Laura Szumowski is a freelance illustrator, letterer, and published author, who currently illustrates a line of greeting cards, wrapping paper, and gifts for The Found. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Juxtapoz, Bitch, Truthout, Autostraddle and more. We spoke with the artist about her career, creating for fun, and more.
Shop products from The Found, featuring Laura’s illustrations, in NMWA’s Museum Shop!
1. How did you get started as an illustrator?
I started out as a classically trained artist with a background in drawing and painting, but a professor pointed out my proclivity for narrative. I started making comics, began an internship with graphic novelist Paul Hornschemeier, and took print and book making classes. I also developed an interest in reproductive health and began a series of illustrated nonfiction books about the subject. I didn’t consider myself an illustrator until someone approached me about illustrating a book of short stories and said, “You’re an illustrator, right?” Funny enough, I look back on that as a transformative moment in my career. A year later, The Found came across one of my books at Quimby’s bookstore in Chicago and asked me to illustrate a few greeting cards for them. Nearly a decade later, I’m still illustrating for The Found.
2. What do you love about working with The Found?
I love working with Albert and James, the owners of The Found. They’re always open to hearing my ideas and feedback, and they really put a lot of thought into everything we create. I’m proud to work for a Queer- and Latinx-owned company that celebrates diversity and empowerment. They also regularly donate to support the causes they care about, which says a lot about their hearts.
3. Is it important for an artist to create for themselves and not just for work?
Yes, but I want to acknowledge that it isn’t always an option. Artists who draw for a living, working parents, or people who cobble together part-time jobs with their freelance work don’t always have the time or energy to also create for fun. The sweet spot is doing work that feels like it’s for yourself as well as your client. Personally, I enjoy having different creative outlets, like sewing or roller skating, as ways of creating for myself. I like that there’s no gray area or overlap between these outlets and what I do for work. They’re 100% mine.
4. What advice do you have for aspiring illustrators?
Keep drawing. Allow yourself to be terrible and not know what you’re doing. See your mistakes and try to love them. Put lines on paper over and over again, and let all your standards and expectations go out the window. You’re going to improve, it will just happen at an obscenely slow pace. Don’t look at other illustrators’ work and wish you were as good as them. Unfollow every illustrator that makes you feel self-doubt and envy. I speak from experience—someday they won’t make you feel that way anymore, and you can follow them when that day comes.