Laura Gee, a member of the Ohh Deer collective (that’s us), and known for her signature Beardy Men cushions, is an Illustrator with a distinctive, emotive , bitter ‘n’ sweet style. She pairs many of her illustrations with simple hand drawn messages such as ‘introverted fun, and it’s all mine’ and ‘I’m as lonely as you’. We stock a whole host of her products including her Let’s F#ck it Up Lion cushion and P#ss Off Cat greeting card. We can’t help but love her penchant for beards, grumpy animals and spot-on depiction of love and loneliness. Illustration with a good spoonful of brutal honesty heaped on for good measure, it’s difficult not to fall for her innocent and bold art. We spoke to Laura about fresh pieces of paper and aggressive erasers.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
I am a girl living in London, trying to make work I like in my studio in Hackney Downs.
Your illustration style is very bold, and has a childlike feel to it too, how do you get the inspiration for your illustrations?
My inspirations come from observing the world around me and noting my emotions to these situations, be it strangers on a bus, a lovers tiff or family and friends. I put these drawings of the everyday into little sketchbooks, I try not to rework these drawings too much, as I love the immediacy and trail of thought captured. Visually I am inspired by artists who create work that is brave enough to show something personal and honest. Outsider art, folk and children’s drawings, to me, capture an honesty and sophisticated simplicity which I find beautiful.
How did you come up with the concept for your striking Beardy Men cushions?
The Beardy Men cushions all started as a Father’s Day gift idea for my Dad Malcolm a few years ago, hence the Malcolm beardy man. Since I was little he had a full beard, one day he shaved it off and I cried and screamed so much as I couldn’t recognise him. Needless to say he grew the beard back. So I guess, as the beardy has been deep rooted since I was a child, it seemed like a fitting gift for my Dad. I never expected it to be a product, but since then it has become really popular online I created a few versions; Dennis, Fred and Angus. Now they are sent all over, including to shops in Japan. So it’s thanks to my original beardy man, Dad.
Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
In ten years’ time I want my life to be about the work I love to make, be it exhibitions, 3D installations, pop-up shops, workshops or products. I want it all to be linked with my visual language, and I think the options are endless. All the rest will work itself out, including choice of dog, partner and city.
What are your favourite drawing tools?
A simple pencil is all I need to get ideas and imagination flowing. But I love using watercolour, gouache or acrylic to bring it to life.
Do you feel that your illustrations reflect your own personality?
Well from my illustrations, I would be an introvert who has a border collie friend… who will tell you to fuck off; and share feelings of sadness and vulnerability, but find something humorous from it; make friends with wild animals; and tell people not to give up on their dreams. So I guess, yes, that is me.
Which colours do you use the most?
Black, yellow and red.
How has your style changed over time?
I used to be really cautious over what I made, and this would be shown through lots of pencil detail, and making 3D neat props. Then I started creating work freely in my sketchbooks and I found more of my voice. Now I try and add to that with colour and words, and different formats.
What are you thinking about when you sit down in front of a fresh piece of paper?
Normally I have an itch just to jot drawings and ideas down and I fill it with related or unrelated ideas, words, images. I create my images through bringing separate parts together. Trying to do something all on one piece of paper makes me feel under pressure. So I try to make it as free as possible, and play.
If a pencil and an eraser got into a fight, who would win?
I would say pencil, a pencil can write, the best fights are won with words.
Do you have a dream project or client that you hope to work on/with in the future?
I don’t have a dream client, is that bad? A dream project would be to create a huge interactive installation with one visual language where the illustrations come alive, and you are immersed into the artist’s world, or something like that.