7 Feb 2011

Artist 65: John Lee

In the midst of all the Valentines festivities its time for a nice sharp feature now from up and coming John Lee. John is a fantastic artist with a slick and gorgeous style. He pumps his work full of light and colour with amazing contrasting palettes full of vibrancy. His style is akin to concept art with beautiful rendered backgrounds and sharp concise figure work. Excellent silhouettes give his characters an instant recognisable difference, he can distil his images or allow them to float into the background like an impressionist. Its a real digital feast that gives an edge to a comic book style that takes that classic square cut American sketch and gives it a shot in the arm, the colours are the key and bring you straight into his work. Touching on science fiction and cinematic elements it puts me in mind of Andy Kubert and his Wolverine Origin. Its the concentration of colour, dusty deep south flavours and expert observational drawing that really marks John out as one to watch. Its great to have him here before he gets snapped up by Marvel, DC or a behemoth games studio. Though he is commercially a win ticket its great to see some real integrity and artistry in his work that I for one hope he can retain wherever his career takes him. All the way from Memphis Tennessee, it's John Lee

Who are you:
Hello, I'm John Lee and I'm a freelance illustrator! I'm based out of Memphis, TN in the southern US. I received my BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2007 and shortly thereafter started my freelance career.

What do you do:
I draw for a living! I enjoy working on whatever project comes my way but primarily my work gears itself towards editorial and preproduction illustration (such as story and style boards, etc.)

Illustration is very much about visual problem solving and my main tool and constant is drawing. I try to vary my process a bit from project to project, but my work is generally heavily digital on the end side. 

How did you start:
I didn't study illustration in school, but rather printmaking and creative writing. In fact, I didn't take an illustration elective or even contemplate a career until the last semester of my senior year. Shortly after graduating, I somehow got it in my mind that I would like to get paid to draw and started to respectfully pick the minds of my betters, before throwing caution to the wind and taking the plunge.

Three years and a few lucky opportunities later, I'm proud to call myself a full-time freelancer. However, I still consider myself a "baby" illustrator with a limitless amount of learning to do.

A Personal statement about you or your work:
I think it's incredibly interesting how people draw the way they do; I don't think it is simply a matter of personal aesthetic. I would go so far as to say it may even have to do with how your brains and hands are built. I can say that my printmaking background has informed my often garish color schemes, that my writing experience is often at work in the heavy narratives that run through my drawings, and that my emphasis on gestural figure drawing when I was younger plays a large part in the speed of which I draw and the mark making that I use.

These same factors can define your career in a way-- I find that writing has helped me understand storyboarding and direction better. A heavy gesture drawing regimen has helped me plow through some of those extremely tight deadlines.

Right now, I'm really interested in scientific analogues to the creative process --like how colliding protons can spontaneously create mass or how early paleontologists attempted to decipher dinosaur fossils. As vague as it sounds, I just want to learn as much as I can about the world (and beyond!)-- and then draw it!

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