Artist Interview: Leni Kauffman

leni kauffman illustration of lady walking in front of plants
Looking for beautiful illustrations of people and places? See Leni Kauffman's vibrant work for your branding or UI projects.
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Fresh folk girls gifFresh Folk variations by Leni Kauffman

I know that we’ve all run into times where we wished we were prettier, smarter and above all, had the most fabulous collection of Disney-inspired Princess gowns. (Or was that just me?)

Barring an unlimited subscription to Rent the Runway (where you don’t get to keep the clothes, anyway), most of us won’t ever get the chance to indulge our frilled fancies enough… unless you’re an illustrator like Leni Kauffman, whose weekly fashion illustration project, Other Wardrobe, propels her into the chicest outfits that never existed.

And while we’re all trying to find more beauty in our beautifully diverse world, I wanted to highlight the talents of this amazing illustrator who sees life in all its colors.

Leni Kauffman Illustrator portrait

Artist and Illustrator Leni Kauffman

Finding Freshness

I came across Leni’s work just a few weeks ago, when her Fresh Folk illustrations were highlighted on a design blog as part of a series on character illustrations. In 2020, stylized character illustrations are huge in web design: you can see stylized characters everywhere from banking apps to insurance to email marketing programs (hello, cut monkey!).

But Leni’s work stands out among the list because her Fresh Folk illustrations aren’t just strange and colorful: they’re beautiful adaptations of people you would like to meet in ideal settings. You can mix and match skin colors, hairstyles, and colorful plants and objects to create bright scenes like you might find in a Hayao Miyazaki movie.


It’s not surprising, though, that her portraits look a little Japanese in style. Leni was born to Japanese parents and grew up in America, so her work draws on the cultural influences of her childhood and her continuing love of travel.

“I think travel has opened my mind to new ways of thinking, and therefore, it’s very precious to me,” Leni says in a video by Cat’s Forehead, a media company that celebrates Japanese graphic culture.

You can see Japanese influences in the clean lines of her characters, but she has an innate sense of being able to capture a person’s character in their expression. 

Sometimes it’s the way that a person stands, their clothing, or their posture that captures her attention. She then translates that to drawing through pen and ink, or watercolor, or digitally.

Girls walking down a hill leni kauffman
  • lVorM9LwY4ngrrHjrictTS
    Images from Leni Kauffman’s Other Wardrobe Series
  • queen in chair leni kauffman

Along with people, her other favorite subjects are food and (you guessed it) travel

Leni’s bright drawings appeal to lifestyle brands and she has done commissions for Long Weekend Club, Yala Jewelry, Haagen-Dazs, Four magazine, Takami Bridal in Kyoto, and Deep Focus London.

She has too many great pictures to share them all, so I urge you to go check out her work. Browse through her portfolio or get in touch with her for commissions.

Find Leni Around the Web

Instagram: @lenikauffman


Fashion Illustrations:

Fresh Folk:

** All images used with permission by the artist and remain copyright of Leni Kauffman.


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