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Tracy J. Lee

Tracy J. Lee

Meet designer and illustrator from San Francisco, Tracy J. Lee.

Image: Laila Moiré-Selvage

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a designer at a branding agency during the day and a freelance illustrator at night.   

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

SF is such a diverse and vibrant city where there are new things to explore every corner. I love that it’s rich in history and culture, while also being innovative and future-forward.

 

SF is such a diverse and vibrant city where there are new things to explore every corner. I love that it’s rich in history and culture, while also being innovative and future-forward.

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

The best thing is that I always feel inspired and career-driven, as it is the city that I moved for a new job, not for college (Chicago) or because I was born there (Seoul). There is a sense of community as an artist in SF, where I feel accepted and appreciated for doing what I love. There really isn’t a worst thing, only that sometimes I feel nostalgic for the previous places I’ve lived in.

 

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Free, Inspiring, Confident

 

How did you start your career in art?

I’ve always loved to draw and make things as a child, so it wasn’t a surprise to anyone or myself that I would grow up to become an artist. I went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for college and studied Visual Communication, which encompassed a lot of fields that I wanted to pursue, like graphic design, animation and illustration. I’m truly grateful for my professors in college, who introduced me to many creative opportunities in Chicago once I graduated. I had a chance to intern and work at various studios with different expertise such as branding, advertising, and motion/film design, which allowed me to find what I was most passionate about. As for my illustration career, social media took a huge part in helping me gain audience and work. I first started posting my art on Tumblr around three years ago, where I met a community of talented and like-minded artists who motivated me to keep drawing. Gradually, art directors and companies who saw my art online started reaching out to me. It’s truly amazing how a single post could have the potential to be reached by so many different people.

 

I first started posting my art on Tumblr around three years ago, where I met a community of talented and like-minded artists who motivated me to keep drawing. Gradually, art directors and companies who saw my art online started reaching out to me. It’s truly amazing how a single post could have the potential to be reached by so many different people.

 

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

I’m lucky that my family was supportive of my dream to become an artist from the very beginning. They would always say, happiness is what matters most.

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

A major aspiration I have is to publish my own story or a film that can inspire and instill hope in some ways. I’ve always loved to tell my own stories through visuals and symbolism. Some of my favorite personal projects involve short animations imbued with a sense of enigma and tension, where you see a lone figure vanishing into dust or an astronaut staring at a mysterious statue. People have reached out to me and said that they were able to relate to the emotions captured in my art. For me, that’s the best gift as an artist.

 

A major aspiration I have is to publish my own story or a film that can inspire and instill hope in some ways.

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

I don’t have a specific person, but I would love to collaborate with a fashion brand. Becoming a fashion designer was actually my first dream I had as a young girl, and it would be amazing to see my design or illustrations on a wearable garment someday.

 

How would you describe the women around you?

They are brave, independent and compassionate. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by many inspiring women in my life, starting with my mother who means the world to me. She’s always been there every step of the way, and I wouldn’t be the same without her love and support. I’ve met the most amazing female mentors during my career path as well, who helped me see that talent is one thing, but hard work and persistence can truly transform you into the best version of yourself. 

 

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

When I was younger, my parents gifted me with a book of Western impressionist artists, which not only inspired me to keep drawing but also helped me become more aware of the art culture around the world. I realize that I wasn’t very connected to my own culture as a creative and that a lot of the artists I admired were predominantly male. It really shows how important it is to have a strong community that supports young girls to pursue their creative passion.

 

Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

There are certainly times when it’s challenging for me to be more assertive, especially because I am more of a listener than a speaker. In a world that often equates outspokenness to one’s ability, I used to see my introversion as a weakness that hindered me from expressing my ideas. But now, I accept it as something that is part of me and strive to keep a balance between being outspoken and thoughtful. And that the important thing is to be confident in yourself and trusting that your ideas matter in the world.

 

It’s okay to pursue what makes you happy. Expectations may ground you sometimes, but your mind is the only limit.

 

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

It’s okay to pursue what makes you happy. Expectations may ground you sometimes, but your mind is the only limit.

 

 

Photos courtesy of Tracy J. Lee.

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