Creating During Covid: Nan Lawson on Art Bringing Joy to the World

Nan Lawson’s piece for Beetlejuice.
Nan Lawson’s piece for Beetlejuice.
Image: All Images (Nan Lawson)

The novel coronavirus pandemic’s effects have already been felt far and wide, in comic book publishing and sales, the gaming industry, Hollywood, and beyond. But it’s also, of course, affecting people on an individual level. To that end, io9 decided to talk to some folks about what the covid-19 pandemic has done to them, their art, and the industry.

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We’re calling the column “Creating During Covid” and today’s installment is an interview with artist Nan Lawson. Lawson is a Los Angeles-based illustrator who has done the art for numerous YA books and been a part of innumerable gallery shows, many of which have a focus on pop culture. Her “Meet Cute” series is a favorite here on io9, and earlier this year, she almost completely sold out her solo show “Through the Woods.”

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You can find more of her work here on this page and on her website. Our interview, conducted over email, is below.


Lawson’s take on Star Wars: A New Hope.
Lawson’s take on Star Wars: A New Hope.

Germain Lussier, io9: How has the pandemic impacted your industry?

Nan Lawson: Well, I work in a few avenues of art. For pop culture art it’s been weird because I usually have shows at galleries every month or so. But it’s definitely slowed down, and all planned shows have been adjusted to online openings and sales. I was lucky to have a picture book project already in the works, so I had something to work on pretty much since Los Angeles (where I live) went into lockdown.

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io9: Has it changed your approach to your art at all?

Lawson: Because I had less work coming in, I’ve actually had time to really think about what kind of work I want to make moving forward. I am still figuring it out, but I know that right now I am not completely happy with my current portfolio and I’m hoping to use this time to update it with pieces that are more in line with where I want my career to go.

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Frozen 2 by Nan Lawson
Frozen 2 by Nan Lawson

io9: With so much serious news in the world, I know my job feels a little superfluous. As an artist, how do you feel about what your job means now?

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Lawson: Actually, for me, I think art has been the one bright spot in the world right now. I continually find myself seeking out art as opposed to the next terrible headline. As an artist, it is personally difficult for me to create meaningful work right now with all the anxiety that comes with daily life.

io9: How has pop culture helped you in this time and have you seen it help others, maybe through your art?

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Lawson: Since we can’t leave our homes, pop culture is one of the few comforts we have right now. Watching television and film is the way I end my day every night, the blissful hour or two after my three-year-old goes to bed and before I pass out from exhaustion.

io9: Have you found any challenges getting materials you need due to the
situation?

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Lawson: I actually have been ordering printing supplies from a local store and they deliver the next day. It’s more expensive than Amazon, but I am happy to pay a premium to support a local business, especially now. The biggest challenge for me is finding time to work. As I mentioned I have a toddler at home full time so my work time has been cut in half.

Nan Lawson’s Mary Poppins.
Nan Lawson’s Mary Poppins.
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io9: Are fans buying more, less, the same? Why?

Lawson: I’ve been seeing steady print sales, perhaps because people are finally getting around to decorating their homes, or maybe setting up home office spaces! I also released a timed edition Empire Records print through Gallery 1988 and that did much better than I expected considering the pandemic.

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io9: When the dust settles on the pandemic, how do you see all this changing you art, your industry, etc.?

Lawson: Gallery openings might be on hold for quite a while even after the dust settles. Until there is a vaccine I don’t know if large groups in small spaces will be an option. I think there will be more limited/timed edition print releases instead. People will always need art and books. People will always love film and television. With those things in mind, I’m hoping my industry won’t be as negatively affected. Luckily working from home comes with the territory!

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Thanks to Nan Lawson for taking the time to answer our questions. You can see more of her work here, and check back for more “Creating During Covid” on io9.

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For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.

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Entertainment Reporter for io9/Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

“I think art has been the one bright spot in the world”

Yup. I’ve followed so many instagram artists and I just followed Nan Lawson. There has been some fantastic art, as well as some great insights that are conveyed simply visually, with no words for context. 

P.S. ehhhh I may as well. I was laid off because of COVID and while looking for jobs, I started a comic strip. I’m terrible at promoting it. I put it on Kinja at colukeh.kinja.com .