Interview with Dawn Lo

Dawn Lo is a Vancouver-based artist and illustrator whose work has appeared in picture books, stationary, greeting cards, public art installations, and more! Today she’s sharing some her thoughts with us here at The Book Wars, as we talk about inspiration, insecurity, art and imagination!


Q. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hello everyone! My name is Dawn Lo and I am currently living and working in Vancouver as an illustrator. I love creating things – from making handmade books and pins to illustrating children’s books. When I am not drawing at my home studio, I work at the library where I can surround myself with more books and people who love books! I also enjoy bike rides, hikes, the Office, and taking care of my little patio garden.

Q. Tell us about some of the projects you’ve worked on.

One of the most exciting projects I’ve worked on was creating artwork for the Richmond public art program. I got to create a series of illustrations on the theme: Small Monuments to Food. The images were reproduced and displayed around illuminated columns supporting the city’s public transit.

Another project that I really enjoyed working on was creating a set of illustrations for a publisher in Hong Kong for them to create paper goods. It was the fifth or sixth time that we collaborated so they trusted me and gave me lots of freedom through out the process. I really appreciated that!


Q. You’ve illustrated a new picture book, “Rainbow Garden is My Friend” by Amy Takeda for the independent Canadian publisher Free Spirit Books. Tell us a bit about the book.

“Rainbow Garden is My Friend” is the first children’s book that I illustrated, published by Free Spirit Books in November 2015. The story is about a quirky boy’s quest to overcome his biggest fear. It has been great working closely with the author, Amy. I know that for most illustrators and authors, they do not even get to see or talk to each other while working on a book. It was a pleasant experience where we got to work on ideas as a team to make the illustration and text go well together!

After I graduated, one of my goals was to illustrate a picture book so this is like a little stepping stone for me.

Q. Where do you get the ideas for your illustrations?

My childhood, my surroundings and just little moment that I like to capture! I am currently obsessed with capturing and illustrating Grandparents’ fashion. I get stressed out from time to time but I think sometimes you just need to keep drawing and loosen up a bit *magic will happen~* I go on drawing dates with my fellow artist friends too! This really helps to push me when I am feeling lazy at my studio.

Q. What techniques do you use to make illustrations?

My favourite medium is gouache! Even though I am most comfortable with graphite, gouache makes great colours and has this awesome chalky texture that I like. Most of the time, I like to mix it up with graphite, pencil crayons and watercolour to create interesting visuals.


Q. What’s the best part about being an artist? What’s the worst part?

There is always good and bad in things. The best part of being an artist is definitely being able to do what I love as a job. There is a lack of structure in the freelance field but that is something I am willing to work with. I like making a list of tasks every morning. Crossing the list off gives me a certain kind of satisfaction. Create a structure that works for you!

Q. Can you tell us about some of the projects you’re working on now?

I’m currently working on a couple personal projects. This first half of 2016 has been about commissions, artisan markets and promoting events for Rainbow Garden is My Friend. I would love to spend more time developing my personal work. One exciting piece of news is that I got accepted in the Mount Revelstoke National Park Artist Program, which was a very exciting experience creating and imagining out in the wilderness!

Q. What advice would you give to students interested in a career in art?

“Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going, I just hope I find it along the way.” – Michael G. Scott

For the last question, I don’t know if I am qualified to answer – I am still figuring out stuff for myself and everyone has different goals as an artist/ illustrator, so I think that quote from Michael Scott from the TV show The  Office really sums up how I feel sometimes! There is this insecurity of putting your art/ yourself out there and letting everyone see, examine and judge it. Even though personally I haven’t fully overcome this fear yet, I think as long as I keep trying in some way, I will eventually get there… Something like that, haha!

Thank you so much, Dawn, for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us!