Saturday, April 16, 2011

An Interview with Lauren Small (gingerkellydesigns)

I have been really amazed by the depth of visual imagery in your work. It really feels like walking into a magical dreamworld and it is so obvious how much your imagination is steeped in folklore, myth and fairy tale. I was wondering if you have any particular favourite books, myths, fairy-stories or folk-tales. ….. Also, is there any one particular story or book you remember reading as a child that first drew you into this enchanted world? 

Oh, where to begin? I LOVE books. Over the past few years I became really hooked on the fantasy novels of Cecilia Dart Thornton, particularly The Bitterbynde Trilogy. Her stories are filled with references to traditional folklore from all over the world and the descriptions of characters and places seem to match my imagination exactly... I always have the most vivid dreams after reading these books. My love of fantasy stories began when I was very young after reading 'Faeries' by Brian Froud and Alan Lee. It wasn’t until last year that I actually bought myself a copy and I fell in love all over again with the amazing illustrations and the slightly creepy stories about water nymphs and kelpies.  

Another influence which is very obvious in your work is a strong connection with nature........ What is your favourite wild place or landscape? … and what are the qualities and feature you love about it most? 

Do I have to choose just one place? The first place that immediately springs to mind is Ireland. I went on a solo backpacking trip around Ireland (without the backpack) about 4 years ago. I was wandering around in the forests of Glendalough and Killarney in autumn... absolutely the most magical places I've ever seen. The thick forest trees, beautiful streams, waterfalls and the plush carpet of moss on everything was so inspiring, For some reason it’s the smell of those places that is the clearest memory for me. The wet earth and the gentle sound of the rain filtering through the branches above before it plops onto the ground.  
As I'm writing this it’s raining here at home and the sound is making me very nostalgic...I would go back to Ireland in a heartbeat. 

As your home is in Australia, this landscape may be very different from the Northern hemisphere landscapes which  surround many of the myths and fairy-stories which inspire your work. Do you ever feel that you are bridging two sides of the earth that are experiencing opposite seasons... do you feel there is harmony or conflict in this? 

Yes. I always feel that I'm partway between two continents, two seasons. Part of me is very much attached to my home in Australia, the other part is trying to stretch itself across the ocean... My head and heart want to go on adventures, while my bottom doesn't want to leave my comfy home ;)  
There's a little conflict... and there's a little part of me waiting to see what will happen when the stronger part wins. 

and talking about the seasons... it may be Spring here, but in Australia you have just celebrated the Autumnal Equinox... going into the darker side of the year. What does Autumn feel like for you and what sort of changes to you notice in the natural environment around you at this time of year? 

Autumn is my favourite time of year here in Australia. I live in a very wet region where it’s fairly green all year round but autumn is usually drier and it brings out a complete change in the feel of the air and the smell of the earth. The sound of Currawongs (native birds that are a bit like magpies crossed with crows) is the first thing that I notice when the season changes. Then there's the wind in the evening... I love standing out under the stars when it’s a windy night. There's something in the air... I can’t explain it.

In what ways do you feel that living in Australia has shaped and contributed to the very special qualities of your work? 

This is a difficult question... I'm not sure if it’s something that can really be defined because my experience of Australia is likely to be very different from the way many people imagine Australia to be. When you think of Australia do you think of red dirt & kangaroos? I think of the silver smooth bark of blue gums, round river stones and playing in the creek when it floods... the bright feathers of kingfishers and satin bowerbirds and the soft grey fuzzy fur of the orphaned baby wallabies that my grandmother hand raises. My childhood was very free, close to nature and I spent most of my time playing outside, or escaping into my own imagination at times when I had to go to school (I hated school).... So I think it’s more the feeling and the 'spirit' of the way I grew up that inspires the artwork I create. 

I am so interested in your creative process..... how you go about creating your digital pieces...... the way your ideas and inspirations are worked out..... what your experience of this process is like and how it fits in with the rest of your life.....  

Usually an artwork starts off in a dream or daydream. If I cannot immediately sit down and start creating the scene I've imagined then I do a really quick sketch or write a few notes in my sketchbook for later on. Most of the time I simply abandon what I was doing when I get a new idea in my head and then get lost in my imagination for a few hours until daily needs start calling... I have gone through an entire day of painting before realising that its 6pm and I haven’t even had breakfast yet! That’s not a good way to treat my body so I now try to eat something and maybe do a few daily chores before my creative side gets carried away...

How does being an artist fit into your life?...... As a child, did you know you were going to be an artist when you grew up? Have you ever considered another career in life? And do you have other interests, work, hobbies or commitments that also play an important part in your life? 

As a child I had no idea of what I wanted to do when I was older. I was completely absorbed with what I was doing at that precise moment. And I am still quite a bit like that today... absorbed in today and not really thinking about tomorrow. There was a time when I was forced to think about what I wanted to do/be when I 'grew up'. When I finished school, aged 17, I decided to go to uni and learn more about caring for and training horses as I've owned and ridden horses since I was a toddler. I'd always wanted to have more knowledge for myself, regardless of whether there was a career in it. It didn’t take long for me to realise that I really didn’t want to do any more formal education so I finished my first year then went travelling around Australia, drawing and painting every day while I travelled and realised that this is what I wanted to do. Art. I'd always loved drawing and my family and friends seemed to think I was good at it, so I kept teaching myself by experimenting and constantly practicing. I did end up finishing my university course but I did the final two years by distance education so that I could study at my own pace and do the things I really wanted to do each day... which was ride horses and paint ~ though not at the same time. Easels and paintbrushes are a little unwieldy on the back of a horse I can tell you.

It was incredibly dificult to choose just a few of Lauren's paintings and drawings to include with this interview.... to see more visit her shop at and her extremely magical website at


Clair said...

Just WONDERFUL! A lovely interview with a very talented person. Lauren, you work is gorgeous :)

im zoe said...

Such a great interview, i adore reading and learning about people.
Such a gorgeous shop also.

Zoe x

Drucilla Pettibone said...

this is such a beautiful, thoughtful interview! i thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more about lauren and her work! thank you sammi and lauren!

Cathrine said...

What an incredibly beautiful and inspiring interview! Both questions and answers are so thoughtful and the wonderful descriptions of what inpires Lauren makes you feel like you are there too! I truly enjoyed reading this!