With cutting edge style and a fashionable flair, fashion Illustrator and retoucher Mandy Lau shares with us what’s currently behind her inspiration, what her dream collaboration would be, and where she plans to travel next. She’s also proof that not all great works of art come from a stroke of a brush or a needle and thread, but rather individuality and expression.
Where do you find the inspiration for your work?
I get inspired by artists which also includes designers, musicians and writers. I’m inspired not only by the end products, but also by the processes.
How often do you produce illustrations?
For my fashion illustrations, I try to keep up with the Fashion Week shows…which reminds me. I’m very behind on all the Mensweek shows!
As for portraits, it would be ideal to produce a portrait illustration once a week, but most weeks I’m not able to make that happen with work deadlines and such. I’m less focused on needing to churn out finished pieces by a specific time. I try to be cognizant of how much focused time I’ve put into personal work each week. I carve bits of time during the week, wake up early, use the time on weekends, and make those bits of time – whether small or large – a recurring thing.
What artists or designers are currently inspiring you?
Ludovic de Saint Sernin, Craig Green, Alessandro Michele, Charles Jeffrey, Emilio Villalba, Henrik Aa. Uldalen, Chloe Early, David Downtown, Richard Haines, Cristina Troufa, Ercan Ayçiçek, Antony Micallef, Florian Eymann… there are a lot more.
What is your dream collaboration?
To collaborate with a team towards a good cause. I don’t know what that is yet, nor what that would look like. I have a lot of thinking I need to do, but I do know it’s something important I should work towards – helping other people in some way. Something I could actually have a positive impact on, and also something I really do care about and am willing to stay committed to.
Can we currently find your work in galleries or exhibits?
Currently no. Last month I had the opportunity to participate in a fun local art show, though. It was an interactive art show where work from 50 local artists get printed on trading cards and the public can buy and trade art cards. An event organized by a local production company here in Vancouver: Hot Art Wet City. Hopefully in the near future I’ll have other opportunities to show work locally and outside the city.
What is your ideal travel destination and why?
Last month I was camping with my husband at a small lake in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. No cell service. We weren’t completely ‘Off Grid’, but I like the idea. I like a lot of silence and being surrounded by nature. I’ve been planning (for the longest time) to visit the countryside of China. Perhaps, that’s next. (Don’t get me wrong, I like cities, too since cities are where you can access art exhibits. So, maybe an ideal place would involve access to both.)
That, or there’s this band from Brighton ‘Esben and the Witch’ I’ve been listening to the last year or so. They seem to mostly tour within Europe. At this point, I’d be willing to fly to see them play live.
How would you describe your illustrations and style of work?
My portrait illustrations are created using graphite and then painted digitally in Photoshop. For subject references, I first composite photos in Photoshop to create people that are essentially made up. That gives me the freedom to do whatever I please with the subjects – it allows me to hold back less. As for style, I would describe the style of my portraits as visually layered, displaying a contrast of graphite textures and smooth painterly qualities.
My fashion and beauty illustrations are created using graphite and ink (sometimes digital colour). For live events, since speed is usually the prime necessity, the style is quite loose and more focused on silhouettes and basic shapes and strokes. For commissions and projects where I have more time, I like to create a more structured, detailed look yet still maintain a style that appears simple. I’m currently interested in the work of animators and how they approach the construction of anatomy. So perhaps there’s some reflection of that style in some of my fashion illustrations too.
What artists are currently on your playlist?
I’ve been listening a lot to the solo projects put out by a couple Warpaint members – jennylee (Jenny Lee Lindberg) and TT (Theresa Wayman). Also some Canadian pop and electro like Lowell, Milk & Bone, Austra and Blue Hawaii. When I’m working on portraits, often late on weekends, I find lately it’s been Sigur Rós, Holy Fuck and Thurston Moore.
Yeah, it’s all over the place.
When you’re not working, what would we find you doing?
Writing to clear my mind, reading, biking (getting a bike has changed my life), meditating, spending time with family, making bread and attending life drawing classes.
What quote or mantra best describes you?
“It matters if you just don’t give up” – Stephen Hawking. I don’t know if it best describes me, but it’s something from someone I admire greatly and try to be reminded of all the time. Ask me again in 5, 10, 20 years, though. I’d maybe have a better answer to whether it describes me well or not.