Leon Lee: An Interview

Leon Lee - Courtesy of artist

Leon Lee - Courtesy of artist

Check out the interview by the incredible designer by Leon Lee. Leon works in LA on animation and film. Most of his work is in background design.

Check out more of his work HERE

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Leon Lee. I am an illustrator and visual development artist currently doing background and prop design work at Renegade Animation in Glendale, California. As a Malaysian-born, Los Angeles-based creative, I derive most of my inspiration from traveling and observing the surrounding environment. I enjoy designing worlds, painting landscapes, and drawing during my free time. You can find my work in selected gallery shows throughout the year, with previous shows at Light Grey Art Lab, Teapop gallery, and Giant Robot gallery. Upcoming shows include the Artist Lodge + Studio Ghibli Tribute Gallery on May 11, 2019.

How did you end up where you are in your career?

I attended ArtCenter College of Design, a  prestigious institution recognized as a global leader in art and design. ArtCenter’s Illustration and Entertainment Arts program demanded rigorous discipline, perseverance, and sacrifice, which helped to establish the foundational skills I needed to become a well-rounded designer.  Being an introvert, I was challenged to step out of my comfort zone by attending industry events, showcasing my portfolio, and networking with fellow professionals. Having the courage and boldness to try new things and put myself out there only made me a better artist, as I was able to develop a stronger portfolio that helped me to secure job opportunities after graduation.  I am also indebted to my mentors, who provided valuable feedback and support, and shaped the person I am today.


What advice would you give to someone who’s just graduating school in the art field?

Put yourself out there. Share your work online, have a website to showcase your body of work, attend local networking events, and get in touch with recruiters. In a time where there is more creative competition than ever, it is important to have a social presence so that people can take notice of your work. This is the best way to create opportunities, and increase your chances of landing that first job.

What is the story behind some of your beautiful portfolio pieces with the family?

It’s my reimagination of the novel, “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett in 1911. Set somewhere in East Asia, inspired by Bhutanese, and Tibetan culture, the story follows a young ill-tempered girl named Mari who did not receive the love and attention she desired from her parents. On an unfortunate day, she loses them to a natural disaster and is sent to live with her distant uncle in a foreign country. There, she is forced to adapt to a new environment and way of life. Little did she know, there were hidden secrets within her uncle’s mansion, including a long-lost cousin she never knew she had, and a secret garden kept locked away. Over time, she grows into an independent young girl, and learns to open her heart to others as she embarks on a journey of self discovery and hidden secrets.

What made you want to pursue art as a career?

Two things: my passion for creating, and the constant support of my parents. I’ve always enjoyed drawing as a child, but growing up in an Asian household where traditional career pursuits were encouraged, I never thought it could be a practical option for me. Thankfully, my parents were always supportive of anything I wanted to do as long as I promised to give it my best.


Why do you love to tell stories?

I love telling stories because growing up, I learned a lot from reading books, watching TV, and movies. Important life lessons and moral values were taught, absorbed, and integrated into the person that I am today. Also, with the experiences I gained from traveling, learning about various cultures, meeting new people, and listening to their adventures, I realized that everyone has a story to share. I love sharing my personal experiences in hopes that it may inspire others in some way.

Fun questions

If you were stranded on an abandoned island what five things would you take with you?

  1. My sketchbook

  2. Sunscreen

  3. A knife

  4. Beach umbrella

  5. And a boat to get off the island

If you could meet any artist/storyteller and have lunch with them who would it be and why?

Bernie Fuchs, because I admire his work so much. His color sensibility and the way he composes his images to tell a story are simply breathtaking. It would be great to have a conversation with him, and see how he looks at life.

Do you love coffee or tea? Or both?

I love both equally, and can drink them almost anytime of the day  (one of the benefits of being immune to caffeine!).

If you could travel in time where would you go?

Back to the prehistoric era so that I can see dinosaurs, and be the very first man to create cave drawings!