Artist Name: Adam Lee
What do you consider yourself? Artist, illustrator, painter, designer, other?
I consider myself all of those things but my official title is a Visual Development Artist. What that entails is working with the creative departments to develop backgrounds, colors, lighting, environments, and props for feature films and animation. Often times it also includes character designs too.
What kinds of work do you currently do or what kinds of projects have you done in the past?
I am creating and developing my own IP (Intellectual Property) for a personal project called “The Exiled”, I plan to release more information about it soon, as for now it’s still under wraps.
Could you talk about how you got into art or doing what you do today? What’s your story? What made you want to pursue this path? Were there any challenges you had along the way?
Well that’s actually a funny story, I always doodled as a kid but never thought of myself to be an artist but I did love comics and cartoons. During my early high school years, I was taking classes to prep for Pre-Med in college. That changed when I took an art class, this teacher tried to convince me that I should go to school for art. Funny part is he didn’t have to persuade me but my parents. You know the whole Asian parents’ stereotype, be a doctor, lawyer, etc… It was definitely a tough conversation with my parents, but it all came down to proving to them that it was a worthwhile investment, I knew that they were just worried about a future of debt.
The main reason I wanted to pursue art was because of my love of Comic book Super heroes. These stories helped me through some tough times during my childhood. These stories were my escape and gave me something to believe in, and I wanted to be able to do the same for those who ever needed something to believe in. That’s a bit of a ramble but this put me on my path to becoming an artist. I went to the Art Institute of Minnesota (never go there) for a media arts & animation degree. I had applied late due to last minute changes and didn’t create a proper portfolio for MCAD. Which in retrospect was probably best, I was still quite far behind and needed to really learn what I wanted to be as an artist. This school taught me what I didn’t want to do, quite expensive way to tell yourself you don’t want to be an animator.
There were way too many challenges through-out this career path to name them all. Some big ones were; being told I should quit freshman year from a professor, being called an Asshole (same teacher), almost failing junior year and that’s just to name a few. It took a while but; excuse the language, I finally got my shit together by my senior year. I started to find what I love about art, also wanted to prove to people that I wasn’t going to be the one of those artists that didn’t make it in this career.
Did you attended art school or majored/minored in Art or Design in college? If so, what were your experiences with it and did you think it helped you become a better artist? If you did not attended college or attended but did not majored in anything art-related, what helped pushed you to pursue art or improve your craft?
I did, as I said in the previous question, I did my undergrad at the Art Institute of Minnesota. Currently finishing my MFA in Visual Development. My experiences in my undergrad weren’t awful and I networked with a lot of great people who I consider close friends now. The school itself was not a great experience with a shortage of professors and resources. Grad school has definitely had its ups and downs but has definitely improved me as an artist. School helped guide my artistic choices but it was my own drive to prove to myself and others who doubted me that I would succeed in this field.
How do you balance art with work and life? How do you make time for art?
This is always a tough question to answer, honestly if you want to make art for a living you have to put in the hours to do the craft. I understand working to pay rent is a priority but if you keep that as a limiter you will never get pass it. The best way that I found was combine the two, if you want to make art and get paid then do so, invest in the time to get good at your craft. Imagine if someone wanted to be a doctor but only watched YouTube and called them self a doctor. Would you pay that person who just watched a video or would you pay for someone who invested time and experience in attaining said skill. For me I had to build a strong network of people and companies in order for me to get work. This is a constant thing if you are a freelance artist too.
Do you make money from your art? If so, how?
I do, I have a small network of small companies that I work with for Comic Covers and board game Illustrations. I also attend conventions and exhibit my artwork at artists alleys. I’m currently building a small series of plein-air paintings to sell on site or at potential galleries.
Where do you get your ideas from?
I get my ideas from everything, I study from observing the things around me. I reference and watch lots of movies and animated films which allows me to see what other companies are doing and how to cater for work. Pintrest, Artstation, DeviantArt, Instagram, and Facebook are some of my sources of inspirations and references as I follow and befriended artist and professionals.
What kinds of tools do you use to make your work or what is your typical artistic process like?
I typically work digitally; I develop sketches and thumbnails in Procreate (iPad app). When I finally like something, I will bring it in Photoshop to bring it to a higher resolution and start rendering my paintings. I always try to work small and then gradually increase size in order to focus on the big picture rather than the fine details.
Are there any artists you look up to or find inspiring?
There are so many artist that I look up too, I could honestly list pages of artist I look up too. Some big ones are John Singer Sargent, J.C. Leyendecker, Dean Cornwell, Ryan Meinerding, Anthony Jones, and Jim Lee.
Do you have any favorite books, apps, movies, resources, or art tools that you recommend?
I’d recommend these books Color and Light by James Gurney, The Skillful Huntsman by Khang Le, Mike Yamada, Felix Yoon, and Scott Robertson, Bridgman’s Complete Guide to Drawing from Life.
These movies are my personal Favorite, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty which has beautiful compositions and a great soundtrack.
Art Tools is a preference and a budget thing, try everything or anything that can help your process, for me I prefer a wacom tablet over a cintiq. Its mainly a preference thing.
Is there any advice you would like to give to young artists or people just starting out?
I’d say draw everyday from 5 mins to 5 hrs in a small sketchbook, napkin, or even post it note; just draw. The more hours you put in the more your work improves. Don’t get disappointed at where you are now, we all start at the same place. Some people get there faster but speed comes with time. Learn your foundations, a good foundation will set you up for success. Practice core shadows, learning how to draw an ellipse, etc. Create small goals for yourself, the small achievements matter. Stretch and exercise, sitting for too long can be can take a toll on the body.
Who would you like to collaborate/work with or work for, if anybody? Could be a person, another artist, or company.
I’d love to collaborate with anyone who is willing to work with me. Company wise Marvel Studios or Naughty Dog Studios (game company).
What is your ultimate dream project or something you’ll like to accomplish in your lifetime (could be art or non-art related)?
Creating and developing my own mini-series and pitch it to a major studio.
What is the best way to get a hold of you or view or purchase your work?
I am pretty active on social media, anyone can either message me on Facebook or email me, I’ll respond within a day or so. Currently my website and online store are closed for the time being as I am doing a big update on them. Once it’s back up you can find it at www.adamleedraws.com. Facebook search Hwhuaj Lee, that should be the only one you find (if it has art it’s me). Instagram handle is @ihuaj I post small updates on projects and process videos from time to time.