Laura Stitzel is a layout designer for an animation studio, and an exhibiting artist specializing in pen-and-ink illustration and hand-lettered vintage-style posters. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, she is now living in Toronto.
I chatted with Laura over a pint in a pub in the Annex – the neighbourhood which is about to host one of Toronto’s more unconventional outdoor exhibits, where she’ll be showing her new series of works on wood.
In the Annex Patio Art Show, art is displayed on the outside of storefronts and restaurant windows along Bloor St. West while artists hang out on the sidewalk. It’s an unusual setup, but Laura enjoyed the experience of exhibiting there last year:
“I really liked it. It’s strange because you can’t sell the work there, but I actually got a lot of publicity out of it, a lot of people contacting me after the show. It’s good because people are just walking around and they’re not expecting to see art, so it takes them by surprise and you get to see really honest reactions.
Laura’s latest series of works on wood, created using an ink transfer process that gives them a weathered vintage look, was inspired by classic circus posters.
“It’s taking an existing style of poster – the circus poster – and putting a twist on in, which is that it’s animals as circus freaks, and they have personalities.
“Because I really like animals, they are in my work all the time. I’m really fascinated by how animals fit into our day-to-day life.
“My Fear the Birds series was about how birds are around everywhere and they’re wild animals but they live in the city among people and it’s really interesting and it’s something that we don’t really take notice of.”
Laura’s technique is to do all the line work on paper first, using a fine tip pen or pen and ink. Only the colorful illustrations (like A Day in the Park, above) are painted digitally. The lettering on her posters is also drawn by hand, assisted by nothing more advanced than a ruler.
“I like to try to find a balance between wonky lines, things that are a little bit off and not computerized-looking, and also having it really neat.
“It’s very time-consuming. I love doing it though – it’s very meticulous and I just have the right kind of personality to not get sick of doing that.”
“The way I got into doing hand-lettering is I did an illustration course in New York a couple of summers ago and we were asked to bring a draft of something we were going to work on. I did just pencil and paper, and the lettering I copied by hand off the computer, fairly roughly. I brought it to class and the teacher loved it. Then I went to do the final draft, and I did the lettering on the computer, because I thought, “This is the good one now”. And when I brought in the final draft, she said, “What are you doing? Your lettering was so nice. You should just do it by hand.”
“I didn’t know that lettering was a thing – which I guess it is. And I really enjoy doing it. That summer has shaped my life quite a bit. It’s one of those little mistakes.”
For someone with obvious drawing talent and eye for design, Laura arrived at her current profession in a curiously roundabout way:
“I used to be a dancer and a choreographer, and I started playing around with projections for dance shows. I started playing with Flash – this is when the animation stuff was pretty new – and I was using it as a tool to create almost specific lighting for dance shows. But then as I was playing with the software, I found that I really liked it, and I enjoyed drawing. So then I went to university to study animation to help with the dance side of things. But once I began to study it, I really loved it and started working in it straight away.
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