An Interview (+ Giveaway!) with Artist Sara M. Lyons January 20 2015
Sara M. Lyons is an artist based out of southern California. Her doodle-like illustrations splashed in bright colors have a carefree attitude that give them a uniquely West Coast vibe. Strange Ways is stoked to carry items created by Ms. Lyons including our exclusive nail decal sets and Cry Now, Cry Later tee that was just released. Below she talks about her retro comic book inspirations, her obsession with Lindsay Lohan, and what it means to be a 'professional weirdo.'
Your style is very distinctive—the linework, colors and imagery you use all feel like your own voice. What do you get inspired by?
I pull inspiration from all over the place, but I can definitely trace my style back to my earliest influences, which were Betty & Veronica comics. I used to spend my allowance on Double Digests and could while away whole afternoons drawing my own characters in the Dan DeCarlo style. I also get a lot of inspiration from pop culture in general; both the mainstream and the fringe. John Waters movies, early punk rock, '90s cartoons, Toddlers & Tiaras, trashy tabloids, the girls' toy aisle—there's so much good stuff out there.
Your work can come across as both cute and dark. How do you mange to pull that off? Is that juxtaposition something you strive for?
It's not so much something I strive for as much as it's just who I am. I sometimes feel kind of at odds with myself because it can be hard to reconcile the part of me that collects Hello Kitty stuff with the part of me that knows all the words to GG Allin songs. I think I can't really help but let both of those sides out when I'm drawing.
You call yourself a “professional weirdo”—I take it you're proud of your off-beat tendencies?Yeah, I was a weird little kid and then I was a weird teen and now I'm a weird adult. There were times in my development when I wanted really badly not to be weird, and times when I was ostracized for my weirdness. So as an adult, to have been able to embrace it and make a living out of it, it's very gratifying.
How did you get involved in creating nail decals? Is it what most people know your work by?
I'd say yeah, my nail decals are probably the most popular thing I do. I started making them a few years ago because I already had all these cute little drawings that stood alone as icons, and I was friends with a lot of girls involved in the nail art community. Back then there weren't many options for nail decals with original artwork on them and I thought, “There has to be an easy way to transfer these drawings onto my nails.” I did a ton of research, tested out a lot of products, and figured out how to manufacture them from my apartment—the rest is kinda history.
Since then I've released a ton of new styles, and worked with a bunch of cool clients on custom and commissioned designs. I never meant to be a “nail decal designer,” and I still consider myself an artist first and foremost, so it's been a really fun and unexpected ride.
We must talk about Lindsay Lohan... You've created a zine on Lindsay Lohan, replaced Andre the Giant for her in your Shepard Fairey parody, illustrated an art piece based on her mugshots, and more. Why the fascination with Lilo?
I LOVE LILO. Lindsay has always stuck with me. We're about the same age, so I feel like she's been on the periphery of my consciousness for most of my life. I loved her in Mean Girls and was really fascinated and horrified by how her huge fame really affected her life. Watching her kind of downward trajectory was like... I wanted to help her out. I was kind of struggling myself at the time with my own issues, and I guess I could see myself in her. I just felt like I wanted to get her on my couch with a Golden Girls marathon and work it all out.
I still feel like that. There's something about her that's just very relatable to me in spite of how wildly bonkers her life is. I really want to be her BFF. My friend Jerry from Von Zos (through whom I released the “Fast Cars, Cheap Thrill” mugshot piece) jokes that “her people” have my name on a list somewhere, and if I ever try to get near her they're going to take me down. But I just love her. My Linds-centric work definitely has some irony to it, but there is no irony in my affection for her; it's truly genuine.
To an extent. It was probably one part Linds, one part my nostalgia for the '90s (Jawbreaker was a major favorite for my witchy friends and me in 9th grade. We would watch it over and over at slumber parties and sigh over Rose McGowan), and two parts general affection for that kind of neo-pinky-violence high school girl gang oeuvre. It was also kind of a reaction to the recent resurgence of interest in Clueless, which I always felt was a little overrated. Don't get me wrong, it's great, but it lacks the darkness of Heathers and Jawbreaker and even Mean Girls. And as someone who had kind of a shitty time in high school, the darkness is part of what interests me about reflecting on that stuff.
Did this obsession with Lindsay Lohan kickstart the inspiration for your “Social Hierarchy print” that features Mean Girls, Jawbreaker, and Heathers?
On Wednesdays do you wear pink? You don't seem to be afraid of pink...On Wednesdays I do indeed wear pink. I also wear pink on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays.
Your work has been featured in Nylon Magazine, Complex, refinery29, Urban Outfitters and more. How has press like this come about?
Honestly, I don't really do much self-promotion beyond using my own social media, so I'm always surprised and flattered whenever I get any press at all. But I think that if you're working really hard and making stuff that hasn't been done before, people will take notice.
Your work seems mostly product-based. Is there a certain aspect you enjoy about working with lifestyle products?I love that it makes my art accessible to everyone. Not everyone can afford an original piece or even a fine art print, but most people can afford a pack of nail decals or a pin or a postcard. Right now my drawings are literally at the fingertips of women all over the world, and that's really cool. The most satisfying thing about my work is how it connects me to people.
Any big plans for the near future? Your own brand? Gallery shows? Or just continuing to with what's been successful?
2015 is going to be pretty hectic, I think! Right now I'm finishing up a small body of work for a gallery show at Sally Centigrade in Denver. “Whatever Forever” opens on February 19th and will feature new work by Mandy Hazell and Betty Turbo, as well as myself. Fans should also download the PicCollage app if they don't have it already; I'll be releasing more new sticker sets with them this year. I'll continue to roll out new products in my own shop over the next few months—I'd love to expand into apparel this year and find a manufacturer for my nail decals to make them better than ever, but we'll see!
I also have a few exciting projects that I have to keep under wraps for now, but I promise y'all are going to be seeing me this year