We started the Becoming interview series after reading Michelle Obama’s book Becoming in our book club a few years ago. We wanted to hear from women in different walks of life and how they were approaching creativity, mothering, career goals, and more. It’s been amazing to conduct these interviews and get a “behind the scenes” look of so many inspirational women!
Today’s interviewee is Louise Pretzel, an illustrator from our print shop. Louise’s vintage-inspired illustrations are delightfully whimsical. The way she uses texture and color makes me so happy, and I bet her work will spark joy in you, too! You can find Louise’s work in the children’s print shop, but no one will fault you for wanting to hang her fun, fresh prints all over your house (even in non-child oriented spaces)!
I’m so excited for you to meet Louise Pretzel, an illustrator extraordinaire and our newest addition to the Lars Print Shop!
Louise Pretzel is an illustrator inspired by vintage kitschery and the styles of yesteryear. Formally trained in the art of graphic design and traditional illustration, Louise brings a fresh take on a range of subject matter with favorite themes including decadent desserts, foraged wildflower bouquets, and nostalgic mid century oddities. She currently lives in the midwest with her husband and two fluffy dogs, where she works out of her home studio.
Meet Louise Pretzel!
What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, business person, educator, etc.?
When I was first starting out my career, I considered myself solely a designer. As of today I definitely consider myself an illustrator as well!
What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?
Hmm, definitely not an illustrator! I think at one point when I was trying to figure out what I should be, I thought being an anesthesiologist or radiologist sounded like viable career paths without actually considering the fact that I was terrible at math and science, lol. It wasn’t until about my junior year of high school where I realized that I could pursue what I actually enjoyed doing as a hobby (art and design) as a full time career.
Where did you grow up? Are there aspects of your childhood that have influenced what you do now?
I was born and raised in Southern California. Probably the biggest thing that influenced me to follow a path into art and design was actually practically living out my childhood on Neopets and Myspace, spending countless hours blinging out my pages with graphics made on a pirated bootleg version of Photoshop. Those were the days! Another big aspect that influenced my illustration style and aesthetic was going thrifting and antiquing with my mom and sister. Looking back now, since moving to the Midwest, I can say I was a bit spoiled with such easy access to so many great vintage and flea markets like the Rose Bowl.
What sparked your interest in illustration? What attracted you to this field?
Growing up I was always on the artsy side and took traditional illustration classes in high school and college. I ended up pursuing graphic design in college, since that seemed to be the “financially viable” path to take as an artist. I actually didn’t even consider being an illustrator, or even realize it was something I could be! But I would say that spark and interest in illustration was something I always had ingrained in me, but I just needed the right opportunity to allow myself to fully embrace and explore that path professionally.
What inspired you to become an illustrator?
My first job out of college was a graphic designer role, doing layouts for stationery and home decor items. We actually had two in-house illustrators, but at some point they both quit which ended up sort of forcing the graphic design team to take over the illustration duties. From there I had a lot of opportunities to create new original art, which really sparked my passion for illustration, and also provided me a space to experiment with different styles and methods of creating which was so great! That ultimately gave me the confidence to start creating illustrations on my own outside of my 9-5.
What are three words to describe your style?
Kitschy, whimsical, random? Haha. I am the worst at describing myself! I’d be more interested in finding out how other people describe my style!
What is a piece of advice that you have carried with you and who is it from? Do you have a personal motto?
Probably the most helpful advice that was instilled into me throughout my life came from my dad. He is a financial banker-type of guy, and he always encouraged me to negotiate, know your worth, and to walk away if the offer isn’t right. That has been essential advice to me as an artist, and has helped me walk away from a few opportunities with no regrets. And without fail, when I have walked away from those opportunities, a better one came my way!
What is your educational background and how has it shaped or changed your current career?
Having pursued graphic design in college, I think has really helped me as an illustrator. It gave me a lot of the technical know-how in terms of actually applying my art to products, knowing the essentials of typography and layouts, and being able to fully understand the printing process for setting up my files for clients.
What are some stereotypes of your job that you wish to break?
I personally have trouble sticking to one style, it’s probably the biggest stereotype for an artist to be successful that you need to have a signature style. Maybe that’s true! But in that case maybe I don’t want to be successful. Lately I have been trying to just stick true to what brings me true joy as an artist, and a lot of that comes with trying new styles and experimenting with ways of creating. I think about having to stick to the same style for all of eternity… that sounds a bit boring!
What is a typical day like for you?
I usually wake up when the sun rises, fix myself a cup of coffee, and let my two little white fluffy dogs outside. My mornings are usually spent cuddling with my dogs on the couch, and catching up on email and social media. From there I pretty much just go into work mode with some breaks throughout the day! I love to take an afternoon break with some tea and cookies. Later on in the day I might do some gardening, take the dogs on a walk, fix dinner, and end with watching a movie or episode of whatever I’m currently binging with my husband.
