Original Interview: April 2015

Kerry Ann Lee

Wellington based illustrator/visual artist Kerry Ann Lee shares with us some of her career highlights which include one of our personal favourites, cop-dodging! Kerry Ann also gives us an insight into an day in her shoes along with where she is getting inspired. 

When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started?
I’ve been falling in and out of love with design since I can remember. Early attempts included hand-made newsletters and magazine page spreads I made when I was a kid and drawings copied from my brother’s 2000AD comics. I soaked up anything in print, from fashion magazines, Saturday morning cartoons, music videos, garage sale comics and copious amounts of books and printed matter. The public library was Aladdin’s cave and The Lettering Book reigned supreme. I started making zines when I was at design school in the late 90s, right around the time I was skateboarding, making flyers, posters and putting on all ages punk shows for friends’ bands.

Where do you gather inspiration, on and off the web?
As an illustrator, zine-maker and visual artist I’m often drawn to non-visual experiential sources – conversations, dreams, walking, sound, history and ephemera. I love film, art, design and text that offer fresh perspectives and new narratives. Some random recent and perenial favourites include: The Rainbow Reader by Tessa Laird, Derek Jarman’s In the Shadow of the Sun, Gee Vaucher’s Crass album covers, American Revolutionary: the Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, Paul Elliman’s Sirens Taken for Wonders, Esther Pearl Watson’s Unloveable, kiwese.co.nz, and The Dharma Punks by Ant Sang.

KERRY ANN LEE - The Design Kids

KERRY ANN LEE - The Design Kids

What has been your highlights since you started out?
Learning to steer my own career path that’s not definitely not straight and narrow but one comprised of decisive movements, despite the climate and conditions. It’s more like a choreographed crazy dance. I work as a freelance illustrator and designer but also as a practicing visual artist. I’ve taught design but also have written and talked about art, identity and sub-cultural practices. Some memorable highlights have included turning white as a sheet post-rollercoaster ride at Coney Island after my show at School of Visual Arts in New York, dodging cops in Shanghai during my residency, schlepping slide projectors across downtown Taipei for a one-night-only installation in an abandoned 5-storey building on the eve of a typhoon, co-hosting pop-up dance parties on the streets of Melbourne, and my zines being translated into Chinese and also being exhibited in the Ukraine.

What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
1. Work out what’s false flattery and what’s genuinely useful critique. Trust your instincts and be confident in what you do even when you have a little doubt, you have to move forward.
2. Be humble. Be as open to as much learning as possible. Shut up and listen.
3. Be active and ready. Turn off your brain and just fucking do it! Always try at least.
4. Do nothing. Embrace nothing. Get zen. It’s just design. It’s just art. It’s okay!
5. Sleep is your friend. Overworking and burn out is over-rated.

KERRY ANN LEE - The Design Kids

KERRY ANN LEE - The Design Kids

What advice would you give students starting out?
Please see above. In addition, instant noodles are all filler and no killer, good nutrition is your friend, so is being kind to yourself. Work hard and play hard, the ‘industry’ and ‘community’ is actually you and your peers and what you make of it it. Make the most of your time in studio and realise your lecturers are human and learn as much from you as your do from them while you’re studying. Keep good connections. Write letters! Make phone calls and skype! Allow yourself to be moved, challenged and inspired by stuff that’s outside of your comfort zone/ target market/ demographic/ constructed selves.

What does a typical working day include for you right now?
The best thing is not having a typical day. Any day could consist of several combinations of coffee, yoga, answering mail, visiting printers, making zines, illustration and design work, meeting clients or curators, deadlines of all shapes and sizes, writing lists and letters, preparing for a lecture, public talk, class or interview, making artwork, procrastinating, listening to records, deliberating over shades/weights/finishes of two or more pieces of similar paper stock, sleeping, Djing, yum cha, drawing, teaching, reading and doing nothing.

See More of Kerry Ann’s Work Here.

KERRY ANN LEE - The Design Kids

KERRY ANN LEE - The Design Kids

KERRY ANN LEE - The Design Kids