Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lauren Kelly -- a Sketchbook Conversation

Today's Sketchbook Conversation is with Lauren Kelly:

My name is Lauren. I am the illustrator, designer and maker of Thistle and Fox fabrics, home decor and fashion accessories. All the prints and patterns available on fabrics, paper and products in the Thistle and Fox shop are illustrated by me using pencil, watercolor and digital painting. 

Lauren Kelly, Thistle and Fox, Sketchbook Conversations, My Giant Strawberry

I've been drawing since I was a very young child. And having always had a love for animals (the result of a childhood living on a farm) they have been featuring in my work for as long as I can remember. I grew up in the Orara Valley, NSW Australia. I live here now, though I've moved around quite alot in recent years I always come back to this place. 

Lauren Kelly, Thistle and Fox, Studio, Artist Studio, Sketchbook Conversations, My Giant Strawberry
Lauren Kelly, Thistle and Fox, Studio, Artist Studio, Sketchbook Conversations, My Giant Strawberry

I'm now settled in my own studio space, which is the main room of my 1 bedroom cottage that my parents and I recently finished building on their land, overlooking a beautiful creek, farms and the rainforest that feeds my imagination. 


Lauren Kelly, Thistle and Fox, Sketchbook Conversations, My Giant Strawberry

So why do I keep a sketchbook? Sometimes its the only thing that stops my head exploding with all the images that just keep piling up in there.


Lauren Kelly, Thistle and Fox, Sketchbook Conversations, My Giant Strawberry

To be honest, I sketch less often these days than I used to as I'm usually working on a few projects simultaneously with limited time I tend to now put my ideas straight into a digital canvas and start working on the finished idea. 


Lauren Kelly, Thistle and Fox, Sketchbook Conversations, My Giant Strawberry

Even if I just jot it down with a few scribbled lines and save it for later, its better to get it out of my head for a bit of 'breathing space' before I can think what to do next. The sketch will be very rough to start with but after a few hours of painting and layering photos and textures, it will have transformed into something resembling the idea that sketched itself inside my head while I was driving to work, assisting in surgery (not a convenient moment to start sketching) or while I'm busy with the dreaded housework. Yes, I live a double life... or triple life as an illustrator, fabric designer and vet nurse. 


Lauren Kelly, Thistle and Fox, Sketchbook Conversations, My Giant Strawberry

Occasionally ideas will come to me just before I go to bed so I keep a tiny notebook where I scribble a few words and very basic diagram sketches to plan out how I'll go about making something or what I need to research to get a project going. Lately though, with my bedtime stretching out to midnight and beyond by the time I get to bed my head will have finished buzzing with ideas so I've been taking my sketchbook to work with me instead. During the day, if there's a quiet moment between phone calls and vaccinating animals I'll be scribbling down all the mess in my head, trying to make sense of my constant thoughts of creative possibilities. 

Lauren Kelly, Thistle and Fox, Sketchbook Conversations, My Giant Strawberry

I feel I'm motivated by a very demanding personal need to be constantly creative... I don't necessarily need to finish every project I've started (apart from the paid projects of course) but I do need to keep my hands busy and part of my brain seems to always be designing... even if my hands don't have the skills yet to achieve something. For example, I'm not a wood worker by any means but I've had this idea stuck in my mind for ages of sculpting a series of ethereal heads & faces out of beautiful timber, smoothing off some of the rough edges but keeping some of the bark and moss.... how I would do this I have no idea...and it would make more sense for me to express the idea using a medium I actually have access to (paint for one!) Perhaps one day.


Lauren Kelly, Thistle and Fox, Sketchbook Conversations, My Giant Strawberry

If you were to take a good look inside my craft storage cabinet you would find just about everything you need to do almost any art/craft activity. I am prepared with a lifetime of collected craft supplies and a growing variety of tools. Aside from the twenty or so boxes of fabric, there are lino cutting tools, acrylic paint, polymer sculpting clay, yarn, cotton cord, ribbon, stacks of card stock and handmade envelopes, jewelry findings, paper flowers and just about every possible thing you would ever need to start a sewing workshop. Perhaps I should start holding art & craft classes here in my 'free time' ha! 

