Lauren Starr: From Prize Podium To Judging Panel

Bluethumb Art Prize 2023 entries are now open! To mark the occasion, we interviewed last year’s overall winner, Lauren Starr, about her journey to victory. Continuing the tradition, Lauren will be part of this year’s judging panel alongside esteemed artists and Design Industry talent. Read on to learn what she’ll be looking for when judging the finalist entries.

Flashback to the Bluethumb Art Prize 2022 ceremony, Lauren Starr celebrates in front of her winning work, Midas’ Daughter II.

Confidence Through Recognition

Lauren attributes an inspiring trip to New York ten years ago when asked how her creative practice came about. On her return to Australia, Lauren took a photography course at RMIT, igniting a passion that’s only strengthened over the years.

For five years, she ran a commercial family photography business and created photographic art pieces on the side. However, in 2020 Lauren felt compelled to pursue her creative practice more deeply. “I stopped taking commercial clients, resumed school teaching part-time, and focused on honing my artistic skills and voice,” says Lauren.

Lauren won the Bluethumb Art Prize 2021 Photography Award. “That boosted my confidence immensely, and I began experimenting even more with my art and making work I felt strongly about. Somehow, by creating work I deeply love, I won the 2022 Bluethumb prize, which has allowed me to take some time off teaching and evolve my creative practice even further this year.”

The Bluethumb Art Prize 2021 Photography Category award-winning artwork Memento Mori.

Inspiring Daydreams

“I’m heavily inspired by literature, mythology, poetry, nature, self-growth, and old-world paintings … Inspiration comes a lot, I find when just being in the world, having experiences and sitting quietly without noise and distraction,” says Lauren.

Whether walking in the bush, cemetery, looking at the ocean, or surrounded by old buildings, Lauren often wonders about the people (particularly the women) who have come before her. “Sometimes I’ll see an image so clearly, and I’ll sketch it or write down the idea. I record the moments that ‘take my breath away’ in my sketchbook because they often have the seeds of new work,” says Lauren.

“If I had to sum up the biggest source of inspiration for me, it’s ‘story’. Being inspired and swept away by a line, paragraph, or a whole narrative and seeing it in imagery, and feeling a strong urge to create that image as best I can.”

“I have a carousel of ideas that rotate in my head, fermenting until one becomes ripe enough to begin the physical creation process,” says Lauren.

“I think my best work is planned out to some degree. The idea in my head, then the sketching, the procuring of costumes or flowers or the perfect setting.”

Sometimes, the story is told perfectly with props Lauren has created or has on hand. As with Midas’ Daughter, the Bluethumb Art Prize 2022 Overall award-winning artwork. Other times, Lauren captures multiple images and stitches them together in Photoshop to depict the story in her mind. 

Midas' Daughter II by Lauren Starr.

The Bluethumb Art Prize 2022 Photography Category and award-winning artwork Midas’ Daughter II.

Creative Evolution

Lauren says her creative process is constantly evolving. Recently she has begun experimenting with adding layers and texture to her work, such as paint and gold leaf. She is currently working on a series based on women from the early goldfields era of Australia. “I’ve had to be a bit of a Nancy Drew and read a lot of history books and articles and talk to people who still have oral histories to pass down,” she says.

“Working with other women to create art is a whole new sense of joy and belonging,” says Lauren.

Trusting Artistic Instincts

“So far, I think the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is to trust myself as an artist and choose my art and the way I want to make it,” says Lauren. I can’t count the times I’ve tried to make art for others or recreate art because it sold well. Somehow the essence of it got diluted when those were the intentions behind the creations.”

To those thinking about entering this year’s Bluethumb Art Prize, Lauren says it’s a “no-brainer”. “It’s free and simple, and the variety and calibre of judges mean a contemporary and exciting experience … Make something that’s truly yours that you are proud of, and then put it out there. As an artist who was relatively unknown and unseasoned, I think I’m proof that the Bluethumb Prize is for all artists at all stages. You have to be in the arena.”

Lauren believes the closer your art captures the essence of ‘you’, the more it will resonate with others.

When judging the finalist entries, Lauren says she will look for work that displays a master of skill. “Beautiful execution of colour, form, composition etc., but also work that possesses a certain ‘je ne sais quoi.’ Something that can’t be explained – an edge, imagination, an emotional reaction, a story, something the artist reveals in the work that is utterly arresting to the viewer.”

Australia’s largest art prize is back with a total prize pool of $100,000 up for grabs! Click here to enter free by Monday 11 September. Good luck!

Project in Review: Urban Habitats Display Home

One Comment

  1. Kellie North says:

    Thank you for this, I loved reading more about Lauren and her artistic process. She is an inspiring artist and someone I look forward following along her creative journey.

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