Lauren Pitre: Inside the Artists Studio
Painting the Town: Lauren Pitre
“I can say without a doubt art has brought me confidence. I always struggled with confidence growing up but it seems after each milestone I pass within my art career I gain more confidence, in particular with my murals,” affirms local artist Lauren Pitre. You may have experienced Lauren’s work even if you were not aware of it at the time. If you’ve been to the Longview Mall, downtown Mineola, The Discovery Science Place in Tyler, or the Lindale Candy Company, you probably noticed her dynamic and engaging murals. Lauren received her Associate’s degree in Art from Tyler Junior College and received a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from the University of Texas at Tyler, focusing on painting. She prolifically creates beautiful and enchanting still lifes of antiquated objects but during her time at UT Tyler she gained experience in painting murals. Now murals and commissioned portraits are Lauren’s full-time job.
“The Importance of Community Murals” is an online article from the website productcare.org stating, “From the 30,000-year-old animal murals in France’s Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave to Banksy’s Balloon Girl, murals have been part of our cultural landscape for thousands of years. Community murals are a mode of expression for artists in every graphic style imaginable: abstract, photorealistic, surrealist, expressionist and graffiti, to name just a few. Most recently, murals have become community centerpieces bringing people together to celebrate the heritage and history of their home. They create vibrant neighborhoods people want to visit and live. Murals attract new local businesses, help bring customers to pre-existing locations, and boost the economy of an area. Murals encourage people to slow down and admire your surroundings. Part of slow living involves appreciating our surroundings and their beauty. Murals create important conversations and expand thought. They also act as collective thought spaces. A great example of a dialogue-provoking mural project is American artist Wyland’s Whaling Walls. Over a 30 year period, Wyland painted 100 life-sized whale murals across the globe to help people appreciate our oceans through art.”
Lauren has an excellent painting skill set, creating works quite capable of attracting and holding the viewer’s attention while provoking conversation and thought in her murals as well as her fine art. “My vintage still lifes are mostly painted on wood panels with acrylic paint. I use wood panels so I can get more layers and am able to lightly sand between coats to get a smooth surface I like. Acrylic paint works best with the wood. It dries quick enough to get more layers of detail,” Lauren describes. She adds, “The style of my pieces is realistic with an exaggerated use of color as well as the background behind the objects. Typical objects I choose to depict are old cameras, clocks, books, and radios. As far as commissioned portraits and murals I tend to stick to realism as well, depending on what the subject matter is, along with the look and design of the surrounding area I will use a specific color palette directed towards a particular style.”
Lauren grew up always drawing people and facial portraits. After she graduated high school she began working at a local Goodwill store. It is there her fascination with distinctive items began to take hold. Lauren explains, “I enjoyed seeing different objects from different decades, mostly old cameras and clocks. One of the Goodwill tasks specific to me was creating displays for end-caps, toppers, and windows and I usually ended up using the older items, to give them a new life. I decided to collect these vintage items and make still lifes of them and paint them. Another one of my jobs was to paint the outside of the windows for holidays and special sales, the more I did them the more elaborate they became. It was then I felt this was where my path as an artist was truly starting.”
Lauren took a mural painting class at UT Tyler with Professor Alexis Serio Hughes: “We planned out and painted one of the exterior walls of the Discovery Science Place in Tyler over the span of one semester. After that semester I was hooked. I spent a later semester working on a mural there at UT Tyler in the Biology building. I was able to come up with a design, color palette, and work schedule, as well as assigning tasks to the three of us working on the mural,” she states.
After graduating, Lauren was able to start her first large commissioned mural downtown in her own hometown of Mineola. Soon after she completed the mural in Mineola, she was commissioned for multiple murals in towns around East Texas. “As an introverted person, I never really saw myself branching out and doing large projects like city murals, but art has given me the confidence to do things like that. Although art has given me the confidence to branch out and do large projects around our region, it brings problems along with it, like talking to people, in particular groups of people. I can say the path to get my degree in art helped me tremendously in preparing to speak in front of people but I have noticed, as an introvert, it takes a while to get over. However, after speaking in front of crowds a few times I have come to see it gets a little easier each time,” describes Lauren.
Lauren finds inspiration in the work of other artists like Christopher Stott (contemporary still life painter). She states, “He uses a lot of vintage objects in his work and highlights all the formal qualities of the objects I find most interesting, like contrasts in surface texture in vintage cameras and the shadows they produce. He adds non-vintage objects like wooden chairs and pencils in his pieces, which add another element of contrast.” Lauren concludes, “I also have a favorite muralist, Anat Ronen, who does a lot of work throughout the Texas area and surrounding states. She is a massive inspiration to my mural work; keeping up with her and her work pushes me to keep expanding my work throughout East Texas.”
