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tracyjlee.com

Duration: I work as a designer during the day, but I’ve been freelancing as an illustrator for about one year.

Location: San Francisco, California.

Education: BFA in visual communication from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.

Career path: After graduating from college, I worked as an art director at an ad agency for a few years. Realizing that my true passion was in design and illustration, I moved on to my next chapter as a designer at a branding agency. My freelance illustration career was ultimately jumpstarted about a year ago when art directors from publications and companies discovered my art through social media and various art blogs that showcased my work.

Ever since I made my first post on Tumblr three years ago, I connected with other artists who shared similar interests and aspirations. Being part of the online art community played a huge role in helping me gain a larger audience. I find it amazing how much of an impact social media can have on one’s career, especially in art and design.

You might look outside and find your limits. But look within, and you’ll find that your mind is limitless.”

Artistic influences: I have always been drawn to topics that are surreal and philosophical in nature. When a quote or lyric deeply resonates with me, I get an urge to express that emotion through art and hope that it will also spark a connection with other people. My earliest artistic influences include Salvador Dali, M.C. Escher and Hayao Miyazaki, whose wondrous worlds and stories fueled my childhood imagination. As a young girl who felt different and isolated at times, seeing their art inspired me to accept my uniqueness as they did theirs. Knowing that art can be powerful enough to open up people’s minds to new perceptions has constantly motivated.

Recently, I’ve been inspired by surrealist photography and collages on Instagram. I especially admire artist KangHee Kim, who blurs the line between reality and fantasy. Seeing her work makes me calm and nostalgic but at the same time melancholic, longing for a flitting dream where impossible things can become possible.

Perhaps it’s because I embody two different cultures, but I’m also fascinated by the concept of duality. My art inherently expresses this tension of being in-between, something that became more pronounced since I moved away from my hometown of Seoul. Being influenced by both Eastern and Western views has definitely instilled a unique perspective on how I approach my art stylistically and conceptually.

Favorite project: The series of illustrations I created for WIRED’s Fiction issue in December 2018, as it was my first big commission as an illustrator. I’m really grateful to art director Alyssa Walker for taking a chance on me, even though I had no previous experience as an editorial illustrator. As much as it challenged me, I loved the thrill of learning new things along the way. Seeing my illustrations printed in the magazine was the best Christmas present ever!

Approach: My work is a reflection essay of my own experience of the world around me. While a commissioned illustration may be based on an existing theme or a story, I always imbue it with my own interpretations and values. I love to imprint a part of myself in a piece, and I think this has enabled my art to have that unique, emotive aspect that draws people in.

Aspirations: To see my artwork out in the world, whether it’s on murals or billboards. It thrills me to imagine that my drawing could be part of the community and inspire people in a positive way.

Philosophy: You might look outside and find your limits. But look within, and you’ll find that your mind is limitless. Keep trying one step at a time, because you can be more than who you think you are.

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