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Lauren Tamaki

Lauren Tamaki

Meet Brooklyn-based illustrator, Lauren Tamaki.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m half Japanese, quarter Egyptian, quarter Ukrainian, and a third-generation Canadian. I only speak English, which is sad, but both of my parents were not taught much Japanese or Arabic so I suppose I can’t be too hard on myself. If I’m not in the studio I’m in a museum, gallery or watching movies. I require constant stimulation to stay awake! I feel like I was like this even before smartphones, etc.

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

New York is a crazy place (I’m obviously not making an original statement here). Sometimes I’ll be walking down the street and be awed that I’ve been living here for 8 years. Sometimes I’ll walk down the street and step in dog shit. NY never lets you get TOO confident, which I appreciate.

 

New York is a crazy place (I’m obviously not making an original statement here). Sometimes I’ll be walking down the street and be awed that I’ve been living here for 8 years. Sometimes I’ll walk down the street and step in dog shit. NY never lets you get TOO confident, which I appreciate.

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

The best thing about this city is the ART! Museums, free galleries… it’s stacked high with incredible stuff. I would live in The Met if they would let me. In one of those room recreations from the 18th century.

The worst thing about NY is the psychic energy of all the people living here bearing down on you every second of the day! I find it hard to really, truly relax here (that’s what Toronto is for).

 

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Intense, rewarding, exhausting

 

How did you start your career in art?

Probably when I was born! I’ve always drawn as far as I know. Kids in elementary school would ask me to draw their portraits and of course, I obliged. In high school I hung out in the art room at lunch, working away while other nerds who had found their refuge there played Magic cards. I never wanted to do anything but draw and that hasn’t changed.

In terms of post-secondary education, I have a degree in Fashion Design from Ryerson University and a degree in Visual Communications from Alberta College of Art + Design (now AUArts). Two undergraduate art degrees are… not too useful in terms of heft, but it all led me to where I am now! After working as a graphic designer for a few years I decided to focus full-time on illustration. I’ve been at that for about 5 years now.

 

Probably when I was born! I’ve always drawn as far as I know.

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

Yes! My parents are very creative but never went into ‘the arts’ per se. I’ve always admired my mother’s stained glass creations and my dad’s guitar playing and silly songs. My sister paved the way for my parent’s understanding of what illustration is and I never felt pressure from them to enter a more ‘stable’ profession.

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

I would love to write more, create more with other writers… I’m actively trying to direct my career, as opposed to letting forces beyond my control guide me. I’ve been fortunate to have incredible opportunities come my way but I need to start carving out my future with more intention. In short: more books, more weird projects, more personal work. Before I die, I’d love to work on imagery and / or costumes and sets for an opera.

 

I’m actively trying to direct my career, as opposed to letting forces beyond my control guide me. I’ve been fortunate to have incredible opportunities come my way but I need to start carving out my future with more intention.

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

I can’t wait to make a children’s book with my friend and incredible writer Meredith Chamberlain. It’s in the works but yet to happen! We met at Bumble and bumble when I was a designer and she was a copywriter. I always thought when we created together projects together that magic happened. Our biggest launch was Prêt-à-Powder, where I acted as designer and AD and she created the name and copy.

There are so many exciting artists and designers I know personally that I would love to make stuff with. I find that much more appealing than some pie-in-the-sky fantasy.

 

How would you describe the women around you?

I gravitate towards all types of women but I have a special place in my heart for opinionated, curious, brassy broads. Dorky is a plus. Loud singers. Passionate arguers. Empathetic. Lovers of art and fashion. Chill when the conversation goes to dirty sex stories.

 

I gravitate towards all types of women but I have a special place in my heart for opinionated, curious, brassy broads. Dorky is a plus. Loud singers. Passionate arguers. Empathetic. Lovers of art and fashion. Chill when the conversation goes to dirty sex stories.

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

My sister Jillian is three years older than me and a great artist. I feel very lucky to have her in my life (even though it was damn cold in that shadow for a while). I had fantastic female art and design teachers in grade school who were tireless cheerleaders. When I first got into the design field, many of my bosses were female and I still regard them as the standard for gracious leadership.

 

Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

I always felt a great insecurity when I started new creative jobs (any jobs, actually) and I’m not sure if that’s in me because I’m a woman, a little sister, a woman of colour…? I was lucky enough to be surrounded by incredible women in my office jobs who wouldn’t stand for any bullshit. I’m sure if I stayed in graphic design and made more of the agency circuit I would have experienced more unpleasant machismo.

 

Speak up and trust yourself.

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

Speak up and trust yourself. I let my self-doubt cripple me for a long time and even though it wasn’t a waste (we all learn at different rates), I wish I wasn’t so hard on myself. Try not to depend on outside approval when creating, especially when you’re first starting out… it’s kind of impossible, but do your best!

 

 

Photos courtesy of Lauren Tamaki.

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