The Perfect Palette
We asked artist, designer, illustrator, and Fashionista laura filas to fill us in on how she curates her life and work with pops of pastels, '70s inspired looks, welcoming spaces, and a wide variety of eye-pleasing creations.
Currently, I am working as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. I focus on branding and identity, editorial, and web design (front-end development). Working on web projects is simultaneously the most rewarding, draining, and exhilarating experience out of all that I do. With that being said, I usually list it as my favorite part of the job. Web basically incorporates layout design, branding, photography, typography, and a little more into a neat, attractive package. There are so many opportunities to push yourself and test your endurance, really more than ever before. Things you just can’t do on paper or packaging or anywhere else, you can do for a computer screen, a tablet, or a phone.
My favorite clients to work with are small-business owners who are as passionate about what they do as I am. It’s easier to work with someone who is fervent and concerned than with someone who is indifferent. I guess it shouldn’t to such an extent, but how my client approaches their own craft tends to be reflected in what I produce; it’s important for me to remain honest to both them and their audience with what I create, whether that reflects their concern or not.
Ideation for design is somewhat of a different process with each project I work on. However, I generally start the same way each time. Once I’m given specifications, I go through a chaotic sequence of creating moodboards and choosing potential fonts and colors that I feel best reflect my client or my project. I often throw some samples together on the computer before I start sketching. This is backwards from what I was taught to do in school, but this process brings me my most original ideas.
Though I’d like it to be deeper, plenty of inspiration for my illustration work branches from collections of random photographs I find eye-catching on Pinterest. But after that initial spark, I do pull from my own life and what is occurring in the modern world. I also have a love for the American desert and the 1970s, so both of these elements definitely creep into my pieces. Additionally, no matter what I’m creating, I listen to music almost religiously and I’m sure some of what I’m listening to at the moment seeps into whatever l'm creating. A lot of times I’m not given a chance to talk about the meaning of a piece (or more accurately, I deny myself the chance) because I want my audience to determine a meaning for themselves. That’s what I find most comforting in art. When I don’t know much about the piece and can apply it to myself, what I’m thinking about, or even current events. That being said, I will mention that a lot of my pieces are actually commenting on gender roles and sexism. I think the majority (okay, maybe all) of my illustrations have a lighthearted and fun appearance, so that can tend to throw the viewer off.
The time it takes to make an illustration drastically varies from one to another. It depends a lot on what medium I’m using and the level of detail I choose to incorporate. A colored pencil illustration can take me up to eight hours to finish, an ink piece about three or four, and gouache can range from three to over eight. The main disparity between a collage piece and a purely hand-drawn piece is spontaneity. Often when I’m drawing something, I start with a plan. I decide on what the piece should convey and I spend, at times, hours planning, delving into a more extensive process.
With collages, I often begin by sitting down on the floor in my room and flipping through magazines until something catches my eye. I rip the page out and continue until I get bored. Most times, I’ll pick up my pieces and start to form an idea. Collage is usually what I do for a sense of freedom or when I’m creatively blocked. The process I go through for the buttons and enamel pins I create is much different. I follow a much more rigid formula, similar to that for design work. I allow myself freedom, but I also do think about my audience (I don’t consider audience as much with illustration and collage, that’s more driven by feelings). Ironically though illustration is more freeing, I hate keeping sketchbooks. I of course draw a lot to warm up or document ideas, but I do so on scraps of paper. Sketchbooks box me in and for some reason create high stakes, as if every page should be organized and perfect. I prefer keeping sketchbooks of hand-lettering. Though, that’s more in the design realm and should be more stringent, I just feel a lot freer drawing letters. Go figure.
In terms of interior design, I have a bit of a love affair with mid-century modern everything. I like to listen to loud music, so anywhere I can do that is a great place to be in. There are a lot of coffeeshops that are beautiful in Chicago and record stores and antique shops which are comforting to visit. Generally, I enjoy living and staying in spaces which have plenty of sunlight, white walls, lots of artwork, and warmth from wood elements — aka my home or more specifically my desk, where I spend about 90% of my time. I decorate my personal spaces with artwork that can carry plenty of different meanings and stay interesting and inspiring to me for at least a few months, objects that I find when antiquing, plants, records, books, and my art and packaging supplies (which I attempt to make attractive). My current favorite design trend is mismatching decorations and keeping only things with purpose and meaning, as well as repurposing found objects. It’s a lot more fun when everything is one-of-a-kind.
In terms of graphic design, I consider myself a minimal brutalist. Yes, that is the most contradictory label I could possibly come up with. Brutalism is on the opposite end of the spectrum from minimalism. Heck, it’s on its own spectrum. But I think it makes sense if you look at my work. I like to break rules and deliver unexpected products, but they’re still clean. I guess a similar description would apply to my fashion sense. I feel my best when I’m overdressed or mismatching to the extent where it begins to work again. I’m also definitely influenced by the ‘70s and, I guess vintage cowgirl outfits, in how I dress. I think all of this oozes into my social media too. The majority of my Instagram is comprised of photographs of fragments of my daily life — most of which are colorful, embrace my love for vintage things and worn places, and at times, are a bit eccentric. Essentially, my photography is closely tied with my design and illustration work, which is why it harmonizes well when I do post art or design pieces. I sincerely feel like those who know me on the Internet know more about me than my casual friends (sometimes even my closer friends). I think I’m pretty open and honest and unafraid to be that way. That honesty finds itself in everything I do. I’m the type of person who can’t mask my opinions, observations, or feelings, and I make sure to remain true to that with what I create. I always check to make sure I’m doing what I’m doing because I love it and not because I have to.
Laura Filas is an illustrator, graphic designer, and small business owner, based in a suburb outside of Chicago. She also illustrates for an independent, bi-monthly magazine called Local Wolves.