Laura Fauvel is a talented abstract painter, with an incredibly intriguing personal story and a unique working process. Fauvel has journeyed across country borders, from the world of fashion in Paris to the Austrian Alps where she currently resides with her family. And in the process discovered and developed a process of painting that utilizes synthetic papers in a way we haven’t seen before.
The artist took some time to talk to us about her journey, how she developed her painting technique, and what role paper plays in it, as well as the importance of a good work-life balance and listening to your feelings and thoughts.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and your history with art and painting. What made you originally switch from fashion print design to art?
Laura Fauvel: I was born on the Island of Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean and spent the rest of my childhood growing up between France and England. Now I live with my family in Austria with my husband and 4-year-old son Alfie.
My early childhood was spent with my brothers and sisters in France, we lived in a house surrounded by woods close to the beach so we were always outdoors in the forest that surrounded our house making dens, foraging for blackberries and mushrooms, baking, swimming, and painting. Which is very much what I still do today. Nothing much has changed.
My mum was so chilled, rarely telling us what to do or how we were to use something, which I thought was a bad thing but now I realize that it enabled me to be my own person. My parents split when I was 7 and we moved to England.
I was the only foreigner in my new school, back then travel wasn’t as common as it is now. I found it really hard because I didn’t really fit in, I always confused my 2 languages, mixed them together in sentences, said things back to front, and wrote in mirror writing. So later on when the bullying, lack of focus, and things started turning really bad I went to boarding school. Which I absolutely loved.
Everyone was a foreigner. I had some really great friendships and teachers. Some of the best years of my life. I left with top grades in ceramics and fine art and went on to start a foundation course at Central St. Martins in London. We had class once a week and it wasn’t enough for me. I needed more so I put all my effort into exercising a little too far and ended up quitting the course and moving home. The following year I went to start a foundation course in Art at Ravensbourne where I met my husband. I went on to study Fashion print design, completed an internship at Alexander McQueen, and my degree in women’s print design with an award for 1st prize from the Society of Dyers and Colourists. Life was fun again, I had made friends during my time in Paris at Fashion week and ended up seeing some amazing catwalk shows, from the Christian Dior show in the Park of the Louvre, Kenzo in an old warehouse which was decorated to look like a jungle, Victor & Rolph showing their dress bed collection. Some amazing experiences.
After this, I worked on prints for a few start-ups and freelanced as a print designer for Giles Deacon. I then learned the art of selling a high-end product working in Selfridges and my final job was as a wholesale executive at Amanda Wakeley. What happened then we moved out of London and my son Alfie came into our lives.
And it was then when you made the switch from fashion print design to art and painting?
Laura Fauvel: I think this was definitely a turning point in my life, my son was ill for three and a half years which completely broke me into pieces in every way. This series of life experiences made me realize that I didn’t have the desire to be part of the fashion world anymore, it didn’t fit in with what I had come to value, and I simply didn’t have time anymore. Going from working 6 days a week to being a full-time stay-at-home carer is such a huge change. I really struggled with Alfie’s daily health issues, and the severe sleep deprivation. I needed to create a new focus for myself.
Around Alfie’s first birthday I made a conscious decision not to go back to fashion so I looked at all the skills I had picked up over the years, what time I had available, and thought about what I enjoyed doing. Abstract Art. I bought some paints and just started trying things out. Art really was my medicine and made me alive! I started to find my happiness again. Don’t get me wrong, it was so hard as I was challenging my limits, abilities, my feelings. Bright ideas don’t usually come from a tired mind or a physically tired body either. So taking time out to be with your thoughts is important.
You’ve truly lived a unique and interesting life. Is it your personal experiences that inspire you, or what kind of pieces do you like to create? What concepts lie behind the pieces?
Laura Fauvel: I’ve just released a SERIES of 15 works on Yupo paper, derived from mountain life. Sunsets, snowstorms, hikes, and challenges we’ve recently faced. They’re all reflected in these pieces. There may be a few limited edition prints available too.
And how long have you now lived in Austria? How do you feel about the creative scene here, compared to previous places you have lived?
Laura Fauvel: We’ve been in Austria for 18 months now. We live in the mountains, so I’m constantly being inspired by what I see when I’m out, the depth and richness of color of the alpine landscape are so beautiful.
I don’t really know a lot about the art scene in Salzburg as the pandemic hit when we moved here and things have only just started opening up, but the feeling I get is that it is very traditional in-process and thought. My collectors are mostly from the UK & USA.
What kind of paints or techniques do you work with?
Laura Fauvel: I use acrylic paint mostly from Golden, Liquitex, Lascaux. Depending on what density I’m trying to achieve and the surface I’m using. I naturally developed my process by trying things out on this amazing synthetic paper. I love that Yupo paper does not absorb the paint and lies on top, it has a smooth surface that doesn’t have much grip which means you can move a liquid consistency of paint around easily. Because the surface of the paper can be wiped with water, you can reuse the paper or wash it away when the paint is still wet without leaving any marks, just like a whiteboard, which in a way, sort of makes it a bit more environmentally friendly because you’re not throwing loads and loads of paper away when you’re trying out ideas.
