Transferring Emotion Into Art With Digital Painter Laura H. Rubin
"Many of my paintings mean a lot to me because I very often draw when I am sad or something upsets me."
Sometimes things can get lost in translation when dealing with the digital world. This is not the case with artist Laura H. Rubin’s dark and lovely characters she creates through digital painting. The very life-like yet ethereal women Laura draws convey a multitude of emotions with their melancholy demeanors. A beautiful and provocative dichotomy of vulnerability and power, Rubin’s portraits are striking, impactful, and full of expression.
I live and work in Thun, a beautiful small town in Switzerland.
First thing you do when you wake up?
I’m going to pee. Then I sit on the toilet for about 15 minutes playing on my phone because I'm too lazy to get up again.
What kind of music do you listen to?
Mostly indie/alternative rock or various types of metal. However, I can be enthusiastic about almost every music genre.
For example, in the morning while drinking coffee I listen to Ghibli Jazz, instrumentals from Studio Ghibli films. While drawing I mostly listen to indie/alternative rock, pop, or metal, and while doing sports I usually listen to hip-hop or nu-metal.
I like to watch our neighbors... What?! Is it my fault that they don't have curtains?
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Curious, helpful, introverted.
How did you get started as an artist?
I studied film and VFX at the SAE institute in Zurich, where I learned to draw professionally as well as the handling of graphic tablets. After my graduation, I started working in an advertising agency in Bern as a designer. Along the way, I continued drawing and started sharing my work online. When our boss died of cancer, the job in the advertising agency was no longer the same, so I decided to start my own business and make a living from my art.
What are your preferred tools for creating your work?
I’m working with the Apple iPad Pro, the Apple Pencil, a no name drawing glove, and a Huion tablet stand. The drawing app I work in is called Procreate.
You really have perfected your own version of female portraits. How did you find and develop your style?
Nowadays it's almost impossible to develop a unique style that doesn't already exist in some way. You are quickly labeled as a thief or a copycat if you aren’t yet too well known as an artist. At some point, I was made aware of a quote by Picasso, who said: "Good artists borrow, great artists steal.“ …This doesn't mean you should actually steal artists' paintings, but that you should adopt their style, develop and extend it, to find your own, unique style… and that's what I tried to do. Meanwhile, Austin Kleon wrote a great book on this topic, it's called "Steal Like an Artist". Definitely recommended for all aspiring artists who are still looking for their own style.
How long does it typically take you to complete a piece from start to finish?
I would say most of the time it takes about 25 hours, depending on the level of detail and complexity… If it takes longer I have looked at it too long and gradually become dissatisfied with everything. Then I change things 100 times, only to eventually paint them exactly as I had them at the beginning.
You have a couple of books out, Melancholia and Of Strokes & Shades, can you tell us a little about them?
Melancholia was my very first book which we published in 2021. It is mainly about me and my work as well as the psychological, mythological, and philosophical backgrounds of the works.
Of Strokes and Shades is my latest book and will be published soon (March 2023). It is mainly about how I create my work. It includes a short part about me, shows my latest work, and then focuses on a very extensive tutorial. I'm already so excited about the release, as I'm sure the tutorials can help many artists tremendously.
Do you have any pieces or projects that are particularly special to you?
Many of my paintings mean a lot to me because I very often draw when I am sad or something upsets me. When I draw, it feels like I can transfer all these emotions of mine into the painting, which always makes me feel much better once I have finished a portrait. The painting that means the most to me right now is "All That Remains". It shows two young women trying to turn away from a great loss. Not a material loss, as symbolized by the dead pheasant on one girl's head (pheasants are used as symbols of wealth in many cultures). It’s about love and cohesion. It's about it being okay to mourn the past. It's about the fact that even when everything you've built up is taken away, one important thing always remains, and that's the only thing that really matters.
What other artists do you look to for inspiration?
I love the work of George Mayer, Eva Gamayun, Aykut Aydogdu, Fin Dac, Eliza Ivanova, Wlop, Guweiz, Zeen Chin, Wenqing Yan, and many more... I could probably name hundreds.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I like to spend time with my fiancé or my best friend. I love to do sports, I like to tinker or fix things. I collect antique things and therefore I like to spend time in thrift stores. In summer I like to be on the lake with a SUP and in winter I love to sled or skate (even if I’m not very good at it). I love video games, card games, books, and true crime podcasts. I have many plants and love gardening… I’m generally a very curious person, so I can easily get excited about new things, even if I’m not very good at most of them.