Interview with Illustrator Lauren Gornik
These days it’s easy enough for most bands to reach out to a nephew who’s “good with computers” to slap a few layers together in Photoshop for their album artwork, gig flyer or merch designs. Failing that, they can always use a disc duplication service and their PowerPoint background-inspired artwork templates. After all, why seek out a talented artist for their skill and experience when you can stick by your original vision, no matter how stupid? Had they reached out to someone like Lauren Gornik, we wouldn’t be making fun of them right now.
Lauren, a St Louis-based artist and musician, is responsible for creating a wide array of bold hand-drawn illustrations for local & national bands alike. Organic forms, fearsome shapes and eye-popping color (and occasionally humor) are merged into a unique hallucinogenic blend, where chimeric women and multi-tongued sharks sit comfortably alongside monochrome wolves and thorny band logos. I reached out to Lauren for her insight on what inspires her to create and how she does it.
How long have you been illustrating, and what got you started?
I’ve been illustrating since I’ve been alive. I could probably draw before I could talk. It was instinctual, I always knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life. I’ve deviated from that path, and I have plenty of other interests besides art, but it’s just part of who I am. People always wanted me to draw for them or create something imaginative, but what got me interested in pursuing it professionally, going to college and making a living, was different. I never realistically put together all of the practical applications for illustration until late in high school, before that I was creating to create.
My involvement with music actually opened my eyes to a lot of those applications, whether or not they directly related to music. So I started to study other artists and look more intimately at other modern illustrators and the techniques being pursued. Before that point, I usually painted or drew with different variations of charcoal and pencil, but I quickly adapted to pen and ink. I fell in love with pen and ink, since it’s completely different in terms of technique. Everything I was accustomed to was far less based in line and precision in mark making. I’d say that a lot of what I do with illustration would pair well with print making as well.
Has your artwork always been connected to music, or was that an association that came later?
My direction has been all over the place. I drew anything and everything, but ever since I got heavily involved with music, later on in high school, that’s all I could think about. Creating for myself is one thing, but I found that music is a great market for artwork and specifically for what I wanted to create. I started by doing very basic works since I was still finding my style, or the style that I wanted people to associate with me, while I was going to college. I was hassled for a lot of repeating themes and for always having this association with metal, but once I started I really couldn’t stop. So I continuously build off of everything I hear and off of every project.
Do you have any artistic influences or sources of inspiration when drawing?
As far as influences go, I think that a lot of my personal pieces come to fruition because of weird conversations or just from some odd concept from a day dream. I love making people laugh and creating something nonsensical, and even though I am not a character artist, I love creating dynamic, insane faces. Unfortunately, I’m often put in a position of creating very serious pieces for bands, or creating something that is heavily rooted in their concept. It’s not always a bad thing, but sometimes I just feel like creating something outrageous, something that’s not necessarily designated to me.
Is there any specific music or artists that help the process along?
A lot of times when I have a hard time creating work, I do put on music that gets me focused. Most of the time I’d say that’s doom metal, black metal, or something more atmospheric that really puts me in a trance. If I really need to kick it into high gear, I love powering through artwork with some Swedish death metal or power metal.
For those of us who have no idea how any of this stuff works, can you take us through the process from idea to finished work?
My process is usually the same for most of my work, though there are always exceptions. For a typical piece, I am approached by a band with a concept, or they want to hear a new concept from me. So first I start out with a pretty rough sketch, something that just shows the positions of the figures. This is either done as a quick pencil sketch or as a quick photo compilation in Photoshop.
Once that is approved, I’ll do a more detailed drawing, though not too detailed, because that’s where inking comes in. Once that is done, I can see what works and what doesn’t, so I play around with that for a little, then when it’s finally the way I like it, I ink everything in and add the fine details. So after this is done, I scan it in and digitally paint it in Photoshop. My motto is to have more simplistic color when you have complicated line work, otherwise the piece becomes too busy. Depending on the purpose of the design, I’ll do a limited color painting (usually four colors) so they can have shirts printed off.
How does your role as a guitarist help (or hinder) your work?
It’s certainly helped me meet a great deal of other musicians, which is very helpful for business. Unfortunately for my music life, I end up working on artwork so much that it does hinder me from creating new music a lot, but I manage the best I can. I think that one of the greatest benefits to this is being able to create things for your own band(s).
Do you have a favorite client you’ve worked with?
That’s hard to say, I work with so many great bands, though there have been people that have disrespected me before. I just really love people that know what they want, or are very open minded, and have preferably worked with an artist before. Some people don’t understand the process as well as others, or how long it takes to create something when you have five other bands waiting before them. I have to say that it’s been an honor to work with some larger acts such as Arsis, Novembers Doom or Theories, but local bands are great to work with as well. I know that I have probably done the most work for Tropical Storm!, Thorhammer and Sable Beldam.
What do you feel has been the best use of your artwork? I saw that the band The Everscathed made a stage prop based on your design.
That was absolutely wonderful! I couldn’t believe that when I saw it, but it’s really something else. I would say that that is one of the best uses based off a design I made, but I do love the embroidered patches that Thorhammer got of the shirt design I created, as well as the baby clothes that Vanlade had created for their album cover. It’s always awesome to see how creative people can get with their merch as well.
Any plans or goals for 2015?
This year, I want to get bigger and better, just like every year. I really want to work with larger bands and get more of an online following, but it would be awesome to get time for personal pieces and to get time for working on music as well. Hopefully I’ll continue to improve on every piece I create!
Check out more of Lauren’s illustration work and music.