“Part of my life is that I am split into these different things; there is the book, there is my teaching and then there is my art.”
Lauren Rader is a Maryland-based artist, author, and art educator. In 2005, she began teaching art classes to women called ‘Releasing the Creative Powers Within’. Inspired by the women’s individual creative journeys and life-changing experiences taking place within these art classes, Lauren wrote the book Studio Stories: Illuminating Our Lives Through Art to document and share their unique transformations.
Why did you decide to open up your personal home studio and teach art classes there?
“I have been teaching since I was 17. And I always taught kids. And I lived in California for 17 years. When we moved to Maryland, I didn’t teach at all for a while. People always told me I should teach adults, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that. I was talking to a friend about what to do next. She said I should teach an art class for adults called ‘Releasing the Creative Powers Within’. And I knew that was what I needed to do. I didn’t really want to teach a painting class or a drawing class, but rather a class that focused on creativity in general, which is my comfort zone.”
What is your inspiration? Do you have a particular artist that inspires you?
“I wouldn’t point at a particular artist that I emulate. I could spend my life in art museums. But I think nature is my biggest muse. It’s never-ending and always changing.”
What is unique about your class, “Releasing the Creative Powers Within”?
“I have been teaching these classes for 13 years in this little studio in the basement of my home. The classes are a combination of writing, making art and sharing. And that combination has been really powerful for people in very personal ways. I am working with a lot of women who don’t necessarily know how to do art or haven’t done it before. I am trying to help them find their own way into their own personal expressions. Over the years, I have figured out ways to help them do that even if they are nervous or feeling vulnerable as we all are when we make art. One way is through these jumping off points which gives them a place to start. They don’t have to remain true to the jumping off point, it’s just a way to get started. But basically I give them some theme, idea or concept to write about. They then begin making art, using or not using the jumping off point in their artwork as they choose. It might be over a period of a few weeks to the whole 8-week session. Then they write again. They will write about their work, what the experience was of making it, or about the piece itself.”
Ascension, Acrylic on Canvas, 40" x 30”
What inspired you to write the book?
“I feel like writing is a really good way to stay in touch with your quiet inner voice. Very often in that writing there are these epiphanies that happen. As you are doing your artwork you tend to have this running story in your mind of what you are putting together. So you are working as intuitively as possible but nevertheless your mind is still working and you are creating this story about your work. When your work is all done, and you sit down and you write about it, a lot of times you realize a much deeper story that’s really what the work is about. In my art classes, we share what we wrote, as a group of 8 of us. People love sharing, sharing is optional, but people share almost always. After work, I would go to my husband and tell him these amazing things that people figured out through their work, big life-expanding understandings. And he said, ‘You need to write a book.’ So that is how the book started.”
What was the writing process like? Was it difficult?
“I have written every day since I was a teenager. Since I had written every day, it wasn’t that big of a leap to write the book in a way, but it kind of also was at first. As an artist, no one tells me what to do, that’s the beauty of it. That is what I am used to in my creative work and here is this guy (husband) telling me to write a book. I don’t know what that looks like. I couldn’t see his vision. It didn’t matter, it had to be my vision to be able to write a book. So it took a little while to figure that out. Once I did, I really saw how writing a book is the same as any other creative process. You are free writing, and then you step back and you read it. It is the same as doing a painting. The same exact process. It was really interesting to me and now I understand why they call it crafting a book. I really enjoyed the writing of it. And the river lessons are most ‘me’. That is the ‘me’ and the rest of the book is me in more of my mode of art guide. It was nice to get both in there. That felt good.”
Summer day, Acrylic on Canvas, 12" x 12”
Can you recall a defining moment in your artistic career?
“I started making art when I was 5 years old. I knew I wanted to be an artist. When I was about 9, I used to take loose-leaf paper and use the hole punches on the left edge as stencils to draw circles on the paper below it. I would create these nice black dots. And one day, I drew one dot, and was like, ‘That’s perfect. That is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen’. And I took it and I hid it, because I knew no one would understand. And that is when I knew that I was meant to be an abstract artist and somewhat of a minimalist.”
Has that dot stayed relevant in your artistic career?
“My husband got a fellowship at Harvard one year and as part of his fellowship, I could take any classes I wanted at Harvard. So I just painted all year. I took one painting class each semester. I kept thinking about that dot. And I did a series that was very minimalist. It took all that time and work and maturity to come to the point where I was comfortable to be that minimal with my work, but I never forgot it because it was so beautiful. That was a really important moment for me. I couldn’t get that dot out of my mind. I did some very minimalist work that year.”
Do you have any other big projects that you want to tackle or are currently working on?
“One thing that I want to start doing, which I have only done a little bit of, is doing art for businesses. Not selling art to businesses, but teaching art to businesses for team bonding. I have been an artist for VIDA for about 5 years now. Umaimah, the creator of VIDA, offered to do a book reading of Studio Stories in San Francisco and asked if I would teach a workshop to her workers that are there in the San Francisco space. That was the first one I’ve done and it was really fun and really good for the employees. I think that would be fun to do more of that.”