5×5: Rik Lee

We’ve been having a great time exploring behind-the-scenes with different artists from different places in the form of 5x5s. Today we’re getting a peek into Rik Lee‘s life on the other side of the world, in Melbourne, Australia. Despite the distance, many aspects of Rik’s daily routine are universally familiar. Strong coffee is an integral part of his creative process. He listens to all sorts of music while he creates – faster music during the day and slower music at night, everything from punk rock to film scores. But he also gets to do something awesome every morning that we can’t here – he goes surfing every morning before starting the work day. And as for the tattoo artist whose work he’s most in awe of? It’s currently fellow Melbourne resident Emily Rose Murray. Find out more about the enigma that is Rik Lee in his own words:


1) Was there ever an alternative potential career, or did you just know that you were going to be an artist?

There were a lot of different things I wanted to do when I was growing up. As a kid, I originally wanted to be a garbage man (trash man). Later I thought it’s be cool to be an astronaut and I was hoping to be a professional skateboarder through the majority of my teens. Looking back, I was never really good at much else bedsides drawing. After high school I studied graphic design, but even there I couldn’t wait to complete my design homework so I could concentrate on my own drawing. Toward the end of the design course I began to pick up my first freelance illustration gigs. After graduating, I never used my design degree and have managed to make a living solely through my art work which has been really cool.

2) Animals feature rather prominently in a lot of your art. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

I think I’d be a dog. I like dogs. And I spend a lot of time alone working at home so when friends visit or housemates return I always come running to the door to say hi, a little like a dog wagging its tail, happy to see you. I own a black labrador called Tiaki. We spend a lot of time together. Apparently we look alike. We both have long noses and expressive eyebrows.

3) If you’ve had one, what’s been your biggest “artist disaster”?

Oh man, I’ve had more than one! My graffiti career comes to mind. It was fairly short-lived. My friends and I got busted by the cops with our backpacks full of stolen paint cans before we even made it to the wall we were planning on painting!

4) Let’s talk about your style – how did you arrive at it? What aspects have had significant influences on it?

Ultimately my style is derived from the mediums I use, my past and current influences. It’s something I’ve been working on for a long time and something that continues to develop and evolve. I don’t have a conscious plan on where my work is heading stylistically. I prefer to just draw and draw and let the process guide me from one illustration to the next.

Pencil is my medium of choice. It’s been that way since I was a kid and it remains the medium I feel most confident with. I think the medium itself has had a big impact on my work stylistically. There are a lot of limitations with pencil work. For awhile it really bugged me and I experimented with different mediums like painting. But man, I suck at painting! I’ve learnt to embrace pencil as my primary medium. The more I draw the more technically proficient I become. It’s all just a learning process for me. Learning to incorporate more colour into my work, learning to capture more life in my work. It’s a matter of trial and error (a little too much error!) and I feel as though I’m constantly improving which is satisfying.

5) What’s coming up next in your world? What are you really excited about?

I’m actually getting married in a few weeks. I’m pretty excited (read: nervous) about that! In art-related news, I’ll be working alongside my wife-to-be on a range of clothing and homeware items featuring my work. We’ve been busy making samples which have been coming together really well so I’m excited to launch the project.

BONUS QUESTION: The weirdest/coolest/most prized possession in my studio is:

I have this really cool, 1980s, glow in the dark Ghostbusters cup. I have no idea where it came from but I’ve been using it as a pencil holder for about 15 years!


You can find more photos of Rik’s life on his Instagram (@rikleeillustration) or deck out your gear with his art from his Nuvango profile.

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