Artist of the Week: Lauren Rolwing

Let’s be real. Nobody wants to do the deep introspective art appreciation thing when the sweat on your back keeps sticking you to your chair. It’s thirty degrees out there. We’ve got double-layered deodorant on. So if you came here looking for German expressionism, please, come back in November.

Today, we want bright colours and jolly shapes. We want cheerfulness and optimism. We want the visual equivalent of slushy raspberry daiquiris, please. So thank goodness for Lauren Rolwing.

Lauren’s bright graphic design work has won her plaudits from all over and a run of high profile features. Using a style inspired by ‘80s record cover art and Czech collage artists, she creates bold illustrations that are at once chic and childlike. We caught up with her to find out how she does it.

UO: Hi Lauren! Can you tell us a little about your path to illustration? Did you always have your heart set on illustration? 

In college, I took an illustration class at my printmaking professor’s suggestion. I had always known I wanted to study art, but when I got to Savannah College of Art and Design, I had no idea what kind of art I wanted to study. At that time, a lot of the student works in the course catalogue for illustration were very realistic, so I never considered illustration as an option since I didn’t draw that way. As soon as I got into my first illustration class, I knew I had found a home.

I had the opportunity to travel to Italy with one professor, who opened my eyes completely when she showed me works by great Czech illustrators, including Květa Pacovská, which ended up changing everything. I had always liked to cut paper and collage, but after I saw her works, there was no going back.

UO: How would you describe your illustrative style? 

Colourful, bold, and graphic. I have always liked designing posters, so I think my illustrations have a poster-like quality. When I first started really making illustrations, I used cut paper, and even now that I use all digital, I think that look has stayed a little when I use flat colours and angular lines.

 

UO: What’s been your favourite project to work on and why? 

I just finished up 8 illustrations for Wrap Magazine. The theme of the issue is “balance” and my theme specifically was balance between work and life. I had a very hard time getting started. I had spent days trying to work, but I really had nothing much to show for it. The deadline was getting closer, and I was getting worried. I was spending so much time on it, and I realized that I have absolutely no balance whatsoever between work and life, and then I got the idea to show how illustration is so intertwined in my day-to-day life. I seem to get ideas when I am working on something completely unrelated to illustration, so there is never really a way I have found to “clock out” from work, not that I would want to.

UO: Obviously we love your various fashion illustrations and especially your collaboration with Print All Over Me – can you tell us a bit more about it? What draws you to fashion in particular? 

Thank you! I have been interested in fashion as long as I can remember. It was the movie Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead that really got me into it. When I was in the fashion department in school, I didn’t really like it. Sewing was very difficult for me. I knew no one would ever hire me for sewing, so I was relieved when I switched to the illustration department, even though I missed fashion so much.

I absolutely love to do fashion illustrations and to be immersed in fashion, and I have actually been working on a few sewing projects for myself recently where I am trying to take my time more!

I was really excited when Print All Over Me contacted me to work on some prints. As soon as I created one print and uploaded it, I couldn’t stop. The instant gratification of seeing a print you just designed on a garment is so cool. I tried to think of who would wear these prints and I remembered the characters, both named Marie, from one of my favourite films, Sedmikrásky, made in the Czech Republic in the 1960′s. There is a great scene where the Maries are eating obscene amounts of food and end up having a food fight. This was all to the horror of the Czech government, who at the time, of course, banned the film. I couldn’t resist Photoshopping the Maries into the french fry and ketchup print they inspired. The film has the most amazing vivid colours, surreal aesthetics as well as some really cool bikinis and awesome polka dot print dresses.

UO: If you feel creatively blocked, do you have any rituals to help unleash your creativity? 

What really seems to help me the most is to do something completely unrelated. If I’m working on a specific project, and I have done the research or read the article several times, I think getting away from it is the best way to get an idea. Usually when I do something completely mindless and repetitive is when an idea will come. If I sit and stare at a blank screen, an idea will never come.

I really, really like the book Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch. Make sure to listen to it on audio though, as it is read by David Lynch himself, and it’s like he’s in the room having a conversation with you. It’s a wonderful book on ideas and how to find them.

If I’m not working on a specific project, I try to give myself one. I think as a freelancer, it is very important to stay busy. Usually, self-initiated projects inspire my commissioned pieces and my fashion illustrations started as self-initiated projects.

UO: What are your favourite things to do in your spare time? 

I love to watch films, especially by filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Jacques Tati, Woody Allen, Wim Wenders… I keep watching Paris, Texas a lot lately. I think it is a great film to watch in the summertime.

I also really enjoy teaching workshops to children in the summer with topics like art, illustration, design, and fashion. I just finished teaching 2 weeks of classes to kids inspired by the exhibition, The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945 – 2014 from the V&A. The students all designed a 5 piece, mini collections based on an inspiration of their choice. One student designed a resort collection inspired by animals. The swimwear she designed all had animal limbs hanging from the swimsuits! I love working with kids because of their seemingly endless supply of creativity and their energy. I find it contagious.

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