Laughter and Fries: Check Out This Tasty Illustration Project Celebrating Old Friends and Fresh Fries
Illustrator and Adobe Creative Cloud Insider Lauren Hom's WenDivas project celebrates the importance of female friendship at an old age with a serving of fun puns and a side of laughter.
Every Friday, the WenDivas meet at 11:30 a.m. sharp for lunch. The group of more than 20 grandmothers gathers in their local Wendy’s in Southern California, where the majority have lived for at least 50 years. Most of their husbands have passed away, so the weekly ritual has become an empowering source of female friendship where the women spend time together, support one another, laugh at each other’s stories, and eat french fries.
Illustrator Lauren Hom is the granddaughter of one of the organizers, who invited her to come out and attend one of the lunches. Lauren was so inspired by the lunch club that she wanted to turn the WenDivas into something creative, and decided to develop a branding project that celebrated the WenDivas and the power of female friendship.
“Part of the inspiration for the project and for branding their lunch club was that my grandma actually takes roll call every week for the last five years, and she just has it on a piece of graph paper,” Lauren said. “I thought I could make her a little attendance sheet, and then that turned into me thinking I could make a logo and some merchandise graphics for them, and then it kind of spiraled from there.”
The illustration campaign has churned out inspiring messages like “Ladies Lunching and Laughing,” “Take a Seat, Grab a Treat,” “Laughter and Fries are the Best Medicine,” and “Old and Bold.”
“The essence that I was trying to convey was playful and colourful. I think when most of us think of someone who is in their 80s or 90s, we think of someone who’s pretty old, like maybe sitting in a home knitting. These women are lively and super friendly. I love seeing that,” Lauren said.
“I think that getting together, especially with your friends and with people you know and care about, is the key to living a long, happy, and healthy life. Just to be silly and have community. I really do think laughter is what’s kept them alive for so long.”
Building a career out of playfulness and authenticity
Lauren is well-known for her creative and playful projects, and says her silliness definitely comes from her grandmother. Daily Dishonesty, a collection of hand-lettered little lies that many of us tell throughout our days, such as, “I’m on my way” and “Only one more episode,” was turned into a book. Peen Cuisine, a delightful collection of fresh phallic foods that combine Lauren’s love of creativity, cooking, and coloring, started as a fun project to share with friends, and has increased to a following of more than 15,000 on Instagram. When she wanted to build her portfolio and do more chalk-based illustrations, she launched Will Letter For Lunch, where she volunteered to illustrate restaurants’ daily specials on sandwich chalkboards in exchange for that special lunch.
Before this, however, Lauren worked full-time in marketing and art direction. She started working on creative projects on the side for fun and to make her friends laugh.
“The reason that I’ve been able to build a career that I love is because I started getting known for projects that I was making for fun. It almost seemed too good to be true. I was just having fun with my work, and then I built an entire career off of it,” she said.
She mentions having recently watched Tina Roth Eisenberg speak at the Adobe 99U Conference in New York about infusing joy into her work.
“Everyone in the audience was nodding, but then when you go to infuse joy into your work, you feel guilty about it. You feel that you should be, you know, making something else and making something more serious. I think we kind of get in our heads about it,” Lauren said. “My career stemmed from just this natural place of making work that I enjoy and then putting it out there. Just like that, over and over again. It was an accident, and then I started getting hired for that kind of work. Then I became known for it.”
To speak to Lauren is to experience joy. When we talk, she’s on a mobile phone in Toronto, Canada, painting a mural on a wall in an alley. She’s excited and enthusiastic, sheer joy and happiness radiating from her voice. I can feel the energy expressed through her work, and it is refreshing and fun. As the mural is discussed in the background, I ask her why food is such a prominent theme in her work.
“I grew up in a family where we cooked a lot, and my mom was a very adventurous chef. My friend made a very good point a couple years ago. He was like, ‘What’s weird about you is that you really love food as in, like the actual shape of it, the colors, the ingredients.’ I like to cook and I like to go out to restaurants, but I find food aesthetically appealing,” she said.
“I think between all cultures, people come together over food. Even if you don’t speak the same language, if you invite someone into your home or share food with them, or cook for them, it’s just a universal kind of hospitality.”
Growing up, Lauren’s grandmother showed her love by providing snacks and food, which she still does by serving as secretary of the WenDivas lunch club. The club originated when a smaller group of women was going to an exercise class for seniors on Fridays, followed by lunch at the nearby McDonald’s. Back then, they called themselves the McDivas. When the McDonald’s went under renovation, they moved their weekly lunch to the Wendy’s, hence now calling themselves the WenDivas. These days they just meet for lunch and don’t even bother with the exercise class, something Lauren thinks is adorable.
Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life
“It’s kind of cliché, but if you enjoy doing it, it doesn’t really feel like work,” Lauren said. “I genuinely just make work about things that are going on in my own head and in my own life, and that stuff really landed with people. It has built me an audience of people who like all the same stuff that I like, which is amazing. And that’s the best part of it, to be honest.”
However, in order to get paid for doing what you love, people need to know that you do it, she said.
“The analogy I like to use is a bakery. If you go into a bakery and you don’t see any blueberry muffins in the case, it’s likely they don’t have any blueberry muffins in that store. Even if you have some in the back and you don’t put it in the front case, no one’s going to ask you if you have the blueberry muffins,” she said. “That’s the same thing with my portfolio. Oh, I really wish someone would pay me to do chalkboard signs. I don’t have any in my portfolio. What is a creative way to put it in my portfolio?”
Her process, she says, can be replicated by anybody. She is always sharing this message with the students who take her classes both in person and online.
“There really is no trick to it. It’s just being self-aware, proactive, and putting the pieces together of what makes you happy, what you want, what kind of work you want to be doing. Then, actually putting pedal to the metal and making moves on that,” she said. “Also, it’s such easy and saccharine advice, but be yourself. It really does pay off to be yourself.”
She points to Peen Cuisine, the most potentially controversial project she’s done to date. It makes her giddy that the page has gained such popularity.
“Because people have found it funny, it makes me realize that my people are out there. There are people who do share my same weird sense of humor. I know there are just as many people who would cringe at that and think it’s inappropriate, but for every person who doesn’t like it, there is somebody who loves it. One thing that I have been telling my students is that the cost of doing work you love and being in the spotlight is that there will be people who will disagree with you, and that’s a good thing. If someone disagrees with you, it means you actually have a point of view.”
Thankfully, Lauren has found people are overall supportive of Peen Cuisine, in part because the foodie has created recipes that are actually “d-licious.”