Art Chat with Lauren Marx
Lauren Marx's work evokes both feelings of horror and enchantment with her raw depictions of flora and fauna illustrating the cycle of life. With her latest work on view for Platinum Blend 2 at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco, we took an opportunity to have a chat with the St. Louis based artist. Here she talks about her process, inspiration, and her love for skulls.
You grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and currently reside there. How has living in a state rich in wildlife shaped your creativity?
Even though I grew up in a state that is abundant in wildlife, I never managed to see much of the it since I grew up within the city limits of St. Louis. Instead the only animals I could see were either on the television or in the zoo. I desired for a more personal connection to nature, which I think plays a large role in my focus on animals. I've strictly only drawn animals and mythological creatures since I was a kid.
Tell us about your process. How does a work evolve from conception to completion?
My work usually starts with an image in my head that appears to me almost like a dream. Once I do have a “vision” of a composition, I then hunt through my several animal and plant reference books to find the perfect subjects for the piece. Then I hunt around online for reference images. Usually about four dozen for each animal, plant, and insect. Only then do I actually start working on a piece of paper that is either cut from a roll and flattened, or from a hot-pressed watercolor block. When the paper is finally attached to a board, I set my self up on my couch with my computer beside me and the drawing on my lap. From there I use a pencil to sketch out the composition, the plants and animals, and to refine some details to get it ready for outlining. I then use a ballpoint gel pen hybrid to outline all of the subjects and to start adding in some basic details. All of the pencil is then erased to clean up the paper a bit. The next step is coloring and I use ink pencils to color all of the parts of the drawing except for the background. After everything is colored, I go back over with my pens, white colored pencils, and white gel pens to add texture, contrast, and highlights. The background is the last part I color, which is colored with bottled inks or watercolor. The piece is complete after the background is added and from there I cut the piece down, take it to a scanner, and then get it framed.
Your work for Platinum Blend 2, 'To Kill the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg' is both striking and unsettling. Tell us about the inspiration behind this piece.
The inspiration for the piece came from one of the Aesop's Fables, titled “The Goose (or Hen) That Laid the Golden Eggs”. In the story, a man and wife discover that one of their geese is laying golden eggs. Instead of keeping the goose alive and selling each egg, they decide to instead kill the goose figuring that the goose itself was made of gold. To their dismay, the goose is not made of gold, but is instead an ordinary goose. Because of their impulsive greed, they lose their possible fortune. I thought it was a beautiful comment on human greed and the selfish destruction of habitats, and species, for an immediate profit. From this I drew a comparison to the extinction of the honey bee from colony collapse disorder due to the overuse of pesticides. Instead of letting animals and insects take a part of a crops yield, we are now in danger of losing all of our crops if the bees were to disappear. In my piece, both the geese and the bees have lost. “To Kill the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg” is now used as an idiom for this destructive greed and so became the perfect title.
If you could hang only one artwork from art history in your home or studio, what would it be and why?
If I could only choose one historical art piece, it would have to be the Pre-Raphaelite painting, 'I am Half-Sick of Shadows', said the Lady of Shalott by Sidney Harold Meteyard. This painting encompasses many of my favorite things including folklore, magic, realism, and nature. It is a huge inspiration for my art and I would love to look at it every day.
Tell us something about yourself we wouldn't necessarily know.
I love to collect animal skulls, especially deer. I have over twenty now including elk, roe deer, and a hartebeest. Animal skulls are works of art.
If I were to spend the day with Lauren, what could I expect?
We would watch lots of Netflix documentaries and shows while sitting on my couch working on art for hours and hours. Only to stop to drink tea or eat a meal. We would also have to deal with three very needy cats who will try to play with the art supplies or climb on your shoulders a couple times throughout the day.