Steeped in flora, fauna and folklore is the enchanting and playful work of Lauren Carozza. And even though she didn’t grow up to be a mermaid, she’s found success at bringing her childhood interests to life in a way for all of us to enjoy.
Some folks are lucky enough to know from an early age that they want to lead a creative life. Did you? Growing up I wanted to be a mermaid, lifeguard, veterinarian and a zoologist, but those would all be side jobs to my main job–being an artist. I think I always knew I wanted to be an illustrator because very early on I would put together books and comics with stories and characters I’d make up. My family and teachers were also very supportive and encouraged me to make art which gave me the confidence to pursue it as a career.
Your work offers a sense of delight that many ages seem to connect with. Where do you find your inspiration? My work is inspired by my love of plants and animals, folklore and urban legends, early American folk art and vintage photography and illustration.
Can you tell us where you grew up and where you are now? I grew up in Rockaway, New Jersey, a hilly suburb in the northern part of the state. After living in Massachusetts for four years during school I moved back home for two years. Recently I moved to the historic town of Boonton which is not far from my hometown and am loving living here, it reminds me a lot of New England!
Some artists like to build collections–do you have any? There are many things I want to start collections of like vintage Halloween decorations, antique Splatterware, and old dart boards. Someday I hope to have a large collection of children’s books and art books. In college I became obsessed with old wooden chairs that I would find on the side of the road. I began collecting them until I ran out of space to store them. I still have to resist picking up chairs now when I’m out driving.
Can you tell us about any upcoming endeavors, either professional or personal? This fall I’ll be completing coursework and student teaching to obtain my K-12 certification to teach art. I was very lucky to have excellent art teachers throughout my entire education and I hope to follow in their footsteps. I also joined a ceramic studio this summer and got to work with clay for the first time since college. I was so excited to join the studio because I fell in love with the process while at school and it can be tricky to find opportunities to work with the medium while living in a tiny apartment.
What sort of days or activities do you look forward to the most? A perfect day to me is working on an illustration at my desk with a mug of tea and a good podcast. I also love exploring antique shops and finding objects to fill my collections and inspire my illustration work. Being outdoors hiking or walking in the woods is also something I enjoy, I take lots of photos of local plants to draw later.
Now, some artists don’t want to give this kind of information away…but we just have to ask…what is your favorite tool in the studio and why? I can get very lazy about washing my palette so I enjoy having an oversized butcher tray palette. It’s actually more like a large roasting pan than a palette. It allows me plenty of room to mix paint before I need to wash it.
This question is a fun one to wrap up with —do you have a favorite holiday and why? Halloween is one of my favorites because there are so many opportunities to be creative. I love a good homemade costume! I loved living next to Salem for a while and soaking in all the Halloween excitement. I also get a lot of inspiration for the creatures I paint from vintage Halloween costumes and masks.