Mandy Stobo: Best Visual Artist in 2018

Best of Calgary is a celebration of the people, places and voices that make Calgary an amazing place to live and call home.

Written by: Kelsey Woods

If you’re familiar with the Calgary art scene, Mandy Stobo is a household name. This talented artist has been in the business for over a decade and shows no signs of slowing down. Mandy pours her love for travel, this city and her son into her never-ending supply of watercolour portraits, colourful landscapes and humorous renditions. One of her most recent projects mentioned below, Bad Portraits, are now seen across nine countries worldwide and circulate on social media daily.

Let’s meet the artist inspiring our city to be more creative!

Mandy Stobo


Are you a born and raised Calgarian?

I am fourth generation Calgarian - can you believe that?! My great grandparents grew up in Bowness, my grandparents lived near Confederation Park, I grew up in the northwest and now I built my dream home in the southeast. I travelled a lot throughout the years, lived in many other places in Canada as well as around the world and I could not imagine calling any other place my home.

 What was your dream job growing up?

I recently found a piece of paper from kindergarten with a drawing of the Ninja Turtle Michelangelo on it and underneath it read: “when I grow up, I want to be an artist and a mom.” So luckily, I’m two for two! Art was always my chosen form of communication. I tried a few other directions in life but I never stopped drawing and I always felt at my best when I was creating. Then I had a baby, going through a lot of trauma and having no idea how to support a sweet, little life. With no education, I turned to the only thing that I knew how to do, which was express myself truly and with total vulnerability. I worked at it endlessly, holding onto my optimism to create art.

 What is your favourite thing about Calgary?

Oh wow, there are so many things it’s hard to just pick one! But if I have to, it’s the community. This city is full of so many incredible thinkers, creatives, teachers, entrepreneurs, you name it. I love knowing that if you have an idea but you don’t know how to execute it, you can find a special pocket of people who know exactly what you’ll need and they will welcome you with open arms to guide you and get you where you need to be. It’s magical and I love it.


 If you could describe Calgary in one word, what would it be?


What does being a Calgarian mean to you?

Being a Calgarian means being the pioneer of your life by creating the space that is most positive and inspiring for hearts and ideas, whether at work, as a parent or a friend.

Do you have a favourite watering hole in Calgary?

The Ship & Anchor and Starbelly.

What is your favourite Calgary event/ activity or thing to do?

So many! Camp Hoo-Ha, live projection art on Dave Kelly Live at the incredible Bella Concert Hall (Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts), Market Collective, the Stampede, Calgary Expo, Social West, CAMP Festival.

Where is the best place to people watch in Calgary?

Maybe Bow Valley Square?

If you were an emoji, what emoji would you be?

The upside down smiling emoji.

Tell us about your business. What motivates you to do what you do every day?

I am a visual artist and a virtual reality content creator, trying to add art and empathy into a space. I have a social media project that is now around the world called Bad Portraits, where I create watercolour portraits on paper. I also do large contemporary works with a focus on storytelling and connection. I am so grateful that I have the ability and opportunity to create for a living, which is motivation in itself. I work on film and television, do live performances with projection art, create murals, illustrations for print and design. I feel beyond lucky with this career, I will never stop working and I will never stop creating.


Anything special coming up we should know about?

Just to name a few:

  • February 14 at The Bella.

  • February 18-19: Speaking in Amsterdam with FITC

  • Spring: A new AR show

  • May: Studio Show 2019

Connect with Mandy on Instagram: @badportraits

Kelsey Woods is the Content & Editorial Manager for Best of Calgary.

Kelsey Woods