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Based around the evolving idea of discovery with each artistic piece pulling inspiration from the ordinary to the fantastic, Samantha Lee is a San Francisco pen and ink illustrator with a phenomenal eye for texture and proportion. Lee’s work represents her own self-discovery and quiet moments lost in time. Never planned out, each piece is mixed media with a focus on pen and ink, drawn on a whim section by section. That sort of artistic spontaneity usually requires the use of erasable pencils, but there’s not a hint of graphite to be found in Lee’s work.

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Lee finds inspiration through people who “keep at it in life” and work hard until they make something of themselves. Her hope is that when people examine her work, they go through an experience. She wants to evoke feelings of happiness, memories, revelations, inspiration and good vibes when people view her art. It’s her way of giving back to those who toil away endlessly, day and night, to achieve their goals and make something of their life.

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Lee categorizes her work under a “feel good” genre. However, her works go far beyond anything you’ve seen since the days of famous pen and ink illustrators like David Gentlemen and John Sewell. Here’s a little back story on this exploratory artist, her inspiration behind her images and concepts, as well as her vision for the future.

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Where Lee’s Inspiration Began: “Look Twice, Draw Once”

Lee’s work started when she was going to school for textile design, however, she was also required to take an assortment of classes such as sewing, color design and fashion illustration. One instructor in particular had stuck with Lee during these formative years. He was a fashion illustrator, but it wasn’t the techniques or skills he taught that influenced her – it was his persistency that helped shape Lee. She states, “I would sit there drawing in class and look defeated. He would walk over, look at my work and then say, ‘keep going, you draw the wrong line, look again, redraw it.’ He would place a transparency over my work and draw the correct line, show me how to look at the model, then take the transparency away and then he told me to do it. So, when I draw, I draw it only once. Look twice, draw once. If I mess up, I keep drawing.”

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After Lee’s formal training ended, she and her roommates would sit around the living room and work diligently on different artistic projects. This was truly the beginning of Lee’s love of collaging. Lee explains, “Collaging didn’t have a limit with paper, I loved that you could take objects and mix them into a playful wall piece. I would have more art pieces than I could imagine, but they were solely ink or solely collage. That’s when I started pushing the process of mixing the two together.”

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One day Lee shared her work with a friend named Steve who owned a salon and the rest, as they say, is history. Obviously recognizing true talent, Steve offered the undiscovered artist his space to set up her first art show. Initially, Lee was a bit nervous about the whole experience. She reveals, “I had no experience in shows. I didn’t even know I had to make flyers. I made a Facebook event two weeks before the show, and Steve thought I was crazy because it was pretty late in the game. I invited everyone I could remember last minute.” And to Lee’s surprise – everyone showed up, and she ended the night selling all of her pieces. “It felt amazing,” she admits. “I never thought that anyone really cared about what I did. I just make art because that’s what I love.”

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Lee’s Imagery And Concepts: It’s All About Discovery

Lee’s past work revolved around themes of discovery and exploration. From cowboys and Indians to an astronaut lost in space to deep sea divers – the thread that tied all of these pieces together cohesively, was that of discovery. Lee states, “I think that our technology is so advanced these days that when I think of discovery, I like to look back in the past and think about the boundaries that people had to break or even work around.”

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Her Vision For The Future

Lee’s greatest challenge at the moment, is having enough time for everything and wondering “what are the next steps?” Always eager to evolve, Lee spent the last year constantly drawing and striving to understand herself. She strongly feels she has a specific pattern and technique, and looks forward to maturing this method through style and subject matter.I’m kind of all over the place creatively,” Lee explains. “I’ve been illustrating inspirational movie scenes and creating collages of geometric mountain scenes.” In addition to working on eclectic collections of art, Lee also started practicing ceramics. “I try to go to the ceramics studio everyday and I’ve also just completed a production run of jeans for the shop I work for called AB Fits,” she states.

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Lee’s secret to finding a balance in her artistic recipe? She reveals, “At this time in my art life, I’m not afraid. I work on art because it’s for me. I don’t do it to necessarily satisfy a client.  That’s the beauty of being an independent artist. I’d like to see my work in your home. It’s something to take and put on your wall for inspiration. I don’t want my work to feel so expensive or so significant that it can’t be held and touched and loved. It should be like a little treasure you found and want to store it in your own treasure chest. Art is a simple interruption from the everyday.”

As for Lee’s future goals? She’d like to own her own business, but not necessarily in drawing.  She wants that to continue to “be pure and do that for the joy of it.”  

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One thing is for certain: she feels just as strongly about her personal life as she does about her art. They both need to make you “feel good and make an impact.” She also adds,”Surrounding yourself with good, trustworthy friends and family, that is the foundation of a happy and healthy life. And if someone sees my work and then goes on to write more, draw more or create more, then that’s making a difference.”

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You can follow Samantha Lee and view her weekly works at @samleehello on Instagram.

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