If you have read the second edition of Artist’s Cove, you are already familiar with the collaborative work of artists Laura and Kristen Lee. In this month’s edition, we have the pleasure of getting better acquainted with Laura Lee.
Laura has for years been building worlds and delighting patrons with her drawings. For those looking for a fusion of progressive ideas and manga influence in their art, Laura’s style is an ideal subject for your attention.
Growing up, Laura often found herself drawing what was on the television screen. From cartoons like Sailor Moon, Escaflowne and Invader Zim to games Like Megaman, Kirby and Legend of Zelda, she would be there to sketch a growing roster of inspirations (a habit that had earned her teasing from her siblings).
“Later on I started to discover the games and cartoons that really resonated with me and helped me find direction with what I wanted in my style, which were Earthbound, Silent Hill 2, LoZ Majora’s Mask, Cowboy Bebop, Kuuchuu Buranko and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. “
As her craft evolved, her affinity for expressing herself through comics in particular remained.
“Comics have been a constant thing that has never wavered from my vision. Ever. The way I went about them and the type of stories I wanted to draw have changed rapidly but the core of it is still to express at least one of those in a comic format.”
For her, drawing was a coping method. It was how she expressed ideas, affections and infatuations. In times of fear, she would draw what had been haunting her, examining the subject matter along the way.
Having such a lucid form of expression can result in many a confrontation with your own mental limitations. So, what happens when the subject of your work pushes you out of your comfort zone? For Laura, this was a matter of deconstructing why subject matter had such a negative effect.
“These studies make me closer to whatever it is that I’m drawing because while I draw, I analyze and talk through the whole thing (in my head). Drawing/painting can be a very intense process for me because there’s never a time where I’m not creating a dialogue in my mind.”
With this approach, she is able to confront and push her boundaries as an artist. Where she typically draws a creative line is not at the intensity of the subject matter, but rather its authenticity to her. To create a work of art, she must first believe in it.
An example of this principle in action is her straying from the western idealized superhero comic (a genre that she respects, but feels is saturated). Laura has instead placed herself firmly within growing web comic industry, as evidenced by her dedication to Ghost Junk Sickness, in order to create works that are more true to her style.
“This is why I choose web comics and indulge in the growing industry because there’s so much that all these up and coming artist have to show that publishing companies wouldn’t give the time of day. People are being more progressive in one comic than the old staple publishing companies have ever attempted. In my art I try to challenge as much as I can and be as progressive as I can. I absolutely refuse to draw anything that I don’t believe in.”
An exception to this standard is made for her commission work. Pleasing her clients requires her to adopt an appreciation for the potential of the requested material, and she has used the chance to draw even unfamiliar characters as an opportunity to better understand and appreciate her patrons as individuals.
As the years progressed, she found that artistic direction was a constant challenge. From deciding whether or not to take a more cartoonish approach to her style, to transitioning her already successful comic style into painting without slipping too far into realism, each step in her development brings with it more questions. When asked about possible future projects, she mentioned her interest in incorporating mixed media, a style that will no doubt present a fresh new series of adjustments to her creative process.
“I’m very fickle with a lot of things, especially with my art, butI feel I have sculpted something that seems suitable for the time being. I had to create something that was versatile and flexible while still staying true to every part of myself. Colour and shapes are very important to me in terms of design, so I had to figure out the right shade of everything for me to be satisfied with the work. With every painting I do I’m chipping away at what I really want to achieve, getting a little closer bit by bit.”
One such example of her creative process is the character DJ Tekla (pictured right). Designed originally as one half of a romantic couple (the other being a mopey mermaid), this story is currently still in embryo, and may see Tekla take a more central and independent role if it were to be brought to life.
But lest you think Laura’s portfolio exists solely within panels, works like the recently gallery featured Gender is a Pleasure stand as a testament to her versatility. A three-piece painting, Gender is a Pleasure puts the issue of being transgender/non-binary into a more positive light than that in which it has been cast by the media. Though Laura felt it better to leave an in-depth elucidation of this issue to transgender and non-binary people, she was inspired to at least use her skills to contribute to the dialogue in a positive way.
“I read this really insightful blog post that someone made about the trans experience highlighting that choosing transition was not always about pain and suffering but rather more of feeling happier and pleasure when associated with their gender of choice. We’re shown that trans/non-binary people must be suffering so much until they can transition so we constantly associate their lives with pain, and I think that’s wrong. After being enlightened, I just felt compelled enough to paint something for it because I may not have the experience myself, but at least having some artistic skill I can create something to bring more attention to the matter. Plus there’s not enough art featuring people of different genders, so I wanted to give it some representation.”
With the Ghost Junk Sickness universe building, as well as her experimentation with other media, we can only guess at what future projects Laura will undertake. For now, we have a sci-fi universe as well as a growing library of commissions and paintings to keep us interested.