Interview: Ein Lee

by Rebecca Silverman, Sep 4th 2012
Ein Lee's career is the ultimate Internet dream. Self-trained primarily in digital media, Lee did as so many other aspiring artists do and signed up for Deviant Art. For her, this was the first real step in what has become a successful artistic career. Discovered by French publisher Nobi Nobi, Lee began illustrating their series of Japanese-inspired fairy tales. Today she continues to draw for Nobi Nobi while pursuing her studies at university while maintaining but her Deviant Art site and her own professional one, both filled with her exquisite works.

Lee was at Japan Expo signing copies of her books, "Peony Princess," "The Secret of the White Crane," and "Enchanted Bowl Princess," at Nobi Nobi's booth. Fluent in English and a generally friendly, delightful person, she sat down with me for a few minutes for a chat.






ANN: Your career is both an amazing success story and the dream of many young artists. Can you tell me a little about how you got started?

Even right now it's unbelievable. But uh I really think having Deviantart as a platform to the Internet to get your art out there, that's really what helped me. On my own I don't think I'd have been able to promote my art that much, but because of community I was able to get through to a lot of people. I'm still very surprised and very thankful.


ANN: You work in both traditional and digital media. Do you prefer one over the other? What makes you decide what media to use for a given project?

In general I prefer to work digitally now. It's mostly a matter of practicality and efficiency. For traditional work you have to go out and buy paints, and with watercolors, for example, you can't erase things. On the computer it's easier to send files and to change things and all that.


ANN: I couldn't help noticing that you had several beautiful fan art illustrations for Disney's “The Little Mermaid,” and I've seen Little Red Riding Hood pop up in some of your other artwork. Are fairy tales an interest of yours?

Yes, definitely. I love fairy tales a lot. I collect children's illustrated books and most of them tend to be fairy tales. I think because they're so iconic they have certain imagery that people can connect to because its something familiar and you can do a new take on it whenever you do an illustration. And it just happens that Nobi Nobi publishes Japanese style fairy tales and it was just a coincidence. It was my dream to draw fairy tales and they came to me.




ANN: Following up on that, do you have a favorite fairy tale?

A favorite fairy tale? Off the top of my head it would be “Hansel and Gretel” because I love the idea of the candy house; it would be very beautiful. I love characters because they're strong.


ANN: Who are some of your artistic influences? Are they primarily manga or manhua artists, or did some other styles have an impact on you?

I've been influenced by everything really. I love photography and illustration from all different periods, art deco art nouveau, even impressionism, comics, anime and all that. I think it's important to see new things and to keep an open mind even from real life little things that you see on the train each day, all it can be inspiring.


ANN: You're currently a college student. Are you majoring in art or an art related field?

No, I'm studying foreign language right now. A lot of people ask me about that, and I have my personal reasons. It is a source of inspiration to me because we read a lot Victorian literature and Greek Classics that I wouldn't normally read on my own, but because we're forced to read it I mean, you start to get an appreciation for those kinds of things.


ANN: You've said that fashion is one of your interests. Is there any specific style or time period that you like?

For fashion I love the Victorians. There's something about the refinement of the clothing that you can't find these days. The guys really knew how to dress, and the ladies – I mean, corsets were torture, but they looked great and I think I really love the whole steampunk thing.



ANN: What is your favorite recent anime or manga series?

Since I don't have as much time I do follow some of the better ones, like right now I'm following Kuroko no Basket. It's actually quite good. When I saw the promotional image, I was like, “What is this? This looks like a bad yaoi sports anime.” But everyone kept telling me it was really good, and it is! And I hear that the manga is a bestselling title in Japan.


ANN: You have a very detailed tutorial on your website about creating digital art. Do you have any tips for traditional media artists?

I can't say I'm confident in any specific traditional media, so I guess my best advice would be to try it and not be afraid to fail!


ANN: Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for other aspiring artists?

I think it's very important to look at art, no matter what it is. It doesn't have to be fine art, it could be photographs and cosplayers – anything that's visual. Visual stimulation is very important. Its great to learn from all styles. A lot of people they like to pigeon hole themselves to an anime or manga style, but if you really want to make it and make art your career, you have to be able to do a lot of different things. So draw a lot and look at a lot of art. Art doesn't come from a vacuum; it has to have influences and inspirations, so you need people to follow.



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