Laura Berger


“Really taking time to fully think through things is important and has gotten more important to my process as I've gone along, but if thinking too much is killing the natural flow or the fun, then it's trouble.”



In a few words, describe yourself and your practice.

I'm an artist living in Chicago. I mostly paint with acrylic & gouache, but I also make small animations and ceramic sculptures and do design projects and murals from time to time. As a person, I'm someone who really seeks genuine connection with others and loves to constantly be doing and seeing new things, but this work that I love to do can unfortunately keep me really solitary and hermited. So I've been having these wild swings between working 18 hours a day for weeks on end and then running away and traveling to try to balance things out a little.

Is your practice how you support yourself? If not, what else are you working on to do so?

Yes, I quit my side job waiting tables about 8 years ago now and I've been full-time since then.


“When I want to make a painting or create a series of work I sit down with all of my recent notes to find ideas that are still compelling to me, and see if there are some threads there to tie things together.”

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When did you start your practice?

I started to get more serious about it / it became a daily, disciplined part of my life about 9 years ago. I was going through an insanely rough patch and my father had just passed away quite young, and I honestly didn't have a clue what to do with myself or how to deal with life in the aftermath. So I started painting every night, both for distraction and therapy. But I've been doing creative projects my whole life, so in that sense I guess it's always been there.

If you were to share one piece of advice with those who aspire to do what you do, what would it be?

Work every day, and make a lot of work. I think any creative work involves infinite learning, which is both awesome and frustrating – I don't think you ever feel "done" or satisfied or "good enough" (at least I don't). Making mistakes and making bad work are the best way to make better work, in my opinion.



Chicago is a city with so much diversity and a strong liberal bent, so that comes into the subject matter of my work. I think on a subconscious level, it likely also gives me a sense of personal freedom and belonging since the overarching values of the city seem to reflect my own. 


How do you start your process?

I think it's kind of always ongoing, or maybe more circular, but I'd say the first step is getting and recording ideas – they tend to come to me like a full picture in my head. I keep little notebooks where I jot them down, usually with words and maybe a little thumbnail sketch alongside. Then when I want to make a painting or create a series of work I sit down with all of my recent notes to find ideas that are still compelling to me, and see if there are some threads there to tie things together.

What is the most useful tip or advice you’ve ever been given?

It's hard to pick one thing, but I'd say that I hold onto the idea of persistence above all else.  Even when work feels impossible – to not give up, to just keep making things, and to trust that evolution as an artist and person will continue with time, effort, and honesty. (that's what I try to tell myself anyway, ha!)



I love singing. And dancing. I also like animals. So anything involving one of those things would be fun. Maybe something involving all of them? Singing and dancing for an audience of animals?  



I think if you know who you are as a person and you're being authentic to that while working, then your work will automatically be unique simply because it's a direct reflection of your own individual personality, experiences and beliefs.


What are some challenges you're facing in your practice?

Being alone all the time is hard for me even though there are elements of it that I like; it feels kind of spiritual I guess, and I've had to sort through a lot in my head and find more productive ways of thinking and working. I think it helps with resilience and self-motivation. But it gets lonely. And although I'm so happy and grateful to be able to do this as my full-time job, sometimes knowing that everything is all on me feels like a lot of pressure, and that general feeling of a need to always be hustling to stay afloat can get draining.

But no matter what, the good definitely outweighs the bad, and I would become very depressed if I wasn't making things.



“Traveling is my favorite way to get inspiration. There are immediate and obvious ways that it inspires (visually, experientially, etc), but then there is a whole other subtle level of inspiration that creeps into your subconscious. I think all of those new things that you experience while traveling really change and expand you – they enter into the mix in your mind and combine with everything that's already there, and new ideas or methods of expression will inevitably come out.”


Who (or what) inspires you?

There are so many amazing creative people doing amazing things I'm not really sure where to begin. It's so crazy that we have access to so much inspiration with the internet and social media; it can be overwhelming at times. Almost every day I can randomly come across a new artist's work, or new music, and think wow, how have I never seen (heard, read) this person's work before, it's incredible! I'm also very inspired by my husband Kyle – he's the kind of person I strive to be – he's super calm about everything and he lives with so much integrity and selflessness. 

How has your practice changed over time? 

I go much slower, but also feel freer to experiment at the same time. I've been using more abstract elements in my paintings lately. I want to make really big paintings and focus more on color because working with color makes me happy.


Are you comfortable sharing all aspects of your process? if not, why?

Hm, I think so? I think I'm fairly comfortable sharing how I work, but I often question why we are compelled to share so much – what are we seeking, and then what if we don't get it? Of course sharing is important for lots of reasons, but sometimes maybe it's better to work towards getting that feedback from ourselves. I've learned the hard way that if I have an idea or project I'm excited about pursuing that it's usually best for me to keep it to myself while I initially work through it. External reactions can really color things in a way that I don't find useful for that stage of the creative process. Really taking time to fully think through things is important and has gotten more important to my process as I've gone along, but if thinking too much is killing the natural flow or the fun, then it's trouble.

What are you currently working on?

I just got back from a trip to Peru with The Jaunt, which is a really cool project that sends artists on trips to gather inspiration and then make a limited edition screenprint when they return. So I'm working on the print for that, as well as a small series of paintings based off of that experience. I've also got a couple of design projects, some animations and ceramics in the works, several group shows coming up this year, and a mural in Portland this August.


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