18 Frequently Asked Questions *

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What is your artwork about?

Generally speaking, explorations I can't seem to quit are: identity, trauma and solace.

Your artwork varies a lot in style and subject. Why is that? Is it difficult to switch gears?

For a long time, I was frustrated by my inability to focus on just one thing. I had this idea that a successful artist found a niche, honed skills within it, and made money from it. Certainly, that's true for some artists. But like most things, there's no universal script. I didn't learn this until later, so I spent a lot of time in my 20s fighting my creative instincts.

Each process, medium and subject meets a specific need in specific ways, and trusting this doesn't feel indulgent anymore - or like switching gears. It just feels natural.

Do you get creative blocks?
Not really ever. It's less to do with creative wealth, and more to do with accepting the ebbs & flows of my creative process. I'll go stretches without making or writing much - and I'm totally ok with that, because during these times I'm contemplating stuff, absorbing information and collecting inspiration. Then, suddenly, the dormancy period is over, and I'll crank out a ton of work.
Does being a mom inhibit your creative process?

Being a parent is hard - just like they say. And amazing - just like they say. It requires you to do all the things on very little sleep. It requires you to give your little person all the love and energy you can muster. And when you do all that, it often feels like you have nothing left for anyone else, much less yourself. For me, once my son was out of the baby stage, this new way of life became more normal. I learned to reprioritize and reorganize to make room for making things - because I am an artist and making things is what I need to do to be a person.

Being a mom has made me fiercely protective of my time. It's given me focus I did not have before. And, maybe more than anything, it's given me creative conviction and inspiration. So, I'm with Zadie Smith on this one: "The idea that motherhood is inherently somehow a threat to creativity is just absurd."

Do you wish you made a living as an artist?
Sometimes I daydream about chucking it all, living in a van, climbing and making art. And maybe someday I will. But as of now, my full-time job provides much needed balance and grounding: it works a different part of my brain, and requires zero emotional lifting. It gives me the psychological space, financial stability and motivation to create authentic, meaningful artwork.
Who is Lotus Girl?
Lotus Girl is my alter-ego. When I first started drawing her, she was barely a person: a half-inch tall, at most, with tiny shapeless limbs. Now, some 20 (!!!) years later, she's grown into a more substantial figure. You can follow #lotusgirldrawings on Instagram.
Do you sell your artwork?
I do. If you're interested, send me an email or DM.
What did you study in school?
I studied both journalism and painting at the University of Iowa (BA, BFA), and more painting at The San Francisco Art Institute (MFA).
How did you get into web development?
By accident: I wanted an online art portfolio, so I learned how to build a website from scratch (this was way before platforms like Squarespace and Wix). It was such a fun challenge & satisfying process. I was hooked.
You’re artsy and you know computers - that means you can design logos, right? Will you design a logo for me?
No and no. No. No. No. Also, no.
Do you do freelance web design or development?
I love good web design. I have an eye for good web design. But I am not a web designer. As for development, I work a full-time web development job, so usually I don’t want to do computers in my off-hours. So, probably no to this one too.
What are you?

As a kid, I felt very much alone in my mixed-race experience. As an adult, I've met so many other people who are mixed too. We exchange stories about what it was like growing up biracial: to be seen as an anamoly, to check the stupid "Other" box (if there was one) on school forms, to explain away confusion when you're with your white parent. And, to be asked on the regular, "What Are You?" as if you are a thing, a science experiment. You know what's cool? And maybe a sign of change? No one's asked me this question in a long time.

You were a club gymnast for 10 years, collegiate gymnast for 4 years. How does this inform your life?
Doing something for that long - especially from childhood into adulthood - makes an indelible impression on your identity. Being a gymnast deeply shaped who I am and how I navigate the world. Gymnastics brought me so much joy; it gave me incredible experiences, invaluable skills and lifelong friendships; its culture also facilitated and fostered significantly ugly stuff along the way. All of which is to say: I carry both the good and the bad of being a gymnast with me - even nearly 20 years later.
You're a rock climber living in a place with no rocks. How does that work?
Yep, it's inconvenient. I climb indoors at a gym twice a week - maybe three times, on a good week. During climbing season, I drive 7 hours south to my "home crag" - the Red River Gorge in Kentucky (aka The Red). And then sprinkled throughout the year are trips to Europe or Colorado or Texas or wherever else there are real live delicious rocks.
Do you watch TV?
I watch a lot of TV. A lot. Not enough, though. I love it. So much. Recent faves are The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Marvel’s The Runaways, Sense8, Broad City and Spike Lee's TV adaptation of She's Gotta Have It.
Is your brain mush because you watch so much TV?
Probably. But, I'd like to think I offset the mush with reading. Anything and everything Roxane Gay writes. Books in my bag right now: Feel Free by Zadie Smith, and Yrsa Daley-Ward’s poetry, bone.
What are your favorite foods?
I’m so glad you asked! Soup, charcuterie, oysters, and mayonnaise. Also pasta, sashimi and dumplings.
Mayonnaise is not a food, it's a condiment.
You are incorrect.

Have more questions? Or wanna say hey? DM me on Instagram or email me at hello@betsylam.com.


Kind-of-Sometimes Frequently

Photo cred: Nikki @ Threadless
Betsy Lam in Threadless apparelBetsy Lam doing gymnastics on the balance beamBetsy Lam climbing in El Chorro, SpainBetsy Lam painting as a kid