“Orderly but wonky”: Kelly Lasserre illustrates collections of mouths, jars and beach rocks

The American illustrator has done her fair share of travelling and with it has come a great deal of creative inspiration.

Date
28 September 2020
Reading Time
4 minute read

In Kelly Lasserre’s eyes, there’s no one set way of doing things. With a distinctive style that revolves around “goofy ideas”, interiors and buildings, the American illustrator has the ability to flit between personal and mundane objects, right through to text-based images and even the smaller moments of the general life. Her collections of things, too, are instantly transfixing for their meticulous placement, their joyful and earthy colour palette and immense detail in items such as empty bottles, mouths and beach rocks.

Kelly’s reasons for creating stems back to her upbringing. Originally from Mississippi, the illustrator grew up on the coast of Massachusetts – a location she moved to at the young age of six. “I spent my summers in the south and school years in Massachusetts,” she tells It’s Nice That. “An interesting balance for sure.” She first picked up a pencil at the age of 12 “because [she] was really sad and hated everything else”. Intuitively, she saw the process as an outlet that she could give her full attention to, especially for the control and the way it made things feel more “correct”.

Having moved to Baltimore to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art, she recalls this as the moment that her perspective of the world shifted slightly. She’d entered a city, a new way of learning and seeing – “being surrounded by other people who understood the compulsion to create,” she says. And it wasn’t long until she got to grips with the industry and her practice, whereby after school she would continue to work on her passion. This resulted in a further move to Boston for a couple of years, before traversing to New York City for five, New Orleans for four, and finally landing in Philadelphia. “I’ve learned so much from moving a lot and experiencing new cities, people and cultures,” she adds. “Changes inevitably take place with big moves; they’re emotional, they dig up a lot, they make you reflect and grow whether you like it or not.”

GalleryKelly Lasserre (Copyright © Kelly Lasserre, 2020)

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Barcias

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Beach Rocks

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Beach Rocks

Alongside her personal portfolio of detailed works, Kelly’s been freelancing for design studios, magazines and books. What’s more is that her repertoire of day jobs is more than impressive, which has no doubt given her a glimpse into different ways of working, new situations and the broad mix of people that the world beholds: “I’ve worked doing woodworking and detailing on sailboats, I’ve worked at an art supply store, in a fancy children’s clothing store, a French bookstore, a production and fabric studio, the window displays at Saks, a barista, a gallery assistant, a nanny, and most recently a tour manager,” she says. “My background has been really interesting and put me into a lot of hilarious situations, and it’s shaped a lot of the person I am today.”

When it comes down to the subject matter presented in her meticulously crafted illustrations, no doubt this can be traced back to her varied upbringing and past experiences. Without ties nor bounds to a certain way of creating, Kelly sees the process as more of a remedial task that she finds comforting; it’s always helped her to address anxiety and often she will depict things that are a mere reflection of what’s going on at any given time. Because of this, her objects and scenes take many shapes. If it’s a mundane object with a personal message, she strives to recreate it “so that it always exists in the way it is at that time.” She adds: “Sometimes it’s something I see in the world or my house, or wherever, and I think ‘that looks special, that has a feeling, I need to record it’.”

In terms of the collection-based works, this somewhat obsessive and equally satisfying layout grew gradually – “it has something to do with bringing order to and categorising things, keeping things together.” It all began with a series of mismatched socks from ten years ago, which later turned into “everything” that was in her backpack, on her floor, what she was packing for a two-month trip and the keys she had that didn’t know which locks they fit. The crux of this method she refers to as a “bizarre journal of sorts”, and the interest soon transferred into empty jars in the refrigerator, matchbooks, Koozies, beach rocks, shoes, pens, “whatever it may be” that will later mark as an “orderly but wonky" memory of a specific time or place. Maybe she sees this segment of her portfolio as somewhat random, but we see it was a medley of systematic, expertly illustrated ephemera and we can’t get enough.

GalleryKelly Lasserre (Copyright © Kelly Lasserre, 2020)

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Kitchen

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Laura Dern

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NYC Matches

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New Orleans Matches

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Treasure Island

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Koozies

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Parking Ticket

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Pills

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Brothers Three

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Kelly Lasserre: Empties (Copyright © Kelly Lasserre, 2020)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and continued to work with us on a freelance basis. From November 2019 she joined the team again, working with us as a Staff Writer on Mondays and Tuesdays until August 2020.

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