Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Artist Interview with Lorna Brown

In this continuing series, I am showcasing some of the talented artists who have crossed my path these past few months and years. Their work ranges from photography to performance to something in between. This month, I'm focusing on an artist across the Atlantic from a little Island called England and she lives in foggy London town. Published and rising rapidly in the illo world, she's...

Lorna Brown
illustrator, watercolourist and
cup-cake creator extraordinaire

Q. Hi Lorna. So, when did you first decide to become an artist? How did you know it was for you?

A. I don't think I ever decided to be an artist, in the conventional way.

I loved science at school, and I also loved drawing, so I put these two superpowers together and did a Scientific and Natural History Illustration Degree. I loved it so much. Especially the essays and the long projects that you could really get your teeth into. One thing it was lacking, however, was drawing. We never did much drawing. It mostly concentrated on painting techniques and how to paint as realistically as possible.

Then, right at the end of the course, I did a number of loose floral paintings that were selected for exhibition in a gallery, and I sold some to The Medici Society to be printed as greetings cards. My first ever commission came from these, and so lead me down a whole different path from the Scientific and Natural History Illustration one.

Q. Are there any words that inspire you in your work? Do you have words of wisdom to live by?

A. Words that inspire me? I'm a bit of a scaredy-cat and so I have to keep reminding myself to "live life with my arms wide open". I have a natural tendency to roll up in a ball when things get tough and I have to beat that.

You know when you get that knotted up feeling in your stomach and want to give up? I hate that feeling. It's so debilitating. I need to learn how to use it. I also need to learn to stop listening to other people and letting what they say affect me inside. I had a really bad Artist's Agent straight out of university. Well, I can't pass judgement on whether they were bad for others, but they knocked my confidence completely. It took me months to work up the courage to leave them, and longer to get over the damage they had done to my self-esteem. I didn't know who I was anymore. It was alright in the end though. I found myself, and a style that fits me- it just took a little longer than I expected.

I also love the phrase "Don't follow the crowd, Stay true to yourself". It's harder than you think. Having enough confidence in yourself that you keep on doing what you are doing rather than copying what successful folk are doing. You've got to learn from the experience of others but stick to the road that is uniquely yours

Q. What advice/encouragement/warnings can you give to artists who are just starting out?

A. You've got to learn about the business side of things and not just leave that up to your clients or an agent. You've got to know what rights you have and what the words on contracts mean and how to run your business otherwise you may end up in a sticky situation somewhere along the way.

There are loads of great things about being your own boss and painting for a living, but you've still got to treat it seriously if you want to succeed. Oh, and always, always, send your contract before a job starts- it can save you a lot of heartache later if the job gets pulled or changed or if the client then hits you with a copyright grabbing contract when you've done the work.

Also, having friends in the industry is a must. No-one will understand quite what it is like to work in this profession than other illustrators/artists. If you can organise meet-ups for artists in your area then great! If not, then the internet is a great place to find like-minded individuals. The support, encouragement and chance for learning off each other is priceless.

Q. How do you unwind?

A. I unwind by routinely putting my brushes down at 6pm, although if you are going through a tough patch then it can be hard to let go mentally. Or if you don't have much work on there can be guilt involved. Sometimes the only way to relax is to change physical location, I like to get out of the house and go into town or to a
coffee shop. Creative blocks can be demolished by going out and seeing some life. It's not surprising that you occasionally run out of ideas if you are staring at the same four walls day in day out.

Q. Tell me about the works you've chosen to share.

A. The works I have chosen are mainly personal pieces and so they stem from something a little deeper than my illustration work. They scratch an itch. I like taking thoughts from my journal or from what my friends are going through and making them visual. Stuff like the Serenity Prayer, and the idea of setting my heart free. Others see things in pictures that you, as the artist, didn't even intend- I like that.

The hope seeds one (flower on a chair) came from something my father-in-law told me about where he works. He's a counsellor, and often works with refugees and people seeking asylum in Britain. There is a scheme whereby they are given some flower seeds and a plant pot. He said it really helps some people to grow a flower and watch its progression during this undoubtedly tough emotional time. I loved that idea of seeds of hope.

I also like painting real things in a way that tells more than just a photograph. It is the best way for an illustrator to stay in work! Photography is everywhere, and whilst good photography isn't that common, a lot of commissioners still think it is the easiest route to go. Whereas work like my Kew Gardens map and Allotment plan would have looked messy and unreadable as photography. It is good, for the industry as a whole, if you feed ideas to potential commissioners on how they can make use of your illustrations.

Thanks Lorna! For more of Lorna's work be sure to visit her website at:

Lornastration.com or keep up with her process and get some of the insights of Lorna's Thunks.

Lorna's map of Kew Gardens (if I recall correctly, this is the result of weeks and weeks of work):

All images used in this article are copyright Lorna Brown. For more information on how to contract Lorna's services, or if you just want to tell her how brilliant she is, visit http://www.lornastration.com/


Tara said...

Fantastic! Very nice interview, and what a treat to be introduced to a wonderful artist this way! Keep'em coming!

Aaron Paquette said...

I will!

Lorna's great, isn't she?

I'm waiting on Gretel, now...