April 20, 2013

Spotlight: Leah Goren

The lovely Leah Goren gives us a very special tour around her studio.

Entering Leah’s studio, I was welcomed by a simple space adorned with life – ivy hanging from two windows while illustrations and prints don the walls around the cascades of sunlight. The bright space held an essence of home. An illustrator, surface-pattern designer, cat owner and humble tastemaker, Leah Goren creates art in a style that she shyly calls “feminine, whimsical, and…maybe a little sad.” Soft hues of oranges, pinks, periwinkles and lavenders might compose her images of girls, flowers, cats or even badminton players in a language of innocence and slight melancholy. Her bright colors draw you in with a quiet aftertaste of nostalgia – Leah has refined a feel for the familiar.

Whether it’s the internet or a flower, Leah gets inspired by life as we know it and reveals her whimsical world through her art. The illustrations that define her adorn the space that lives around her through verdant plants and flowers. “It’s nice because I can look at the shapes of them and draw them. It’s kind of different every time [I draw them].” Beyond her space, she maintains an open eye, going to museums and exhibits as well. “Like the Matisse show that was just up [at the Metropolitan Museum of Art], it was really beautiful and seeing the different patterns and colors side by side gives me new ideas for palettes, patterns, and things that I can interject into my work.” Back in her studio and home, “I like collecting paintings, prints and drawings that my friends do because I know them and it makes them personal.” As I look at the art in her space, the images seem to conversate, to form its own community. And despite proudly hailing from California, she’s found a niche in Brooklyn. “There’s a huge community of illustrators and they’re all really supportive of each other. Even if you’re not hanging out with them all the time, it’s just nice knowing that that’s here.” 

With the support of her Etsy shop and the communities of cyberspace, the internet has been another way for Leah to interact with fellow tastemakers. “If I didn’t have my work on the internet I feel like it’d be so isolating, but two years later I’ve connected with so many different people.” Leah previously illustrated her excitement for the web world through Internet Girls, a series of paintings that depicted how “this huge network of girls was really kind of mindboggling. They all kind of share the same tastes, look at the same things, cycle the same images – and I could be a part of that.” And with the magic of the internet, Leah has translated her online connections into real life collaborations, through works like Sad Girls – a zine project she does with friends full of illustrations, photography and writing. With eight or nine girls contributing, “it’s just a fun way to make something that’s real and tangible with a lot of the internet girls and people who I know in real life. The act of making it and making your 2D drawings into a little product that you can flip through and share with people is really cool.” Her professional work maintains a synergetic spirit. Leah recently worked on a series of scarves with Julia Rothman and Rachael Cole. “I liked that project a lot because we made a new little website for it. It was fun presenting it even after the process was over.”

Leah’s art is always finding a new home, on the web, on her walls, or spaces of friends. She might stir up a new collaborative project at any given moment, but she draws every day – “They are projects in themselves.” She then turns these moments into something tangible, wearable, a living experience. “Actually putting an item on your body and interacting with it makes it feels more personal than [a print or illustration] you look at every day.”

With Internet Girls and Sad Girls and maybe another kind of Girls to come, I asked what makes her gravitate toward the subject of “girls.” Leah responded, “Just ‘cause it’s so personal. It’s kind of taking my experience and feelings and those of people I know – or maybe people I don’t know – and putting it in an image that hopefully conveys some sort of emotion. It’s just familiar. Just like cats are.” Flower or fruits, cats or girls, Leah’s subjects of illustration-interest are subjects of the feminine, of feeling, and of the fondly familiar.

Check out Leah Goren's portfolio here.

Erin Kim, an NYU-happy student, who appreciates all things style and social media related. Previously described as a kawaii Wes Anderson dream girl, she loves lolcats, kind people, and a good story. Sometimes she blogs instead of sleeping.