By Ellen Weaver
As a child, Fontbonne junior Lauren Arens never needed the newest toy or the trendiest doll to keep her attention. Instead she found her fun in art. However, Arens had only taken one art class before she entered college. Her time at Fontbonne has encouraged her to grow as an artist and explore different possibilities. The culmination of her hard work was on display at the Junior Synthesis Exhibition in the Fontbonne University art gallery.
Junior Synthesis is a semester long course that provides practical experience to fine arts majors in their junior year. The course focuses on honing students’ presentation, promotion, and documentation skills. The exhibition of student-artists’ works ran March 27th-31st. This year’s success surpassed years prior.
“We had the best Junior Synthesis Exhibition this year ever. Many visitors and the work the students produced was superb,” says fine arts department chair Mark Douglas.
Douglas is also the area head of photography and graphic design and the program director for all undergraduate and graduate fine arts programs.
Arens’ favorite pieces featured in the Synthesis were posters she created using a mix of her travel photography and graphic design.
“That’s kind of the cool thing with graphic design. As much as the time that I spend on the computer and as much as that sucks because my eyes are awful now, it’s nice because I can still like do painting and photography and somehow incorporate it into graphic design. Just how I did with my stuff in the gallery. All of the posters that I made all had photographs I took from traveling and just like all original designs.”
Another piece done by Arens featured in the Junior synthesis was a painting called “PYT.” Her inspiration came from her love of Diana Ross and her music. However, Arens understands that viewers may credit her inspiration to cultural events — and she thinks that’s awesome.
“I was really curious to hear what people said about it in the gallery. None of it was driven from current events,” Arens opens up. “As a young white girl painting a very famous black woman, I was curious to maybe hear what people thought about that or like if they would think that was wrong, or it was driven by current events, or like feminism. Which it’s not in any way, but if people felt that coming from it that’s really cool because Diana Ross is a bad ass black woman.”
Along with working on her pieces for the Junior Synthesis, Arens has had other exciting projects going on in the past year. She was commissioned to illustrate a children’s book called “Isabella The Little Caterpillar Who Believed”, and she launched her own website.
“It’s pretty difficult,” Arens admits about the children’s book. “It’s kind of been testing my patience. It’s pretty cool. It’s about the classic story of the caterpillar that turns into the butterfly.”
Her website features a portfolio for her art and it serves as an entrepreneurial tool for potential commissions. Visitors can view her photography, painting, illustrations and designs, and then inquire further with the contact tab. The website also links to her Instagram account that is used primarily for her art. This account isn’t her “regular” account. She posts pictures of her work that she wouldn’t normally post on her “regular” account.
“Even on my regular page it’s very hard for me to get good feedback from people. So having a separate instagram and getting feedback from illustrators and people like is helpful.”
Curating helpful feedback improves her creative process. A second part of her process requires ample inspiration and patience.
“I’m the type of person that I’ll just randomly get the urge to do something or work on it. Then I’ll leave it alone for a couple weeks or a month. I still have paintings from years ago I haven’t finished. I feel like it’s almost inappropriate to work on a painting if I dont have the inspiration for it, because I don’t want it to be forced. So that’s kind of why I put things off.”
Arens attests that the faculty in Fontbonne’s art department plays a huge role in her growth and development as an artist. Fontbonne’s penchant small class sizes allows professors to work closely with their students.
Mark Douglas does his best to ensure that his students have a one-on-one relationship with him. This practice works well with Arens.
“I attempt to build a one-on-one relationship with all of my students. The often small class size usually allows me to do this, but on occasion it does not happen. In Lauren’s case, it did…Lauren has a pretty good eye as a photographer, as well as a designer. She blended both very well in the recent Junior Synthesis show, held in the Fine Arts Gallery,” praises Douglas.
Arens almost missed the opportunity to connect with the Fine Arts department. If she would have followed her original plan to major in biology, she would have already left Fontbonne University.
“My goal was to stay [at Fontbonne] for two years. Transfer out. I really wanted to go down to Florida on the coast and study sharks there. But I found out that I really suck at math. I’m just awful with math,” she laughs. “So I changed my major to theater and I had done that throughout high school. But we didn’t have music theater. That was like a hard transition for me…so I kind of talked to my parents and they were like you love art so why don’t you just look into it.”
Now, Arens is pursuing a degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in graphic design.
While her concentration is in graphic design, her two favorite mediums to work with are photography and paint. Some of her favorite photographs are ones she takes on her travels.
In the future, Arens ideal job would allow her to work from home so she would still have the opportunity to travel and continue her art whenever she likes.