We had a chance to chat with our lovely friend and author, Mary Phan, who just published The Artful Sketch, a beautiful book on sketching.  Mary teaches luxury sketching classes. In her new book, Mary shows us how to take our sketching to the next level. We had an insightful conversation with Mary where she shares her thoughts on the creative life.


Starting A Creative Habit

BT:  Your new book, The Artful Sketch, is absolutely beautiful, both as a resource for amateurs and professional stylists.  We love your approach to the creative life.  Do you have a tip for someone who wants to start a creative habit but is intimidated by how to start? 

MP: I love this question! I think people think that artistry and being creative is something you’re either good at or you’re not.  And to some degree some people start out with natural abilities, but that does not mean there isn’t room for improvement.  Just like learning how to ride a bicycle, you need to get back on even if you fall.

Firstly, you have to believe and want to learn (mindset). Secondly, know that it takes time to get better and be patient with yourself.  Lastly, carve out time to learn how to sketch.  Try Inviting another friend to join you and notice how your creative energy will begin to flow.  Relax and have fun with it!

The more you practice, the better you will become and the more confidence you have, the more you will keep trying.    

Sketching to Enhance Your Creative Career

BT: We have a wonderful and creative community of party stylists who can benefit from your experience with sketching concepts. Tell us about the illustrations you did for your event business.  

MP: My background is in different design disciplines (i.e interiors, fashion, retail merchandising) so for me it was natural to sketch out my ideas onto paper first.  It’s like a blueprint so I can get it out of my head.  But in design to client work, the client needs to visually “see” what you’re seeing so a sketch is the missing piece. 

In events/parties, the client wants to be able to see the areas that are focal points, at least that is how I would guide them.  So let’s say it’s a birthday party, I would sketch the dessert table, a sign-in area, and a tabletop design.  Thinking of areas that are your statement areas are a good way to start to get your clients really excited!

If I’m pitching an idea, the sketch is what allow the client to trust me completely.  Otherwise, since they have no idea what’s in your head, they might often micromanage the creative process. We all know that creativity is tough when you do not have the creative control to do what you were hired to do. 

So, if you can implement sketching as part of your design process, your clients will not only love you, but will give you the creative control that will allow you to do your job! 

[Image below from The Artful Sketch]

Inspired by Travel

BT: Can you tell me about a recent inspiration?  For example, a trip, a meal, or an image that inspired you to go deeper?  What was the result of that inspiration?

MP: I really love to travel and my love of Paris inspired one of the sketches in The Artful Sketch.  There’s a section that shows you how to sketch the front of a macaron shop; the famous Lauduree.  

A few years ago, my husband and I took a trip to Europe and had this grand idea to do a sweets tour.  We visited 5 macarons stores, and bought as many macarons as we thought we could eat.  Needless to say, we should have stopped after two stores.  It’s the experience that matters, right? Anyhow, I thought that putting in that lesson into the book would pay tribute to what an amazing trip we had! 


A Favorite Holiday

BT: What is your favorite holiday or milestone to celebrate, and why?  

MP: If I had to choose, Easter is my favorite holiday to celebrate! Every year we host a friends and family bbq/picnic and have massive amounts of eggs to hide.  We also rent a big inflatable bouncy house for the kids. I suppose it’s one of the few holidays that doesn’t require anyone to bring a gift and just come as you are. We’re big on spending quality time with those closest to us not necessarily on consumption of things. 

A Wedding Inspired by Italy

BT: We would love to hear about an event /party that you designed and styled for your own family and friends or a client.

MP: If I had to choose one event to share, I will say that many years ago we designed a wedding for 450 people with a 20 person bridal party! The groom was an old friend from college. When it was time for him to get married, he brought me on to design and plan his wedding. 

The bride and groom got engaged in Italy so we took that as a jump off point to the wedding design.  It was held at the Westin St Francis in SF.  As guests entered the ballroom, they were met with a massive Patisserie Shop wall.  The wall was custom built with one side being the front side of the building (fully propped out with an awning, topiaries, a cafe table for 2).  The other side held their dessert station, which was designed like the inside of an Italian sweets shop.

The theme for the wedding was La Dolce Vida and I’ll never forget how fast the desserts went.  I suppose with 450 guests at the wedding, anything within sight was devoured completely.  It was so much fun and amazing to see the sketch turned to life!!  Our super talented friend, Wilmarose Orlanes styled the event so that each and every eye catching detail was properly placed.     

Investing in Art Supplies

BT: Finally, what is your favorite art supply tool for sketching, your must-have? 

MP: There are a few must-haves and I definitely want to say that investing in your art supplies is a MUST! Especially if you are serious about adding this into your list of services.  

Copic Markers are my go to art supplies and I love Blackwing Pencils – they come in really cool/slick colors too! 

We are thrilled to chat with you Mary!  Thank you for all your insights for our audience.  Check out The Artful Sketch for more from Mary.



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