Posted Nov 19th 2007 by

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An interview with
CHRISTOPHER LEEwords by , November 2007

California-based illustrator and designer Chris Lee has been busy of late, doing all manner of projects right across the design spectrum. But he was able to spare us some time to answer some questions and shed some light on the mind inside The Beast.

Hello and welcome to Thunder Chunky. How do we find you today?

Hello! I’m actually pretty tired these days.

Tell us about yourself in 3 easy-to-follow steps.

Step 1: Welcome the morning sunshine
Step 2: Draw pictures all day
Step 3: Eat, sleep, repeat

It’s fair to say you’re a fairly productive guy. Recently you’ve done editorial illustration for Computer Arts Magazine, you’ve contributed to the upcoming Cereal Killers book, you’ve got your own range of vinyl toys… all this whilst also working on some top motion work over at Buck. Do you ever get tired?

I guess when you put it like that, I really do work too much! Yikes! I think the only way I make it through the day is crazy time management. I try to take advantage of all my time to get something done. Although I get a chance to work on a lot of cool projects (both during my day job and on my own time with freelance work), it does tax my “free” time quite a bit. I won’t lie, I could use a nice vacation.

Christopher Lee Studio Photo

A snapshot of Chris’ studio space

Which artists inspire you?

I’ll just list them since it’d be a separate essay if I were to explain why each of these artists inspire me… and no one wants to read all that, haha, so here’s my partial inspiration list: Charley Harper, Lou Romano, Craig McCraken, TADO, Pete Fowler, Rolito, Jon Klassen, Ronnie Del Carmen and Toru Fukuda.

One of the best bits about your site is the fact that you show the concept sketches for a lot of your work. Which do you enjoy more, the initial sketching phase or when you move on to the computer and start to add colour?

I am definitely an advocate of process. I feel the beginning is just as important as your polished final product. I know a lot of people don’t like to show early brainstorms or concept work because they’re embarrassed at the quality of it all. However, you should never be ashamed to show how you got to your final destination. As far as which stage I enjoy more, that’s a tough one. The organic process of sketching out an idea is very rewarding especially when you realize the last sketch you did is “the one”. That single moment where you have decided on your strongest concept makes bringing it to life on the computer that much more enjoyable.

Christopher Lee Computer Arts Editorial

Concept sketch and final illustration for Computer Arts Magazine

What’s your favourite kind of pencil?

I’m a fan of mechanical pencils with HB lead.

As a kid everyone was a Star Wars fan. How much fun was it putting together characters for the style guide?

You never really grow out of being a Star Wars fan. It’s one of those things that just ends up staying with you forever. The opportunity to work on the Star Wars brand was probably one of the best moments in my career. I got a cool personal tour of the facilities out in Marin county and had lunch on the porch of George Lucas’ famous white ranch house. It was all very surreal.

Christopher Lee Star Wars Style Guide

Star Wars style guide

What do you think is the most ambitious or difficult illustration you’ve ever tackled?

Probably the Honda ATV print ad. In the brief, the agency were very specific about what they needed illustrated and I only had five days to complete the job. It sounds like a normal situation for most freelancers, but it was a big challenge to illustrate the numerous geographic and outdoor cultural details of the United Kingdom while maintaining a consistent aesthetic.

I read an interview a while back where you mentioned that you’d love to work with TADO. You got that opportunity for the “Horror On Tour Show”. Do you take back what you said in your earlier interview?

Yes. Every time I talk to the TADOs, I feel like I’m losing a little more of my sanity haha. I joke of course. They are a very talented duo and I think our collaboration was successful in every way. Go Sheffield!

Christopher Lee Horror On Tour

One of the collaborations with TADO for Horror On Tour

Jokes aside, it must be great being able to work alongside people who you respect and admire. Do you have any more collaborations lined up?

Each time I try to collaborate with someone, it always falls through because I get super busy and I can’t devote enough time to it. I guess the only “in progress” collaboration right now would be with Pete Harrison (AEIKO). We were planning on doing a good hybrid piece mixing fashion photography, illustration, and some photoshop magic. I’m surprised he hasn’t killed me yet for lagging so much haha.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve bought recently?

A Lubitel 166B medium format camera. Good ol’ camera Russian technology at its finest. Also, I just picked up the bad ass Predator 2 figure from Hot Toys… in my opinion possibly the most accurate movie depiction of the Predator to date.

Christopher Lee Monster

From the Monster, My Friend print series

What would be on the Chris Lee soundtrack?

Shape of Broad Minds – “Electric Blue”
Rosie Thomas – “October”
Marco Polo – “Nostalgia”
Anything from Nujabes
Luiz Bonfa – “Cantiga Da Vida”
Tennis Hero – “Alone”
Socratic – “Blend In”

Finally, what’s the one thing everybody should do today?

Bring their lunch to work. Seriously, you don’t know how much money you’ll save each month, so break out those brown bags!

You can check out more of Chris’ wide world of illustrations by visiting his site. He also has an online shop where you can buy some brilliant prints, amongst other things. Well worth a look!


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