TARA BY LAUREN TAMAKI
Interview By: Liron Davis
Lauren Tamaki draws how I imagine the world on days I’m feeling most optimistic — vibrant, whimsical and spontaneous. In addition to imbuing brightness into the world through her illustrations, Lauren is a Brooklyn-based artist, graphic designer and sometimes art director. Her artwork has been featured in publications like The New York Times, Vanity Fair and Women’s Wear Daily. Lauren spoke to us about one of her illustrations, which beautifully captures an intimate moment while depicting so much more. Read below to find out more about Lauren’s work and why we adore her so.
LD: When did you create this piece?
LAUREN: This was created for The Washington Post. They reached out to me because it was the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March and their art director wanted all these female illustrators to submit artwork. It was an interesting thing because they also had me answer questions like, “what does the women’s movement mean to me?” and “how has this last year been shaped by the movement?” They asked me for this very open-ended piece – I could submit anything – which is rare especially in print. It was awesome being given the chance to marry a style that I love doing in my off-hours with a commissioned work, knowing that it would be not overly scrutinized.
LD: What was the inspiration behind it?
LAUREN: The person in this illustration is my best friend Tara. We went to high school together, but we haven’t lived in the same city since we graduated. She lives in Vancouver, living a very different life from mine, but we are still best friends. She has two daughters and I have no children at the moment and don’t really live that much of a domestic life, but I feel so connected to her. Tara and are both very passionate about reproductive rights and because the subject was the Women’s March, I knew I had to have a personal connection to the illustration I submitted. Breastfeeding is still contentious which is so crazy to me. I believe women should be in charge of their own reproductive health — when, how and if we have a family. Tara herself helped me come up with this part of the quote I sent to The Washington Post alongside my illustration: “It’s a quiet moment but it’s also emblematic of the experience of being a woman, bodies being used, given all the time, every day.”
LD: How do you choose which commissioned projects to take on?
LAUREN: I have no formula. It’s a combination of factors, including if I have the time. Time didn’t used to factor in for me. I used to take on most projects if I liked them. But now I live with my partner and I’m trying to adjust the level of working and not working. The commissioned project doesn’t necessarily have to be from a prestigious company for me to accept it. It just has to be in a well-designed context and something that the people behind it care about. I’m lucky nowadays that people come to me for what I do and for my style. In terms of choosing what I paint or draw, I go with my intuition and that’s how I choose things a lot the time. Often I will choose jobs that don’t pay a ton of money but are super meaningful and give me the freedom to explore.
LD: What does your studio setup look like?
LAUREN: I am currently sitting in my kitchen, which is my studio as well. This worked out okay when I lived by myself, but it’s a one-bedroom apartment that I share with my partner so it’s a little cramped. But the joy I get from conducting a business call in a fancy robe and no pants is undeniable. I love the feeling of getting to work whenever I want; it can be 10 p.m. and I can just pop in to my computer and do whatever. There probably should be more separation between work and life, but right now there is absolutely no separation.
LD: Which themes are you drawn to or find yourself frequently addressing in your illustrations?
LAUREN: I love drawing observational art! Especially in New York, you can just walk down the street and people will be doing, dressed in or carrying super interesting things. Even everyday moments are interesting to me. One of my favourite things I drew last year was from a quick photo I snapped in Toronto of a workman carrying a big red toolbox down the street, as the leaves were falling around him. I just thought it was so beautiful so I drew it. I am constantly taking photos of people on the street for reference.
LD: What inspires you as of late, visually or otherwise?
LAUREN: It is Fashion Week right now so I would be remiss not mention how much I love drawing fashion and how much I do it for my own general pleasure. This week I’ve been looking at all the shows and the backstage photos. I went to Ryerson and got a degree in Fashion Design before getting a degree in Visual Communications at ACAD, so I can never get away from it. Midway during my Ryerson degree I knew I wouldn’t be a fashion designer, but I also knew that it was always something I would be extremely fascinated by. The breadth of possibilities that exist in fashion always inspires me.
LD: Do you ever have inspiration blocks? If so, how do you handle them?
LAUREN: I’m the kind of person that needs to have something in front of me to draw. Drawing from my own imagination is not something I’m very good at. I love looking at objects; I love drawing flowers. Flowers are my favourite things to draw in the entire world. If I am hurting for something to draw, I will just draw flowers, a plant or the negative space between the stems and leaves. That is endless inspiration for me. I never usually have a block because there is always something to gain inspiration from when I look around me.
LD: Which piece of yours do you feel the deepest connection to?
LAUREN: Tara is honestly the one I feel the deepest connection to because of the subject matter and because it’s my best friend. It is such a beautiful moment.