Laura Gunn is an artist who paints, “a lot of flowers and other stuff, too”. Gunn also creates quilting weight cotton with her artwork that she licenses with and sells through Michael Miller Fabrics. Her work has been featured at West Elm, Design Sponge, and on Fox’s New Girl. She lives with her husband and three kids in the Washington, D.C. area.
Tell us about your evolution as an artist. I’ve been painting and making things since I could hold a crayon. My mother is an artist, and our brightly colored walls were always covered with art. She was always very generous with her art supplies. As a child, I spent endless hours in her studio. I would paint or decoupage any blank surface I could find–a lampshade, a fireplace screen, whatever. Even then, it was all about color. I was fascinated by the power of color to transform a space. After leaving for college, I developed my skills through art classes, even as I worked toward my degree in sociocultural anthropology. Later, as a young, sleep-deprived mother, I would always carve away a section of my dining room for a studio. Art supplies were as much of a staple as groceries. Over the years my creative interest focused more and more on painting. I found that of all my creative pursuits, painting gave me the closest relationship with color. Now I am always contemplating my next painting, and when inspiration hits I have to go with it.
Talk about color. I’ve always been a bit obsessed with color. When I paint, I play with color. I create just the right amount of contrast and harmony. All it takes is a few strokes of the right color to change the mood of an entire piece. I love the spontaneity of the process. I love bringing colors together through layering. After developing a texture on the canvas, I layer color over color in ways that catch the eye. Before I even start on the main subject of the painting, I create a rich background that is full of little surprises. I then focus on the subject, which is usually something that offers a lot of flexibility, such as a flower or a skyscape. I change the shade, shape, and composition, as I feel moved.
Where did you grow up? I grew up in Hayward, California, near San Francisco. I now live in the Washington D.C. area with my husband and three children. I try to bring a bit of warm, artistic California here to the Capitol Region. Although I miss California, I love our home here. And I find plenty of inspiration for my paintings in the natural beauty of this area.
How has the commercial side of your business developed? After initially experimenting with painting, I ended up with a few pieces that could get the attention of collectors. A friend of mine had a boutique and offered to show my art. It was a great opportunity. My artwork was well received, which inspired me to develop my business further. After starting out selling originals on Etsy and through word of mouth, I was approached by an fine art publisher. Since then, I have worked with New Era Portfolio, which sells limited edition prints of my work. Through them, I’ve seen my work featured in some interesting places, such as One Kings Lane and West Elm. I also license my artwork to Michael Miller Fabrics, which uses my paintings on quilting weight cotton. I became acquainted with them through my sister-in-law who is a fabric designer. When I approached them, they were very excited to print my floral paintings on fabric. Most quilting weight cotton is now designed digitally, so my hand-painted designs give my fabric a unique style. In addition to licensing my work, I sell originals and prints of my work on my website and locally. I continue to explore new avenues in my art and in my business. Both processes are demanding and exciting. However, what is most satisfying to me in all of this is to see how others love and appreciate how my creations add life and beauty to their spaces.