Based in Traverse City, Debra Lanning is the woman behind LaLa Projects, a small web business focused on web design, online marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). She is also an artist and sells her ink and watercolor pieces on MyNorth’s Eliza Foster chatted with Debra about her art, inspirations and how both are tied into her current web business.


Can you tell us a little bit about who you are as a person and artist?

I think the role of an artist in our contemporary society is changing. Traditionally one may think of an artist as a person that wields a paintbrush or sculpts clay. Creating interesting and inspiring imagery is important, but my approach to being an artist and my definition of creativity is evolving.

Within the arena of my new business, LaLa Projects, I help small businesses create and define themselves in the digital world and beyond. I apply my depth of experience as a living artist and professional to each project. I still think about concepts such as compositional flow and color theory, but I also write code, build websites, organize photo shoots, create graphics & advertisements, and setup social media accounts. I use a combination of creativity and intellect to help small businesses build who they are. It is really amazing and rewarding work.

Even though the definition of myself as an artist has evolved I still enjoy working in the studio creating artwork in the traditional sense—my roots. It feels good to make art for arts sake.


How long have you been an artist?

There is not a single moment in my life where I flipped a switch and became an artist. It is not really something that you become; it is something that you are. I feel that I have been an artist my whole life.

In 2001 I received my Bachelors of Fine Art from Grand Valley State University. I’ve been showing and selling paintings in Michigan for 20 years. I continue to grow as an artist and a person with every project.


What do you create?

For the last few years, I have been focusing on ink and watercolors. I started using this medium when traveling, because it was small and I could easily take it with me. The more I created with ink and watercolor the more I enjoyed the medium. It is unforgiving, but I love the colors and the possibilities.

In the future I would like to create other products, I have ideas for note cards, journals, cell phone cases and t-shirts.

How do you create your pieces?

I created the original artwork for ‘Soul Surfing’ with ink and watercolor. Once the originals were complete and I felt I had a nice collection, I made them into high quality giclee prints on canvas. The whole process took 6 months.


What part does Michigan play in your work?

Northern Michigan and the Great Lakes have remarkable beauty. Where I live, travel and play have a great influence on my artwork.


What inspires you?

I find inspiration in the natural areas where I play. I love to sail, hike, and go the beach. It is interesting to be a mid-career artist looking back I can really see how my adventures and surroundings have contributed to the artwork I have created.


You are also a web designer, can you tell me about the challenges and exciting parts of your job?

Being a website designer and creative consultant is rewarding work. I love to organize information and presenting it in a beautiful way. The most challenging part of building a website is maintaining momentum during the life of the project. The most exciting part of being a website designer is the day you launch a new website. After a month or two of work, you finally get to share what you have been working on.


Do you approach each website like a blank canvas?

Each client is unique. They might have a very strong brand that they want to continue with or they may be starting from scratch. Their goals and how established they are as a business will strongly impact how blank of a canvas I get to have. It will also depend if they want to build something out of the box or something that is completely custom.


What’s your process like?

I typically start my projects with a free consultation in which we discuss the objectives of the client. From there I put together a proposal. Once the proposal has been accepted, I get to work. Typically there are a number of phases that need to be accomplished in a specific order. For example I need to collect, create and organize all the digital assets like logos and photos before I can build a website.


Find out more about Debra on her website and check out some of her art on

Photo(s) by Courtney Michalik at the Compass Points Here