Lauren Skinker paints monsters

Bonita-based artist lives the modern tale of the underemployed Millennial, and paints fantastic creatures while she's at it.

“I don’t know if I believe in monsters,” says Lauren Skinker, a 23-year-old painter living in Bonita.

“I just like the idea of them.”

Monsters, and all that which is generally fantastic, inspire Skinker. One of her paintings is of a “wolpertinger,” a Bavarian cryptid that’s basically a winged rabbit with horns. The creature, part of German folklore, has many cognates in Central European folk traditions. Much like the American “jackalope,” It’s more often than not an excuse for taxidermists to stretch the limits of their art. Skinker just thinks it’s cool.

She claims, not without some laughter, that she developed her artistic sensibilities “mostly through cartoons and video games." "I’ve been drawing forever. I used to, like, make up Pokémon and stuff. It sounds lame, but that turned into doing monsters. I was a little art nerd. I wasn’t very friendly when I was younger. I was always just sitting in a corner, drawing.”

She also cites comic artists Adam Hughes and J. Scott Campbell, as well as popular animator Genndy Tartakovsky, as important influences.

Looking at her history, it’s apparent that Skinker is 100% Millennial. Her influences read like a “what’s what” list of 1990’s and early-2000’s youth culture. To a lot of people, video games and Pokemon might seem like unsuitable artistic subjects, but Skinker isn’t alone. Pokemon references resonate with her peers the same way Super Mario Brothers and He-Man hold a special place in the hearts of thirty-somethings everywhere. It’s easy to question the relevance of monster paintings in the arts world.

The obvious question is, *who would want portraits of dragons or a wolpertinger?”

“A lot of people my age, for starters,” says Skinker, confirming that she isn’t the only person who grew up watching Pokémon and The Powerpuff Girls. She continues, “I did the IB farmers’ market for a while, and I set up with this woman who did a lot of mermaid art. There was one lady who bought a couple of paintings, and she kept coming back. She was probably in her fifties, and she didn’t look like she’d be into monsters at all, but she was super into it!”

There’s just no way to know who is going to be into something.

Skinker confesses that life gets in the way a lot of the time for her painting. The fact of the matter is, like many people in her generation, it’s not been so easy to make a way in the world. She has had to move back in with her mother after a housing catastrophe. She tells a story about the roof caving in on the apartment she used to share with her boyfriend and another roommate, a consequence of an undetected water leak. Skinker found herself up the proverbial creek, with nary a paddle in sight.

And she’s not alone among her peers.

A recent Pew study, among others, found that the number of people Skinker’s age who live with their parents is on the rise. Un- and under-employment is increasing for Millennials, and has been since the economy took a nosedive in ‘07-’08.

Trying to eke out a living makes it hard to paint.

“Lately, I’ve been working a lot so I haven’t been as productive,” Skinker says. “My seasonal job [lifeguarding at a pool] just ended, so I want to make time to paint more. I haven’t had an art show since around Comic-Con. There was an exhibition of Street Fighter art, and I showed a few pieces there.”

“This past year I have been trying to focus on getting into shows and getting my art out there. I want to do this as a career, as opposed to just painting for my friends and stuff.”

Much like other hopeful young artists, Skinker has struggled with connecting to the local arts community. This happens despite the fact that there’s no shortage of rad art going on in San Diego’s art scene--in the mainstream as well as the underground. For Skinker, just like other artists, generating exposure is the first, and hardest step.

“I think if I go out there and start meeting people, it will really get the ball rolling,” she says.

It’s easier said than done, but if she succeeds she can score the most elusive success of the Millennials: a desirable, personally fulfilling career in her chosen field.

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Nice artwork. A comic book comes to mind. Wonder if she's interested in that kind of story- telling.

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