Lauren Brown in her sunroom, photo by Isadora Pennington

Sunlight streamed through the windows of the sunroom, illuminating the characters that gradually emerged on the pages of Lauren Brown’s sketchbook. Curled up in her boho egg seat Brown was sketching while her cats meandered in and out of the room. 

Brown is an artist whose works offer glimpses into whimsical worlds where nature and magic are one. Featuring Black female characters who exude power and dynamic mysticism, Brown’s art can transport you to far-off lands. “I don’t see many faces that look like mine in the fantasy illustration space,” explained Brown. Today, she is an Emmy-award winning Art Director, illustrator, podcaster, and outspoken advocate for BIPOC in the fantasy and gaming industry.  

“I got my start drawing on the walls, on my sister’s homework… drawing everywhere I could,” Brown said. “The vandalism wasn’t encouraged but the drawing itself definitely was.”  Her father was a fashion designer and from an early age Brown benefited from having an artistic parent. He inspired and educated his young daughter, teaching her how to draw and enrolling her in art and animation classes at around eight years old. It was at this point that she really fell in love with animation and storytelling through art which set her on a path to a celebrated creative career. 

Following high school, Brown attended Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah where she began working on student films and learned more about the animation industry. Beyond animation, she discovered a love for character design and layout art. She was hired at Floyd County Productions and worked on shows like Archer, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The League, and Unsupervised, among others. She had an opportunity to learn about the animation pipeline and increasingly found herself pulled toward leadership roles. “I just wanted to be an artist, but I was asked to direct for my department with background art.” Despite initial hesitations, she became background director of a short for The League and experienced the thrill of seeing her vision come to life. 

Brown eventually moved to Austin, Texas where she worked as a Senior Environmental Artist at EA Mobile and later Associate Art Director at Zynga where she worked on games like Words With Friends 2.  It was during her time in Austin that she became more interested in advocacy work. “Some of these studios have upwards of 600 people and I wouldn’t see any black female game devs,” Brown recalled. In reaction, she formed an advocacy group that toured high schools and colleges to talk about BIPOC in animation and gaming. “It would establish that we belong here, and make sure that games have characters represented appropriately in everything from hair texture to skin tone.”

Dustjacket for This Poison Heart by Lauren Brown.

Recently Brown returned to Atlanta in search of community and opportunities within the local fantasy and animation industry. In addition to a role as Art Director for Amazon Glow, she is seeking opportunities to lead, direct, and develop her personal work. She play with the intersection of nature and philosophy. Her ‘Avant Garden’ collection features queens that represent different gardens, each with a corresponding life philosophy. 

“We have separated ourselves from nature, but I want to use my art to tie back to nature. We are not so far separated from it as people think we are.” Brown hopes to transform these ideas into a videogame that will teach life lessons in a world where emotions become manifest and gain sentience. 

“I am starting to gear myself towards establishing my art as its own business and really exploring the worlds that I have been thinking about for 10, 15, 20 years and actually making those worlds a reality. I eventually want to make some art books, coloring books, a novel maybe. I have a lot of plans for the future and I want to start to explore those ideas.” 

Brown co-hosts Painted In Color, a podcast dedicated to amplifying underrepresented voices in the arts. Learn more about Lauren Brown and her art by visiting her website.

Isadora Pennington

Isadora Pennington is a freelance writer and photographer based in Atlanta. She is the editor of Sketchbook by Rough Draft, a weekly Arts newsletter.