like?
I lived in my vehicle full-time for 4 years. Now I own a home in Flagstaff (thanks to not paying rent while living on the road), but I still have the van and occasionally go on long climbing trips. It was an experience I would recommend to so many people. Honestly, it was the best decision I ever made. I learned to appreciate small spaces, and how to live simply.
Are you currently working on any cool projects?
I just finished up two books, one about climate change, and another about positive thinking. It's nice to have a little break! They are due out next year (2022).
What’s your all time favorite outdoor space and why?
My favorite place was probably the areas around Canmore in Alberta. There is so much climbing and adventuring out there. Squamish, BC is a close second!
Are you involved in any form of advocacy or giveback?
Aside from helping in local outdoor cleanups in my area and volunteering at my local food bank, I've done some illustration work for the Women's Climbing Festival in Bishop, and the Bay Area Climbers Coalition. I would love to find more ways to give back to the outdoor community!
Thank you, Stevie, for sharing your work with us! We can't wait to see where your next adventure takes you!
Be sure to follow her on Instagram! And support the Parks by purchasing her print below!