justART! Lawrence Lam

Lawrence Lam is an avid artist from Richmond with a passion for experimentation. Read about him and his views on art, and check out his painted sneakers.

Can you describe yourself to the readers?

Describe myself? Well, I like long walks on the beach and candlelit dinners (laughs). I want to learn as an artist, and learn as many mediums as possible. I just love trying different things and expressing myself. It’s not just art, too. I tried comedy stand-up, I love to dance like a jungle man on crack, and I pretty much try to do different things.

What medium did you start with? Shoes? Canvasses?

The first medium I started off with was actually a Sharpie pen and my skin. You know how you go through phases, right? Well, in high school, I had a tattoo phase. I was amazed by the intricacies of tattoos, so I took a Sharpie marker and started drawing. Rather than paying attention and studying in class, I drew designs in pen on my arm. One day, I gave myself a whole sleeve of tattoos. When I came home that day, my parents got pissed, told me to draw on something else, so I took out my bootleg Drunken Munky hoodie and tattooed the whole thing. I wore that sweater everywhere and then my buddy, Manuel Schrempp, asked me to do it on his shoes, and those were the first pair I did.

Do you like to experiment with your art, or do you like doing your own thing?

I love experimenting. I am playing with paint, print media, and I want to do as many things as I can. I haven’t really touched too much graffiti, and I’m getting into it sometime in the summer. Something I’m definitely excited about is that I’m going to be doing not just a painting, but a live painting performance. I’m actually going to be doing this for a new store in Richmond called Hype. I just put some of my t-shirts in there, and so far, I’m helping them organize stuff. I’m pretty excited to just get my groove on and dance and everything. People are going to have to bring raincoats just so they don’t get paint on themselves.

Where do you find the inspiration or starting point for each of your designs?

I think it was ever since I was a little kid, and maybe it was because I have ADD, which is attention deficit disorder. Basically, in my head, a lot of times, I’m always thinking of different stuff, kind of a day dream. I’m thinking about different ideas and as a kid I did a lot of cartoon characters. My inspiration from that came from things like Pokemon and Digimon and things like that. I guess I can’t find a specific pin point of inspirations, but I basically just have images in my head. I have this t-shirt design where it’s a guy and you can see his insides. It’s called Anatomy of a SickMan, and it’s from a picture of a human anatomy from the doctor’s office. Where ever I go, I just look at stuff, and it just comes from my surroundings.

As an artist, what other artists related to your genre do you look up to?

I got a lot of artists. I read this magazine called Juxtapoz, and that’s where I find a lot of the big artists. One of the big artists that I really look up to is Shepard Fairey. He is the guy that did the whole Obama hope and change campaign. He is a graffiti and a contemporary artist. He uses graffiti with the most detailed stencils and complex layering. A lot of his stuff is aimed at current events and the use of propaganda and what not. So there’s him and also Banksy. I like them because they tend to focus not primarily on the visual aspect of it, but also the thinking and purpose and aim behind it. There’s a guy called Ron English and he’s got some pretty cool stuff.

Do you think growing up the way you did shaped you into an artist, or do you think you were born to do this?

That’s a hard question. Honestly, I don’t think my surroundings shaped me to be an artist. If my surroundings shaped me, I’d probably be an accountant or something. I think it was definitely something that I had inside, kind of like an appetite to express myself. I somehow found a pen and it helped me open and express my creativity. It might have been different if I picked up a microphone and then somehow became a rapper, MC Lamchop, but I found a pen and paper. I’m still growing and I’m not at my prime yet, so yeah.

What is the one piece of work that you’ve done that has 100% satisfied your expectations?

I had this idea where, basically, I wanted to make this poster that could inspire people. I had this picture that I blew up and I put it all over Kwantlen. I put one big version in the middle of the second floor, and also when you sat down to take a shit in the bathrooms, it would be right in front of you. If you were standing at the urinals, then it’d also be right in front of you. I gave it to my art teacher, and I told her, “give me 50 of these”, and basically I had a little poster campaign. I wanted to see if I could somehow make some sort of littlest impact in someone’s day with words and imagery.

Are there any other avenues that you would like to venture into?

Yeah, definitely. I definitely thought of doing different avenues, and try them out. I don’t know which one is next, but I will definitely try them all.

Where do you think your artwork belongs?

Well, if I had an opinion, I’m definitely going to express it. If I have dope shit I want to make, I’m going to make it. But really, I’m not really sure, but when I do know, I’ll let you know.

Are you self taught?

Yes, I’m self taught. I know this guy in Richmond, and he’s a pretty established painter, and definitely a flamboyant character; 60 years old and talks like a teenager. I only took one class because his classes are pretty expensive. I definitely want to get some lessons from him because I can learn a lot from this guy. I started taking some other art classes at Kwantlen.

How do you view the differences between self taught art and institutional taught art?

Well, self taught art might take a little longer, but it’s so much more ‘self’. I think the biggest difference is that you miss the joy of trial and error with institution. It’s really hard to describe. When you go into class, they tell you “this is how it’s done”, but they don’t really tell you to try things and make mistakes. I have nothing against going to an institution and learning stuff, but I’m all about experimenting, and it’s really important for an artist to try new things.

Where do you feel the Vancouver street art is at right now?

Our street art is coming up. Honestly, I live in Richmond, and I don’t get a lot of chances to go downtown, Vancouver, but every time that I do go down there, I do notice the art down there. Somewhere like New York, they’ve been doing it a lot longer. I’ve been there and I’ve seen the graffiti first hand, and it’s beautiful. I just haven’t really gone around Vancouver enough to see it go. I know it is definitely here, and it’s definitely growing.

Do you try to instill your views and beliefs into your art or do you make it truly objective?

I try to do both. If I have a view, I’ll express it.

If you can use only one medium, which one would it be to for you to use to express your art?

I wouldn’t be able to choose just one.

What is HYPE?

What is HYPE? HYPE is that moment before you jump off the tallest diving board. HYPE is that feeling you have when you’re walking up those stairs and stepping across that red line, and you’re eyes just kind of creeping across the edge. HYPE just blows up in your stomach when you jump off. The good stuff before the good stuff.