Lauren Gregory is a visual artist who was painting for ten years before she ventured into animation. She started out as a portrait artist, and found herself transitioning into animation, which has increasingly captured her attention over the years. I recently had a chance to chat with Lauren, and learn a bit more about her unique approach to her work and what she finds inspiring.
I read somewhere that you paint with your fingers. How did that come about?
I painted with brushes for a couple years, but I found them cumbersome and always ended up just ditching them. A few years later I forced myself to start wearing gloves, and now I pretty much just use my gloved hands to apply most of the paint. Most of my paintings are pretty sculptural anyway, so it makes sense. I still use brushes when I paint with watercolors.
How did you go about learning animation?
I learned to animate during grad school, but I was in the painting department. I acquired a couple of mentors from the animation department who were able to answer my technical questions (Chris Sullivan is an incredible animator who shared his knowledge with me, for example) and really I just started out very simply, and slowly gained more skills with each project. I started to experiment with Claymation, and was going to do some more work in Claymation, when a record company approached me about trying a different look.
You come from three generations of women artists. How has this had an impact your work?
It’s hard for me to measure. Growing up, I was so entrenched in their point of view of the world that I can’t really separate it from myself. One thing that definitely came from them is kind of an impressionist vibe that I think my work still has. Also color. My grandma is unreal with her sense of color.
I understand that the “Rose Quartz” video for Toro y Moi marked your directorial debut. Can you describe the process you used? How long did it take to make this stop-motion animation?
It took me two and a half months full time. Honestly, it felt like I stopped mostly to eat and sleep. I had my regular set up: I work on a plane of glass, on my desk, with a camera pointed directly down at it, and a light set up on either side. Then, I would just make a painting and slowly change it, frame by frame, while photographing repeatedly. It’s just basic stop motion.
What are some of your favorite apps or tools today?
I edit in Premiere Pro. Technology is not really my strong suite, so most of the work is done by hand, and edited together, very simply, in Premiere.
Whose work do you admire?
Kelly Gallagher comes to mind as someone who is working for social justice through animation.
Do you think of yourself as a creative entrepreneur?
It took me a long time to realize my potential as a creative entrepreneur, but I think I have finally found a balance where I can do what I love — and also make a living. I enjoy working on music videos. The length of a song is right for animation. Companies have reached out, and asked me for my creative input. I develop a creative vision for the work, prepare a brief proposal, and we negotiate a timeline and a budget. It’s tough sometimes, because bands don’t always have a lot of money. But once a project is approved, I dive in and see what I can produce. Fortunately, music videos feed off of each other. People have heard of Toro et Moi, and that has helped generate new work for me.
What else have you been involved with?
I have been approached by curators about showing my animation work within a museum context. My multimedia animation work has found its way to the MOCA Los Angeles and the New Museum. I used to do that kind of thing a lot more, including commissions. I feel lucky to have had those opportunities, most of which came about after graduate school (Lauren received an MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago). Lately my focus is on self-directed work.
What are you working on now? Or, what would be your next dream project?
I would love to keep making music videos, and it would be a dream to make a video for a female singer that I really admire, even posthumously. Names that come to mind include Dolly Parton, Mariah Carey, Aaliyah, Whitney Houston and Diana Ross, for example.
Do you participate in creative communities, either online or offline?
I do. I recently spent six months in Nashville Tennessee, and there were many creative groups there with online homes. In New York, the scene is more scattered and crazy, but I do go to art openings and performances whenever I can.
What inspires you? Where or how do you recharge or find inspiration when you feel stuck?
I often feel more inspired by music than I do by other visual artists. I have always worked closely with the music world, and I think it is a wonderful place to draw inspiration from for my visual work (Lauren was a music major in college, before taking up the painting major).
What advice would you give creative professionals who may want to strike out on their own, or attempt to try something that is out of their comfort zone professionally?
Make something that is completely you, and that you are proud to show other people. Create an online world where people who are curious can visit your work, and have business cards ready so that you can begin to build a network with other makers. Also, I respect artists who don’t place boundaries around their work. So, I would say don’t separate art from life.
Check out Lauren’s latest work: