fashion magazine
The Soul of an Artist
by MARILYN R. WILSON
Illustrations by Mandy Lau
Illustrator Mandy Lau is as multi-faceted as a diamond -- intelligent, focused, articulate and infused with the soul of an artist. While her day job is working for a magazine publishing company, she is quickly becoming recognized for her growing body of work as an illustrator. Her ever-expanding resume includes clients such as LA Inc/DNA3 Condo Sales Centre, BC Business, TV Week Magazine, VCC, Granville Toyota, and BC Living.

As a child, Lau enjoyed a passion for drawing, but when it came time to chose a career, her dad's practical nature kicked in. Studies in Graphic Communication Management at Ryerson introduced her to the world of print technology and business management. The school courses presented the basics, but it was up to each student to build on this foundation. Lau remembers, "I was really interested. I had access to the programs and would be in my room in residence just playing with Photoshop and Illustrator." After finishing school she worked in the field of advertising for awhile and spent some valuable time travelling. "Any creative person has to travel. You have to be inspired by different things."

The desire to be near family and friends lured Lau back to Vancouver where she began a career in the publishing industry. Despite working a demanding job, she wanted to develop her own business. She chose to enter Vancouver Community College's two-year evening Fashion Design program. "It was a struggle. You'd work 9-5 and then right after, get something to eat and go straight to class. On the weekends you tried to spend time with your boyfriend, your family, your friends, and you had to say no. You were thinking about school the entire time - you lived and breathed it. It was so overwhelming." On graduation her dedication to excellence was recognized when she received both the Gabriel Levy Scholarship and the Hudson Fashion Award.

Lau decided to focus first on developing as an illustrator and found her day job to be a valuable resource. "You have to use your resources. For me, I work with a lot of art directors so I approached them and I asked, 'What makes you choose an illustrator for a particular editorial piece? What kind of approach do you prefer?'" The research paid off and she began to book jobs. For each new project Lau's approach is the same. "I'll put on music to get me in a certain mood. I'll try to put whatever I find inspiring together in a collage - photographs, magazines, etc. I have a reference files of poses I look at. Then I sketch in pencil until the details are where I want them to be and put in some shadows. Then I scan it into the computer, increase the contrast so I have the highlights and shadows very defined and paint over it in Photoshop." DNA3 in Toronto is Lau's highest profile job to date. Her illustrations were displayed as nine foot wall banners in the condo presentation centre as well as included in the sales brochures.

Lau has some practical advice for anyone interested in becoming an illustrator: surround yourself with creative people, ask questions, use your resources, and get involved in illustration communities. Also, use the internet. "There's so much out there in terms of on-line tutorials." One publication she recommends purchasing is Breaking Into Freelance Illustration by Holly De Wolf. While Mandy Lau will surely pursue many new creative directions in the future, illustration will always be a part of who she is as an artist. "The reason I went into illustration is I have always had a love for drawing. That will never leave me. Whether it makes me millions or it makes me zero dollars, I'm always going to be drawing."

For more information go to www.mandy-lau.com. To view her DNA3 condo centre project go to http://mandylauillustrations.blogspot.com/2010/08/mural-illustrations-at-dna3-condos.html.