Welcome to our second artisan interview! Today we are chatting with Laura of Laura Browning Art and the instagram feed @Elle Browning, a talented painter whose work I have been admiring for months now. I was excited to get a chance to talk with her!
Tell us about @ElleBrowning. What do you do, and how does your work reflect who you are?
I’m Laura Browning, a painter based in the SF Bay Area. I live and with my husband, our 1.5 year old son (and dog + cat) in our mid-century modern home (my personal “dream home”). My work is inspired by the classic California dream and timelessness of modern design from the mid 20th century. I focus on luminous color interactions and iconic shapes that give glimpses of that idyllic lifestyle.
How did you get started in your art?
I’ve always been passionate about art. I received my BFA with a focus in drawing and painting. After college, I was very determined to make my living as an artist. I spent most of my post college years working some pretty interesting jobs in the art world. I worked at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art teaching art workshops in tandem with exhibitions. I interned at the Guggenheim museum in Venice, Italy. I worked for an art publisher hand enhancing canvas giclees (meaning we added thick layers of paint over canvas prints to make them look more like an original.) I was another artist’s ghost painter. I ran a team of artists painting murals, then opened my own business painting murals, faux finishes and custom canvases. Eventually I became a published artist and my work (that was heavily influenced by the publisher) was mass produced and sold in major chain stores like Target and Bed Bath and Beyond. It’s only recently that I’ve stopped taking on projects that are based on the creative visions of others and really started to focus on my own body of work.
Where and how do you work? Do you have a studio? Do you have a set schedule every day or is your work more fluid?
I work in my home studio which is a bedroom in our house. We had a desk and shelves custom built to optimize the layout and storage space. I’ve also turned a large part of our garage into a second studio for larger and messier pieces. That’s also where I store older artwork, and pack art for shipping. We’ve talked about moving my work into a studio space, but it’s really important for me to be home with my son as much as I can. Before my son was born, I had a very structured schedule, working “regular” hours and treating my art business like I would a job. It was pretty challenging to re-adjust to working after having a baby, but I’m finally finding a groove with it. I have a few days a week that I schedule work sessions without interruption. Then I squeeze in a bit more time to work into the cracks during the rest of the week. During my son’s big afternoon naps, I make the most out of every minute.
Your new series of paintings of water are amazing. What inspired the series?
Oh, thank you! I’ve really been enjoying creating this new series. It’s actually a little funny how it started. I was focused on painting mid-century modern chairs, and had a whole series planned for those. I had a large canvas that had been hanging on our dining room wall for a few months. I had started an underpainting but never finished working on it. I had planned to do a water painting and had many ideas but I never intended to make a body of work based on water. I just really wanted a painting of water hanging on that particular wall. I decided to do a few studies to help determine how the large piece would come together, then quickly became totally obsessed with painting water. It’s all I want to do right now… find more images of water and experiment with how to capture that light and movement.
Many of the visual artists I know say they struggle to balance the creative side of their art with the need to market, promote, and apply for shows. How do you balance these two?
I absolutely love tending to the business needs, as much as being creative. My dad always encouraged me to minor in business during college. I didn’t take his advice, but I often think I should have since I enjoy the business stuff so much. They are definitely different modes, and some days I’m feeling in tune with one mode more than the other but I’m very disciplined about my work time. I’m always working towards bigger goals, that I slice up into smaller projects. I’m a list maker, and I stay very organized, so as long as I’m making progress towards my longer term goals, I’ll consider it a productive day.
Who are your favorite artists and who inspires you?
Mark Rothko, Wayne Thiebaud, Alphonse Mucha, Philip Barlow, Kelly Reemsten, Leah Giberson, Angie Renfro, Debbie Miller, Ali Cavanaugh, Michael Carson… oh, I could go on and on. I get so excited and inspired by art.
What are you currently reading, listening to, or looking at to fuel your creativity?
I’m looking at a lot of photos from my travels lately. My husband and I really love to take extended trips… and usually gravitate towards areas near beaches. Most recently we’ve spent two summers on the Spanish island of Mallorca. We visited so many beaches, went sailing, kayaking, paddleboarding. I guess it’s safe to say we’re water people. The beaches are so diverse on different parts of that island… so much color inspiration! I feel very at peace while painting water, but using the photos I’ve taken at beautiful beach destinations makes it even more fulfilling. It’s like I spend my days reliving some of my favorite moments. Listening to? I’ve been a little obsessed with listening to El Vy and the National lately. Also Flamenco music.