Animal Planet

Illustrator Christie Lau creates animal depictions with mind-melding detail and an inspiring amount of research.

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A lot of times animal themed illustration is channeled through a tunnel of imagination, or creatures from a dream, double dipped in cuteness. Alternatively, Christie Lau’s creations draw out an extreme awe for the complexity of nature (and her crazy use of detail.)

Lau loves to research her subjects thoroughly and it makes sense that she originally intended to be a scientific illustrator. “I want to understand humans by finding parallels in animals,” she says. As we chat Lau seems to know the name of every animal brought up and is happy to share well  learned tidbits about their behaviour. This adds an unexplainable depth to the work she creates because she is conscious of the subject’s story.

After studying fine arts at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Lau has returned home, but not for long. Her love for travel has taken her on semesters abroad in Paris, Beijing, Rome and Florence as well as summer trips to the Galapagos Islands, Africa and Antarctica.

These trips, combined with extensive traveling with her family, have given Lau a clearer perspective of her animal subjects. Of course, Lau has many more travel adventures in the works for the near future, “A trip to visit the extensive wildlife in Costa Rica is being planned!”

Lau likes to experiment, and is not loyal to any one medium but seems to be successful in many. Her paintings seem particularly special, colourful and light, and the fur looks soft enough to touch. Under some of her works she includes enchanting little stories. One in particular is of a bear on its hind legs in a sort of “fancy” outfit. Beneath it says, “This bear was fighting another but really he just wants to know that he’s good enough for his lady bear. He would like to go dancing with her! Fighting or dancing, crying or laughing, all the same they demand similar contractions and grace from our bodies.”

Many artists are enthralled by animals or perhaps use them as symbols. Lau seems to capture the soul of the creature,

with this contradiction of a beautiful, simple result against the absurd detail and research. All in the name of better understanding ourselves as homo sapiens.

In her artist statement she writes, “When we personify and identify with animals, we recognize and accept more about our own behaviour and condition.” What a remarkable and fundamentally important use of a stunning artistic gift.