Faces, Flowers and Frankie Cosmos: Lauren Martin on feeling clumsy and finding her natural style

Lauren Martin is a creative tour-de-force; with a career that spans music and illustration, with each practice as successful, satisfying and serene as one another. Anthropomorphic, joyful and unstoppably charismatic, Lauren's illustrations are immediately recognisable and totally unforgettable, enriched with a unique, necessary and fundamentally hopeful voice.

Based in New York, Lauren was accustomed to a busy lifestyle before the global pandemic, typically filled with touring the country and playing show after show.

But like the rest of us, Lauren has acclimatised to an altered lifestyle, taking the opportunity to dive further into the illustrative side of her brain and finding comfort in what comes naturally to her; drawing. We've spoken to Lauren about her remarkable work, how her illustrative life corresponds to her musical practice and the agony of finding your voice.

Hello Lauren! How have you been?

Hi! I'm doing well, thanks! Busy!

For the poor people who don't know who you are, can you introduce yourself to the Creative Boom audience?

Haha Sure! I'm Lauren Martin, an Illustrator and Musician from New York City. I mostly draw food and flowers, but I love drawing anything and everything all the time! I'm pretty new to professional illustrating, and before drawing full time, I was on tour 6-8 months out of the year playing synth in the band Frankie Cosmos – and due to Covid, we've had to take a hiatus from playing music full time.

You're doing such exciting work in both illustration and music – what relationship do they have with each other?

Thank you! You know, I feel differently about those two sides of myself. As a musician, I often feel a bit clumsy and like I'm figuring it out as I go, and as an artist, I feel competent and 100% sure of myself (most of the time). Drawing comes naturally to me, and music is something I've had to work a lot harder at.

Is there much of a crossover between your influences and inspiration for your musical practice and your illustrative one?

I think there's definitely a connection between my taste in music and my illustration style – I'm super inspired by song lyrics and by the feelings I get from listening to music. I love crispness, clarity, detail and humour in my art and in music. I also feel that the era that many of my favourite music comes from aligns with the art styles that most influence me.

I love music and posters and movies and the style of the seventies – It's always been a huge influence on my style since I was in middle/high school.

Your work really strikes a phenomenal balance of tones – feeling somewhat nostalgic and retro, whilst at the same time feeling outrageously contemporary and, importantly, very relevant. Is this a conscious decision, or is this style naturally what you lean towards?

Arriving at my style was in no way a conscious decision! I agonised for years trying to figure out the right balance of all my interests and stylistic leanings to arrive where I am today. I originally went to school to study classical portrait painting, so I was approaching illustration with an appreciation for realism – but I also love cartoons, so adding in eyes and silly faces gave my artwork the humour I was looking for. I think in the end, my current style is what comes naturally to me – it just took me a while to find my voice and the right combination of things.

Arriving at my style was in no way a conscious decision! I agonised for years trying to figure out the right balance of all my interests and stylistic leanings to arrive where I am today.

There is so much literal character to the work you create. With such a character-driven practice, what draws you to faces and anthropomorphising inanimate objects?

I've always seen faces in inanimate objects, although it took me a long time to apply that to my artwork. When I look at something, I can just see where the eyes and mouth should go, so it felt natural at a certain point to start adding that into my artwork.

You seem to have done so many really exciting and incredibly varied projects – is there a type of project that you haven't done but would love to?

Yeah! I've been so lucky to have received so many interesting briefs! I think I wouldn't love to work more with food businesses – maybe packaging or branding. I'd love to do a beer can, haha!

What's something that you've worked on recently that has been particularly rewarding?

I've had a bit of an ongoing collaboration with the brand Only NY – I love the shirts we've made together! I feel like my illustrations work really well with their concepts.

Your practice is incredibly illustrative. However, there is also a great prominence to typography! How do you define your practice, and do you see type and illustration as two separate elements colliding or something that is one and the same?

Hmm, that's a tough one! I would say that my knowledge and skill when it comes to typography is fairly limited, but I feel that when I'm able to get it right, it adds to the impact of the illustrations. I want the words and the artwork to feel like they were done together, not put together – so when it comes to fonts, I try and find something that jives. I've recently started adding in hand lettering, which has made the words fit more seamlessly within the artwork.

Looking at the creative industry, are there recent changes you've welcomed or have been a long time coming? What further changes do you want to see?

I'm so new to the industry and only got my sea legs in 2020, so I'm still learning the ropes and learning what I want and creating a vision of what my life as an artist could look like – so I can't speak to the changes I'd like to see but ask me in a few years.

Finally, what question do you wish I asked you? And what is the answer?

Haha! Maybe favourite food to eat vs favourite food to draw? My favourite food to eat is eggplant parm and my favourite food to draw is strawberries!


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