Today I was lucky enough to meet up with the lovely Mandy Lau downtown over smoothies and honest conversation.
Mandy is a freelance illustrator and let me tell you: she is incredibly talented. I’ve included some of my favourite pieces that she’s created throughout this post:
Drawing has always been her constant. Growing up, she tried the sports thing, but wasn’t into it. Her parents were a little too strict to let her dance. Gymnastics wasn’t her thing, either. She played piano but never really loved it — it was kind of forced. But drawing… well, drawing was never forced upon her. It was an outlet, a relaxing hobby that she decided she always wanted to have a part of her life. They say you should centre your career around what you love, and I’m inspired by Mandy for doing just that.
She was born and raised in Coquitlam, BC. She traveled East to enrol at Ryerson University in downtown Toronto, where she studied graphic communications management. There, she chose to learn more of the technical side of graphic design as opposed to the creative side of it. Perhaps the spark for creativity sometimes needs to be fostered and nurtured on your own. Perhaps it can’t be forced. Perhaps a large part of why Mandy fell in love with drawing and painting was because it was never an obligation, but rather discovered and explored and grown with care.
She wishes that she’d tried more things and explored a little more when she was a teenager. Growing up, her slightly older brother was always bending the rules a little — not in a dangerous or harmful kind of way, but in an adventurous and fun way. We bonded over having similar brothers. Emulating this kind of outgoing persona that has always existed somewhere inside of her and that manifested itself more as she grew a bit older, is one of the things she wishes she had done a bit differently in her life a little earlier on. Now, though, she consciously and actively tries to get out of her comfort zone when she can. I think it’s admirable.
Back to drawing, though. I could tell Mandy loves it just by the way she speaks about it. It was inspiring to see her face light up with passion for her work.
“But no matter how much you love what you do”, she explained, “you’re never going to love it 100% of the time.” Sometimes we get caught up in a utopia where we forget about this simple truth. She explained that we often have ideas and expectations about our own perfect bliss — the dream job, the ideal relationship, the perfect life. But even your dream job will have downs to go with the ups. There are going to be people you don’t get along with. There are going to be things that you can’t stand every now and then. There are going to be flaws. To think there won’t be would be naive. It won’t be perfect simply because it can’t be. But, if it’s what you love, it can be pretty close.
In her free time, she likes to make bread — not in a bread maker but in the oven, completely by hand. Her husband is really into cooking. “Our kitchen looks like a science lab”, she told me, with a straight face that quickly morphed into a smile. She also studied fashion and enjoys sewing. In fact, she’s going to a wedding this weekend and made her own dress for the occasion! Impressive.
She said something that’s helped her along her journey is knowing what her strengths are. “Know what you’re good at”, she advised. “Don’t wait for other people to tell you.” If you know your own strengths you can create your own agenda and take control of what matters to you. It’s a journey in relentlessly discovering yourself — who you are and who you can be when you’re your best self.
I’m excited to see where illustration will continue to take her and what brilliant art she’ll come up with next. Check out her lovely website here for more information and inspiration.