Lauren Indovina: 10,000 Arrows to the Heart


Aside from being a Creative Director and Designer at Psyop since 2008 and collecting a number of top honors (Clios, ADC, BDA, AICP and the Emmys, to name a few,)  Lauren Indovina has finally launched her web presence and it’s a goldmine.

Chocked full of detailed worlds and a wide range of style frames, lush paintings and drawings — including, of course, her creative direction and design work — Lauren has given us the go ahead to share her work at long last.

Lauren also wrote a compelling essay about her experience in the industry and how the road traveled is not always paved with love.  It is titled “10,000 Arrows to the Heart” (after Interview below). Her words offer us an honest and ardent look how she became a Creative Director at Psyop and what it means to work from the heart and excel through failure.


In your formative years, what did you excel in (artistically or not)?

My father is an architect. I grew up in his design: a Victorian home with modern interiors, stained glass, ornate staircases and floating walls. The halls were adorned with his paintings of oddly posed people, futuristic landscapes with eclipsed suns. Surreal. His imagination inspired mine. My parents encouraged me and led by example: independence, passion, curiosity.

I finagled situations so that day camps became art camps, study halls were studio time. At 16, I attended a competitive summer program, Pennsylvania Governors School for the Arts, where I studied Indonesian shadow puppetry and made 7-foot tall ceramic sculptures. As this was unusual behavior, I got a lot of attention, accolades and awards, which didn’t matter. I just really wanted to be in the studio.

Was socializing important to you?

I would have stayed indoors and sculpted clay my entire childhood, but I think someone in the upper ether had a different opinion, because I fell into a group of great friends. They broadened my perspective. When my eccentric artistic nature reared itself, these friends had no problem pointing this out. It made me tougher and able to laugh at myself.

When did you first call yourself an artist?

“Artist” always felt like a title I had to earn. I was an artist from ages 3-18, ages when I felt great passion without fear or regret about how others perceived me or my work.


Can you recognize when you make a fear-based choice?

The more fear you have, the safer the decision you make. I’ve stayed at bad jobs because I feared failing at better ones. I’ve made safe designs because I was afraid of taking risks. Terrified of public opinion, I kept my work secret and unpublished.

If yes, how do you handle that, or avoid that way of thinking?

What I’ve learned from my bravest colleagues is simple: “Get over it.” But I’m not that strong, and I’m just too crazy. For me, failure is like 10,000 arrows to the heart. Painful. Writing about this helped me to tame some demons and control my rampant thoughts.

Can you follow your own advice that you give to peers/protégés?

When I look back, I think of what could have been done differently. I want to tell others to avoid doing what I did wrong. But the truth is, everyone is going to stomp around in a puddle or revel in the magnificent allure of success when it comes. The only advice I can share and try to follow is a saying I saw on a wall someplace: Work Hard. Be Kind.

What tools/actions do you take to hurdle apprehension?

I was wise when I was 5. When I couldn’t draw a cat, I’d say to myself, “You know how to do this, just draw the cat.” If I kept at it, sure enough, there was my cat.


Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?

“A film is — or should be — more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.” – Stanley Kubrick

If I could create something with so much craft, integrity and vision, I’d fall asleep happily at the age of 92.

What is your take on the change and advancements in the motion arts in the past 10 years, and where do you see it heading?

Storytelling. I’m pretty sure we’re going to be telling stories in a lot of amazing ways in the future.

Now that you’re a CD at Psyop, how often do you find yourself rolling up your sleeves and making boards/frames?

Psyop is an unique studio for a CD/Designer: We are expected to design our own projects. If another director needs design help, we are expected to join their team as well. This sounds awfully utopian to many people, but it really benefits everyone. We do what we love to do: get busy and design.


10,000 Arrows to the Heart : Excelling through Failure

Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk, “Your elusive creative genius,” posits that our expectations for ourselves as artists are impossible. She delves into the genesis of the word “genius” and lands on a topic we’re all familiar with: “Many artists die by their own hand.” The circumstances for each artist vary, but underlying themes are present: They abuse substances, are mentally undone by their talent and are afraid of failing.

Cobain, Winehouse, Joplin, Hendrix, Wolfe, Van Gogh. Even if they managed to maintain their fragile mental sanity and squeeze a few more banged up years out of their careers, we still see their suffering.

Gilbert’s anecdotes of the plight and pressure on artists to be brilliant all too familiarly summed up my life and career. Many of us who love the creative process have at some point been unhappy, undone and feared failure.

In other news, the youngest self-made female billionaire in history is a woman named Sara Blakely who invented Spanx. Spanx are pantyhose that suck in flab to look tidy and smooth. Neat invention, but the cool thing about Blakely isn’t only her success, but how she was taught to view failure:

Each day, her father would ask – “So, what did you fail at today.” And if there were no failures, Dad would be disappointed. Focusing on failing big allowed Sara to understand that failure is not an outcome, but involves a lack of trying — not stretching yourself far enough out of your comfort zone and attempting to be more than you were the day before.  Failing big was a good thing. — Forbes

This contradicts what I’ve been conditioned to believe about failure. If I had viewed failure as a way to improve, instead of damaging an artist’s fragile self confidence, I’d probably be braver and more adaptive.

