Aug 12, 2023 | Community

Lawz Drawz illustratez Melbz

Author: Pablo Gonzalez

Lawz Drawz - Brunswick Daily

From drawing pubs for friends’ birthdays to capturing the most iconic buildings in Melbourne, Laura Holley, aka Lawz Drawz, has been able to do what she wants. In this interview, Laura shares with Brunswick Daily her own story and the hurdles she had to go through to become one of the most recognisable local landmarks illustrators in the Northern Suburbs. 

Pablo (P): How did it all start?

Laura (L): I started just drawing pubs for friends’ birthdays maybe 10 years ago. I just did that for a couple of years as gifts and always in the back of my head I was like I could sell these because people really like them and they seem to have a real connection with the pub that I’ve drawn!”.

(P): What was the first pub that you ever drew?

(L): The Retreat! I drew it with a permanent marker and watercolour.

The Retreat - Brunswick Daily

The Retreat. Source: Laura Holley

Then I moved on to a fine-line pen and watercolour but the colour wasn’t strong enough for me. I wanted that to be more intense.

East Elevation - Brunswick Daily

East Elevation. Source: Laura Holley

I eventually learnt how to use Illustrator very basically, but it didn’t feel hand drawn enough because it’s just moving the lines around. So then I got an iPad and an apple pencil and that felt more like drawing! 

(P): Has drawing always been part of your life?

(L): Oh yeah! My mum’s an artist so I grew up in a house full of art supplies. I studied fine art and failed. I was enrolled for a year at VCA (Victorian College of the Arts) for a year but I didn’t do much in the second semester. It was printmaking, so lino, lithography and etchings. I was 17 and it felt very pretentious, everyone was very serious about art and I just wasn’t. I was like “I just came here to draw pictures!”. 

I did photography after that which was too technical for me, and then I did events for a long time. I would always be the person in the office who would draw a picture on the whiteboard or draw funny cards for people’s birthdays, that kind of thing.

People would always say to me, “Oh, I wish I could draw!” and I’d say, “Well, I wish I could catch a ball! That’s a way more useful skill! What am I going to do with drawing?”

(P): So what made you take the jump? Because what you do is just as good as catching a ball!

(L): Well, I think I kind of always knew I wasn’t very good at working for other people. While I was at my last job I started to sell my drawings and I think I did one market and I might have sold one thing or nothing, I can’t remember. I then started doing house commissions on Etsy. 

After that, I was lucky because my husband worked full time and I went on maternity leave, so technically I didn’t have to bring in an income. If I had just quit my job I wouldn’t have had any money. 

It did take maybe four years to build the business up to make a decent income. It was kind of slow, in the first year I probably made around two thousand dollars. But I think even just selling things at that level I knew that there was an interest, I definitely knew this. 

(P): What year exactly did you start selling your work? 

(L): That would have been 2018.

(P): So you had only two years before lockdown happened. Was lockdown a period that helped you grow your presence? 

(L): Yes, it was. In lockdown, people were stuck at home with empty walls and they couldn’t go to their pub. So they wanted a picture of their favourite pub to look at.

Grandview hotel - Brunswick Daily

Grand View Hotel. Source: Laura Holley’s Instagram

Back then, I had a toddler and a newborn as of April 2020 and I went “oh, everyone’s doing puzzles, I should make a puzzle!” So I kind of spent all this time in the middle of the night drawing the puzzles and finding suppliers. I have no idea how I found the time because my husband was working full time and I was taking care of two kids without daycare.

Fortunately, everyone loved the puzzles!

Lawz Drawz puzzles - Brunswick Daily

Puzzles! Source: Laura Holley’s Instagram

(P): I’m curious about the relationship you have with the venues you choose to draw. Do you build a connection with the building?

(L): Yeah definitely with some of them. The individual prints take around 12 to 15 hours, so yeah, I know them in pretty good detail. The venue might be in a suburb that I don’t go to too often or I may have never even seen the building, I might have drawn it from Google maps, and I’ll just be driving somewhere and I go “Oh, I know that tile or that roof line!”

(P): What’s the weirdest detail that you’ve found?  , 

(L): [Hahaha] Well, okay. So, one of my favourite ones was the Woodlands in Coburg. It has a sign on it, like a historical plaque mentioning it was called the Nugget Inn, and that it used to have a race track out the back. Yeah, so it’s like a golden nugget, like a lucky kind of thing.

Woodlands Hotel - Brunswick Daily

Woodlands Hotel Plaque. Source: Author.

And I guess I must have always liked buildings. I think I’m interested especially in areas like Brunswick where there’s new and old and everything in between. I was lucky enough to do some drawings for the Lost City of Melbourne. I drew some buildings from across Sydney Road where there was a beautiful Theatre operated by Hoyts*! 

Hoyts - Brunswick Daily

(P): Let me now ask you a question to wrap up our conversation. What advice would you give your 18-year-old self knowing what you know today?

(L): Do what you want! 

Which is kind of what I did, I think. I was really lucky because my family never tried to influence me to go down a certain path. If I changed jobs, or quit to go travelling they were always supportive… and eventually I figured out what I wanted to do!

I think you just have to live the experiences and find what works for you. And in all the jobs I’ve had, I’ve learnt skills that were really useful. I wouldn’t know project management if I was just drawing pictures from when I was 18.  

So, it’s just do what you want!

(P): Thank you so much for sharing.

(L): Thank you, Pablo.

This article was written, edited, and published on the stolen lands of the Wurundjeri-woi wurrung People, whose sovereignty was never ceded.

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