Portrait artist Rebecca Lam has been uncovering lost emotion with colour, hope, and joy. She dived into our Q&A for artists to share some of her creative experience.
ArtsCulture: Who are you and what do you do?
Rebecca Lam: My name is Rebecca I’m a Mom/Wife/Sometimes painter – just kidding I paint everyday and with the social-distancing and being home bound, I paint ALL DAY – EVERYDAY.
ArtsCulture: Why do you do what you do?
Rebecca Lam: I guess I’ve always sketched/drawn/painted as a hobby, but recent years I’ve been very lucky to have successful sales and chances to exhibit at galleries (thanks to the help of social media) so being a stay home mum, the hours worked in my favor and only seemed like this was a natural path for me to follow.
ArtsCulture: How do you work?
Rebecca Lam: With coffee – lots and lots of coffee.
I only have maybe 2 – 3hrs sleep at most every night. I think I’ve been sleep deprived since I was 5. Sleep to me always feels like such a waste of time.
I section my day into mostly 3 parts. Mornings when the house is empty, I go through all my dislikes – the paperwork, replying to emails/messages, marketing on social media, and uploading new content to the online galleries that I work with (I currently work with 6 online galleries 4 Australian galleries and 2 international and well as sell my art via my own art website and instagram)
Afternoons are usually for packaging my artwork and sending them out to clients at the local post offices. Sometimes I do my art supply runs and meet up with potential clients. Before Covid-19, most afternoons I’m out and about. If I’m lucky I get to sketch at an empty cafe, go to a park and “look for inspiration”. I’m a portrait artist so a lot of the times I find inspiration through strangers. These days, I only go out to post parcels and pick up emergency supplies for my work and well – no more inspirations drawing at outside.
ArtsCulture: What role does the artist have in society?
Rebecca Lam: I think every artist is different. Some can give a voice to the society whether it’s to applaud or to protest, to just stir an emotion or just to inspire and produce art for people to enjoy. For example, currently I am working on a piece titled “Supergramps” – which paints a grandpa dressed in a superman outfit. I feel like with the high number of deaths happening right now on a global scale especially to the older people in the community (with regards to Covid-19) – this is the kind of art we need, to maybe bring a little colour, a little hope, a little joy in these gloomy days.
ArtsCulture: What work do you most enjoying doing?
Rebecca Lam: I love doing commissioned pieces for people whether it’s happy children, or nude couples. I recently was commissioned to do a nude piece for an elderly couple in their 70s. To me, its always a privilege when people entrust me with their photos to use as reference photos. In this case, it was not only such a privilege but also so so sweet to find that kind of romance at that age. Personally I’ve never known romance passed 60 because my grandpa passed away when i was very young and so growing up my grandma has always been a single, strong and very independent woman. Up until the day she passed she never dated or married again.
ArtsCulture: What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?
Rebecca Lam: I once stole my older brother’s colouring set and hid it in the laundry room. It was one of those 50 or 100 piece set with different crayons, felt tips etc and back in the early 90s that was pretty amazing. I don’t know if it’s my strongest memory or his because I think to this day he still remembers and holds a grudge and he’s well – 43 this year (Sorry Bro).
ArtsCulture: What themes do you pursue?
Rebecca Lam: Raw Human Emotions
ArtsCulture: What’s your scariest experience?
Rebecca Lam: Just 4 days ago our house got broken into. We (my husband and son) were having dinner at my mum’s house and came home to find the house turned upside down and our bolted down safe cracked open. My grandma recently passed (2yrs ago) and had left me all her jewels and so with the break in, everything was stolen. I later on learnt that the same burglar just broken into a neighbours house 2 days prior to our home so I spent the next few days holed up at home with all the lights on, worried that he would return to our area and just frighten at every bump at night.
ArtsCulture: What’s your favourite art work?
Rebecca Lam: This may sound cheesy but its my 3 yr old’s first mother’s day card. He drew for the very first time with crayons of all sorts and its now framed and hanging proudly in my art studio.
ArtsCulture: What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
Rebecca Lam: I spent a good portion of my 20s travelling the globe to international film festivals watching movies and partying. At the time, I worked for a production company in Thailand and was in charge of the international sector of buying film and television rights. So I have achieved all that I wanted to do very quickly at a young-ish age. Travel the world, Watch Films all day long for a living, Paint as a career as well as being a Wife to my childhood sweetheart and Mum to the most amazing, happy and healthy little boy.
