Interview: Lauren Schultz, the Artist Behind Soul Mates

Hey Lauren!  Thanks for taking the time.  First off, tell us about where you’re from.

I’m from the amazing, diverse and constantly surprising “City of Gold,” Johannesburg, which is in South Africa, possibly the most beautiful country on earth.

At what moment in your life did you realize art was the way?

I’d been drawing and painting and making a complete mess of the entire house since I had any working motor skills, but I only realized that I could actually do this for a living once I left varsity, where I had been studying brand communication. I figured, hey, let me try doing what I love instead of this, and see where it takes me.

Tell me about the first piece you ever created?  

Like, ever? As a kid it was probably one of those lame exercises they teach you in art class, finger painting or potato stamping or something.  As a young adult, I was obsessed with Terry Pratchett (and still am), and I used to draw all the characters the way I imagined them, and stick them all over my cupboard like a massive mood board. I guess I should have framed them all so I could look back and see my progression.

Who are your favorite South African artists (and why)?

Ah there are so many! Johan de Lange (aka Joh Del) has always been an inspiration to me, he is constantly upping his game. He’s even collaborated with McBess, which blew my mind. Jordan Metcalf is unbelievable, especially his typography work.

Alice Edy's work is as beautiful as her personality, she pays so much attention to detail.

And Louis Minnaar will forever be one of my favourites, a many of so many talents, with such a high standard of work. I really love his style.

Name one person, one place, and one thing that inspire you the most? How do you channel that inspiration into your art?

As lame as it sounds, my boyfriend is probably that person. He is constantly encouraging me to be better and follow the creative path in life, keeping me away from the dull and dreary. Plus he’s really pretty, so I tend to feature him in my work quite often.

The place would have to be Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga, South Africa. It’s literally like stepping into a fairy tale. I did a hike through there recently and it felt as though I was on the set of Lord of the Rings, Rivendell to be exact. Everything is so tactile and otherworldly.

That would have to be the fantasy world. It started off with literary classics from Grimm, Anderson and Perrault, and grew to encompass everything from Tolkien to Philip Pullman and J.K Rowling. I’m also obsessed with film and TV, I spend hours pouring over the sets they build and details you don’t necessarily see when first watching a movie or series. Vikings and Game of Thrones are just incredible, the depth of the characters and the look and feel of every element is astounding. So I find myself illustrating my obsessions, fairy tales and characters from times long ago.

Your color choices remind me of the work of Tara McPherson, who you’ve mentioned as an inspiration.  Tell us about how your artistic role models influence you.

I try not to let my work be too heavily influenced by one artist or another, which can be difficult when you find inspiration in another artist’s work. I think just being inspired by someone else’s creation is just fine, that’s what art is there to do. But it’s important to develop your own style and approach to your work, or you’ll never grow as an artist.

I love seeing a piece from someone else, being in absolute awe of it, and getting that push to be better at your own work, so that one day you’ll be on the same level as greats like Mark Ryden and Glenn Arthur.

A floop, by Lauren

Graphic designer versus artist. What’s your take?

I think in today’s world, it’s much of the same thing. Obviously if you just work out of your local print shop, spewing out second rate business cards and brochures for whoever comes in, you can’t be called an artist. But working with a digital medium to create a beautiful piece of work is just as significant as those who use a paintbrush.

Struggles. We all face them. What’s your biggest and how did you overcome it?

Working to live and living to work. Taking my passion and turning it into my job was inspirational, but at the same time a huge deterrent. When you’re starting off, you can’t only take the jobs you would love to do, you have to take some of the completely average ones that you wouldn’t dare include in your portfolio, in order to make money to survive.

So it became really hard to still feel passionate about my job and my love of illustration.

I just learnt that I needed to spend any extra time focusing on doing the type of work I love, and throwing my all into it. Which you tend to do, once you find something you can be obsessed with.

What is something you hope to do professionally that you haven’t had a chance to do yet?

Write and illustrate children’s books! I’ve always been a bit of a wordsmith (if I do say so myself) and have dreamed of writing and illustrating my own books. I’ve decided that this is the year I’m going to make the time to do it. It would be amazing for me to see the amalgamation of two of my biggest passions, in one final product. Hopefully people will respond to it in the same way.

Success is different for everyone. What does it mean to you?

I’ve learnt from both my own experiences and that of others, that money is not success.

Happiness equates to success. For me, at least. Chasing money, driving a fancy car, wearing the best clothes, and putting it all on Instagram so you can feel good about yourself when people want what you have, is not success. So many people make this mistake.

If you enjoy what you do, spend time following your passions (whatever they may be, creative or not), surround yourself with the people you love, you’re a good human being who treats others with respect and you live a happy and fulfilling life, then you’ve achieved success.

A wise man once said, “Mo money mo problems."

Thanks so much, Lauren!

A troll, by Lauren