We decided to celebrate pride by teaming up with two local artists to create a tapestry each, the entire proceeds of which will go to charities to give back to the community. Rainbow Herbology was created by Brisbane (Meanjin) artist Lauren Davidson (they/them) to raise funds for their chosen charity, LGBTIQ+ Health Australia; it features a collection of witchy botanicals and magickal imagery in stunning rainbow gradients.
We caught up with Lauren to get to know a little about them, their art, Pride Month and their love of frogs.
What made you decide to become an artist?
Creative expression is something I’ve always had a natural drive for. It hasn’t always manifested so strongly as painting; I’ve dabbled in dance, music, game design, poetry and plenty of other creative hobbies. I even studied to be a book editor at uni to follow my passion for writing. The older I’ve grown, the more I’ve realised that I’m at my happiest when I make time to practice art of any kind, so finding a way to pay the bills with creativity is the ultimate goal now.
As for why painting? The process of creating my pieces is very intuitive, and I’ve really enjoyed practising in a medium where it's easy to channel my creativity freely and not take myself so seriously. I can paint just for myself, for my friends, for the world and for clients, and I get a similar sense of enjoyment and fulfilment from the practice no matter the audience, which I think is pretty rare and special.
What inspires your work?
My relationship with my grandmother has played a huge role in defining me as an artist and shaping my work. I came into my own as a painter well after her passing, but I like to think she’d be proud to see the little signs of her in all my work. Her lessons in seeking out everyday magic in the world around us, worshipping the beauty of the natural world and remaining ever-curious about life’s mysteries have made a noticeable impression on my practice. When I create a new piece, my main goal is that it will bring people joy, and provoke curiosity, maybe make someone believe in magic for just a moment.
Take us through the creative process for your piece “Rainbow Herbology”
Research is always the first phase of a big design piece like this, and one of my favourite steps. I love to playfully explore, follow ideas and see where they lead. Having incorporated the language of flowers into a lot of my work over the previous year, I started by researching how that symbolic tradition has intersected with queer history, and what flowers have been meaningful to our community. During the process, I had the idea to build a botanical rainbow that would bring a splash of vibrance and joy to any room. This led me to research the original meanings of the colours chosen for the pride flag, and select herbs, fruits and flowers that represented those same notions. My design idea coalesced into a celebration of diversity and an ode to love and happiness. Painting this piece was a long but satisfying journey. I use acrylics, which are vibrant but dry quickly. In order to get the smooth rainbow gradients I was after I needed to work smart and work fast, and I enjoyed that challenge. My absolute favourite part was rendering the rainbow candle. You can find plenty of satisfying high-speed process videos in my Share Yer Pride Instagram highlight.
How have your experiences shaped you as an artist?
My first big project as a baby artist came with the 2019/2022 Black Summer Bushfires. I had time on my hands, and really wanted to help make a difference, so I traded personalised commissions for donations to wildlife charities helping with rescue and recovery in affected areas. The thing was, I had very limited supplies on hand - just a handful of very bright shades. I resolved to work with what I had, and I found that those constraints forced me to be creative in the way I rendered tone and shading. Since that project, I've continued to work within constraints that boost my creativity and embraced the intuitive playfulness that I think makes my work unique. I've really embraced bold and experimental use of colour as part of my signature. The need to have my work give back in some way has not diminished either and plays an important role in my practice; no matter what project I’m working on, it always involves giving back to or raising awareness for a community in need.
What’s one thing you want people to know about you?
I love to get collaborative with my creativity, and I often host polls and interactive challenges on my Instagram stories, where my followers vote to help shape and guide my art experiments. Occasionally I host nature trivia as well, which is always full of crazy facts. Did you know there was once a prehistoric species of frog called Beelzebufo, that was roughly the size of a large housecat, and typically weighed about 4.5 kilos? Follow and add me to your favourites on Instagram so you never miss a poll!
There’s many a frog on your Insta. What about them makes you paint them?
This happened totally unexpectedly! I painted my first frog piece (The Healer) in early 2021, and the idea of the frog as a symbol for Healing really resonated with me, so I began researching them further. I discovered that frogs have represented an incredible variety of concepts, reinvented constantly throughout history and by different cultures. They're weird and wonderful, with a surprising diversity of extreme adaptations that make them a great avatar for expressing ideas about climate change, human relationships and aspects of identity. Frogs are also considered by many to be something of a mascot for the queer community, and I for one think they can be pretty cute!
I decided to pursue a whole series of frog-related artworks when I realised how important, and how endangered these creatures are. Frogs are important bio-indicators, telling us a lot about the health of the ecosystems they live in. And what global populations are saying is not good, so I decided to give frogs the spotlight they deserve.
What significance does Pride Month hold for you?
Pride is very important to me! It’s vital to listen to and uplift LGBTIQ+ in all months of the year, but Pride is an excellent reason to celebrate the incredible diversity of human identities and relationships extra loudly. I feel a special sense of community around this time of year, and love the opportunity to celebrate myself and my queer friends, and take advantage of the extra opportunities to be involved in important conversations about LGBTIQ+ rights and issues.
What does your chosen charity, LGBTIQ+ Health Australia, mean to you?
I really appreciate the scope of what LGBTIQ+ Health Australia are working to achieve. Stigmatisation, discrimination, and lack of comprehensive training on LGBTQ-specific health issues and experiences still cause difficulty in accessing important health care services for many queer folk, and this organisation is doing a lot to help make that access and support better. They run a variety of programs to support LGBTIQ+ folk in managing their own health, and importantly, they also focus on educating and upskilling organisations to be more inclusive and better support the health and wellbeing of all. They also run an LGBTIQ+ Health and Wellbeing Research Network looking to coordinate research happening in this sector and make it more easily available. All around, there is so much good work happening here, and I am so thrilled to have been involved in The Share Yer Pride project to donate to this cause.
What can we expect to see from you in the future? Any cool projects or pieces planned?
Absolutely! I’ll be launching an Oracle Deck building on the tarot-inspired pieces of my original Frogtopia series. The set will feature around 30 unique, full-colour original artworks packed with layers of symbolism, designed to be used daily to practice mindfulness, set intentions, and make a habit of self-care. I’m also studying for a diploma in creative therapies to develop a better understanding of how art and creative expression can be useful healing tools, so you can expect classes and guided experiences at some point in the future! Watch this space.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself!
I’m known for having Rapunzel-length hair. It’s recently had a chop to my waist but generally, it hangs out somewhere around my knees and this is a constant source of amusement and exasperation to many of my friends. It’s definitely a lot of work, but I enjoy the habits of self-care and daily rituals that it requires and actually find the maintenance routine pretty calming. I have to admit I also enjoy looking like a fae being that escaped from a neighbouring magical forest dimension.
Thank you so much to Lauren for letting us get to know them and their work a little better! Wanna know what a quirky artist covets at Tragic B? Check out this collection of Lauren's fave Tragic items here!