Our latest creative crush was personal — our creative and marketing manager learned of Lou Lamari from a connection, and couldn’t wait to get her engagement photo transformed into an illustrated keepsake by Lou. Lou’s simplistic, technology-rich style struck us, and we couldn’t help but fall for the diverse faces they’re representing in new ways. Lou’s illustrations mainly consist of refined lines and neutral colours. Their art is truly an expression of who they are — a woke artist. Through their presence on Instagram, Lou strives to be a voice for queer identities. In fact, it is their desire to be an ally for marginalized folks that inspired their decision to drop out of design school to study Women and Gender Studies.
We chatted with Lou about their creative process, future plans, and how their studies have influenced their art.
Can you tell us a little more about yourself? Through Instagram, we see a lot of other people’s faces through your art, but you don’t necessarily share a lot about yourself or your personal life. Is that a strategic choice?
In a way, it is strategic. I’m actually quite a private person, but I wanted a platform where I can share the art I’ve been creating. I try to be a bit more personal on my online accounts (both LINESxLOU and my personal account) because I am trying to create an awareness of queer identities to a mainstream, often gender- and hetero-normative audience. (Sorry if I’m throwing down some large terms). Anyway, LINESxLOU is still in its infancy — it was an accident, really. I wasn’t expecting this response. But I am adjusting to it and I have some exciting things planned in the near future, so definitely stick around!
You have a very defined, minimalistic style. Can you tell us about the process of finding that style and perfecting it?
I am into minimalism and very refined aesthetics in all aspects — architecture, technology, and drawing. When it comes to my art, I think the style came naturally. I borrow inspiration from other areas of my creative self (sewing, jewelry making, and more recently, cake decorating). For a while, I studied environmental design. It gave me the opportunity to experiment day-in-and-day-out with different mediums and styles. I think through this experience I was able to find the style that speaks to me, and over the past while, have created a specific language in which I translate photographs.
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Can you describe your creative process? Where do you start, what do you usually have on or around you, and how do you work? Any tools you use?
I do these drawings using Adobe CC on my tablet, with a stylus.
I’m currently a full-time student, and I work two jobs. Usually, I am doing these drawings while waiting for a class to start, in between meetings, or while taking a break from long readings and writing papers. Sometimes, I’m doing them sitting in bed while I can’t sleep. What I’m trying to say is that I primarily do this as a hobby, filling in any empty space I have in my day. Beyond that, I base my images off of photographs. I select photos that either have an interesting composition or a narrative that I am interested in depicting graphically. Unless I am in bed, my drawing time often includes lots of coffee and a stack of textbooks I use as a desk for my tablet. It’s a lifestyle.
What do you do to get out of a creative slump?
If I’m being completely honest, these drawings are what I do to get out of a slump.
I used to draw primarily in sharpie or graphite, and there is a lot less flexibility in those mediums. When I do a digital drawing, I have more opportunity to play around with colours, opacity, and form, and that excites me and usually gets me out of feeling frustrated with other mediums.
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Who is your favourite visual artist, and why?
I am in love with Ambivalently Yours on Instagram. I followed them on Tumblr as a teenager, and those kinds of impressions stick with you for a long time. I love how they have a subtle narrative of mental health and self-care in an easily digestible, aesthetically-pleasing format. They’re just so talented.
Can you tell us a little bit about your favourite illustration to-date? Why is it your favourite?
My favourite illustration thus far is one I did of a queer couple from Winnipeg. The composition of the original photo was just so interesting. It was taken from a low angle and they are sitting down, which gave a kind of perspective as if they are royalty (their word, but it’s true, so I’m borrowing it).
One of my favourite things is drawing queer and gender non-conforming people. I think there needs to be more representation of us in mainstream media and art, so that is what I’m doing.
You use a sliding scale for your portraits. Can you describe that process, and what inspired it?
I was inspired by a friend of mine who uses a sliding scale in his pottery business. Basically, a sliding scale is a price range for a particular product or service. When I do a commission, I will say it costs $X – $Z. The customer can pay any price between this range and will receive the same service as someone who paid less or more in that range. The idea is that if you are financially able to pay at the higher end, you do so, and if you can only afford the lower end, that’s OK too. The costs end up balancing out, so I make somewhere in the middle.
Using a sliding scale allows me to be more accessible to those who would not otherwise be able to afford custom art.
I have been told that I could charge much more for a portrait, but my focus right now is accessibility.
You left design school to study Women and Gender Studies. What inspired this change, and have your studies affected your style in any way?
I get asked this a lot. Basically, my partner was already studying Women and Gender Studies when I was in Environmental Design. She would make me read articles and we would have these amazing discussions about what she was learning in school. I kept thinking, ‘Wow, if I wasn’t in design school, this is what I would study.’ I even considered doing a second degree once I graduated from Environmental Design. Some obstacles came up for me in design school which made me reconsider the path I was on. In the end, I made the hard decision that Environmental Design wasn’t for me.
Honestly, I love Women and Gender Studies so much, I have never looked back. Both degree programs heavily influence the work that I do now.
I have a background in art history, and I often think about how portraiture was reserved for the elite. Additionally, I learn about marginalization in my current studies. I married the two by now providing a low-cost service which highlights expressions of many marginalized folks and gives them a portrait that they can feel represented through. It’s a kind of resistance.
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What are some of your future goals, personally and professionally?
Right now, I am committed to finishing my Bachelor of Arts. Afterward, I would like to complete Graduate studies of some sort. I currently work as a first-year university seminar instructor and it has instilled a love for teaching in me. Though my eventual work title may not be as a formal teacher, I would love to work in a position that allows me to share knowledge with others.
In my personal life, I have chosen to take it one day at a time. In the past year, I have made a lot of changes in my life, with a focus on living more authentically. I am just trying to be the best me possible.
Check out more about Lou and their work on Instagram.