artist interview - gracia lam

Gracia Lam's illustrations might be full of whimsy and loveliness, but they certainly touch on some serious subject matter. With mags like The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Forbes Magazine boasting her work, the talented lass manages to use seemingly simple designs to convey an awful lot.

We had a few questions about her multi-layered pieces.


What is your name and how old are you? My name is Gracia On Ting Lam and I am 27 years old.

Where were you born and where do you live now? I was born in Hong Kong, China and was brought up in Toronto, Canada.


How does where you grew up and where you live now affect your art? I grew up training to be a ballerina. I trained for 14 years and have always felt that I was a closeted illustrator. After high school, instead of applying for dance college, I went to interviews for art college. I think Canada is a very open-minded country and thankfully, my parents became more liberated in this country and their ideologies shifted. They are very supportive and accepted my passion in illustration. I think if I was brought up in Hong Kong, I would have received a lot of rejection from the society because illustration has been considered a very narrow path.

Please describe the space where you do most of your creation – whether it's your art studio or kitchen bench! For the past four years I have been moving and travelling most of the time. If I am not in my home studio, I café hop and library hop a lot. I can work anywhere with internet access and an electricity outlet.


What kind of mediums do you use? Why do you choose to use these mediums? I do parts of my work by hand and compose parts of my work on the computer. At first, I gradually changed from working traditionally to working partly on the computer because, frankly, why not! I love working with my hands and I love designing digitally, so I worked really hard to figure out a way to combine both mediums.

Is there a running theme to the work you create, or do you just make whatever comes to mind? I am very interested in visual puns because of the surprise element it brings to the viewer. Like a good film or book, I think that my illustrations need to tell a worthwhile story with a bit of a twist or layered meanings.

What kinds of ideas and things are you working on at the moment? I am working on a personal book. The book revolves around different social settings and relationships that we, as adults, develop through our childhood games.


If you were to teach an art appreciation class, what kind of lessons would you try to teach your students? I would try to inspire the students to set goals for themselves – a daily goal, a weekly goal, or what you would want to achieve in five years. I think that being motivated to reach personal goals is essential to artists' production.

Do you think people need to understand the artist's intention to appreciate the art? As long as the viewer can personally relate to or respond to the art at hand, the collection of work itself should say a lot about the intention of the artist.

What is the strangest thing or thought that has inspired a piece of work? Most of my work is for clients in the magazine publishing world. When dealing with editors, they always provide me with the strangest directions, usually about the ethnicity of the characters drawn.


Which era of art do you appreciate the most? I studied a lot of impressionist artists in college and admire Vincent van Gogh's body of work the most.

What do you doodle when you are daydreaming? Inanimate objects that I see anywhere.

What other budding artists do you love? I met a friend in college who I adore. Alëna Skarina's motifs, technique and design are exquisite. Everyone should take a close look at her beautiful body of work at


What do you enjoy doing when not creating art? House hunting. This is a very difficult task in downtown Toronto.

Where can we see more of your work? Keep checking for updates on my website!

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