Name/Nickname: Mandy Stobo a.k.a. Bad Portraits
Occupation: Visual Artist


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in Calgary, but moved to Cochrane in elementary school. I graduated from there, worked in an office and then fled. Hit Australia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam. Came back and lived in Edmonton, Vancouver, Nelson and Kelowna.  After the birth of my son, I came back home in 2006. I split my time between Canmore and Calgary, but, Calgary has my heart. Dammit, I love this place.


How did you get started in the arts?

I’ve always drawn things. I have always seen whatever I am learning or feeling in images, rather than words. I assumed that everyone did. So, because of that, I felt like it was the only way I could say anything real. Unfortunately, it hasn’t always worked. The images I see don’t add up to the same information that others have. However, it has let me see what I am thinking and feeling more acutely, and so I am able to process it and discard what I don’t need and keep what is awesome. I love it.


How did “Bad Portraits” begin?

Oh geez. I ask myself this every other day. I still can’t believe it. I don’t know if I ever will. It started with Twitter. I couldn’t figure it out. I knew that Facebook was this thing enjoyed by all, but I couldn’t for the life of me understand Twitter and how people had businesses from it! And then I started playing with it. And instantly fell in love. Twitter is Amazing.

I also needed something that was portable. My kid was in preschool in Canmore and my studio was in Calgary. It meant too much driving and not enough time to produce enough work to be able to make my art career work. I needed to be more productive. I wanted to see if a community could occur through a project, and I wanted to remove myself from needing anything other than sharing. Not getting something or making a profit; just sharing. With people. Rad people.


And how did the people come into play?

I thought, what does everyone have outside of the ability to hug?

A smile. And eyes. Oh, and ears and…

A face.

Everyone has a face.

I could do portraits. But to take the ego out of the equation, I will make them bad. I will focus on the beauty in their energy and in their flaws “Bad Portraits”.

I love contour drawings which are fast drawings looking at your subject with more presence than your paper. And that’s where the style started.


Where do you get your inspiration from?

My kid. He is pretty hilarious. And the drive to make his world full is pretty strong.

Also Basquiatt. Joan Miro. Ed Templeton. Barry McGee. Lisa Brawn. My partner. My sister. Oh gosh, I could go on forever.


What are some of the best “bad portraits” you’ve done?

My favorites are the ones with my buds. I let go totally and it ends up being way more wacky than safe. I love those ones.  Some of my other faves are Ralph Klein, Jimmy Fallon, Strombo, Lanny McDonald, Paul F. Tompkins, and Rainn Wilson.

There are over 3000 of them now, but truly, everyone that sends me a picture is stunning. And I can’t believe I get to paint their rad face.


What advice would you give to other aspiring artists in Calgary?

The biggest thing I would say is to find the things that boggle your mind. And then everyday, try to “un-boggle” it.  Don’t worry about “not being a certain thing” or “the audience not getting it”. Give that shit up. Just challenge yourself. And then actually do it. A lot. And fail. And keep failing. But keep believing.


What makes Calgary awesome?

I cannot tell you how awesome this city is. It is open to, and eagerly awaiting to embrace awesome. Which is incredible, most cities established their awesome decades ago. But Calgary is open to definition. We get to create, build and believe in whatever we want to present the world.


Which is really, really, awesome.