Artful Advice

Q&A: Creative career advice from illustrator Lauren Martin

The playful New York artist shares her own path and tips on breaking into the industry.

Q&A: Creative career advice from illustrator Lauren Martin

In Lauren Martin’s world, flowers have faces and plants have personalities. The artist and synth player raises smiles by bringing familiar inanimate objects to life, blending bubble writing and carefree drawings on vibrant backdrops.

Her characterful, colorful illustrations scoop us all up on the metaphorical school bus right back to childhood – and it feels like a joy. Here, we ask the artist how she got where she is today, where she’s dreaming of heading next, plus her best tips for budding artists.

Lauren Martin

When and how did you first start your career in illustration?
I started by making merch for my band, Frankie Cosmos, in 2015. Then in 2020 when all of our tours were cancelled, I started reaching out to publications, restaurants and brands to see if I could do work for them. It took a bit of persistence and following up with people, but eventually I got some jobs, which snowballed into a full-blown career!

Did you always want to be an artist?
I think I knew I wanted to be an artist since I was in kindergarten! And I don’t know what made me want to start drawing but I remember from a very young age, no one could get me to stop drawing.

Did you study art/illustration?
I did! I went to The Fashion Institute of Technology for Textile Design and growing up my parents enrolled me in classes at The Art Students League in New York.

A lot of your work gives personality, positivity and humour to the everyday. How did you discover your artistic voice?
It was actually really hard for me to figure out my artistic style. I think it wasn’t until I stopped caring about whether or not my art was ‘cool’ that I started making work that I really liked. My art now is more similar to the art I made as a kid! Really fun and silly and just drawing what flows out naturally.

If someone reading this wants a career like yours, what’s something they can do today to get started?
Draw all the time and put your artwork and energy out into the world!

What would your advice be to someone who is just starting out with their own art?
I think when you’re learning how to draw, there is a temptation to copy or imitate other people's artwork but I’d recommend drawing from life instead and seeing what comes naturally. I think it’s easier to develop your own artistic voice if you just draw and let go of any preconceived notions about what you want your art to look like.

Papier x Lauren Martin

Where do you find your inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere! In the grocery store or on a walk. I think just being observant of the world around you can provide you with endless inspiration.

What’s your creative process like?
It depends on the project actually. If I’m just drawing for myself, for fun, I’ll usually have a concept just pop into my head and draw it when I have time. And when I’m working with brands, I do a bit more brainstorming and sketching before diving in.

What advice do you have for any aspiring artists seeking an agent?
I was working without an agent for a year before being approached by my current agency. Signing with an agency was really game-changing for me. I’m not very business-minded so having someone to help me with that freed up a lot of brain power for creating my art. If you have a portfolio of work already, look around at some illustrators you like and see who their agents are, and send your portfolio. Cold-emailing your portfolio can be intimidating but it’s not that bad, I promise!

How do you stay organized as a freelance artist?
I use a desktop planner! I'm actually currently using the Papier weekly desk planner.

Can you share one of your goals for the future?
Oh, I’d love to do so many things! I’d love to design characters for a cartoon, design shoes and maybe a book cover? I’m mostly just looking forward to seeing all the fun things I’ll get to do!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I ever got was to never take advice!

If you're a fan of Lauren’s illustrations, shop her debut Papier collection here and give her a follow on Instagram.

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