Interview with Illustrator Leah Goren

As an avid embroiderer, I can appreciate a little repetition - actually a lot of repetition. My eye vibrates at tessellating shapes and forms that would go on and on. Leah Goren fills space with florals, cat heads, striped tigers, faces and nude figures.

When I first saw Leah Goren's work I was immediately drawn to her washy gestures and vibrant color palette. Her painted forms are effortless and pleasing to the eye. Leah also has a prolific amount of work and various projects she's working on constantly. Her illustration and pattern design range from lively printed fabrics to paper works to ceramics. If I could have it my way, my world would be covered in full with the surface patterns created by this lovely lady.

Let's talk about repetition - How did you come into creating surface design? Why repeat? Is it meditative? Do you ever get bored?

Patterns just come easily to me—each one has a clear theme or motif. I get to focus on how shape and color work together, and they don't have to fit as one complete composition on a page. The purpose is decorative, and all I have to do is make it look good. It's much more challenging for me to make an editorial piece that conveys a concept or compose a single image that fits in a box.

Do you have a current visual obsession - an image or form you keep coming back to in your practice?

I've been drawing a lot of naked ladies, mostly because everyone wants to keep buying stuff with naked ladies on it! But it's certainly a fun thing to draw, and I've gone to a couple figure drawing sessions recently too.

What is your favorite surface to work on?

I love the cotton rag Coventry paper New York Central (my local art supply store) makes and binderboard sketchbooks by Kunst & Papier.

Can you talk a little bit about your pre art-making rituals?

I don't have a ritual besides just going to the studio every day. Even though I love my job, it's work more than it is art, so most days I have to make things whether I feel like it or not! I do like to drink a lot of coffee though to get me started.

What female artists do you look up to or inspire you?

My favorites are Sonia Delaunay, Niki de Saint Phalle, Verna Neumann, Celia Birtwell, and Maira Kalman. And of course all my friends: Monica Ramos, Rachel Levit, Kaye Blegvad, Julia Rothman, Rachael Cole, and so many more.

Can you talk a little bit about your transition from art school to creating a business around your art-making?

I opened my shop while I was still in school and had a handful of freelance jobs by the time I graduated, so I already had the structure of my business set up. The biggest shift was suddenly having so much time. It became so much easier than trying to do it all and be in school full time, but I did have to figure out how to schedule my days.

You recently posted a photo on instagram of some paintings your mother did. Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with her and how she might have inspired or supported you as an artist?

I grew up always making things with her so I never thought that choosing a creative career was weird or a poor financial decision. When I wanted to take live drawing classes after school, go to pre-college arts summer programs, and finally apply to art school, they were all moves that made sense to her.

If you could put one of your patterns on any existing surface in the world - which pattern would you choose and on what surface?

I'd love to upholster a sofa or an armchair. If I was taking on this project I would definitely make a new pattern for it. I don't like to reuse patterns if I can help it, and I would want to make something that perfectly suited the form and scale. I was looking at furniture covered in Josef Frank patterns recently, and it's a great inspiration!

Do you consider yourself a feminist?