SPOTLIGHT STORIES: HYESU LEE
Interview conducted by Tracey Miller-Zarneke
WIA is thrilled that Hyesu Lee agreed to create the signature art for the 2022 WIA World Summit. Born and raised in South Korea, with quality time spent in the United Kingdom for her education, Lee is now a well-published New York-based illustrator, artist, muralist and educator.
Besides sharing her artistic talents with WIA, Hyesu was generous to take time to share more of her life story and artistic journey with our membership.
Think back to the earliest moment in your life when you realized you loved creating art and please share it with us.
I was a very shy kid growing up, so I often found it difficult to express my feelings or even a simple thought in a way that made me comfortable. Creating art is a communication tool that gave me a way to do it naturally.
Did your family encourage you in your pursuit of art as a career? If so, how? If not, how did you move forward in your pursuit?
My mum was also a painter, so I was always surrounded by paints, sketchbooks, and canvases. It was a big part of my up-bringing, however, they didn’t put any pressure on me to become an artist. It was a decision that I made on my own, but I did feel a lot of pressure to become successful as it was my decision, knowing how difficult it is to survive as one.
What, if any, adversities have you faced in your career or life in general, and how did they shape the artist you are today?
When I was 12, my parents divorced. It was hard – especially because divorce was taboo in my Korean culture. I remember feeling mostly embarrassed and afraid that my friends at school would find out and gossip. I felt as if I swallowed a huge rock and it was sitting in my chest all the time. It took me a long time to feel okay about it. I was always shy, but the divorce had a big impact. I learned to be a more considerate and understanding person. It made me curious about others’ stories and willing to listen if they wanted to share. Also, I felt compelled to share my stories that are relevant to others out there.
How do you keep your artistic spirit refreshed, even when under the pressure of production deadlines or life challenges?
Never stop experimenting, and be curious; give yourself room to grow but also give yourself credit for how far you’ve come. There will always be challenges in life, and I try to use art as an outlet for those difficult times, and it’s important to connect with people that make you who you truly are.
Why is an organization like WIA important?
I’ve always been an advocate for underrepresented communities and women’s rights. It’s so important to have an organization like Women in Animation because it will provide a place for minorities to be connected, feel safe and embrace themselves.
How did this assignment for WIA @ Annecy come to you, and how has it evolved?
I’m so happy to answer this question because I have a colleague, Hsiang who I deeply admire and recommended me for this assignment. It meant so much to me. I’ve been creating content that is geared towards women and women’s rights so this project was a perfect fit for me and it was an absolute joy to work with Erin, Jinko, Marge and Tracey.
What message do you hope to convey through this art?
Let’s celebrate and recognize women in animation!! Because we don’t do it enough.
What advice do you have for young people looking at animation or other artistic industries as their career field?
First of all, growth is growth no matter how small, because there will be times when you feel stuck or nothing seems to be working but know you are still growing. And I would encourage you to deep dive into your inner self and find your own visual voice so that you will share and connect as who you really are.
Any other thoughts or advice you wish to share with our membership?
Believe in yourself. You are braver than you think, more talented than you know, and capable of more than you can imagine.