Mandy Stobo is a Calgary artist with a skyrocketing career thanks to her totally “bad” paintings. She is the painter behind the infamous ‘Bad Portraits,’ an ongoing series of people’s faces painted badly.

Using watercolour, Mandy employs a whimsical technique with vibrant colours splashed and swirled on the canvas, then anchored with black lines to create the outline and finer details of the face.

Although they may not be in the style of traditional portraiture, they have personality and her point isn’t to be Johannes Vermeer’ and create another ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring,’ it’s to make you stop, look and listen to your own thoughts. Maybe even have a laugh.

“I don’t like to dictate thought or expectation. It’s not a statement of the artist,” said Stobo. “I think everybody’s experience looking at something is going to be different.” Stobo’s art is light-hearted and plays on the fun and humorous aspects that art can over-look. “I hope people take away joy and a sense of humor and that art can be really fun and inexpensive and about you,” she said.

It all started in the basement of the Crossroads Market, in the old “blood pits” that houses Mandy’s studio. Being an artist is never and has never been an easy feat that reaps many rewards or a sustainable living. So the ex-ACAD student and single mom went out to find something that was cost-effective and self-sustaining; watercolour and faces.

“I needed something that renewed itself. And so I thought ‘Peoples faces, I’m never going to be out of work!’” said Mandy.

Not running out of work was an understatement. After a feature in MacLean’s magazine, Mandy was faced with 1,200 orders for Christmas alone.

“That was overwhelming,” she admits. “But it’s never really exhausting because it’s the people’s energy. I just smile and giggle while I do it. It’s so fun, so I haven’t gotten bored.”

Not bad for a girl who started painting her friends faces and wanted to experiment with social media. Stobo is the epitome of the Calgary’s arts scene. Excited and on the cusp of being huge, yet humble and happy.

“I can’t not get over how excited I am to be in Calgary right now and I think all of us (artists) are apart of building this amazing new piece of this city,” Mandy said. “So anytime there is any recognition (referring to her McLean’s write-up), kudos to Calgary. There is so much going on here.”

And there is going to be a lot more going on here.

Calgary 2012; a not-for-profit organization is helping to showcase the city’s arts and culture scene through projects that will “encourage future cultural achievements.”Along with Calgary 2012, the city has been granted the “Cultural Capital of Canada.”

This doesn’t mean that we are more cultural than others cities in the country, but have been allotted to receive $1.6-million in federal government grants to further develop our flourishing arts and culture scene.

And that turns into a lot of open doors for eager artists.

“The amount of quality and the amount of artists are blowing me away. And with Calgary 2012 it’s giving access to all of these artists that have put in their time,” Mandy said. “They were waiting for the city to embrace it and explode, and I think this year we are going to do it.”

This is coming as a relief to many in the art community. They are now being given the opportunity to pursue their talents.

For so long Calgary lost a lot of creative minds to larger cities with more vibrant cultural centers. Now we have come full circle and the city is attracting creative minds.“We’re the only city that hasn’t already been built (artistically),” Mandy said.

In comparison to places like San Francisco and New York City, even Toronto, Calgary is still an infant in metropolis art scenes. “We get to build it!” exclaimed Mandy.

Calgary’s artistic community is about to explode and be featured on national and international levels. Mandy was buzzing with a giddy enthusiasm, an enthusiasm that is floating in the dry Calgary air.

Changes are afoot and it is accessible for anyone to help create the newest chapter for Calgary’s history book. “We’ve found our voices and a platform and Calgary is handing it out, which I think is amazing,” Mandy said. “I love this city. I’m really excited about this city.”

Mandy will be at the Theatre Junction Grand’s 100th Anniversary painting up some of her “Bad Portraits.” The event runs from 2p.m. – 2a.m.

For more information check out their website here.

Vanessa Conley


One Comment

  1. There are plenty of artists that paved the way for this to happen, don’t forget this, some of which are not even main stream artists but who have done great things to help foster the growth of art here, and who have lived here a long time, some of which went through the art institutions, and some who just made art. True artists in every sense of the word, technically gifted trail blazing hard working people who deserve recognition so pay respects to those people who in many cases didn’t get the limelight. Peter Ford, Bobby Torpedo aka Kamik Krulis, Carl White, Darcy Lisecki, Harold Pandergrass, I can go on and on….keep up the good work. Mahaloness Shane

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