Meet the 12-year-old Hong Kong boy with nearly 100 international painting prizes under his belt

Kenny Lau, who recently took first place at a competition in Portugal, won his first medal at age four

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 October, 2017, 6:32pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 October, 2017, 6:32pm

Surrounded by pots of paint in his parents’ bright white art studio in the busy district of Jordan, Kenny Lau looks like any other 12-year-old boy in jeans and a red T-shirt.

But the young artist has won nearly 100 international painting awards since earning his first medal at a competition in the Czech Republic – at age four – for a picture of a tiger in the forest.

Last week, he took home first prize at the 18th International Meeting of Juvenile Art in Evora, southern Portugal; the week before, he was the youngest, bestselling individual out of 100 emerging artists at the Art Next Expo held at PMQ shopping centre in Hong Kong.

“I love art because it is my hobby,” Lau said. “You only feel pressure if someone forces you to do something, but I really love it from my heart, so it doesn’t give me any pressure.”

Lau paints for about half an hour every day, after finishing his homework, and in any spare time he has on top of that. He is constantly balancing the life of a regular schoolboy with that of a jet-setting young artist attending competitions across the globe, with his parents in tow.

His school, Diocesan Boys’ School in Mong Kok, sends him homework and additional material to help him catch up while he is away. Although it can be challenging with some subjects, Lau said, he manages to get by with help from his classmates, who treat him “as a normal friend”.

Born and raised in Hong Kong by parents who are both artists, Lau was constantly surrounded by paintings.

“When I was little, my mother and father had little time to take care of me, so they set a baby bed in a very little room of the studio,” he explained. “I was maybe two or three years old, so I always walked around the studio and looked at other people painting, slowly absorbing what my father taught the students.”

This daily influence, combined with the “mixture of cultures and the city atmosphere” in Hong Kong, is what he said inspired him to start painting at the age of three.

Lau said that his style, technique and the subject of his paintings changed as he got older.

When he was younger, he liked painting animals because they were “interesting and cute”, but now he prefers landscapes and cityscapes to “capture the beautiful scenes and atmospheres of different places” through sketching and on-site watercolour painting.

Lau has a collection of watercolour scenes from his visits to Venice in Italy, Sydney in Australia, and France, which he said took about two-and-a-half hours each to complete. His favourite place to paint is Barcelona, Spain, he said, as it has a variety of “sea, buildings and mountains” to capture.

When at home in Hong Kong, Lau’s favourite places to paint are the seafront and markets in Sai Kung, where his family lives.

Lau always carries a sketchbook or watercolour pad when travelling to help him “capture the moment of my life and express my feelings, and share messages to convey to the outside world so they can know more about me”, he explained. Themed paintings for competitions are “more about creativity”, he said, but his on-site pieces are about “capturing the scenery”.

At the Art Expo 2017 in Hong Kong, which ran from October 6 to 9, Lau sold all of his 30 pieces at prices ranging from HK$3,000 to HK$8,000.

Despite his early success, the young artist has not decided if he will be selling paintings for life.

“Art is my hobby,” he said. “It may not be my future career, but I would like my career to be related to art.”