For more information and to see examples of her work on Instagram, check out: @artbylaurenpitre
Robert Langham III: Inside the Artist’s Studio
Inside the Artist’s Studio:
Four Corners, Robert Langham III
By Derrick White
The Anasazi were Ancestral Puebloans, an ancient Native American culture existing about two thousand years ago in what is now the Four Corners region of the United States (southwestern corner of Colorado, southeastern Utah, northeastern Arizona, and northwestern New Mexico). They are thought to be the ancestors of later tribes like the Hopi. Religiously, they were polytheistic and had faith in many gods relating to nature (i.e. a rain god, a sun god, as well as good old mother earth). The Anasazi held many of their religious rituals and political meetings in dark or dimly lit underground rooms called kivas. There was a kachina belief. The central theme being an existence of life in all the objects of the universe and everything having a spirit or lifeblood, and that mankind must cooperate with these forces or fail to survive. This is not unlike the ancient Greek belief of daemon creative spirit guides. The Romans later changed the name to genius in the context of someone artistic, who was not thought to be a really intelligent person but rather had found favor with a disembodied essence who would assist with delivering ideas and the execution of the work.
“I’m beset by ideas, swarmed by ideas, hived, hounded. They pop into my head. They arrive on a piece of trash blown down the street or seep from the edge of a shadow. They pursue me in dreams and arrive during conversations, meals, baths, silence, sex, at 72 mph on the highway, they appear. They lurk in trees, closets, boxes, corners, elevators, concrete, dirt, space and in the pocket-lint of my jeans. Seductive or repellent. Arrowing, cascading, collapsing like lost children and salesmen. They fall from the sky, spurt from a shower head in places public and private. They keep no schedule, crowding in without appointment or announcement, elbowing, jostling through the press, caring neither for consciousness nor condition. Oblivious to budget or schedule, 10,000 angelic demons, seeking me, seeking me always,” states local artist Robert Langham III.
Robert comes across as a shrewd and relaxed guy. I can easily imagine him in New Mexico having a deep philosophical conversation or maybe just hanging out and having a beer with Terry Allen (an outlaw, autonomous artist working in a diverse range of media including music, sculpture, painting, and video and who, it is worth mentioning, has a song titled Four Corners). Robert Langham is a fine art and commercial photographer and some of his works are mystic, while others are ghostly and reminiscent of cyanotypes, a photographic process generating a cyan-blue image. His subject matter seems to twirl and move in an unworldly, spiritual way: the blue being there to calm the viewer down, to help quiet the mind while the eyes look and the intellect wonders. Some works involve multiples: pieces of items both organic and man-made, stacked, melting, bundled, bound, attached, or whirled in a tornadic force. Other photographs have animals presented not in their natural habitats but instead in an encounter with mankind.
Robert achieves these shuffling still-life photographs not with a computer but by using long-established traditional film, camera, and darkroom techniques. He uses big roll film and sheet film in large cameras. He composes visual dances with multiple exposures and controlled trickeries. Robert Langham shows viewers how ability, artistry, and patience are essential to composing filmic captivations. When one views his images, it is easy to believe they too have some sort of kachina – a sense of life in these inanimate objects happening to shift and cavort with an unseen life-force and reminding us of all the connections in our world and objects; or the manipulation of nature, which were at one time human concepts and thoughts, asking how are we to collaborate and persist together.
Langham earned a degree in photography and art from Sam Houston State University. He has taught at both TJC and Sam Houston. What started Robert down the path of becoming an artist was that, in his words, “I was seduced and then betrayed by an older woman,” but art has brought purpose and understanding to his life. He explains, “It is the search for truth, isn’t it? Art becomes the refining of one’s self, the piercing of veils, and the shedding of layers. Art is the way you walk in the world. You soak yourself in your subject matter and then an idea appears, a new idea. Maybe it is a new stupid idea, but it is new. You somehow failure it into the world and all of a sudden, like snapping your fingers, something new exists. It is a miracle. When you look around yourself in the world almost everything you see is not most importantly a physical thing, it was someone’s idea first. I am a little tender and adoring of new human ideas and the sheer adventure and exhilaration of the process. It’s fun.” He adds, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly, at first. If you can’t embrace, anticipate, celebrate, and enjoy failure you are going to have a rough time with art.”
Robert Langham III gets inspirations from his daily life and all he encounters. He likes the early work of Man Ray (American visual artist and photographer contributing to both the Dada and Surrealist movements of the early 20th century). Robert advises, “I look at other media besides photography. Never look too much at your own media. If they are good, they drag you off to their lair and eat you. If they are bad, it is a waste of time. Look at something else.” He continues, “My best advice is to find your subject matter and look at it. I look at paintings but mostly enjoy ones not made from photographs. I like paintings from the artists’ imaginations.” Robert visited the recent Claude Monet exhibition at the Kimball Museum of Art in Fort Worth twice and says he got photographic ideas from the show. He states he is crazy about the Anasazi and also likes Inuit and Pompeian art.