Fearing failure can lead us to conform and sacrifice our creative ideals. Failure makes many women insecure: Those of us who are outspoken are often considered aggressive, competitive, unpleasant. Fearing failure softens our guts.

The stigma of failure is a construct of a culture obsessed with successful egos. It’s hard not to take this poison personally. Failing may feel like 10,000 arrows into my heart, but each represents a risk taken.


The nail that sticks out the highest gets hammered down first
— Japanese proverb

When I started my career, I was that nail. I graduated from RISD at the top of my class and was recruited by all the top film animation companies. My thesis film was winning awards around the world, and I imagined my career as an easy ride to the top.

But it wasn’t: Bad timing and bad luck. Panic. This once rockstar didn’t have a direct route to the top and was in shock.

Once I got my foot in the commercial world, I was fired from two jobs almost immediately. I was noisy, raw and filled with arrogance. Fearing more failure, I began to make safer and safer decisions. I wasn’t a maverick; I conformed.

I see this often with young designers. They play it safe and end up with a mediocre design. Like me, instead of taking risks, they try and fit in.

But there was a lesson to be learned. Employers cherish the nails that stick out. Those nails end up taking the most interesting risks and often have the most prolific creative output.

What it took me 27 arrows to the heart to learn can be summed up in a few short sentences: Never conform. Focus. Be sensitive to your surroundings. Be professional. Try new techniques. Never fear failure. Trust in your enthusiasm.


I often find myself thinking about Kathryn Bigelow. As the only woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director, this naturally makes her something of a role model.

But Bigelow appeals to me not because she make films in line with my own vision, but because of her all-in persistence. Her perseverance goes against the norm for women. She doesn’t shy from being typecast. She follows her passion for film.

We are in a male-dominated profession. It’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t, or as my mom says, “Stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Because we experience this cultural stigma of failure, women need to work harder to overcome these gender constraints that bind our creative talents.

Know this: You have earned your badges with hard earned hours. You have the right to believe in yourself and what you’re doing, even if it means getting in trouble for being a “b**ch”.

What it took me 55 arrows to the heart to learn can be summed up like this: Speak up. You’re going to get run over. Ignore it. Say what you want. You’re going to get emotional. Take a moment to listen. Stay passionate. Be professional.

Guts and Glory

When I started my career, a Senior Designer named Chris Saunders led several of my first jobs.

The pitch I remember most clearly was for Baskin-Robbins. It was bland. I was doing something safe. I looked at Chris’ screen. On it was a celebration of ballsy graphics that had nothing to do with ice cream but somehow made me want some.

I asked Chris, “How do you start a frame like that?” He looked at me and laughed. “Yo, I have no fucking clue what I’m doing. Sometimes I look at my screen and I think to myself, ‘How do I do this?'”

This guy was a rockstar. He wasn’t afraid to take risks. He dove in and did something electric.

Guts and Glory. More arrows to the heart.


Paul Arden

It’s not how good you are, It’s how good you want to be
Whatever you think, Think the opposite

Elizabeth Gilbert

Sara Blakely

Sheryl Sandberg

Malcolm Gladwell

Sarah Berry

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Anthony Furlong

Congrats Lauren. Looks amazing.


shining bright Lauren, keep it up!

Anthony Furlong

Reading over this again, I agree with what I think you’re saying about fear, but I’d like to take it a step further if I may. You mention, “The more fear you have, the safer the decision you make.” This seems to be normal psychological behavior – The fear of failure can paralyze the best of us – but I’ve learned to take a slightly different approach. You see, it’s when I don’t feel afraid that I worry the most. If you don’t feel fear, how do you know that you’re really putting yourself out there and risking everything? True risk-taking means you probably have over 50% chance of failure. Who wouldn’t be scared? I would suggest that people welcome the fear, embrace it and have the courage and self determination to push past it – as opposed to attempting to be completely void of it. I think the message underneath what you’re saying, and what it is that I agree with, is that we should all seek to do what we are afraid of. There’s success in that.

kim harper

your work is amazing and beautiful and your words even more so……. thank you.


For those interested in some of the topics that Lauren touches upon, make sure to read “Art and Fear” by David Bayles. He does a great job unearthing the mechanisms behind artistic motivation. Very helpful stuff.

You can find it here:

Lilian Darmono (@liliandarmono)

Thanks ‘juicysauce’ haha :). No seriously, thanks. Will get book asap :)

Shaun Pitz

Such a fantastic article, soothing to the soul.

Maneesh Malhotra

Your work is very inspiring.




Oh look – a lazy, monosyllabic response by someone *too cool* to respect others, so petty as to try to put down another, yet too cowardly to leave his/her name… “yawn” indeed.

Vanessa Marzaroli

I’m so proud of you Lauren. It was a pleasure working with you. Big congrats!

Marco Iozzi

inspiring, thanks for sharing beautiful work and honest words

Alan Williams

Keep inspiring us, Lauren. Stunning work!

Tyquane Wright (@tyquane_wright)

Congrats on career and development as an artist. Hope to join forces with you again.

Jack Prenc

Awesome read! Has given me some insight on my freelancing. Has made me think twice about failure.

Ryan Uhrich

Ya! Lauren. Beautiful work and inspiring Q & A. Thanks!

Comments are closed.