Instagram: @jess_hj_lee Website: www.jessica-hj-lee.com
1. What's your story? Where are you from?Hi, my name is Jessica (Haejeon) Lee and I am originally from South Korea. I grew up mostly in Korea but spent a few years of my early childhood in the states and moved to Australia during high school. I went to New York for college which had been a dream of mine for a long time and stayed there for 10 years before relocating to San Francisco 6 years ago.
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.I like to think it’s humorous with an edge. It’s often very decorative and colorful, with a lot of obsessive details.
3. What is your favourite medium and why?I also work as an art director and do a lot of design work, so instead of spending all my time on the computer I love going back to pencil and paper for illustration when I can. I usually start out by drawing on paper and finish coloring digitally in photoshop. Some assignments are done 100% digitally, but I like the softness you can create with a pencil. I find that process very therapeutic.
4. What is your artistic process like?Everything starts with brainstorming and doing a lot of research on the topic – it’s hard for me to start working before knowing what I’m going to draw so I spend a lot of time just thinking about ideas. My best ideas have usually come from when I’m alone and being pensive in the shower, brewing in my thoughts. I have an ongoing list of things I want to draw, and I go back to it often to find inspiration.
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?It changes depending on what my latest interests are but traveling is always a great source of inspiration for me. It helps me explore new colors, patterns, and bring a fresh perspective to my work. I love storytelling, so learning about the history and culture of places, trying authentic food, and seeing how people live and interact with each other is super interesting and fun for me.
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?As a kid, I was always shy and introverted but being able to draw well helped me come out of my shell and define who I am as a person. I’ve always felt extremely lucky that I got to choose something I enjoy and love as a career and communicate through this medium.
7. Where did you study?I went to Parsons in New York for graphic design and worked as a designer after graduating, but decided it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I had the urge to draw for a living, so I applied for grad school and got my MFA in illustration at SVA. Grad school was a valuable time where I was able to combine my design and illustration skills and figure out how I wanted to express myself stylistically in my work.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years?Hopefully making better art and working on fun creative projects that I feel passionate about. I would also love to have a cat by then.
9. What about in ten?Living in a different location with nice weather, preferably overseas somewhere enjoying a more relaxed lifestyle in my cool house/studio.
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?I hope to continue to grow as an artist, be able to express myself through it better and connect with people. It would be really rewarding to make people happy with my art and if they could take away something positive from it.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?I’m Korean so Korean food is always no.1 for me. For dessert, I love donuts.
12. Favourite book?I grew up reading a lot of Japanese manga and it’s been a huge influence on my work. Some of my favorites include Slam Dunk, Dragon Ball, Nana, and Paradise Kiss to name a few.
13. Favourite genre of music?80’s brit rock, 90’s hip hop, and lately I’m listening to a lot of BTS.
14. What are your hobbies?I actually love cooking as a hobby as well as a stress-relieving outlet, especially during COVID-19. The process of chopping and prepping ingredients is really calming and meditative for me. When I have time, I like exploring flea markets and going vintage/antique shopping.
15. If you weren't an artist, what would you be?Being a food stylist or a food writer could be really fun since I love food so much. If I didn’t pursue a creative career, I fantasize about studying languages and becoming a linguist or a translator.