Lee McConnell has your dream job… MAMBO! Bright colours, true-blue aesthetics and tongue-in-cheek humour, Lee has originality whilst still remaining faithful to Mambo’s style.We talk to him about being a part of such an iconic Australian brand as well as where he began, his tips and his big plans a head. This guy will never slow down!
Describe a typical Lee McConnell day…
Well I’ll get up and get clean somehow whether it be in the shower or the ocean. Make some toast with veg and avo. Coffee is a must for me. Monday to Friday for me is in house at Mambo I will get in there at 9am after I get the things done I stated earlier… Sometimes 9.15am if I’m a little naughty. I will then start working on mainly graphics for Men’s and Youth Boys tee’s as well as yardages for boardies etc. But I do work a lot of marketing artwork too which can consist of event posters, magazine ads, and online kinda stuff. So yeah my day is kinda filled with a bit of everything which is great it keeps things fresh. I will then work on personal stuff like my painting and odd little projects when I get home. Always busy…
Mambo is a huge name in the game, how is it working for such a historical brand?
It’s rad and a bit of a dream job for me. I did love Mambo growing up two of my favourite artists did art for Mambo Reg Mombassa and Jeff Raglus. So to feel so close to something as a kid and then to now be in amongst it it really is awesome. With such a rich history there are so many stories thrown round the office when the old legends come in and there are quite a few new ones circling now haha. Everyone works hard but plays hard also. A great bunch of people to be working around. I enjoy everyday at work.
Highlights of 2013 and what’s on for 2014?
Well I was pretty stoked to have two exhibitons in one year with good mate and fellow artist Biffy Brentano. Also to be involved in a few fun group exhibtions with some rad artists. On the Mambo front I had fun doing the event artwork for the 2013 Margaret River Pro stoked I was lucky enough to have the chance to do it. I also started a cool colab project with some legends in States and will be released this year. As for 2014 I am planning to have another exhibition probably my first solo show later in the year pretty pumped for that. Also a pretty big year with Mambo being there 30 year aniversary there is a big exhibiton on at the NGV later this year as well as a couple of big exciting events too in the works. Should be a good year.
Have you always been an artist or did it come secondary to another career in the beginning?
Nah I used to work in a chinese restaurant tossing woks and I painted houses for a little while. I have made art for as long as I can remember but now with the job I am in it has brought it out of me more. Being surrounded by it day in day out does make it easier to create my personal stuff. I am pretty much always in a creative mind set and have creative people next to me most of the time. It is nice… So was the chinese I used to cook too.
How has your style evolved over time?
I guess I have always had a certain hand feel from being young to now but I think the artist that have inspired me have had a part in evolving. I mean at the start you are copying them you love there work and you want yours to be just like it. But you do find your groove at some point and it all comes by itself. It just happens it should never be forced.
Tips for up and coming illustrators?
I guess to be working in the industry you need need to be versatile. You won’t always get the perfect jobs at first so you will have to adapt to what is through at you. I think try to be strong in a lot of areas it will help in the long run. Of course work hard put in the hours and things do pay off. I also reckon do a few things for free when starting it helps get a few handy jobs that will help you build a good portfolio. A good portfolio is key not so much experience. And I guess on the art front just keep doing art. Find your style and create for yourself not anybody else. If you are real; your art will be real, and people will notice it.