What is your workspace like? Has it changed at all since the beginning of the pandemic last year?
I actually bought and moved into my home during the pandemic, so I was able to set up my home office knowing that I would be spending a lot more time in it than I probably would have otherwise! I’ve surrounded myself with most of my vintage poodle collection, as well as plenty of art prints and paintings I’ve created over the years. Probably my favorite thing in my office is a vintage 1960’s student drafting table that I picked up from FB Marketplace which I promptly painted pink, and now use as my painting and crafting table!
What is one piece of work that you are especially proud of and why?
Actually, probably the spring garden print I created for the Lars shop! I love all the fun garden critters hiding within the flowers and foliage. I was actually inspired by my own garden for this print, which I made during the height of my tulip garden blooming, so it also feels a bit personal. This was actually my first year of being a homeowner, and subsequently, my first foray into gardening in a yard of my own. It was so exciting to see all the tulips pop up from the bulbs we planted in the Fall. I think the garden print captures that feeling of magic and excitement of seeing things begin to blossom in early Spring.
Where do you find inspiration for new creations?
I absolutely feel most inspired after a day of thrifting and antiquing. I always have my phone out taking pictures of the weirdest & kitschiest items I can find, as well as any amazing vintage color palettes, patterns, and typography.
What artists and creatives do you look up to, both historical and present?
Historically, I look up to painters and textile print artists, often from the 50’s and 60’s. Artists like Tammis Keefe, Paule Marrot, and Vera Neumann to name just a few! Present day, I absolutely love the work of Emily Isabella, one of the artists in the Lars Shop! Her work is just absolutely splendid. I actually feel a bit honored to be sharing the same digital air-space as her in the shop!
What books, movies, shows, or music are making you excited these days?
I just finished bingeing the last season of Shrill and I am pretty devastated it’s over. While I work on illustrations and client work, my go-to background noise is Married At First Sight. I’m also gearing up for the next season of the Bachelorette. Me and my friends always get together and do a fantasy league (of which I am currently the reigning champion). It’s the perfect excuse to get together, drink wine and eat more cheeses than anyone ever should in one sitting! Much needed after a year of quarantine.
What is the most challenging part of your work? How have you, or how do you, overcome those challenges?
For me, the biggest challenges I face are finding the motivation to create new work and also imposter syndrome. I feel like those two feed into each other and create a cycle of self doubt. But when I find a moment of inspiration and I sit down and just make something that I love, I look back on those negative thoughts and I’m like “what were you thinking?! You’re amazing!”. It’s definitely a cycle of major highs and lows!
Do you have a secret talent? What is one skill that you are working on?
My secret talent is that I can yodel (poorly). But I always thought it would be cool if I could harness that skill (anyone know any professional yodel instructors out there? lol). As for skills I am working on, I only recently started illustrating more on my iPad, so I love learning new tips and tricks and experimenting with new brushes.
Is there anything more you would like to “become?”
In terms of my illustration career, I don’t know what will come next! It’s actually only been about a year since I started doing my own illustration work as a daily practice and “putting myself out there” which essentially all began at the beginning of quarantine, so in that regard I feel like my journey as an artist is only just beginning, which is exciting! Outside of illustration, I have grand ideas of being able to someday move to a more rural area where I can have some chickens.
What is your long-term goal?
Aside from the chickens, I’d love to just keep illustrating and see where it takes me. Quite honestly, I have little to no expectations that this will bring me any great success. What is most important to me is that I keep the passion and joy of creating, always. If I can continue that, then I will consider myself wonderfully successful!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-teach a new hobby or skill?
Just do it! The hardest part (at least for myself) is getting that initial spark or motivation to simply begin, so I understand how it feels to be nervous about starting something new. I think the greatest advice would be to just begin and then keep moving forward, even if you think it’s terrible during the beginning, I think you often are surprised at the final result.
More to Love
If you loved reading about Louise Pretzel’s trajectory as an illustrator and creative, you’ll love looking at her work! You can find her prints for the Lars Print Shop here, her website here, and don’t forget to follow her on Instagram @LouisePretzel.
In addition to Louise Pretzel’s interview, you can read about more of our lovely Lars Print Shop artists and illustrators we’ve interviewed! Here’s an interview with Julie Marabelle, Becca Stadtlander, Cat Seto, Libby VanderPloeg, Amelia Giller, Justina Blakeney, Rachel Kiser Smith, and more!
Stay tuned for more Becoming interviews, coming soon.