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Check Out Lolo Gem’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lolo Gem.

Hi Lolo, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
My path to where I’m at now has really encompassed my entire life. I never sat down and said, “Hey, I want to be an artist!” or “I want to learn how to draw now!” I have just been always doing it for as long as I can remember, and it has always been the most obviously illuminated path in my life.

I was one of the “art kids” all throughout elementary, middle, and high school. In 2014, I moved to Baltimore to attend MICA, where I originally attended for illustration, thinking I wanted to work in cartoons/animation.

I ended up not loving the competitive world of commercial art, and quickly shifted gears and landed in the painting department. I struggled quite a bit there, as my work differed significantly from my peers. All of my influences come from animation, pop culture, comics, etc, which isn’t the norm for work that is typically deemed “fine art.” I knew I was making the work I needed to make, though, and kept cranking it out regardless of what people had to say about it. I ended up having some incredible professors that really helped me find my niche in the art world, which was so reaffirming and valuable.

After graduating, I spent 4 years in and out of various full-time food service jobs, desperately trying to keep my studio practice alive while also making sure my bills were paid. I ended up picking up quite a bit of freelance illustration work over those years, mainly gig posters for local venues. I also had the amazing opportunity of teaching illustration at the Baltimore Academy of Illustration, which really sparked a love for teaching in me. Everything seemed like it was going okay for a bit, but eventually, I got really burnt out and hit a plateau. I felt like my art career would never get to the next level if I continued on this path of working on my art only when I had the time to.

Realizing that my art practice was just the thing I could do if I had the time after work – was really a significant feeling that just didn’t sit right with me. This sounds cheesy, but if I’m not making art, it literally feels like a part of me is empty. I knew something had to change, so I decided to pursue my MFA. I felt like going back to school for my master’s was exactly what I needed to kick things up a notch.

I knew it was going to give me the time, space, connections, and resources I needed to push my work further. So far, it’s been an amazing decision.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
To be completely honest it has been the bumpiest road ever, but I really don’t regret any of it. I wouldn’t trade the path I’m on now for anything else. I’ve always known that an art career is incredibly non-linear, and I was really lucky to have mentors that were honest with me about that at an early age.

There are so many struggles trying to pursue a career in art because it kind of seems like the entire world is against you. Things are always uncertain, unstable, and not super glamorous. Not to mention, YOU are the only one that can make it happen – nobody can really help you. At the end of the day, YOU have to make the work. That’s really not for everyone! It’s 100% self-guided and self-motivated. Money is also always a struggle, and a real one.

It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but I’m a firm believer that if you know, you know. I had a professor that once told me, “artists don’t create because they want to, they create because they have to.” I finally, truly understood this during my time in the real world after getting my degree. Artists are going to figure out a way to make their work, regardless of the struggle, because they have to.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
In my personal work, I mainly use paint and various drawing materials. Graduate school has me experimenting and thinking about other mediums, but for now, my favorite thing to do is still just draw and paint. Over time, I’ve developed a visual language that I play with and project my thoughts and experiences onto.

My work is heavily inspired by vintage & contemporary animation, comic books, and toys, so there’s an immediate sense of familiarity and nostalgia when viewing it. Throughout my work, I tend to personify complex anxieties, fears, and ambiguous sensations into a cast of gloomy characters and animated objects. I aim to embrace a childlike innocence in my work, by keeping things fun and being open to mistakes and communicating through playful imagery.

I’m making this accessible entryway into the human psyche through the lens of some weirdly familiar childhood dream. For digital & illustration work I use Procreate and Photoshop!

I’m most proud of how consistent and genuine my artistic voice has been. I mean, when I was in high school I was drawing cartoony characters with their guts spilling out in bright candy colors. I’ve always been into the same stuff and I think that’s really cool and unique. If you look at all of my work chronologically there’s a very obvious thread connecting it all.

Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
Literally just getting to do what I do. I’m so lucky that I’m able to do the thing that provides me the most fulfillment. I’m happy that I’ve dedicated my life to follow my passion, so that when I’m 70 I won’t be that person that says, “man, I really regret not doing that.”

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