Lauren Freedman reflects on process, quarantine, creative frustration

All images courtesy of Lauren Freedman ’24

For Lauren Freedman ’24, creative fulfillment comes from the intuitive process of art making rather than the completion of a specifically-planned artistic vision. 

Freedman remembers first experiencing artistic pride after finishing a ceramic giraffe in her elementary school pottery class. She recalls that even as a 10 year old, she appreciated the instant gratification of kneading the clay with her hands. However, Freedman says she produced little art throughout middle school and most of high school. Only in the past year has she allowed herself to fall into a consistent schedule of creating. With the start of the COVID-19 pandemic forcing Freedman to graduate high school under a quarantine mandate, she describes experimenting with different forms of art making as an exercise for her mental health. “I needed something to fill my time,” she says. “I wanted to feel accomplished, like I had done something at the end of the day.” 

Freedman tells me she began to experiment with any art form that sparked her interest. “I went through a bunch of different kinds of styles and mediums really fast because it was all I was doing every day,” she says. 

Alternating between ballpoint pen and markers, Freedman first started creating realistic self-portraits and drawings of her friends and family. For her pen drawings, she describes creating a general plan in pencil and then spending hours crosshatching in order to create precise shadows and highlights. She manipulates the deep black of the pen against the white of the page to depict the jarring contrast between the extreme light and dark areas of the close-up face pictures she portrays. Freedman’s marker drawings are eye-catching in a different way. She maneuvers the marker to perform almost like a paintbrush, employing bold and distinctive strokes to capture the complexities in the color of her subject’s skin.

“The drawings were fun but it was also kind of tedious after a while,” Freedman reflects. 

“I worked with pastel for a while and then I got really into collaging at some point during quarantine”. She describes ordering vintage National Geographic magazines off eBay, adding to an ever-growing compilation of magazine cutouts she calls her “collage binder.” Freedman points to one of her mixed media pieces, a collection of superimposed neon squares and circles covered by another eclectic mix of shapes and patterns. I learn that the squares are cut pieces of paper and that the circles and various shapes are drawn on with markers and paint pens. The image has been replicated four times in a mobile editing app. “The squares and circles kinda help me break down what I’m going to do in each part because I’m giving myself a space restricted for one thing,” Freedman explains. The different mediums are so well integrated into the composition that it is nearly impossible for the viewer to even make a guess as to the sequencing of Freedman’s creative process. Though Freedman continues to maintain the spontaneous and instinctual nature of her art making process, she makes clear that my disoriented reaction to her work is utterly intended. Freedman says “I like the idea of people being taken aback by my art, like, ‘What’s going on?,’ and being overwhelmed. I like really busy things.” 

Another piece, which recalls the style and colors of Freedman’s square/circle collage, is filled with magazine cutouts of angel figures and drawings of animal and plant motifs. Like in many of her other works, Freedman says she initially found inspiration for her drawn characters by scrolling through Pinterest and Instagram artists’ accounts “until something sparked a bigger idea for me[her]”. Unlike some of her other works, however, in this piece Freedman experiments with airbrushing, a technique where pigment and paint thinner are placed into an air-operated tool and sprayed to create a subtle, buildable layer of color. The finished product evokes a dreamlike landscape where airbrushed clouds of color blend together elements of make-believe and reality into a single composition.

Freedman has come a long way since the beginning of quarantine, when she describes feeling easily frustrated if she felt her work was not technically exact. Now, Freedman seems to openly embrace her mishaps. She admits, “I make lots of things I don’t like but when I make something I love it’s very rewarding… I don’t need things to look absolutely perfect to look cool to me.”   

In the future, Freedman plans to trek further into unfamiliar territory and attempt to implement painting into her artistic routine, which she describes as always having been somewhat of a fear subject for her.

Freedman’s artistic streak started merely as a way to occupy her time during quarantine. Freedman says, “I never really think about the meaning behind my art…it’s all just kind of what I’m feeling.” Ironically, however, the very purposeless purpose of Freedman’s art is directly reflected in her pieces, which together cover a wide span of genres and styles, and especially in her multi-media works, which reveal an artist who allows herself to get truly lost in her process. She shares, “I like being creative and zoning out and not thinking about anything else and just working…it’s really messy, but it’s really fun.”

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