Mandy Lau is a portrait, fashion and lifestyle illustrator. Based in the Metro Vancouver area, she illustrates live at local events in various cities within the Lower Mainland and has also worked with clients outside of Vancouver – including Toronto and New York on various illustration projects. She uses a combination of pencil and alcohol-based markers for live sketching. A large portion of her personal and commercial work is made using a mix of traditional and digital media.
Mandy’s fashion illustrations have captured the attention of the city’s fashion and style enthusiasts alike. A graduate of the certificate program in Fashion Arts at Vancouver Community College, sewing and pattern making proved not to be her forté, but Mandy’s life-long love for drawing and ability to capture detail on paper led her to this creative career.
We were pleased to partner with Mandy for our Print Magazine’s launch brunch this past February. Her talent was showcased at the event and her ability to sketch the guests as unique fashion illustrations was uncanny! We were pleased when she agreed to create a sketch of us for our Editor’s Message page in the Spring Celebrations issue of I Like Her Style Vancouver Magazine.
Mandy lives with her loving husband and our fluffy, black and white cat named Logan. Outside of work and art, Mandy enjoys leisurely biking, jogging and travelling.
Q: What makes your business unique?
I’m an illustrator and also a retoucher. Little did I know that both skill sets would contribute to one another!
The market feels very saturated with fashion illustrators, although I don’t know of many who are based in Vancouver. So, it does feel like a relatively new market here.
My current process for illustrating portraits basically came about due to a lack of resources. Since I don’t have a large network of models (with the specific look I’m after) to pose for me, nor the funds to hire and set up the right photoshoots with the right photographers, I started compositing portrait photographs to create the portraits I want to use for drawing reference. Hopefully, some day I’ll have developed enough drawing skills to draw without reference photos – how nice that would be.
Q: Where did your business start out and what did you do to get it to where you are today?
My business started out with some postcard mailers and a pretty terrible e-newsletter. I had no idea what I was doing and I felt I didn’t have a lot of money to pour into something I wasn’t very confident about. I just tried to learn as much as I could with the time that I had.
You know the saying: the more you learn, the less you know?
I try to attend creative events and talks to listen to others who continue to build their own careers. It’s also a good way to meet other likeminded people. Sometimes those meetings turn into ideas for getting work, and sometimes those meetings turn into paid work.
As of last September, I became officially 100% self-employed. I now manage my own time and am responsible for every choice I make in spending every minute of it. It’s always a challenge to balance my time – between illustration work, retouching work, family and friends, and personal creative work.
(I’m sure my situation isn’t all that different from most people, and I realize everyone learns at their own pace.)
Q: What do you love most about what you do?
I love being able to manage my own time. I love carving out time to work on personal work. I love learning that I can continue to learn. I also love learning about how to go after projects, meeting other creative people, and collaborating on projects I never thought I’d have the chance to collaborate on. I love the work, but I also love the chase.
Q: What is a passion project you are working on?
I’m trying to work on one personal illustration per week – just work on whatever I want and not care so much about how it’s received. (Mostly portraits).
Q: Tell us about one/some of the most exciting projects that you’ve been part of!
I recently worked on these 16ft high mural illustrations for a private event. It was an amusement park and toy store themed event, so very different than what I’ve worked on before.
All of the large mural projects that I’ve ever worked on were done digitally as they have been for clients outside of Vancouver. I had never hand painted anything that large!
I also have very much enjoyed participating in several group shows at the local art gallery, Hot Art Wet City. They produce themed group art shows. They’re always fun and I like playing with different ideas. I feel the gallery’s events have had a huge contribution towards my illustration path (mine and others, I’m sure). Sad to see the gallery go, but I look forward to other creative things/events the owner may decide to produce in the (near) future.
Q: What are a few of your must-haves?
A good pencil. A supportive husband. A good book on personal development.
(If someone could invent an alcohol-based marker that never runs out, a pack of those, please.)
Q: Who inspires you?
Currently, Ryan Holiday.
Q: What is one fun/little known fact about you?
I enjoy making bread. I’m currently working towards achieving a good sourdough.
Q: What’s the number one value that you take with you through your personal life that extends into your business?
I need to remind myself to never assume I know all there is to know (or enough) about anything.
Q: What would you like to say to young women with similar career goals?
Don’t be afraid to experiment. There is no one right path; there are a series of paths. Keep going.
Q: What is your best promotional tool?
Instagram and meeting people face to face.
Q: Why is the Lower Mainland a great place to live and work?
I enjoy the plethora of Asian food, the mountains, the creative and entrepreneurial community… and also my family is based here.
There is a very large community of incredibly driven, energetic, benevolent creatives in Vancouver. The more I go out to speaker events and meetups, the more I realize how grateful I am to be a part of this city.