Gina Lerman, the cover artist for this year’s April Cannabis Issue and Motif’s Creative Director, has had an interesting journey into art. When we asked her what got her into drawing initially, it was a stumper. “It’s hard to answer,” Lerman said, “I’ve always drawn.”
The first thing she remembers drawing is Eevee, one of the many Pokemon her older brother introduced her to when she was in elementary school in Allentown, PA. She distinctly remembers celebrating getting the species’ tail just right.
At 14, she was in her first job as an illustrator – selling caricatures at Dorney Park, an amusement park in her hometown. It’s a tough business.
“It’s hot, you’re exposed to the elements, you have to wear a silly uniform,” Lerman explained. “You make people laugh, and cry, and get mad and not want to pay for it, but you have to make them pay for it anyway.” Then she had to upsell patrons on frames and tubes to store the drawing – all for $7.25 an hour.
Her fortunes changed in 2016, when she got a college internship at Hasbro in RI. When she met her RISD-grad fiancé and they could live anywhere, they returned to the state together in 2020.
Before Motif, though, Lerman toyed with the idea of having a non-artistic career and keeping her passion on the side. For about three months, she drove a mail truck and delivered mail with the USPS in North Scituate, but it didn’t last. “The trucks have no airbag, no clock, no radio. It was like a dumpster you were driving around,” she recalled. “Tip your mail carrier!”
For this edition’s cover, Lerman was inspired by old cartoons to come up with a little mascot for weed. Steamboat Willie – and especially Michigan J. Frog – influenced this jaunty, happy leaf. “This is the first cannabis issue since legalization,” Lerman said. “I wanted it to be celebratory. We are in a new phase for weed in Rhode Island – the show has begun.”
As we talked, Lerman shared some of the inspiring work being done in RI’s cannabis community. Advocacy groups Reclaim RI and the Formerly Incarcerated Union of RI, who worked on legalization and expungement, are now working with people victimized by the war on drugs, to take advantage of the RI Cannabis Act’s allotment for six cannabis co-op licenses.
Last question: would Lerman sit in Michigan J. Nug’s audience?
“We are already there.”
You can see more of Lerman’s work online and on Instagram.