Deconstructing The Artist: Sara M. Lyons, Professional Weirdo
Deconstructing The Artist is an ongoing series in which we break down a rising artist's work and, through conversation, get a sense of what drives them to create. Today we chat with artist/product designer, Sara M. Lyons
"A lot of people design to think of themselves as "above" pop culture...[but] in 2016, art is as much a part of pop culture as film or music or TV," says SoCal artist Sara M. Lyons, whose art is often infused with themed of fem-powerment, plucked from the mainstream.
Go into heronline shop, for example and you'll find zines of Lindsay Lohan in her prime pop-moment, or pins glorifying BFFS who come together for QT at around 4:20 daily...and a crystallized dick. Lyons' images are so tongue-in-cheek, and so relevant, that two years ago, her illustration of thighs touching with the caption "My Thighs Touch Because They Love Each Other", became iconic among anti-thigh gap Pinteresters. She had struck a nerve and made a statement...playfully.
"I'm really pleasantly surprised by the way other people, particularly young women, interpret my work and apply it to themselves," she said of the reception from her 60k followers. "A lot of my most popular illustrations, which I know seem light-hearted, came out of a pretty dark phase in my life, so seeing others turn them into messages of positivity or empowerment has been weirdly therapeutic."
Below, Lyons talks balancing art and business, staying in the zone 24/7 and Nuke 'Em High.
Can you give me a general sense of your background in art - where did you get your start?
Sara: I've been drawing my whole life, but it was always a hobby when I was younger. I've never had any formal training or anything besides, like, summer art camp at the local university when I was a little kid. It's just something I've literally always done.
What triggered you to turn your illustration into a business? Was this an 'a-ha' moment, or did it just sort of happen accidentally?
It was a little of both, honestly. I lost an office job during the recession and had been unemployed for going on two years when I started doing a ton of digital illustrations as a way to try to distract myself from depression. When I started posting them online, the response was almost immediate, and I realized I might have a shot at turning my drawings into a career.
Describe your process, how do you get into the zone? Do you focus on anything in particular?
This is my full time job now, so I have to be in the zone all the time, whether I'm really feeling it or not! I've become very structured when it comes to how I work. I find that I work best under a regimented schedule, but I also get burnt out easily, so I like to work incrementally on several different projects at once to try to avoid becoming overwhelmed (or worse, bored!) by any one project in particular.
How do you perceive the relationship between pop culture and art?
Consumption of pop culture is sooo personal - every artist has a different relationship with the media, and is coming from a place of different interests and references, so it's hard to say definitively what the relationship is or whether there is one.
I think a lot of people deign to think of themselves as "above" pop culture or that they're not active consumers of the content machine. But I think now more than ever, with everyone on their phones all the time, it's very difficult to exist in an entertainment vacuum - and with that, it's very difficult to make art that's not influenced or inspired by some aspect of pop culture in one way or another. In 2016, art is as much as a part of pop culture as film or music or TV.
If you could go back to any tv or movie high school which would you chose?
Oh man, as much as I love teen culture, I would definitely NEVER choose to go back to high school! That being said, attending Nuke 'Em High might be pretty entertaining
Describe your process in one word.
PostedJul 12, 2016