ArtsCulture: Why art?
Rebecca Lam: Because I can. I’ve always made art and I think I always will even if one day my art stops selling – I think I will still continue making art until the day I simply can’t.
ArtsCulture: What is an artistic outlook on life?
Rebecca Lam: I once heard someone say “if you can draw a line – u can draw”. I guess art helps us express emotions and feelings we didn’t know we had. It’s a form of communication. It helps the viewer understand the world through the artist eyes.
ArtsCulture: What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Rebecca Lam: That looks like me (a very erotic piece)
ArtsCulture: What food, inspires you?
Rebecca Lam: My brother (an amazing chef) will probably kill me for this but – 3min noodle with spam, eggs and lots and lots of tabasco (a childhood favourite).
ArtsCulture: Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
Rebecca Lam: No Absolutely not. I love that I can work anywhere. Last yr I did a piece called 50 encounters when I was travelling on a family holiday overseas. Literally every morning I woke up early, sat at a cafe and did quick sketches of strangers that I saw. It was an amazing experience.
ArtsCulture: What do you dislike about the art world?
Rebecca Lam: It can be very elitist.
ArtsCulture: What do you dislike about your work?
Rebecca Lam: Mainly it’s just when people ask me what I do because when people ask what I do – and I say I paint, and they’ll be like oh you paint houses? and I say “portraits and people” Then they usually have a face like “oh so you’re unemployed – like it’s not a real job”
ArtsCulture: What do you like about your work?
Rebecca Lam: I get to uncover lost emotions. Last year I painted a couple for their wedding portrait and the mother of the groom stared at my piece in tears. When I asked her why, she said the painting reminded her of the happy times of her and her late husband – who passed almost a decade ago. Apparently her son was the spitting image of his father in his youth and the smile captured on the painting brought back many happy memories.
ArtsCulture: What’s your most embarrassing moment?
Rebecca Lam: A couple months ago my husband bought me a new phone. So one morning I went to visit him at work (he manages a gym) and while he casually reached for my phone to help me back up my photos, I let out the biggest NOOO! – in front of all his members. They all looked at me waiting for me to explain why I had such a huge reaction to my husband touching my device and I had to sheepishly explain that a couple new clients had just sent me nude reference photos which I had yet to store away as protected files and so my mobile gallery looked like a porn hub.
ArtsCulture: What superpower would you have and why?
Rebecca Lam: Superhuman mental powers – like professor X. He could read minds, do mind control and even find people. Maybe if I could do that I could recover our lost family heirloom.
ArtsCulture: Name something you love, and why.
Rebecca Lam: My Son and I don’t know why – maybe its a DNA thing. Maybe Pregnancy changes a mothers DNA. Or just love makes us do stupid things. I used to watch a TV show called The Goldbergs. I remember when I watched it, I thought the mum was just batshit crazy. I thought it was just exaggerated TV for comedy purposes and there’s no way in the world that kind of smothering exists – oh boy was i wrong. These days I find myself doing the same crazy things. Yes, I have become a crazy overbearing parent/the ultimate smother.
ArtsCulture: Name something you don’t love, and why.
Rebecca Lam: White lies. Lying breaks trust and trust is everything. It takes one small (seemingly harmless) lie to break and entire foundation of trust. And trust is hard to build and almost impossible to rebuild. Hurt me with the truth but never comfort me with a lie.
ArtsCulture: Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
Rebecca Lam: Cecily Brown, Jenny Saville, (dare I dream) Gustav Klimt
ArtsCulture: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Rebecca Lam: Don’t try to change someone, you can only change yourself.
ArtsCulture: Professionally, what’s your goal?
Rebecca Lam: Just to keep painting and keep selling pieces.
ArtsCulture: What wouldn’t you do without?
Rebecca Lam: My Family. Hi there’s more photos on my website.
Vist my Online Studio for more info: :
I have some pieces on my instagram mostly using the hashtag #b_wingsze: www.instagram.com/simplesummerbeachnerd.b
ArtsCulture: Thanks Rebecca!
- Northcott training company to kickstart creative careers - March 1, 2021
- The art world has cause for optimism in 2021 | Chila Burman - February 6, 2021
- National Gallery’s top 20 most viewed paintings online - February 3, 2021