Flights of Fancy with Lauren Cooney
I suppose I could call Lauren my pen pal.
Lauren Cooney and I "met" while participating in a community snail mail art swap. We'd been randomly assigned to send art to each other, and when the whimsy arrived in my mailbox, I quickly learned that there was more where that came from.
By following her Instagram, I saw the playful way Lauren works with vibrant colors and hand-drawn patterns to explore themes. Her playful figures, visual puns, and minimalist representations of nature are always a pleasure to see. I was thrilled when she agreed, in spite of her busy schedule, to share more about her creative practice and making space!
First, give us some background. What were you like as a kid? Have you always been artistic?
From a young age, Lauren has always had art in her life. "As long as there was something to draw on, I was a pretty happy kid - even if that "something" was occasionally furniture and walls (sorry mom!)."
As a child, Lauren was inspired by children's book illustrators particularly the work of Eric Carle, illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, among many others.
"Even though no one else in my immediate family was particularly interested in making art themselves, my mom was always very supportive and one of my uncles would send me his old art supplies as I got older."
Lauren found herself in Oregon for college, where she studied Studio Art and English at Willamette University. After graduation, she says "I lost my way a bit when it comes to art." Without a supportive community of creative people, she says she floundered a bit, struggling to rekindle her love for making art. After meeting her partner in 2016, however, she found the support she needed. An artist and art teacher himself, Lauren says that her partner, Matt, encouraged her, "not only to keep making art, but to finally pursue my dream of becoming an art teacher." A love story in more ways than one!
What about your creating space? Do you have a space set aside for your work, or does art just kind of happen all over the place? How do you keep all your different tools and supplies? "My mediums of focus have been drawing, painting, and printmaking for decades, but over the last three years I have really embraced digital illustration." Lauren says that one of the appeals of digital illustration was that it didn't take up space! There's something to be said for the convenience of fitting your workspace and art supplies on a single tablet.
"For most of the pandemic, we were in a fairly small apartment, and both Matt and I were teaching from home." Lauren explains that, in that kind of environment, "it just became too chaotic to get out all the printmaking or painting supplies and of course there was no place to let pieces dry." So she began to lean on her digital process a bit more. In the end, Lauren really grew to love it.
But there's a twist!
In May of 2021, Lauren and her partner purchased their first house! "It has really been so wonderful to both have our own designated creative spaces." They've transformed the dining room into a studio space and Lauren says,"it's really allowed me to embrace printmaking and painting again!"
With high ceilings, there's plenty of room for hanging art- but most importantly, Lauren says they finally have enough storage space to organize their art supplies. (This allows the couple to actually use their dining room for dining, when they so choose.)
What do you need in order to be productive and inspired? Any must-haves to get those creative juices flowing?
"I definitely do better working on multiple projects at a time," she asserts. "I used to make myself finish one piece before I moved on to the next, but I found myself putting so much pressure on that one piece that I wouldn't enjoy working on it anymore." Lauren says she likes to hop around, taking a break from one project while working on another.
"I think I'm at my most productive when there is something else going on in the background," she explains. "Most often that means music or true crime podcasts, but sometimes I'll throw on a familiar show I don't need to pay attention to to enjoy (I seem to always be in the middle of re-watching 30 Rock)."
As for her surroundings, Lauren says she benefits from having a lot of "blank spaces" around. Whether it's clean walls or a clear workspace, she says that creating an uncluttered physical space keeps her focused.
This doesn't mean her space is always pristine, however. She admits that she can struggle to keep things organized (don't we all?). "When I let my supplies get away from me and my workspace gets to the point where I am shoving stuff to the edge of the table in order to work, it's time for me to stop and spend a good hour putting supplies away before I can move on."
Like many of us artistic people, Lauren struggles with the messy desk, but her need to create that "blank space" for her creativity tend to keep the mess contained. "I do have a messy desk but it needs to be cleaned for me to get started. The chaos just builds as I keep working."
"I am certainly not someone anyone should look to for organization tips."
Finally, how do you stay inspired?
Lauren explains that she surrounds herself with the work of other artists to keep inspired. She likes to display work in her space that's different from her own, but that is colorful and explores similar subjects to her own. She says she's also drawn much inspiration from the artists she discovers online.
"For as many issues as there are with social media, I have actually found really supportive and inspiring communities on spaces like Instagram."
Thank you so much, Lauren, for giving us a glimpse into your creative space and telling us about your artistic practice.
If you want to connect with Lauren, see what she's been working on lately, or find out when she's having her next pop-up, you can find her on Instagram @lauren.the.bird. And if you're in the Salem, Oregon area, Lauren also currently has her work stocked in Green Space Design by Jude at 990 Commercial St SE.