Lauren Kelly, Thistle and Fox, Studio, Artist Studio, Sketchbook Conversations, My Giant Strawberry

Lauren Kelly, Thistle and Fox, Sketchbook Conversations, My Giant Strawberry

I've been asked a few times by budding creatives whether I have any advice for how to get started in a creative career... well, I actually don't feel that I qualify to give this kind of advice. Creativity is my life but its not how I pay the rent. I've worked as a part time vet nurse since I finished my education in Equine Science... yep, not really what you thought I would have studied right? Well that's another story. I was a horse mad girl but after a stopped bouncing when I had riding accidents and instead started smashing myself into pieces every time I went near a horse I had to rethink my 'career' path a bit. You never know what life will throw at you My day job is full of very practical tasks, formulas, facts, science and every afternoon when I get home my creative brain takes over and I'll be drawing, designing, sewing and making things until my eyes tell me its time to sleep. 


Lauren Kelly, Thistle and Fox, Sketchbook Conversations, My Giant Strawberry

So I guess my 'advice' is follow your passions. 


Lauren Kelly, Thistle and Fox, Sketchbook Conversations, My Giant Strawberry

Don't be afraid to try something new which may take your creativity somewhere you never thought it could go.


Lauren Kelly, Thistle and Fox, Sketchbook Conversations, My Giant Strawberry

Be yourself. Learning from other creatives by studying their technique is a great way to learn (with so many video tutorials and online classes these days its so easy to access the talent of creative professionals!) but don't copy. The reason people employ creatives is because they are DIFFERENT and have their own special style or skill to offer. Embrace what makes you different from others and practice! 

Lauren Kelly, Thistle and Fox, Sketchbook Conversations, My Giant Strawberry

Keep practicing. You'll always be learning, improving your craft, skill, or speed at drawing, which can be extremely useful and brings me to my next bit of advice... 

It's very common for artists and creatives to under value their work and their time. Please don't do this. I know its difficult when you start out...it may take 50 hours of drawing to finish an illustration you were paid $500 for. While you might love drawing in your 'free time', your time is more valuable than $10/hr. Business sense, particularly how to price artistic work is not something that most creatives feel comfortable with (I know I don't!) yet speaking from years of experience you need to get serious about pricing your work appropriately to work to your benefit. I'm still working on this myself...

Lauren Kelly, Thistle and Fox, Sketchbook Conversations, My Giant Strawberry

The fact that I'm still awake at 1am working on my illustrations when I need to be at work tomorrow morning is evidence of a work-life balance that isn't working as well as it should!


Lauren Kelly, Thistle and Fox, Sketchbook Conversations, My Giant Strawberry

Thank you, Lauren, for sharing your story with us today!

Dear readers, you can find more of Lauren's work:
on Instagram: @thistleandfox 
*Photos in this post © Lauren Kelly. Used with permission.

10 comments:

  1. You are very talented Lauren and have the most beautiful home! It is good that you keep a sketchbook to prevent all the ideas from exploding in your head! Your fabrics are lovely and fresh and I especially like the bee print! :)

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    1. So glad you enjoyed meeting Lauren, Simone!!

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  2. Such a lovely spot to live and work! It's such a fabulous reflection of your creativity, Lauren.

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    1. I totally agree, Karen! Delighted to know you enjoyed this week's conversation!

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  3. I love your work--what a creative lady your are!

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    1. Thank you, Annie! So glad you enjoyed this post!

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  4. Lauren, your work is stunning! And I love your home. It looks so cozy; a wonderful place to live and create. The photo of the bunny and dog is adorable. It belongs in a magazine! (Thanks for introducing us to Lauren, Anne.) xo

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    1. You're welcome, Nancy! I'm so happy to have introduced you to Lauren!!

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  5. Thank you for introducing Lauren to me (and everyone else). Her work is so lovely and inspiring. I enjoy seeing the beautiful pieces that she shares and her website and Instagram pages are amazing.

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    1. Thank you, Janet. I'm so glad you enjoyed this week's Conversation!

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