Create With: Traveling Muralist Lauren Asta

Traveling muralist and artist specializing in illustration, oddity art, doodle art, and street art. 

 

"Being supportive allows us to move forward in a positive and healthy way."

How did you start doing art and murals?
Oh man... earliest memory I have of starting to make art was when I was a kid and kept sketch books and journal drawings instead of the Hello Kitty Diaries all my friends had! I went to school for photography when photography was still photography... I practically lived in the dark room. After college, digital photography was the all the buzz and trying to continue in the dark room was difficult and expensive... The next best (and cheaper!) thing was pen and ink. I was living and bar tending in NYC at the time. I started to put art up at coffee shops and bars. The response was amazing and gave me confidence to continue showing more artwork. I had about 12 shows in NYC and sold out almost every time! After 7 years, I ended up moving back to my hometown in California to help my parents move. I ended up getting a job at a distillery which was housed in an old 65,000 sq ft. navy hangar on an hangar base in Alameda. Next door to the distillery was another 65,000 sq ft hangar that housed a brewery. The brewery had planned to rent the entire space but was unfortunately bought out and was only able to secure half of the space. A construction company ended up building a hideous wall right down the middle of the hangar leaving an unfinished, dry walled, hideous eye sore for the space that hundreds of people came to weekly. I saw an opportunity to approach the owners of the brewery and offer to paint a large scale mural. They loved the idea, and just a few weeks later I found myself on a scissor lift starting my first large scale mural ever. I didn't even have time to do any sketches or drawings to help aid me in the endeavor. In a way, I started doing murals without any "training wheels" from the very beginning. I still to this day work completely free hand and free style. That first big mural I did was a little over two years ago and launched my mural/street art career.

What inspires your work? 
I am discovering new things every time I start and end a mural. But honestly, I get inspired from so many things. A selfish inspiration is that it feels so good to start something so massive and work so hard until completion. Conquering something like the 5,000 sq ft mural I did in Pilsen was a tremendous achievement and it feels amazing to show people (women especially) that nothing is too big to accomplish. I also get inspiration from making people feel happy and weird and alive! Might sound strange but my oddity doodle art gives people the "ok" and permission to feel silly and happy and let their oddity shine!

How did you find your style/aesthetic?
When I did photography, I mainly shot people and faces. When my photography transitioned into drawing, I felt compelled to continue expressing my art with faces and characters. The amazing thing about drawing is that you can create crazy worlds and scenarios for them that might prove to be more difficult with human subjects. So I began to make them goofy and silly and weird and sexual, and the people that saw them reacted to my work in a way photography could never allow. The black and white style/aesthetic I do is purely just a preference for me. I love black and white art personally, and I find people are attracted to it immediately! 

What brought you to Chicago? 
The Soho House and Threadless (an art/apparel company in Chicago) work together to find and showcase street artists to paint the north and south corners of the Soho House building. Every month they switch the artists up which is really cool. An art friend of mine was supposed to do the murals in April of 2016, but he had a travel conflict and was unable to paint in Chicago. He recommended my name and they loved my work. So off on an airplane I went, and little did I know I was about to start one of ten murals in Chicago that kept me there for about four months! I absolutely love Chicago and can't wait to return for future projects!

I have the absolute privilege of being able to travel for work. I gave up my apartment in Oakland almost two years ago and have been traveling and working ever since. I would love to live in Chicago, and at times it feels like to do because I work there so much, but my year fills up fast with so many cities in my schedule! This year I will be traveling to San Diego, NYC, Washington DC, Asheville, Nashville, Atlanta, Florence AL, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Denver, New Orleans. I am so excited! 

If you weren’t doing art, what would you be doing? 
I have a fantasy of going back to school to get my Masters so I can teach college level art. I would love to be teaching a course on art theory and critic. Why we make art, why do we respond to art.. And allow the students to bring in art they are working on for discussion. Maybe one day! 

What are you trying to learn right now? 
Everything! Honestly, I am in the middle of learning a very big lesson. My constant travel and work schedule is an absolute blessing, though at times it can get quite lonely and maintaining a romantic long term relationship is quite hard. I don't know how people survive long distance relationships! It's so hard and challenging. I have recently accepted the fact that my relationship right now is with my job and career. I have also accepted the fact that my life will be like this for as long as I can work. Luckily, because I travel so much, I get to meet so many people all over this country (and hopefully soon the world!) and make incredible friendships and memories. Just because it's temporary doesn't mean its not real! 

What are you most proud of? 
That I have the focus and motivation to live my dream! This job can be both physically and mentally draining. Last summer in Chicago, I painted for 30 days in a row. Those were on average 9 hour days standing and painting in the hot Chicago sun. That was an absolute test for myself and I was incredibly proud of that accomplishment. After that job, I feel like I can do anything!

How do you take time for yourself? 
At the end of a long work day, the shower and I are best friends. Shower time is happy time. It feels so good getting covered in sweat and paint because it means I am working but it also feels so good to see it wash down the drain. It gives me time to unwind and reflect on the day. A little vino after on the couch is also quite lovely. In between jobs, in different cities, I definitely take time for myself by walking around town and checking out bars, restaurants, shops, museums and attractions.

Why do you think it’s important for creative women to come together and collaborate? 
I think it's important to learn from each other, to talk shop, to share experiences of failure and success. To prove and show that we are capable of anything and everything and that the hardships we come across only make us stronger. It's important to collaborate, but I think it's even more important to be supportive. Being supportive allows us to move forward in a positive and healthy way. 

What is your advice for someone who wants a job like yours? 
Hustle, hustle, hustle! Hard work and determination are the recipes for success. Artists are so hard on themselves and I have found, give up too quick after one or two failures. This goes for any type of creative art.. music, acting, etc. The public can be hard, but it's important to know that what you have to say and show is going to make most people happy and inspired. Also, practice practice, practice. Produce, produce, produce. Make art for yourself and have the mind frame that no one has to see it unless you want them to. The more you develop your style and find your voice and what you want your art to say, the more confidence you'll have for exposure. Oh and network, network, network! The more people you meet and show your art to, the more eyes will be out there on the look out for future jobs. 

What is one thing that surprised you in your path? 
That I am not afraid of heights! Last summer I worked on a mural that had me more than 5 stories high! The higher the better in my book now. Oh, and that I am not afraid of flying anymore.

Favorite female creatives? 
I think Frida Kahlo paved way for a lot of female artists. She really put it out there and wasn't afraid. Music wise, Bjork had the same effect for me. She is a true artist and there's no one else like her. I love when women are so confident in their true self and define who they are in the arts.

Favorite Chicago places?
I love sitting at the bar at the Little Goat Diner in the West Loop. It is so fun to people watch and eat good food and sip mimosas. I absolutely love meeting up with friends at Dove's Luncheonette for some awesome grub and drinks. I love visiting Chicago Truborn for a little street art/gallery fix. I love just walking around and smelling chocolate at certain times of the day near the Blommer Chocolate Factory 

Top three items of clothing in your closet? 
Or in my suitcase! Ha! Pants covered in paint, art supplies, my Adidas paint shoes.

Morning routine?
I am an early bird! I am usually up around 6:30. Fruit, coffee, emails, texts, social media, head to job site, paint all day.

Favorite travel destination? 
So far? For work: no joke, it absolutely is Chicago, Illinois. For pleasure (in the United States) Jackson, Wyoming.

Favorite extravagance/indulgence? 
When I am working hard like this in other cities and have down time, I absolutely indulge and treat myself to really nice Airbnb's or hotel rooms and stay in pajamas and watch movies.