Story by Amanda Stancati
You’ve seen her on our blog – now Plaid catches up with Mandy Lau, a freelance illustrator based in Vancouver, who tells us about her favourites and the future.
Were you ever formally trained in visual art?
My visual art education consists of basic high school art classes, Photoshop and Illustrator classes taught at Ryerson, and fashion illustration classes taught at Vancouver Community College.
Did you always love to draw as a child?
Yes. I loved drawing and I loved crafts.
After graduating from the Graphic Communications Management program at Ryerson University and moving to Vancouver, what made you decide to further your education at VCC to obtain a Fashion Arts Certificate?
I think more than anything, I just craved education – but education for pure enlightenment. My undergrad secured proper employment for me, but I wanted to take night classes and pursue something completely different, something creative, something not necessarily practical, something that I wanted to do for myself. And it’s always nice to dream, and do different things, and live a different lifestyle surrounded by people with similar interests.
When did you realize you were interested in fashion?
It’s hard to say. I guess I was flipping through Vogue in elementary school, probably because my older cousin did, and she influenced me to do so many things that I did or wanted to do at that age. By the time I was in junior high, it was that era of the 1990s Supermodels that seemed to overwhelm the industry, and I grew to recognize and admire and follow models like Kate Moss, Amber Valletta, Naomi Campbell…so on and so forth. They were always in ads and on the runways of top designers and couturiers, so I grew to learn more about the high fashion world. It wasn’t just about the models and the clothes though. It was also the photography, styling, set design, and hair and makeup art that attracted me. I started watching more fashion television and collecting magazines. And I never threw out a Vogue – I still have Vogues from the ’90s. They’re hard for me to throw out. Nobody wants to help me move anymore. Do you know how heavy magazines get?
Who are your favourite artists or designers?
Jean-Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano, Miuccia Prada, Nicolas Ghesquière, Alexander McQueen, Gareth Pugh, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, David Downton, James Jean, Ben Tour, Renata Morales, Erin Petson, Mark Ryden, Bec Winnel, Ralph Steadman, Rick Owens, Kazuki Takamatsu, Kim Joon, Lok Jansen, Pedro Covo, Terry Gilliam, Heinz Edelmann – the list goes on.
What mediums and techniques do you use for your illustrations?
Right now it’s mostly pencil and Wacom tablet and pen using Photoshop.
How would you describe your work?
I’ve been told by others that my work emulates watercolours and ink, and the mood is fragile, gentle, yet broken and incomplete.
What is the atmosphere like when you are creating?
Probably chaotic. My office currently houses a collection of random pieces of paper, bills, sketches, photographs scattered all over – on my chair, desk, ironing board, shelf and floor. But I know where everything is (most of the time). I usually work on my pencil sketches outside of my office first. Usually, on my dining room table where I can be right next to our bookshelf filled with fashion and art books for easy access to reference and inspirational materials.
I see that you illustrate fictional images, caricatures, and places, as well as fashion-related images. Where does your inspiration come from for these other illustrations?
Childhood memories, travel, observing the general public, and daydreaming.
Where can we see some of your editorial or commercial work?
In Toronto you can actually see my work inside the DNA3 condos sales presentation centre (located at 1030 King Street West). I’m not sure if they’ll still be up there by the time this interview is published. I do also have reference photos on my blog. L.A. Inc creative agency was the firm who hired me on to do the fashion illustrations for the 9-foot wall murals inside the presentation centre. There was also a brochure (an adhesive bound book) produced and the illustrations were also printed in there.
Are you currently working on any projects that you can tell us about?
I am currently working on promos and working on the marketing side of the business, as well as looking forward to the next exciting commercial or editorial project – whatever it may be.