Meet Erin Lux! Erin is an Illustrator based in New York, creating work that focuses on character through shape, texture, and striking color combinations. Raised in suburban Pennsylvania, Erin moved to Baltimore after high school to study illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art. As a recent graduate, she is getting started on her freelance career and has worked for clients such as Time Out New York and Blue Moon Beer. Right now, Erin is currently working on zines, participating in group shows, and enjoying her new home in New York. When she isn't drawing, you could find her playing video games or checking out the occasional punk show!
Erin is currently one of our Patches + Stitches artists, and has worked with us before for our Stacks exhibition. Today, we are thrilled to be talking to Erin about inspiration, life post-grad, embroidery, zines, and much more! You can see more of what Erin does on her website or blog!
What does your workspace look like?
My workspace is a mess right now. I have a tiny desk and set of draws in a corner of our living room that's constantly surrounded by clutter. I keep saying I'll make my space clean and pretty, but I already made a spot like that in my bedroom, and I never want to work there. (See photo for comparison.)
On left,workspace, on right, clean desk
What are your favorite materials?
I work mostly digitally, but I love experimenting with different traditional materials when I have a chance! Lately I've been doing more work with sumi ink for black and white projects, like zines, but I want to figure out a way to mix it with my digital work too.
I see that your work focuses a lot on simplicity and shape. Who are some of your favorite artists to look at for inspiration?
I look at lots of contemporary illustrators for inspiration- too many to list. I think I'm most inspired by my peers! I'm lucky to keep in contact with a handful of classmates from MICA, and seeing their work always gives me new ideas.
Besides illustration though, I look at caricature artists when I feel like my work is getting stale. From the ages of 15-22, I spent every summer working as a caricature artist at a theme park and learned so much by looking at other artists. Some of my favorites are the Beasthead's, Aaron Philby, Tomo Tabata, and Andy Uruza.
Tell us about your process. What are things that get you excited to create?
A big chunk of my motivation comes from the desire to share my work with others. I get excited when I'm making work that I think will connect or resonate with people. I've learned that if there's anything I've been feeling or any kind of imagery that moves me, chances are I'm not the only one. So for my process, I usually start out with a collection of images that I have up on my computer while I sketch. I gather color references, mood references, pose references, anything that I want to go come through in the final piece. I usually thumbnail in my sketchbook, but it's Photoshop from there on out.
You made a lovely zine for our Stacks exhibition. What appeals to you about making zines?
Zines are great because whenever I have a really silly or self-indulgent idea, I can make it into a zine, and since the ones I make fall on the quick and dirty side, I can have fun with it rather than laboring over the drawing part too much. I'm sure it doesn't apply to everyone, but for me, zines aren't supposed to be masterpieces, so it frees me up to just have fun and not worry too much about the end result, which is really satisfying!
You have made a piece for the “Stitches “ side of the Patches & Stitches show. Could you tell us a bit about your process for that piece? How is working with embroidery different or similar from you are used to?
Embroidery feels so different from everything else I do! I almost had to treat it like a screenprint, separating my reference image into color layers and working from there. I drew it all out like a paint by numbers, traced it onto the fabric, and then filled everything in, piece by piece. I like that most of the thinking happens at the beginning, and once that part's finished I can go on autopilot, it's very relaxing.
The Mana Tree
What inspired you for your patches and stitches piece?
I'm a huge fan of classic jprgs, and I get a little emotional looking at the graphics from that era (I think I've shed a tear or two over Hiro Isono's Secret of Mana illustrations), they're so beautiful and have so much nostalgia wrapped up in them! The artists really hit a sweet spot with SNES graphics, when 3d was starting to become a thing, but games hadn't all transitioned to it yet. I've had an idea floating around for a while to dig through some of these old games to find "landscapes" that I could recreate. Embroidery ended up being the perfect opportunity for it since the limitations of embroidery are a cool parallel to those of pixel art!
What has been a valuable piece of advice you have received as an illustrator?
It's something people say a lot, but "make what you love" has been crucial for me! Every once in a while I'll catch myself falling into doing the kind of work that I think I should be making, vs what I really want to make. When that happens I have to stop and reset myself, figure out what I want to draw more than anything and do that. Because it's true! The weird things you draw that you think no one else could ever find funny (but that you think are hilarious), usually end up being your most important work!
A funny thing to prove this, my zine, "The Real Hot Dads" came about when I was working my theme park job and noticed I was seeing more attractive dads than usual. I started doing quick little sketches whenever I saw one, hiding behind my easel with a folded up scrap of paper. I even went as far as to buy sunglasses so I could stare without being noticed. My coworkers and I thought it was hilarious, and I loved putting the zine together, but I never thought anything would come from it.
Fast forward, (and stick with me here) the finished zine ends up mentioned on a comics blog, which is seen by a professor from a local college, who then goes to my tumblr, finds my etsy shop and orders something from me. In the email, she mentions some alt-comic artists we're both into, and from there invites me to a talk she's running, featuring one of those artists. And then in a final bit of irony, the artist's talk ended with her emphasizing the importance of doing what you love verses what you think you should do. Afterwards, we all went to dinner- the professors, the artist, and I, and I realized all the cool things that had happened that day were because I liked drawing hot dads.
You are a recent graduate! How do you keep involved with your creative community?
I'm lucky enough to live in New York right now, and even though I miss being surrounded by illustrators 24/7, I've been able to go to lots of creative events and meet other art people. It was great to go to MoCCA this year and be able to hang out with artists afterwards! I also live with another illustrator from MICA, and it's been great to have a built in support system for that type of thing.
Are there any exciting projects on the horizon for you right now? What would be a “dream project” for you?
Right now I'm finishing up a bunch of projects, so I'm excited to have the time to do some personal work! I'm working towards doing more editorial work, but I'd really love to collaborate with a writer on a comic someday. I love drawing comics and designing characters, but I'm still learning the writing part, it would be a dream to find someone with the opposite problem!
Thank you Erin! You can see Erin's piece, The Mana Tree, for Patches + Stitches up at the gallery, or on our online shop! You can also follow Erin and her artistic endeavors on her Tumblr, Behance, or Twitter!