Leah Stella Stephens


How To Get Your Art On The Cover Of A Magazine

My self-portrait on the cover of San Diego CityBeat 2009

In 2009 I ended up on the cover of The San Diego CityBeat by accident. I never sent a pitch to the editor and I wasn’t an established artist at the time. I didn’t have a social media following (except the tiny audience on my YouTube channel) and it wasn’t a goal of mine to be on the cover of a magazine.

So, how did it happen?

It happened as a by-product of a creative fantasy I created in 2009.

Let me be clear, this was not performance art. It wasn’t part of a live exhibit and it wasn’t funded by an arts council. It was funded by my losing-its-value-day-by-day 401K. There was no deeply thought-out symbolism or reason for this particular creative fantasy.

I still have no idea why I did it.

What I can say, however, is that I was experiencing visions and creative impulses that were stronger than I could ignore. I felt like this creative fantasy chose me, came to me organically because I had carved out the quiet space necessary to hear it.

I moved out to California in 2006 with only $2000 and I managed to carve out a simple and meager existence at a company as a prepress technician. But that company began to crumble in late 2008. The recession had begun and I was losing both my job and my 401K.

Everywhere I went people were freaking out, walking out of their million dollar SoCal homes, losing everything, and some even took their lives. Me, well, I had nothing to lose, really. I was already poor so I began to learn a different lesson. While others who were materially wealthy lost their minds, I quieted mine and let my creativity take over without questioning its value. Living out a pure creative fantasy was enough for me. My imagination saw and felt an opportunity.

One night I had a late night vision of a cape, a crown and a postcard apron. I envisioned myself as a benevolent person, interacting with all kinds of people, delighting them, making them laugh and giving them gifts for no reason. A superhero of kindness is what I envisioned. This vision took firm hold of my mind and I sketched out its contents. I drew out the picture of the cape and apron and sent it to my aunt who is a seamstress.

She sewed me a postcard apron and cape and after I bought my crown, I began going out into the world every day as The Patron Saint of Postcards.

PIctured with postcard apron sewn by my aunt

By chance, I ran into a CityBeat journalist one night at a downtown bar. I was doing my usual thing: meeting random people and asking if they wanted to buy an absurd postcard. The journalist, Enrique Limon, wrote this article about me:

Inside, I met Leah Stella Stephens, a Missouri-born artist who asked if I was interested in purchasing an “absurd handmade postcard.” Most of them featured Stephens in front of different Photoshopped National Geographic backgrounds.
Stephens was wearing a gem-encrusted crown topped with a faux Blue Bird, whose plumage matched her turquoise eye shadow perfectly. She told me she got into this lost art of making postcards after suffering a nervous breakdown while teaching English in Japan.
“I came back and started working at a sticker factory in Kansas, and I developed carpal tunnel — it fucking sucked!” said the self-proclaimed “Patron Saint” of postcards.
I left with my very own one-of-a-kind postcard that read, “There’s a brand new you in Oceanside, California. Go find yourself there,” starring, you guessed it, the arts-and-crafts vixen herself. — Enrique Limon CityBeat

After Enrique interviewed me, he shared my contact information with his editor and other journalists at The CityBeat. I appeared on the cover of CityBeat a few months later when a different journalist needed to cover an arts story. Enrique spoke highly of me and suggested me as a possible contributor. I ended up in The CityBeat at least 3 different times. Going out into the world as a walking manifestation of my creative fantasy landed me in the media without me even trying to get there.

Here’s a video of me saying goodbye to the postcards I made for a street fair in Carlsbad, California. This video shows the passion and excitement (and madness) that was gripping my mind at the time. Please watch it.

I don’t exactly know how to end this.

I feel that my Patron Saint of Postcards phase was the most magical one of my entire life. I’m happy I had the courage to do it because it showed me the positive sides of humanity. It showed me also that I have the strength and courage to bring the contents of my pure imagination into the light of the world. Sure, I ran into some assholes and jerks who made fun of me, but I really didn’t care too much. Most people appreciated the novelty I created.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.

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