We caught up with Lauren A Brown, the incredibly talented artist for this year’s program book cover, and asked her a few questions about inspiration, her “process,” what she’s most looking forward to at Gen Con 2023, and more.
What was your inspiration for this year’s Gen Con program book cover art?
I was inspired by the quiet, tucked away, undiscovered places in the middle of forests, where no one has traveled. I’ve always been in love with the forest and the number of mysteries it holds. What kind of magic is hidden within? I imagined a mythical grove where dragon goddesses have always overseen the birth of new generations of dragons. Even though the goddesses are long gone from the world, their statues still provide nourishment and magical energy to help the dragons grow up healthy and strong.
Over the years, can you think of anything (or multiple things) that has been the biggest inspiration for shaping your aesthetic?
It’s always been plants and animals in nature, ever since I was little. I would get lost in my own backyard, overturning rocks to see the worlds underneath, hold beetles and butterflies, open up rocks for crystals inside, and draw full-page detailed junglescapes or oceanscapes in my sketchbook … around age 10. I love themes of humanity’s relationship with nature, as I feel we have tried to separate ourselves from it, as if we’re above it, when in reality we have always been a part of it. I create my art to serve as a reminder that we’re always entwined with nature.
Are there any particular types of media that inspire you? Video games, anime, film, comics, etc.? Can you name a few of your favorites?
I adore Ghibli movies, particularly Spirited Away, Nausicaa, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Kiki’s Delivery Service! I’ve been inspired by anime ever since I was little, and video games since I was even younger. Lately, indie games have given me a huge boost of inspiration because they aren’t afraid to push the barriers of the medium, and as a result, you get a variety of unique and immersive experiences. I fell into the world of Hollow Knight last year, for example, and it completely blew me away. I think my mind is still lost in that world.
Do you have a “process” when it comes to creating art? Can you tell us a bit about it?
I always create thumbnail sketches first. Composition and concept are most important to me, and if I hate the composition, it’s likely that I’ll never finish the piece! Once I sketch out something I feel works and communicates well, I do a more refined sketch, and then a grayscale rendering of what the lighting composition of the final image should look like.
Inks are my favorite part of the process; I love losing myself in the intricate details. It’s the phase where I can turn my brain off and flow naturally. I then create flat colors and paint over my gray render using a few adjustment layers to help guide me to stay accurate to that sketch. Finally, I do lighting passes, where I add stronger glow effects and intensify the color, if needed. I often zoom in and out compulsively, and I check the image in greyscale to ensure my value structure reads as intended. It all sounds very technical, but I still feel like I’m stumbling through the dark until I finish the piece!
What are you most looking forward to at Gen Con 2023?
I’m looking forward to seeing my amazing friends at the Art Show again and meeting new people at my booth! The people I met at the Art Show are some of the most skilled, sweet, and knowledgeable people, and I made some lifelong friends there.
My favorite thing about Gen Con is that everyone is so kind and open; we’re all excited to be here in this environment and it’s obvious. This convention stuck out to me as my favorite even as an attendee, and the reception to my art made it even more so. I was pleasantly surprised that people really seemed to resonate so much with my personal work. I’m also looking forward to picking up a dice set or two, and a new board game!
Do you have any upcoming appearances or prints you are excited about?
I’m currently working on a new Queen for my series, the Avant Garden, and I can’t wait to bring that to the show this year! In terms of appearances, I’m doing a small convention circuit this year, so if you find yourself in Atlanta, come check me out!
Can you give some hints as to what attendees can look forward to seeing at your booth this year?
As always, you can look forward to my series of illustrious Plant Queens: The Avant Garden, which will have three new queens added to the lineup this year. I have new original ink works, as well as playmats and dice pouches that Gen Con has not seen before! I’m finally bringing my stickers back, as they were really popular the first year I sold them, and I’ll be adding more to the lineup: plant dice stickers, falling animals, and some witchy-themed ones! My Trash Animals are making a return, which have been a favorite! I’ll also have the card game, Deck of Wonders, at my booth as well, which I created all the art for. It was a labor of love and I’m looking forward to bringing that to Gen Con for sale for the first time!