For some, there’s a specific moment that made everything happen. For Lauren Martin, an illustrator based in New York, it was when she was in pre-school and her older cousin had moved in with her family. Her cousin was attending the School of Visual Arts in the city and Lauren would watch her draw, which in turn sparked an interest in her to do the same. “She saw that I was really creative and passionate about drawing and told my parents that they should enrol me in art classes,” she tells It’s Nice That. Soon enough she was at the Art Students League and has been drawing ever since.
Lauren decided to pursue the arts and studied portrait painting at the National Academy of Design. Howbeit, her future path in this specific medium wasn’t long-lasting. Not sure if portrait painting was the right part of the industry for her, she took a year out of education to figure out her next steps. Some time away and a new-found hobby in knitting and sewing meant that she later enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “I really loved it and my work became more illustrative and more influenced by design, rather than painting,” she says. During her studies, she was able to work alongside designers such as Ellen Van Dusen and Samantha Pleet, only for her to realise this ever-growing interest in design. During this time, she also started playing in an indie rock band called Frankie Cosmos, and started to design and screenprint their merchandise. “So this also caused my art to shift towards becoming less painterly and more graphic.”
Having grown up close to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lauren found herself frequenting the gallery during her school years. She recalls a small room in the back, where the gallery holds its Princesse de Broglie painting by Ingres: “I would go and look at it every time I visited the museum,” she says. “I’m definitely very interested in neoclassical art .” Elsewhere, she found cartoons to be of great importance to her artistic development, recalling a VHS copy of Totoro she was given by her mum’s friend when she was young. “I can definitely see the influence of Miyazaki on what my work looks like now,” she adds, citing Dublin-based illustrators Ruan Van Vliet and Fuchsia MacAree as those that broadened her perspective as to what can be achieved through illustration – particularly when it comes to building a career.
Despite coming from a painterly background, Lauren’s work is now solely centred around a digital process. Somewhat contradictory to her previous education, it’s not unheard of for an artist to rebel against their former training. “Ten years ago,” she adds, “if you told me I’d be drawing on an iPad, I would have cracked up laughing and gone back to mixing my paints!”
Alongside her picturesque dining scenes, colourful spreads and comical characters, recent times have seen the artist create a short animation – a piece depicting a butter knife poking an “over-easy egg”, which thus causes the yolk to burst. “Before I made the animation, I kept seeing this image over and over. It perfectly expressed how I’ve been feeling in quarantine,” explains Lauren, who regularly uses food as her protagonists. “It’s like my bubble has burst, everything about my life is different but I’m still fine – I guess it has a bit to do with mindfulness and staying aware of the exact moment you’re in.”
As for forthcoming plans, Lauren tells us how she’s been working with one of her favourite restaurants in Brooklyn while they shift from dine-in services to take-home products – helping them to create the merchandise and packaging design. In other news, her boyfriend is a recipe and food writer, meaning they’ve been putting their skills on the table to collaborate on a series of cookbook zines for the past few months. Hoping to print or digitally release the first issue this summer, rest assured it will be a tasty and joyous concoction. “I always hope that my work makes people laugh or smile,” concludes Lauren on the main goal with her work. “I like to feel as if I’m a positive force in the universe.”
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she became online editor in 2022 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.