by Aia Arkoncel

Some of us love illustrations, some of us love paintings and some of us love writing, but most of us simply love art.

Lauren Baldo is a full-time freelance artist who has a way of putting all of these things together, and we are the lucky ones who get to experience it.

His works vary from simple ink drawings to landscape digital paintings, but no matter how simple or complex his work is, you can always be sure there’s a story behind it.

Lauren Baldo is a full-time freelance artist. Follow him @laurenbaldoart.

HELLO THERE!

Hi, Lauren! Your work is very romantic. What inspires you to create such artworks?

Wow. This is the first time someone called my work “romantic” so maybe it’s a subconscious thing? I don’t really know. But I have a lot of inspirations. And the biggest and probably my best discovery of last year is the show Steven Universe. The backgrounds, landscapes and color palettes on that show are outstanding. It changed the way I approach my art now.

Do you remember the first artwork you made that made you feel like you were really an “artist?”

Yes, it’s probably my “Over the Garden Wall” fan art, which I did in January last year. My tablet was considerably new at the time and I was still learning digital painting, but I think that was the first artwork I did where I felt like my style was going to head in a direction that’s personal.

VISUAL POETRY, BOOKS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS

Your visual poetry is beautiful. What are your inspirations behind them?

Thank you. I was in a very different place when I started that series and I find that I can’t really go back to it with my current state of mind. I was melancholic and had a lot of feelings and that was the only way I could express it. If I ever do another round of visual poetry it would probably have a more upbeat vibe.

You did a giveaway with Bookbed back in 2013 with Harry Potter and Hunger Games artworks. How have those series affected you?

Yes! I will always love Harry Potter. It’s one of my safe places. Sometimes, when I’m having an art block, I would pick up my sketchbook and draw the trio and it would give me the creativity boost I need.

Do books and graphic novels play a big part in your artworks?

Yes, definitely. I’ve always been a huge reader and it seems like it’s going to be that way for a long time. Books and literature remain a constant influence in my creativity.

You’re currently working on your first webcomic, The Witch Who Wandered, which we’re excited about! Can you give us a little backstory and intro on how you came up with it and what it’s about?

I’m surprised you know about this. The Witch Who Wandered started as an Inktober project that evolved into a complete and satisfying story (at least for me) and while it’s still unfinished, everything is already plotted in my head. That’s why, by the time you publish this interview, I most probably will have launched the webcomic officially. (It’s live! Visit this link.) It’s about three friends who go on an adventure in search of a mysterious stone. That’s really all I can offer without revealing too much. I hope you support it by visiting the website.

You also have other original character illustrations. Are they related to The Witch Who Wandered or are they part of another series?

Honestly, I had another story in my head before the conception of The Witch Who Wandered. It’s just that TWWW was clearer so it took precedence. But mostly, I just love designing characters with background stories.

Speaking of books and graphic novels, your Eleanor & Park artworks got chosen and recognized by Rainbow Rowell herself! Can you walk us a little bit through that experience?

Yes! It was so surreal. Sometimes I still think about it in utter disbelief. I was the one who reached out to her initially. I tagged her in one of my artworks on Twitter and she saw it. And that’s how we got to talking. She’s amazing and I’ll always be grateful to her and her books.

ART/STYLE

You’ve recently ventured into digital paintings. How different is it from the good ol’ pen and paper? Are you able to express yourself more with one or the other?

I don’t think anything can ever replace pen and paper. But my focus right now is digital painting because I think I’m able to do more with it in lesser time. And it’s actually quite surprising how much it’s teaching me in terms of color – something I’m excited to apply [what I learned] in my traditional drawings. But I think the point here is learning never stops.

Your art style has changed a bit through the years. Does a specific art style represent a different time in your life?

It has. Although I think the differences in my style reflect more my influences and experiences and not my circumstances. It’s more about not putting myself in a box when there’s so many ways I can express myself. But it’s not lost on me that distinction is important. And it’s still one of my goals to make my art as varied as possible but cohesive and recognizable at the same time.

You have some artworks with social/political themes. What pushed you to do them?

Like I said, art is personal, so I derive most of what I draw from my own life experiences. As a gay person, I think it’s important to make myself visible and for my art to reflect that in some way. But I don’t make it my job to become the paragon of social awareness. My art and my gayness don’t have to be mutually exclusive. But if I can make even a little bit of difference, that’s what I’m going to do. It’s just that I draw what I love and everything comes from there. And if my art reflects the issues I care about, then I’m happy with it. I like to think I’m becoming the kind of artist my younger self would have looked up to. At least, that’s my personal aim.

If you have any single message you want to share through your artwork, what would it be?

I’m a rule breaker, but that doesn’t mean I don’t study the basics because foundations should be studied first before stylizing any kind of work. But if I have one message I want to show through my art, it’s this: there’s no one way to draw.

Any last words for the young ones who want to venture into this type of art but are a little bit intimidated by it?

Everything that is worth doing comes with fear. My advice is to continue doing it. There’s no shortcut in becoming good at art. There’s only willingness to become good and willingness to invest the time.

But one of my favorite things to do that greatly inspires me is looking at all kinds of art when I have spare time. You know how when you read a book, you pick up words and phrases subconsciously so that it gradually improves your grammar? I think it’s kind of the same with art. If you keep looking at paintings, drawings and illustrations, eventually you will pick up bits and pieces of technique and form something you can call your own.

EXTRA, EXTRA

What is your favorite book and why?

I have lots of favorite books but right now I think it’s Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. I read that last year but I keep thinking about it. Also Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. The writing is stunning and the characters are worth rooting for. It’s just brilliant in every way.

Who is your favorite author and why?

My favorite author is Melina Marchetta. She invokes so much life into her characters that I feel like they’re real people. I would read anything she writes.

Any favorite reading/writing/art-related quote?

“The things we respond to at twenty are not necessarily the same things we will respond to at forty and vice versa. This is true in books and also in life.”—From The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

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