Artist Lauren Mycroft in her painting studio with son Rune. (Don Denton photography)

Inspired People with Artist Lauren Mycroft

Abstract artist uses a methodical layering technique

  • Aug. 30, 2018 2:15 p.m.

I first meet abstract artist Lauren Mycroft when she opens the door to her home with her eight-month-old son on her hip. He stares wide-eyed at me as she welcomes me in.

“He just woke up,” she says with a smile, smoothing down his bedhead. Babe is soon bundled into a backpack and sent out into the yard with dad to take care of the ever-growing piles of leaves carpeting the grass, and Lauren leads me into her studio. It’s a new space for her, she tells me; they just bought the 130-year-old farmhouse this past summer.

The farmhouse may still have a hint of that just-moved-in vibe, but Lauren fits well in her high-ceilinged studio, and it in turn is infused with her. A stack of finished and in-progress canvases leans against the back wall; the floor is a glorious spatter of paint in myriad hues. Glass jars full of well-loved brushes line the fireplace mantel like bouquets of wildflowers.

As someone looking in, it’s easy to assume she’s always been at home as a painter. But for much of her early life, she knew she had a creative streak, but was never quite sure where it fit.

Lauren attended art school — studying both at Vancouver Island University and Emily Carr University of Art and Design — but it wasn’t until well after she’d graduated that she found her niche. Much of her time in school was spent just learning to paint, she says, with plenty of figurative and landscape pieces, and her last year was particularly difficult as she tried to find her place.

With a close family member’s illness and other struggles in her personal life, Lauren had a hard time with the sometimes harsh, daily critiques and high-energy demands of school. She took a break from painting for a few years after graduating, and it wasn’t until she did an abstract collage class that everything fell back into place.

“It just clicked,” she says. “I felt like, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Then a close friend who was an interior designer commissioned her to do two pieces, and “that’s where it all started.” She balanced her day job — as a career advisor in the mental health field — with her art, but soon found herself inundated with commissions. Looking at her body of work, it’s not hard to imagine why her pieces were in demand. There’s a fluidity to them that’s incredibly appealing, as is the way she harmonizes colours.

Her website describes her painting as “abstract works [that] reference organic shapes using complex layers and staining,” using a “contemporary palette and methodical layering technique.”

Each piece develops almost as a dialogue between Lauren and the paints and dyes, with each mark influencing the one that comes after, until a complex and textured whole emerges.

“It’s very process driven” she says. “It’s very reactionary. It really forces you to let go.”

A trio of linen-based works leaning against the studio’s far wall catch my eye. Striking combinations of magenta, a rich peacock green-blue and splashes of sepia stand out. Linen offers its own challenges compared to canvas, says Lauren. The palette has to complement the darker background (as opposed to working on white), the linen finish has a different relationship with the paints and dyes and it’s riskier. If the process doesn’t yield an end result Lauren’s happy with, there’s no painting over and starting from scratch.

Abstract artist Lauren Mycroft in her home studio.. (Don Denton photograph)

These particular pieces are also much smaller than Lauren’s usual, which is why she’s been working on them.

“I never paint small, so I’ve been trying to do as many small pieces as I can,” she says.

Her determination to keep her skills fresh and stretch outside her comfort zone is evident.

Becoming a mom has kept her on her toes artistically as well, in that she’s had to redefine how she approaches her studio schedule.

Abstract artist Lauren Mycroft in her home studio.. (Don Denton photograph)

“I really find I’m a lot more efficient with my time since I had him,” says Lauren, who makes time in the evenings to work, and has someone come once a week for child minding. “I love my time with him, and I love being in my studio.”

Finding her way back to art through abstract painting helped lead Lauren to where she is now, a new mom, in a new home, with a renewed commitment to full-time art, and she’s found a balance point between it all.

“I think if someone had asked me 10 years ago what I wanted my life to be, I’d have said I want to live in a really old house, with someone I love, [with] my child, my two dogs and with a great studio space,” she says.

Her art has also helped her transform her inner critic into something constructive.

“If you’re a creative person, you probably have an unkind voice in your head,” she says with a laugh. “It’s hard when someone doesn’t like a painting, but it’s harder when I don’t. I just remind myself it’s a process. It’s being ok with the piece when it takes a different direction.”

“I’ve learned a lot about myself through painting abstractly,” she adds: about her ability to let go of the end result, about the need to control the critic that’s within all of us, of wanting things to look a particular way.

“Although it’s my passion, painting has not always been an easy path for me; there’s nothing that gives me as much anxiety and pure joy at the same time.”

You can find Lauren Mycroft here.

– Story by Angela Cowan

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

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