Illustrator Hyesu Lee on perseverance and dark inspirations to channel her art

Conversations About Your Voice:The Brooklyn-based artist tells STIR about the good and bad sides of her craft, and what sucks about being an illustrator.

by Zohra KhanPublished on : Jan 15, 2021

Artist Heysu Lee describes herself as a happy, clumsy, and messy illustrator. Her Instagram feed comes flooded with quirky comics that narrate the everyday ordinariness of her life, and doodles of poop and her dog Dutch that communicate messages of happiness, hope and humour.

Speaking with STIR, Lee reveals the good and bad sides of her craft, what sucks about being an illustrator and what drives her to deliver her best work.

"My belief is that anything warm and cheerful is contagious" - Hyesu Lee Image: Courtesy of Hyesu Lee

Born and raised in Seoul, Lee started her creative journey when she moved to the UK in her mid-20s to study BA in illustration from the University of the Arts London. Currently based in Brooklyn, where she lives with her illustrator husband, she also teaches the subject at her alma mater, School of Visual Arts, from where she earned her Masters in Fine Arts.

Lee creates illustrations for brands, magazines, public murals, and packaging | Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
Lee creates illustrations for brands, magazines, public murals, and packaging Image: Courtesy of Hyesu Lee

Lee’s art is driven by the curiosity to know how people connect. As someone who was very shy while growing up and who believes that she didn’t know how to communicate with those around, observing, drawing, and learning about them became her way of connecting dots. Today hundreds of playful illustrations that populate her extensive portfolio do all the talking.

But being an illustrator isn’t an easy job. “I am full of mistakes,” shares Lee with a hearty laugh and adds that having been in the industry for close to 10 years now, she still feels that her most iconic mistake has been choosing illustration as a profession. “There are a lot of benefits, but a lot of things suck,” she mentions.

Lee's illustrations communicate the everyday ordinariness of her life | Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
Lee's illustrations communicate the everyday ordinariness of her life Image: Courtesy of Hyesu Lee

Lee tells STIR that often what drives her to channel her creativity and becomes a subject of her comic series are her own personal challenges. She happily talks about some of those dark inspirations from her life in our conversation and highlights that it is important to know things that one wants to avoid as it can also be the creative juice.

Subway Pain| Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
Subway Pain Image: Courtesy of Hyesu Lee
New Year's Resolution | Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
New Year's Resolution Image: Courtesy of Hyesu Lee

In five points, she condenses the key to finding the creative voice:
1. Do the obvious, then do the opposite.
2. Go commando!
3. Fail harder.
4. Craft the shit out of it.
5. Think bigger than the brief.

Tap on the cover video for the entire conversation.

STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020: Conversations About Your Voice
The 2020 edition of Kyoorius Designyatra (#KDY20) themed around ‘Your Voice’ caught many stellar creatives from the world of design and visual arts in a moment of self-reflection. As #KDY20 Exclusive Media Partner, STIR spoke with design luminaries Paula Scher, Seymour Chwast, Hyesu Lee, Frank de Ruwe, and Anita Fontaine to know what it takes to live one’s voice. To know more, click here.

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