Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Super Star Interview: Lauren Lowen

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.

This month I’m jazzed to be chatting it up with supa-duba-star Illustrator, Lauren Lowen. I was first charmed by Lauren’s quirky style, during a session of Lilla Rogers’ MATS online class, and then I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Lauren last year at Surtex. Her booth and tiger shirt were totally rocking! Lauren Lowen currently works as an Illustrator in Nashville, TN, and is represented by Jennifer Nelson Artists. A graduate from the The Rhode Island School of Design, she has taught illustration at various art colleges and previously worked in the giftware and stationery industry as a designer before returning to her illustration full-time. You can visit more of her artwork here.

Here's the supa-duba-star herself!

Q: Last year was your Surtex debut and now you have plans to return again this year. What will you do differently? What will you do the same?

A: It’s so crazy to think it’s getting to that time of year again! Last year I was pretty conservative just because I had a lot to learn the first time around and didn’t want to overcomplicate things. This year I will do more with my actual booth design (disclaimer: don’t plan to be amazed. I’m probably still going to look pretty plain compared to other people!) Last year I learned what clients really liked about my art and what they wanted to see more of, so that will help me focus my portfolio this time around. As for keeping the same, I wasn’t afraid to be a little offbeat last year, and I think that helped me stick out. My plan is to let my quirky side shine again!

Q: Give us the scoop on your artistic process—concept to sketches to finished art—how does it all come together?

A: Whether it’s client work or a personal piece, it always starts with a line drawing. If I decide to paint it, I use gouache on silkscreen paper. If I’m working digital, I ink it and then scan it into Photoshop. From there I have several libraries of brushes and textures I can use via my wacom tablet. In fact, sometimes the digital stuff ends up looking more painterly than the actual painted work! Working both ways is a great way to experiment and prevent boredom from settling in.

Bears with beards—the outdoors never rocked so hard before!

Q: How has your time working in-house at CR Gibson influenced your approach to freelance illustration and art licensing?

A: I figured the best way to learn about the industry was to be a full-time employee at a company and learn it from the inside out. I learned how manufactures worked, what the challenges were for the creative teams, how marketing played a role in the process, and how art was selected for projects.

By the time I left, I obviously had a much better understanding of the logistics of the field as well business matters like pricing and such. I also learned that my quirky sense of humor and style was not always seen in the industry, so it made me more confident showing that side of me to future clients.

Party time with a tiger—oh, yeah!

Q: Your artwork has a very hip and modern sense of humor with your luchadores, beards and pirate santas! Where does that come from and what continues to inspire it?

A: Thanks! I’ve always enjoyed characters and entertaining people, so I think those two elements come together to create that wackiness in my art. When I was younger, I was a huge fan of comics like Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side. The Far Side especially had this very bizarre humor when you think about it. There weren’t really “jokes” or punch lines. Instead, Gary Larson made these one-panel comics that would take a simple premise and turn it upside down. I think there is something like that going on in my work. I think “Ok, Santas. Santas have beards. What else has beards? Lumberjacks do…and pirates…and hipsters,” and before you know it I have a collection based on different silly Santa characters like that. I think my best pieces are always the ones that excite me even a week or two after the initial idea. For inspiration, I look at what’s going on in pop culture and see how I can poke fun at something or reinvent it. Visually, I’m attracted to street art, folk art…anything heavily stylized is fun to me.

LOVED these guys at Surtex last year!

Q: You have taught art students at numerous colleges. What advice do you give them about how to promote themselves and land actual clients in life-beyond-art-school?

A: I love teaching! It’s so hard to try and summarize a whole semester in a few paragraphs, but here are some of the most common things I say to my students:

Don’t label yourself too much: Many people miss out on opportunities just because they focus too much on a specific market while being completely oblivious to similar fields that they are well suited for. If you’re a children’s book illustrator, for instance, why not look into creating art for children’s music albums or children’s magazines? Try to step out of your comfort zone and you’ll probably find a few “cousin markets” perfect for your portfolio.

It’s OK that your art doesn’t work for every client known to mankind: My work isn’t right for everyone out there. Similarly, it’s ok if your work isn’t going to find a home with every single client in the world. Instead of trying to be a jack-of-all-trades in order to please every art director, focus on the art you enjoy creating and market it to those people who truly have a need for it. You’ll be happier and saner.

Don’t try to do every social media platform out there: Blogs, Facebook, instagram, pintrest, twitter, newsletters, youtube… the internet has given us a lot of options when it comes to promoting our work. Maybe part of the problem is that it has given us too many options and we feel a little overwhelmed when marketing ourselves. When it comes to social media, pick 1-3 to start with and do them well. You can always adjust or add more, but having too many outlets that end up getting ignored can make it look like you aren’t active in your career.

Geek chic cute bunny spring florals!

Q: What do you anticipate being both the advantages as well as the challenges of being formally represented as an illustrator?

A: It really hasn’t been that long since I’ve joined Jennifer Nelson Artists, but I’m extremely excited about all the projects coming our way. As far as challenges go, I’m getting use to managing more projects. In the past, I was working on one or two jobs at a time and then would move on to the next one. Well, now there are several things to keep on top of! You have to roll with it and switch gears suddenly if an opportunity comes out of nowhere, especially if the deadline is a quick one. The huge advantage for me is having the business side of my art simplified. I really do enjoy marketing and promoting my work, but I recognize that it eats up a lot of time. With an agent, I’m now able to focus more on the important part: creating the art!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: I’m not 100% sure, but I envision it with Bloody Marys, a good brunch, and hanging out on a patio with friends and my husband just relaxing the day away.

Thank you so much, Lauren! We can’t wait to see what crazy, fabulous artwork you make next! Hooray!