I like this idea of the Anasazi of all things and people being connected, and the reverence they had for nature, objects, and our earth. Robert’s photographs of pirouetting feathers remind me of their philosophy and I wish we could all cooperate more with all things, all people, and good old mother earth… and perhaps survive. But sometimes I worry the four corners reference actually comes from Revelation 7:1, “I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree …four angels given the power to harm the land.”
Carina Alvarado: Inside the Artist’s Studio
Dream Until Your Dreams Come True:
By Derrick White
“The most important things art has brought to my life are the abilities to express, communicate, and connect. I am not great with words, especially expressing meaning without getting jumbled. Art is the language in which I feel the most comfortable communicating. I have found a way to express myself freely in a visual way and explain what is in my heart and soul,” explains local artist Carina Alvarado. Her artwork is vibrant and uses graphic and bursting compositions of surreal imagery to captivate one’s imagination. Carina uses a variety of media. “I really enjoy working with acrylics, but I recently tried watercolor and gouache and I have fallen in love with these materials. I enjoy the way they work together. The process of understanding these collaborations really interests me. I tend to use a little of everything in my pieces,” she states.
“When I decided to quit my full-time job and focus on art, it was terrifying. Taking the decision and explaining it to the people around me – to me, felt like the first challenge as an artist. The frustration of feeling like you have to convince people it is what drives you as a person right after you convinced yourself to take the leap towards passion. There is so much behind the scenes in the amount of work, motivation, money – just the whole process of becoming an artist. I understand being an artist is an art form in and of itself, a journey. You can attend classes, you can watch videos, you can ask for advice, but you yourself have to create something. You don’t apply to be an artist. The application is progressing and developing in personally growing in this unpredictable life, in your studio hours, experimenting with media and ideas, putting yourself and what you create out there. This application can go any which way; it can be short or long, but you never really get told you are an artist in this process. You, as the artist, have to keep creating. You have to stay motivated. You have to keep exhibiting your art,” encourages Carina.
Alvarado took painting, drawing, figure drawing, art history, and ceramic classes at TJC.
She recalls, “While attending TJC, I met inspiring art professors. I remember Paul Jones sketching out new characters and ideas. I remember Derrick White being hands-on, teaching us how to stretch canvases. He was always trying out new techniques and painting. I learned what I needed to understand about art in my classes, but I had such inspiring professors to facilitate my creativity and my motivation outside of class. TJC art professors are active, professional artists and they speak about the things you have to do to show your work. They being enthusiastically productive and helping students understand, realistically, about being a visual artist were enough for me to start my journey into visual art.”
She adds, “In my studio art classes I found my fear of speaking in front of people was very minimal. Being surrounded by art and creative people provided me with so much confidence and provided a beautiful and personal way for me to connect to people. Art has made me push myself. I pressed myself to share the art I had been so private about by creating an Instagram and submitting my pieces to events. I stepped out of my comfort zone, meeting Addie Moore (a founder of “etx creatives”), attending events full of people I did not know. I submitted art to juried exhibitions and was accepted to some and rejected by others. I went on a podcast with “etx creatives” and spoke about my art, I was super terrified to speak and to be recorded but the excitement was much greater. Art has made me grow so much as a person, every day I learn something new about myself.”
Carina finds inspiration in the work of artist Ashley Longshore. “She is a strong, creative, and powerful woman who does not hold back. I admire her fun, colorful, and powerful paintings. Her art represents her so well; she says ‘You are in my brain.’ I respect artists taking me to another place in their minds and worlds,” Carina explains. Alvarado also enjoys Salvador Dali, saying, “My admiration for his dreamlike, symbolic and surreal art made me feel connected to him. I hope one day I can perfect what I see and what I feel in an art form as well.”
“I suppose my style is colorful surrealism, a glance into my extremely vivid lucid dreams. I have always had a very imaginative mind, but every night ever since I can remember I experienced crystal clear dreams. My dreams are other worlds to me, I know it sounds strange. I always remember waking up and writing down all the strangeness I had seen, all the experiences and the things I would learn. Yes, I would learn. I quickly learned how to control my dreams. I have come to accept these strange dreams which have made them even more mesmerizing. This past year, I lost my grandfather and my youngest uncle. One thing which helped me tremendously with the loss of these two great men was something my mom told me had happened. A few weeks before my uncle had tragically passed, my grandpa had told the family to get everyone together and to prepare for a funeral which would have many people attending. He even spoke my uncle’s name and said it was for him, he had dreamed this. A few weeks later my uncle passed away suddenly. He was so loved by many people and many people attended the funeral. Afterward, my grandpa spoke about a little angelic boy visiting and signaling for him to be followed, a few weeks later my grandfather passed away. The day after the funeral there were bees everywhere but they did not sting us. Swarms just landed on plants, walls, and the ground. Later, I researched the symbolism of this event, bees are productive, they stay focused on whatever they are doing and do not get sidetracked. Around this time of the year, I was beginning my huge leap of faith into becoming a full-time artist. So, I decided to dive into my dreams and symbolism of the beautiful and tragic things happening around me.”
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