How To Draw Out Your Imagination
Lauren Clark was the featured artist for Lamplighter’s Artist Writer Mashup, a program we ran during the month of April, where writers were assigned one of her illustrations—all from her ink and watercolor series—and tasked with generating original writing using her art as a muse. A graduate of William Paterson University, her art is as serious as it is whimsical.
When did you first become interested in creating art?
I would say that I was always interested in creating—anything really, as long as I got to use my hands. It’s no surprise that art was always my favorite subject in school, and I think that’s because it was really the only subject that was hands-on one hundred percent of the time.
Drawing was always simple to me, and I think I chose to do that all the time, as opposed to say… sculpting, because it’s the quickest way to create something, especially when you always have a #2 pencil and looseleaf paper in your desk.
Is illustration your chosen style? Or is ink your chosen medium? What else do you work with?
I explored a lot of media in college. I became very serious about painting, specifically oil painting, and took many classes related to that medium. I really dove into portraiture. The reason for that is because viewers can look at a portrait and create a story in their heads about that person.
Oil painting can be very expressive, and I was spending about 20+ hours on each piece. I was coming up with more stories than I was paintings. I found pen and ink because it was quicker, and there is something about using one color in one medium that forced me to focus more on the story than the content. Once an ink drawing is done… it’s done. The ink dries and it’s time to move on to a new piece and a new story.
What drove you to create this series of illustrations?
It’s funny how some things stick with you. I had a great professor who I took a few “core” classes with early on. During my final class with her, we had a critique of all our work. She told me that I didn’t take my work seriously. At the time, I thought that meant that I should be creating serious pieces of serious subject matter—the kind of work you read about in art history books. So I did that a good portion of my college career. I totally hated it. The truth is, I’m not that serious.
Inspiration came for this series of work when I was assigned a project to combine something organic with something man-made, and I ran with it. I was able to create without thinking. I started with one common, recognizable object, and merged it with another. Since then, I have created a whole series of these quirky and whimsical illustrations, and I can see myself in all of them. I became serious about my non-serious subject matter.
All these illustrations are surreal and whimsical. The imagination is clearly important to you. What do you think about society’s use (or lack) of imagination today?
I think most people directly relate imagination to kids, which makes sense. It’s socially acceptable for a kid to imagine the ground as lava and not so socially acceptable as an adult to do it. Life gets real at a certain age. Using your imagination every day won’t pay the bills, unless your job requires you to.
I think no one is really lacking in imagination. I think we just don’t see it as that when we get older. We all daydream. We just don’t picture cotton candy clouds anymore. When you’re young, possibilities are endless. Adults think those possibilities narrow with age, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
With this series of illustrations, I hope it forces people to look at ordinary things in a different light: to take time, even if for just a minute, and imagine their own story behind my work.
You also do custom invitations and stationery. What role does that have in your art?
I started my invitation business because I wanted to make money off of something that I created. I have a lot of creative energy, so I always find things to put that towards. Making invitations for people allows me to do that. It also allows me to meet new people and to hear their stories. Which is exactly why I started showing my work, and why I wanted to do this Artist Writer Mashup—to start a conversation, to hear someone else’s story.
Custom invitations make me think of “arts and crafts.” Obviously your work is more refined, but the concept leans toward play, too. What do you think of “playing” in art?
I think you have to play in art. For some, that playing might be using a different color palette than they usually stick to. For others, it could be different subject matter. I once went to an installation where the selected artists used something edible as their medium. They would not have discovered that if they didn’t play around a little.
Now that Lamplighter’s Artist Writer Mashup is a decent way behind us, how do you feel having other artists, writers specifically, comment on and create something new based off of your work?
I have to admit that I was totally nervous! I definitely put myself out there for this one. I’ve shown this series at a few different venues and art festivals before the Artist Writer Mashup, so showing my work wasn’t the difficult part—it was the way that the writers were forced to perceive me through my work that was a little scary.
It’s good to shake things up and do something that scares you once in a while. This was definitely that for me. The writers were totally brave and super inspiring. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to be featured.
Are you working on anything new?
I have been working on a few more pieces similar to the ones that the writers wrote about. Hearing their stories the night of the open-mic really inspired me. I’m hoping to have at least five more finished by October.
Where can we find your work, online and out in the world?
You can see my stuff at my Etsy shop! Etsy is awesome, and it has allowed me to meet some inspiring people from all over the globe. It’s so exciting when you can ship your art overseas—it’s been a great platform.
As far as shows go, I am planning to attend a whole slew of art festivals this coming spring.
Feature Photo by Catalina Fragoso
This article first appeared in Issue 05