I naturally developed my process by trying things out on this amazing synthetic paper. I love that Yupo paper does not absorb the paint and lies on top, it has a smooth surface that doesn’t have much grip which means you can move a liquid consistency of paint around easily.
My process naturally evolves over time. I use movement and touch to feel the paint’s weight with my hands, using my body to move the paint around the surface. So there is a lot of emotion and movement involved which changes through the season’s creates emotional shifts in my body of work.
When it snows I feel the coldness softly covering the baron mountain tops, the movement & excitement from boarding down the mountain gliding through fresh powder. The muffling of noise when it snows, I don’t think that I’ll ever get bored of it. Amazing moments of seeing life in the here and now like children do, as if it’s new for the first time. I try to show all these amazingly great moments in my work.
I knew that painting the mountain as it’s seen in real life wasn’t exciting enough for me. I wanted to use my emotions and creative intuition, balancing space, medium, color, and surface, developing multiple processes to enable me to project the way I see the world. I’ve used Yupo paper to grow as an artist at a faster rate and to grow in confidence.
What made you think of using synthetic papers in an artistic way – what about it appealed to you, and how do you create the effect it offers?
Laura Fauvel: I discovered Yupo paper whilst browsing Instagram, I saw a cool painting and I couldn’t work out how it had been done. It fascinated me. I’ve only felt that feeling a few times in my life, one was when I met my now husband of 10 years and when I visited Ravensbourne university and this paper. It’s a strange feeling, complete confidence that this was something I needed to explore. How can someone be so excited about paper? Well, when you start to think of the possibilities of how it could be used it opens up so many opportunities, allowing me to be creative and develop new processes. I also loved the fact that the market hadn’t been saturated which means the slate was clean to invent. I love to work out or try to understand the artist’s intentions and thought process. The why to a painting. I’m fascinated by how the human mind works. My mum was a mathematician and my father a doctor so I guess maybe challenging space/proportion and thought process, understanding how things work and why is all combined.
The papers I’ve used are Monotex and Yupo synthetic papers and I think I prefer the heavyweight of 390 gms Yupo paper. It’s got a little more body than the lighter weight of 200gms one which means it’s more robust when washing it with water and when I hold the paper in my hands to move the paint. The Monotex to me looks more synthetic as a final piece, it’s a little waxier.
What kind of message would you like to send to our readers, some of whom might be considering a career in the arts or are just starting out as new artists?
Laura Fauvel: What I would say about starting a career in art or any profession, you just don’t know until you try it, and even then you have to find the right company or setup which works for you. It’s about listening to your own thoughts and feelings. I just know that if you’re not excited about what you do every day then you should make a change. I spent years dreading going to work doing the same thing every day. I couldn’t see ever being able to create every day working in high-end fashion unless you were one of the top designers in the world, which are few and far between and they deal with huge amounts of stress and pressure. It just wasn’t what I wanted in life. Now I can’t wait for Monday, I can’t wait to get up and start working, I’m in absolute love with my world right now, I love my work, my family, where I live, and all the little bits in between.
So what I’m saying is: If you have that relentless feeling in your gut that art is right for you and you’re willing to go on a very emotional journey that challenges your every feeling then go for it.
So what I’m saying is: If you have that relentless feeling in your gut that art is right for you and you’re willing to go on a very emotional journey that challenges your every feeling then go for it. Most artists are on an emotional rollercoaster when they are not even doing art so what’s the difference between doing art as a profession and channeling your focus and energy into something you can grow? There are so many platforms for artists to promote themselves now which weren’t there when I left university.
You’ve also got to think about art as a business if you’re planning to do it full time. Day to day I manage my website, photograph/edit my work, answer commission quotes inquiries, Instagram daily feed and produce content for this, shipping, framing experience helps so presenting your product/ marketing, purchasing materials, now everyone’s doing reels which I am trying to learn.
Your family’s living circumstances are important to consider. I’m also a mum which involves cutting that creative flow because of a kindergarten run, waking up very early to get editing done before Alfie wakes up, and so on so how much time you can dedicate to it which will naturally increase by itself over time. At the moment I make sure my family work life is quite balanced as I know when Alfie grows up I’ll have a tone of time on my hands to really push and grow the business, so for now it’s important to keep that workflow going but also to enjoy these amazing moments I have with my son, which I count myself very lucky to be able to have.
Thank you Laura for taking the time to talk to us about this all. We’re sure many will find your works and words inspirational and helpful!
You can enjoy more of the artist’s work here, and make sure to follow Laura on Instagram for more inspiration!