Capturing childhood with Lauren Phelps, mother, artist and creator

“I AM SEEKING TO CAPTURE NOT ONLY THE EMOTION OF A MOMENT BUT THE SOUL OF EACH SUBJECT. MY HOPE IS FOR THESE HEIRLOOMS TO BE ENJOYED FOR COUNTLESS GENERATIONS.”

The quote above beautifully sums up Lauren Phelps' passion and life goal. Through a variety of means, be it oil on linen, oil on paper, charcoal or pastels, the talented artist strives to preserve the precious fleeting moments of childhood magic.

With great enthusiasm, she kindly agreed to share about her story and artwork.

Lauren Phelps - Capturing the magic of childhood through portraits

Could you tell us a little about yourself and your story?

I was born and raised in Alabama, but have now spent half of my adult life in New York City. My career began in fashion and I launched my contemporary label at 23. I then worked as the COO for the luxury womenswear label Brandon Maxwell for two years.

My first pregnancy ignited something within me and I knew it was time to change paths so I resigned and began painting while waiting for the baby to arrive. The fashion industry kept calling, but I couldn’t turn back. I knew I had tapped into my life’s purpose in a way I never thought possible. I never dreamed of being an artist, but I knew it was meant to be. 

When did you start considering yourself as a portrait artist?

I’ve never really identified as a “portrait artist.” In the beginning, I was doing non-representational artwork for my friends in the interior industry. 

I painted a few portraits to challenge myself and fell in love with the process. They tell authors to write what they know and I was finally painting what I knew.

I had a very special relationship with my mother whom I lost to brain cancer when she was just 48. Most of my memories with her involved painting and drawing. I am now a mother with a child of my own and expecting a second child. Each time I create an artwork, I am tapping into that indescribable family love and bond.

Lauren Phelps - capturing the magic of childhood - baby boy summer striped bubble Charlotte sy Dimby

Could you describe your work process please? 

When possible, I love to meet with the parents and children for an in-person sitting. I like to get to know the children in a relaxed environment and seeing them as themselves. We walk, talk and play as much as possible and I take photos. Depending on the age or time restraints I may do some sketching.

I create around half of my work utilizing client provided photographs. I love to see as many images as possible. Most artists shy away from snapshots, but I enjoy seeing and using them when appropriate. There is something so magical in those little everyday moments that feel so connecting and real. As a mom, I can physically feel the emotion in the snapshots from swim practice or helping mom to cook in the kitchen.

Lauren Phelps - Capturing the magic of childhood through charcoal portraits - Charlotte sy Dimby

Can you share one of your most precious memories during a portrait session?

When I look back at past work, I remember almost every detail from that day and I see the little soul behind the paint. I love going into clients' homes, but I also enjoy walking around the Gramercy Park gardens, outside of my NYC studio and seeing children react to the surroundings. 

This summer, I hosted a few sittings at our lake house during our quarantine at Lake Martin, Alabama. We will all remember this strange and challenging yet beautiful time as parents and I will never forget those special client memories.

Lauren Phelps - Capturing the magic of childhood - Commissioned portrait - Charlotte sy Dimby

Can you give a tip on how to make a portrait session successful?

For me, keeping things relaxed and natural is the most important thing. I don’t see children as these perfectly posed stiff beings. I love seeing them as themselves, talking about their favorite things and exploring. This is how I seek to capture the magic of childhood.

Lauren Phelps - Capturing the magic of childhood - Family charcoal portrait - Charlotte sy Dimby

Can you share your favorite Instagram accounts when it comes to capturing the beauty of childhood?

@liz_damrich – Another Alabama native. I have enjoyed watching her become a mother and raising her daughter Genevieve. Their resplendent gulf home is a daily inspiration.

@erikabearman – Erika also has a background in the fashion industry and lives nearby. I am enchanted by the relaxed glamour of her everyday life with her daughter.

@mcmbrownfield – Mary Catherine and I both studied fashion at The University of Alabama and have both transitioned our careers to celebrating the love of family and childhood. (Read Mary Catherine's article)

@bornonfifth – dear Emily introduced me to Charlotte Sy Dimby, and though she leads a beautiful life of great aspiration, she manages to feel so real and approachable. Kind hearts have a way of showing even through a screen! (Read Emily's article)

@hollandwilliamsphotography – I’m so thankful to call this talent, my friend. 

@sarabethturnerphotography – Sara Beth grew up next door to my husband and happens to be one of the most talented people I know. The way she captures family life is so soulful. You can literally feel the emotion in every image.

 Child commissioned portrait - Lauren Phelps - Capture the beauty of childhood - Charlotte sy Dimby

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