For many artists, art is a window into their soul.
Flipping through Laura Uy’s handbound book is similar to getting a glimpse into her artistic journey. With every stroke and page, Uy has built her best creation yet – Art + Soul Creative Co. – while evolving into the successful and confident artist she is today.
Best known for her whimsical and vibrant illustrations, Uy is the creative behind a series of witty greeting cards, original art prints, and murals across the city. As a sought-after mural artist, she lends her brush to brighten up a myriad of spaces, from baby nurseries to hospitals to corporate offices.
From a child educator to a self-taught artist, Uy has come full circle and turned her passion into a full-time career.
“When I was young, I drew a lot,” Uy said in an interview with Cold Tea Collective. “That was my escape and that was the thing I loved the most.”
However, she stopped drawing when she reached her teens, as school and a growing social calendar began to consume her time. Eighth-grade art class would be the last place she would touch a brush until picking it up again in her late 20s.
When university approached, Uy found herself “going through the motions of school” without any specific career goals or profession in mind. She settled on an English literature degree, even though deep down inside she knew this wasn’t her passion.
“I knew [what I wanted to do] was art, because I would just doodle on the side during university and not pay attention [in class] but I still didn’t think I could be an artist,” she said.
Growing up in a family of teachers, Uy followed their footsteps in education — and during a family vacation in Hong Kong, she went for an interview at a local school. After landing the job, she stayed there for a year.
“I was living independently and it was the first time when I started growing into myself,” she said, describing the experience as a pivotal point in her career. “I realized I didn’t want to teach.”
After returning to Vancouver, Uy began working at a local art studio teaching children how to paint — a job she secured thanks to her background in education. During her off-hours, she painted and experimented with different media, in order to hone her skills as an artist.
Two years and numerous sketches later, Uy was ready to share her art with the world.
NO PLAN B
After quitting her job at the studio, the Vancouver-based illustrator set a goal of four months to focus on her art.
“I told myself that there’s no plan B,” she said. “This is what I’m going to do and this is going to work.”
During this time, Uy brainstormed what she could make with her illustrations and decided on greeting cards.
“It would be 3 a.m., late at night, and I would just think of some random puns,” she said. “I would write it down and then I would visualize an illustration or character that would go with it [on the card].”
At the end of her four months and through a rigorous creative process, she launched her first line of cards of up to fifteen designs, inspired by her favourite foods, animals, and nature.
“You need to have the mentality to put it all out there and have no fail safe,” she said.
THE BUSINESS OF ART
The 33-year-old creative believes that “to be a successful artist you have to be a successful business person.”
However, the business aspect is not something that artists often discuss in the open.
“When I first started becoming an artist, I didn’t realize how much business and administrative work there was,” she said. “That was a big learning curve at the beginning.”
Despite the lack of a business background, she figured things out by “organically learning through trial and error.”
“I’m self-motivated with my art. If I didn’t have the drive I did, it wouldn’t work out,” Uy said.
Other than creating original work, she also proactively looked for maker shows to showcase her art and applied to artist call-outs for large-scale projects, such as the murals she designed for the surgical rooms at the Teck Acute Care Centre at BC Children’s Hospital, which allowed her to explore her style during her career.
“I focused on producing art and putting it out into the world for feedback, so I can continue to improve and build on my business,” she said.
CONFIDENCE IN YOUR OWN ART
Uy exudes such confidence when it comes to her craft making it difficult to believe that she was a late bloomer to the art scene without any formal training.
“You can’t compare yourself to other people,” she said. “You just have to believe in what you are doing. It doesn’t matter what other people are doing.”
Uy stays away from social media as much as possible. Other than using it for business purposes, she does not pay much attention to other artists’ work.
“I try not to fill my mind with other people,” she said. “I try to fill it with more experiences – such as getting outside to do things and getting off [my] phone.”
Uy’s artistic journey has been an “up and down” process. There have been times where she wanted to “burn all the cards”, but taking time away from her art has helped her stay positive and revitalized.
“To build a long-lasting career, you can’t just follow what other people do. You have to really believe in something original that you are doing and just stick with it.”
Stay tuned for Uy’s upcoming public mural project in Richmond! Uy recently got shortlisted as one of the 20 artists on the roster for Richmond and will be working on a wall in 2020. Follow @artandsoulcreativeco for more updates.
Making Asian American media
We believe that our stories matter – and we hope you do too. Support us with a monthly contribution to help ensure stories for us and by us are here to stay.