FREQ HI-FIVE – Mandy Stobo


With almost 7,000 portraits under her belt, Mandy Stobo isn’t anywhere near finished her Bad Portraits project. Everyone wants of piece of her colourful and contemporary caricatures with their simple blend of watercolour, pen ink and sharpie marker.

This single mom has bulldozed her way into the limelight with nothing more than social media, art supplies and some artistic ingenuity.

Freq: How did you get started with Bad Portraits? What gave you the idea that it would blow up?

MS: I was doing my contemporary work and trying to think of ways to build an art business. I needed to create something that could potentially generate a community and affordable art that would use social media. It really started with Twitter. People would retweet my portraits and it started becoming a thing after that. There’s not a lot of art utilizing it in that sense.

Freq: You’ve done almost 7,000 portraits now — which is a lot of faces to look at. What are the coolest portraits you’ve ever done?

MS: With Twitter, anytime a celebrity likes or buys one, it’s just incredible. The Lonely Island guys were the first ones to set it off. It was really early on in the project, but I did two of them [Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone] and they responded with, “Where’s Kiv?” So then I did 10 different ones of Akiva Schaffer and a few of all three of them. They discussed it and retweeted it, which set it off. I wanted it to be a rad shout-out with true art: You’re rad — Bad Portrait time!

Freq: Everyone I’ve met who has a Bad Portrait is really proud of it. What do you think makes them so popular?

MS: Bad Portraits are awesome because they take on the person’s energy. It’s like what you guys are doing; it’s a Hi-Five to them. There’s something weird and special about subjects that isn’t about me as an artist, it’s about them. Also, because we have vanity built into us, it’s easier to accept and ask for a Bad Portrait. None of us would go out and buy a renaissance painting and the caricatures with the big heads and little bodies are from a different generation.

Freq: How do you juggle being a single mom and an artist? It’s hard enough being a single mom, but add being an aspiring artist on top of that… The cards were stacked against you.

MS: With my situation I didn’t even have a degree or anything, but I knew I would die if I didn’t do art. I felt like I needed to protect my kid’s heart and show him that anything is possible. I couldn’t let him ever think that there are limitations and I think I have a healthy balance. My parents are the most amazing in the world and having them in my son’s life is making him a stronger person. There’s definitely a sense of missing time but I do get to drop him off at school, pick him up and play with him.

Freq: Do you see Bad Portraits going anywhere huge in the future?

MS: I hope so. I was talking to a few people in the industry and I’m trying to figure things out. I was in Toronto just bombing the city with Bad Portraits, so that kind of thing is really exciting. Also, I’m getting more and more international orders. I want to start a charity side as well and I’m never going to stop thinking about how I can continue to grow with it.


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