“Talent finds a way” is the artistic slant on the famous quote from Jeff Goldblum’s character in the classic movie Jurassic Park. A common thread among artists that CreativeFluff interviews is that regardless if a child has formal creative training, or is forced to cobble together scraps of this and that to build something from their imagination, that their talent eventually finds an outlet. The trick (and where most artists fall short) is taking that talent and refining it over and over into something cohesive, tangible, and representative of how they view reality. I recently had the pleasure of talking to an artist with an interesting take on humanity’s relationship with nature and how that came to influence her work; that artist is Lauren Elyse. Elyse’s roots begin on the East Coast where industrialization is rampant and expand westwards to sparking oceans and sandy sunsets. Her work is diligent, practised, and very poignant. Be sure to read through our interview with her to see her thoughts on what inspires her and how to get ahead as an artist in 2016.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. When did you decide that you wanted to pursue painting professionally? Is this something you were formally trained to do as a child? Or perhaps something you picked up unexpectedly?
Hi! My name is Lauren and I’m a painter. I grew up on the east coast but booked it out west right around eighteen to chase the waves and from there is where my painting career really rooted. I began painting surfboards and skateboards as a teenager, independently at first, later moving on to collaborate with companies within the industry, and soon surfboards turned into contracts with local businesses for muraling which then translated into private commissions, and everything really just fell together from there.
I had an inkling that painting was going to be something I wanted to dedicate all my energy towards around seventeen when I started college. I made the decision to major in business over art right away because I knew if I wanted it to work, I needed to know how business worked. I don’t know how exactly my teenage self figured this out but I’m sure I had help with this one as my dad is a college professor and has been a great mentor to helping me understand how to achieve what I want in life.
I wasn’t formally trained as a child but it was absolutely due to the enabling and support of my parents that I chased the arts. It didn’t make much sense to me at the time when I began seriously pursuing painting why I had chosen to chase it, but I realize now it had kind of chosen me long before. Growing up my parents always encouraged us to be creative, in just about every way imaginable. My mom was a seamstress when we were young so my sister and I were always in craft and fabric stores. Those were some of my favorite memories, being in those stores amongst all the creative materials (to this day I still love just being in art stores). I remember having my own drafting table from a young age and copying the illustrations in comic books my brothers had given me because I liked the challenge. So yeah, at the time I decided to seriously become an artist, a painter specifically, it seemed out of left field for me, but I guess I’d been working towards that all along.
It is abundantly clear that nature manifests itself within almost every piece of your artwork. When did you first notice this connection between humans and nature?
I think that connection is something that I’m constantly noticing and exploring, I’m always discovering how much we are linked and I couldn’t pinpoint an exact moment. I’ve always loved being outdoors. I was lucky enough to be the generation on the cusp of our society’s computer age obsession. The internet was just starting to come into being when I was growing up, so being outside was still considered the best past time for kids. I played in the woods, contracted every known form of poison ivy, sumac, oak – you name it – survived to tell about it haha, and at around fifteen I started surfing and lifeguarding. Being in the ocean all the time, learning its rhythms, cycles, and temperament, knowing how close our blood is to salt water, it gets you thinking. That and listening to Modest Mouse’s The Moon and Antarctica. That album heavily influenced my interests and curiosities and came along just at a point when my mind was fully open to every possibility, and it put the idea of who we are in relation to nature into my head for sure.
Travel influences many of the artists that we talk to at CreativeFluff. Can you tell us what, if any, artistic styles you have picked up while traveling abroad? What about these styles stood out to you above others?
Oh man, this one should be easy but surprisingly I’m having trouble giving an answer. With the internet being what it is my memory is so distorted as to what I’ve seen where and when. I do know, though, that in my travels I’ve often stopped into museums and seen works of art I wasn’t expecting, didn’t know the artist’s even existed, and immediately went back home (cursing all the art history courses I’d ever taken the entire way for skipping over these artists) and researched the bejesus out of them. While studying abroad I’ve seen so many works that I know must absolutely influence my style in subtle or more overt ways – either via techniques or subject matter – but I think most of all what really influences me while traveling is architectural styles. The set up of cities, parks, and gardens. The style of buildings, houses, and the landscaping that enhances them. That’s generally my big take away from traveling.
In regards to the selection of work which you sent to us, can you tell us about your artistic process? Where did this idea come from? Do you sketch a painting prior applying acrylics or oils? At what point do you stare at your work and think ‘I am finished’?
My process is definitely more than half a mental one. I’m a constant observer and I’m always searching for inspiration. When something strikes me I’ll mentally file it away, sometimes jot down a thumbnail if I’m really enthused on an idea, but often times it’s just fragments that swirl around in my brain until something bubbles up that I know could work as a painting. I’m not huge on sketching, I wish I was, I love to draw, but depending on the piece I’m pretty quick to skip details, value and tonal studies in the underdrawing and begin experimenting with paint. I wouldn’t recommend it haha, it’s definitely more frustrating at times, but I like the energy that comes with pushing paint around as opposed to step by stepping it (though I’m generally more calm when I do take that route).
The works here really are pretty much just that, fragments that swirled themselves together, influenced by life experiences, other artist’s work I admire, my own observations and emotions, each one serving a purpose for something I need to get out and say. Knowing when it’s finished generally comes down to looking at it and understanding that one more brush stroke and the whole thing could fall apart. That’s usually my signal more than asking ‘am I satisfied?’ I ask, how easily can I ruin all I’ve built up to this point. That’s not to say I don’t often step over that line, but sometimes it means the destruction of a painting, other times it really makes a piece. The end point is something I acknowledge, sometimes ignore, and I’ve been known to pick up older work and continue expanding on them. So I guess nothing really is ever truly finished.
Are you currently featured in any galleries? What would you say your overall goal for your art career?
I am currently represented by Harbor Gallery here in Norfolk, Virginia. As far as my career goes, I suppose I want what any artist wants, to be able to thrive as an artist. I’d really love for my art to take me places, allow me to travel more. I’d even like to teach one day. But to give a more focused answer, my biggest goal would be to get people tuned back into nature, to look inward and ask themselves the questions my work proposes, or just feel the feels I’m putting out. And to get everyone turned on to art, all art.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists looking to not only develop as as a creative, but someone who wants to profit and sustain themselves with their work?
So many things. For one, learn how to be a business (wo)man. The hardest part of what I do is juggling so many aspects of my own career. From marketing to communications, accounting to being able to step into the zone and focus on what is at the core of all this – the art. It’s not easy. Have realistic expectations, be humble. Learn to take criticism and grow from it. If someone cares enough to criticize you it means you’re getting a reaction (which is better than ambivalence) and they care enough to try and make you see your work from a different perspective. Just remember to take it with a grain of salt and stick by what you know you should be working towards. Apart from that the one thing I don’t think I can stress enough with anyone wanting to really further themselves as an artist is to learn the history, rules, and principles of your craft. Study and practice them tirelessly. Only when you know the accumulated effort of artists before you and the rules that govern do you know how to break free from them, and in that space will you really be able to create something uniquely your own.