• Artist Editions: Lorenza Centi X UO

    Designed exclusively for Urban Outfitters, Artist Editions is an ongoing series of limited edition graphic t-shirts created by a rotating roster of artists from around the globe. 

    Michigan-based graphic designer and illustrator Lorenza Centi creates colorful works that explore the human form in a digital context. She shared with us the inspiration behind her Artist Editions shirts and showed us how her work comes together. 
    Photos by Emily Nagle

    Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? 
    I am a designer and illustrator currently based in Michigan. I am in my final semester at Michigan State University. My design work focus is mostly in the music and fashion industry, I currently work for a record label and a radio station. My illustration work is more of a personal hobby that is centered on feminist issues. 

    Did you always want to be a graphic designer?
    It all started with Myspace. Thirteen year old me wanted to be able to have my own custom layouts and headers so I taught myself to use PhotoFilter, which was essentially a free version of Photoshop. It caught on and people would ask me to make personalized graphics for them and I’d always get tons of compliments on my profile. I literally didn’t even know digital art was a career option until my mom told me it had a title, graphic designer, and I was like yes this is it. So ever since then I knew that’s what I wanted to do, it has so much flexibility and freedom I think that’s why it has kept my interest and passion flowing all these years. 

    What’s the first thing you can ever remember creating?
    The first thing I remember creating was a picture of my family in preschool. It was literally just all these big blue and teal faces that all looked the same, it was my armature Picasso Blue Period if you will, and my teacher had written my family’s names next to each head and marked it that I was 3 years old. I’m not sure how or why I remember that, but I can picture exactly where I was sitting when I made it and I still have the drawing today.

    Is there a common theme that ties your work together? 
    My work is based on feminist issues in modern society, media and in our technology based world. In my surrealist abstraction of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century, I explore the media’s exploitation and over-sexualization of the nude female body. I aim to normalize nudity and to challenge the male gaze. A lot of my inspiration has stemmed from being a female artist in a male dominated field. There is an extreme lack of recognition for women artists (and in general but we’ll focus on just art for now), which limits the number of role models there are for young women or emerging artists. 

    Are there any particular artists or designers who have influenced you over the years? 
    Some top contenders that have stuck with me through the years would Jenny Holzer, Moebius (Jean Giraud), Petra Collins, and Inka Essenhigh. They all create in different mediums but there is something melodic about their work, their concepts and driving force is so prominent. Everyday I am taking screen shots on instagram and online of different artists work and compiling inspiration folders, influence is everywhere these days. I’ve been really into experimental design and that has really influenced a lot of my recent work.

    Would you mind walking us through the creation of a new piece? How does it all come together? 
    So all of my work in centered on women’s issues and in light of the election there has been a lot of uproar and a ton of different emotions being thrown around, anger, grief, fear etc. I try to channel these emotions into an illustration that is calming and reassuring but also sort of ambiguous. I pinpoint the emotion or issue I am trying to tackle then sort of decide what I want the content to be and what purpose it will serve. I usually start by looking through my inspo folders I do some quick analogue sketches then I finalize the outline and color digitally. I tend to sit and conceptualize the full idea for a long time before actually acting physically. 

    Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to design? 
    I think my only pet peeve is designers only having one style. I try to be as versatile as possible to be able to cater to client’s needs and with my personal work my style is always changing. I’m still pretty young but I’ve already gone through a lot of changes and phases, I think that's essential to being an artist, you grow and your emotions and views change it’s only natural that your work represent that. 

    Can you tell us a bit about your designs for artist editions? Where did the ideas come from? 
    Dream Girl was actually the first ever piece created from this series titled On Being Pink, its intent was to play up the physical ‘necessary objects’ that are found in women and are often the main focus while characteristics of worth are often overlooked. I knew immediately I wanted to create a series around this piece because of the many uncharted topics of gender equality. I wanted there to be a feminist series that wasn’t just all pink and soft, I wanted to create something that had mystery and androgyny. Revealed came later in the series and while it does have a softer palette it still pulls ambiguity and a plays with the ‘glass half full’ vs ‘glass half empty’ mentality, sort of an ode to choosing your battles. 

    What makes a t-shirt design important? 
    It is simply traveling art. One of the most used compliments is ‘hey man I like your shirt’ which then opens a dialogue and shares a piece of that artists story. It’s an awesome way to spread the word and honestly makes really unique fashion for all genders and ages. 

    What’s next for you? 
    Next for me is to graduate and start my life. I plan to continue illustrating and sort of see where the wind takes me. 

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