Artist Spotlight - Lauren Cummings
By Angelyn Labadan
1. First, give us a short introduction!
Hello, I’m Lauren Cummings. I was raised on the east coast, USA, where in 2018 I received a BFA in Painting from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. The desire to pursue art felt natural, empowering, and full of possibility.
Studying art and its history at Temple’s main campus in Philadelphia led me to TUJ for the first half of my final year. After graduating, I have continued to paint while working part time at a historic Japanese House & Garden in Philadelphia.
1a. Having studied abroad at TUJ for Summer 2018, did you gain any new influences or ideas for your art?
Definitely! The following semester I reflected upon the unique experience of Mt. Fuji at nighttime, drawing inspiration for my senior thesis show. Guided by the interplay of distant celestial bodies, man-made illuminations, and the bright moon overhead, I created a body of work that explores this special vibrant energy that nearly 300,000 people strive to see each year.
I owe a lot to my amazing climbing partner and fellow TUJ student for the completion of that adventure. Studying Mono-ha artists in Contemporary Japanese Art History with Professor Taro Nettleton inspired the unconventionally flat and floating method of display for these paintings.
That collection was the most direct outcome of my time at TUJ, but there is really so much more. Tokyo’s neon hues crept into my work and stayed, I built up a solid sketchbook practice, and studying Japanese artists and traditional materials was a refreshing change from the curriculum at Tyler. Those are just a few examples of influence to my artistic practice after one summer at TUJ.
2. Describe briefly the work that you do.
My work is rooted in landscape and natural phenomena. I’ve been most recently fascinated by mountains and the profound shift in perspective they allow for, including a greater connection to the stars and happenings above. The paintings are an attempt to channel the wonder of a specific moment using color and abstraction. Most of the work starts as a quick observational line drawing in my sketchbook before becoming an oil painting.
3. How did you get introduced to your craft?
I actually first experimented with watercolor in high school, treating it more like drawing with a brush. Something about the fluidity clicked and it was always painting from then on. I started by learning on my own and experimenting with basics. I knew I could observe and copy fairly decent, but then I went to art school and had a self-awakening. I knew nothing about fine art and had to adapt quickly. Somehow along the way I found my roots in landscape, finding comfort in organic forms. Great professors and freedom to explore really urged me onward.
4. What themes do you pursue?
My practice is a personal exploration; landscape and studying nature comes from a search for spirituality. Nature is beautiful and mysterious and works in perfect harmony which gives me a sense of calm and the will to stay positive.
Modern life seems to work against nature in many ways, so I like my paintings to highlight the magic that exists without our interference. I have called my work “spiritual landscapes” before in an attempt to describe this.
5. How do you work/what is your process like?
It starts suddenly whenever I see something that could be a painting, I find my sketchbook and make that first quick drawing.
Later I’ll make a second drawing of the initial drawing to better grasp how it feels as a painting.
I’ll even write the steps out for what to paint first in the piece. I am not one to switch everything up mid-way or make dramatic changes, unless I’ve left room for that in the planning. I like to use pre-determined color palettes and tons of different paint mediums like galkyd and linseed oil. All of this happens on a tiny portable easel now that I’ve graduated and need to find my own studio space again. My oil paintings from last year were all made outside at Rittenhouse Park in Philadelphia.
5a. Has not being able to work in a studio/being a park artists somehow affected your process ?
Yes! I work so much smaller now than I used to, because it has to be portable and easy to store away.
Working smaller made me develop more impactful paintings, I think. At the same time, its great to be able to interact with people passing by and I’ve made memorable connections to collectors this way.
I’ve also had to streamline my process a bit, so I’ve been using super smooth pre-primed wood panels to paint on. These paintings on wood panel have become my favorite surface to paint on. Even when I find a permanent indoor studio soon, I will be using these smooth panels.
6. Do you have any long-standing influences?
I look to literature and other artists who resonate with my ideas, and I’ve gained a lot from reading Emerson’s various essays. There is Charles Burchfield’s rhythm and Rockwell Kent’s sense of light, but the most long-term influential is Agnes Pelton and her abstract landscapes that exude a powerful knowledge.
7. How do you want your work to affect your audience?
I hope that viewers of my work are able to open their eyes a little bit more to the wonder of the world. Not to make them feel small in comparison, but invigorated by the infinite energy that moves all things. That landscape art is not just decorative or predictable.
8. Can you describe your idea of artistic success?
I used to have the idea of gallery representation as artistic success, but now I believe a life of continuous creation with the ability to grow and share my ideas with others would be most fulfilling.
9. What are your plans for the future?
I plan to stay happy, healthy, and travel often to inspire my art. I have a trip to Chile, South America, in the works for the end of the year to witness an eclipse, hoping it still goes forward with all the uncertainty of coronavirus restrictions. I also plan to continue working with museums and art organizations to complement my artistic practice. On top of that, I adopted a family of three cats last fall so there is a lot of balancing in my life. Always staying busy.
10. Let’s talk about one of your most recent and favorite projects: The Other Rising.
"The Other Rising” refers to an idea that kept evolving each time I painted it. I’ve never exhibited these paintings together because they were made spontaneously over the last two years as an exercise to understand something.
It is from the moment I saw the moonrise above the clouds from 11,000ft where I was nearly eye-level with it. As an avid moon-watcher, this was a completely new sight to me and made a lasting impact. The first time I painted it was by memory and I was trying to really push the feeling of entrancement so it ended up very strange, unnatural, and bold—it was authentic to the feeling.
But I couldn’t abandon this moment yet, and I painted it three or more times in the following year. I came back to it again last month in watercolor and pastel on paper. Using these soft materials resulted in a softer visual; this one was totally opposite from the first version. Thoroughly exhausting an idea over a long period of time made it one of my favorite projects because it just developed so naturally and I felt like I was able to honor that memory properly. I want my work to respect the nature it reflects.
Be sure to check out more of her work and connect with Lauren via Instagram!
Thank you Lauren for taking the time to talk with us!
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