Meet Lauren Phelps

February 17, 2020 in Meet the Women - No Comments

I first met Lauren through a friend and was immediately in awe of her inherent sense of grace, style and ease. But what I think is one of the most striking things about her is that you can tell that she really just sees people. This is an attribute that serves her well as a fine artist where she manages to not only capture the physical appearance of her little subjects, but also a peak into their souls: the mischievousness, the curiosity, the heart, the promise and the potential. She’s inspiring in many ways, but I think my biggest take away from our time together is the importance of striving for authenticity in life, not just in ourselves and others, but also in our art. She’s a gem and it is a treasure to have her join the circle here.” -Michaela

You recently took a leap of faith when you left nearly two decades of working in the fashion industry to pursue your dream of becoming a fine artist. Can you tell us a little about your path and what brought you to where you are today?

Growing up, I had a very creative mother. Some of my most frequent early memories are creating art with my mom. It could have been anything from painting or drawing to sewing pillows for my bedroom, or designing an ouffit for my school photos. She was also a preschool teacher, and had a rare gift with children. She instilled in me the belief that I could pursue anything I felt a true passion for. That formative relationship gave me confidence and when I got to college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to pursue, but I did know I wanted to create things. I wanted to build a business and a team and create beautiful things for people to enjoy. I began working in fashion retail when I was in high school and continued throughout college, so fashion was an obvious passion and choice for me.

I started my fashion label when I was twenty three, and continued for eight years. In 2012, just a few months after my wedding, I lost my mother to brain cancer. I think around this time, I started to feel a need to shift, but I wasn’t sure how or in what way. In 2015, just three months after saying farewell to my own fashion label, I joined Brandon Maxwell as COO. It was an exciting time, but as the company grew, out of necessity, I became more siloed into a strictly operational role. When I became pregnant with my son in 2017, I began reflecting on my time with my mother and wondering how to realign myself with something more true to my creative heart and soul. All of this led me to fine art. The inspiration for my art is my own maternal experience and the universal experience of parent and child. It has truly been the most fulfilling and joyful time of my life.

One thing that’s really inspiring about you is that you’ve dared to start new chapters and try new things, whether it’s making a career change or going from more abstract subject matter in your paintings to portraits. Throughout, I still get the sense that the changes are still so authentically you, while you still remain open to embracing new adventures. How do you stay true to who you are as a creator, while also being open to going down new avenues?

Sometimes my perceived bravery is a surprise even to me. It never feels like an act of bravado at the moment, but naivety can be an asset. I think it’s important to stay open but to be pragmatic and commit to your choices. There have certainly been moments when I could feel I wasn’t true to myself, and I think that’s when you know it’s time to make a change. I’ve never made any decision without a healthy dose of obsessive contemplation and planning. 

I know that your sweet, little boy is a big inspiration for your work and you paint in a studio within the storied walls of the National Arts Club in Manhattan; what else inspires your work?

Becoming a parent, and watching a child grow before your eyes, truly amplifies the passage of time. My whole adult life, I have worked hundred-hour weeks in a very fast-paced and intense industry. As a mom, I was forced to slow down and look at this little being before me. There are effortless everyday moments that take your breathe away. That’s what I hope to capture with my artwork- real expression and emotion. You don’t have to be a parent to appreciate these moments. I think we all have vivid early memories, where nothing remarkable happened, but it mattered to us at that moment, and that’s what’s unique about childhood- seeing the magic in the everyday. 

You have a lot of balls in the air between being a mom to a little one, a wife and an artist for starters. What’s a typical day look like for you and how do you find balance?

I am incredibly fortunate in that my art studio is just across the street from my apartment. I also have an exceptional nanny, who loves my son as her own. I begin my days with reading and breakfast with my son and then head to the studio with my dog, Pip. In the evening, I return home for dinner and bathtime, ending the day with more reading before putting him to bed. My husband travels a lot during the week, so we really try to soak in our time together as a family on the weekends. There are working moms out there who don’t have a fraction of this support or flexibility, and I am inspired by them every day. 

You are originally from Alabama, just like another woman we love here at The Modern Bee, Harper Lee. In her legendary novel, The Kill A Mockingbird, she writes: “[b]efore Jem looks at anyone else he looks at me, and I’ve tried to live so I can look squarely back at him,” “Jem” being the son and “me” being his father. Your little one is already looking up to you, what is one of the biggest lessons you want to teach him by example?

There are so many things I hope to teach him, but I think as I get older, I realize the most important thing is to live your life with authentic kindness.  There have been times in my life where I haven’t lived up to my mother’s example, but she was the personification of acceptance and kindness. If I can act with even a fraction of her grace and love towards others, I will be proud of the example I set for him. 

What advice would you give yourself at a trying time in the past that you’ve since overcome?

Surrender to God. Do not pray for what you want or think you need, pray for peace for all, and let the universe do its job. 

What traits do you value most in your circle of friends? What traits do you most value in yourself?

I follow more of a quality over quantity philosophy when it comes to my friendships. I look for friends that allow me to be 100% myself. The moment I feel like I need to be anything other than me with you, I will stop investing time in that relationship. It doesn’t mean I don’t still love those friends, it just means, I know I can’t be in a place of joy in that space, and that’s not good for anyone. My mantra, when I feel out of alignment, is, “Give love, give joy, give peace.” I know I don’t always live up to this, but when I do, that’s when I feel most right with the world. 

And we always wrap up with a few, hopefully fun, rapid-fire questions. Where do you stand on:

Gramercy Park or Madison Square Park? Gramercy for Peace. Madison for energy Yellowhammer Slammer or a Manhattan? Manhattan Neutrals or colors? Neutrals The roast chicken at Maialino or the roast beef sandwich at Daily Provisions? Roast beef Sweater weather or sandal season? Sweaters!

You can keep up with Lauren over on Instagram where she shares beautiful photos of her work and her inspirations. Also be sure to check out her website where you can peruse, commission and purchase her art. I know I have a piece I’m currently eyeing for my own collection…


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