We are already at the 9th Cosmic Convos, the last of the year. I hope you had a merry Christmas and can start the new year full of positive energy, and maybe some extra pounds. Last year was a good year for NFTs. I myself started my journey in this year. I have met many lovely artists and collectors and have already collected a lot of art. I’m very excited for what’s to come next year. I myself have some interesting developments underway and I can’t wait to tell you! Let’s make it a great year together!
The last but not least artist of the year is Rik Lee. I got to know Rik through Twitter (as I meet most artists, haha)! His work contains many sources of inspiration, but his greatest inspiration is daily life. I love to see which, sometimes everyday, outfits he chooses for his art. I also love the details like the tattoos he draws on his characters. With his years of experience as an illustrator and his hard work attitude, I think he is well on his way to achieving his goal of artistic and financial freedom. I can’t wait to see how his collection continues to expand over the years.
Rei: Hi Rick. I am very curious about who is behind the beautiful art. Can you tell me a little more about yourself?
Rik: Hi Rei! Okay, I’ll begin with something I rarely tell anyone; my full name is Richard George Barnett Lee. Since I was a kid, everyone’s called me Rik. I was born in a place called Paraparaumu, which is in New Zealand. I grew up in Melbourne, Australia and I currently live and draw in Bali, Indonesian. When people ask I say I’m from Australia because that’s where I’ve spent the majority of my life but I actually have no Australian blood. My Mum’s family is from New Zealand and my Dad’s family is from the UK. As a kid I was obsessed with drawing, skateboarding and surfing. Everyday I was outside tearing up the neighborhood and getting into mischief but at night you could find me in my room, quietly and contently drawing. I filled sketchbook after sketchbook and was forever dreaming up stories and characters. Come to think of it, not that much has changed! I’m still obsessed with drawing, skateboarding and surfing and I’m still forever daydreaming.
I studied graphic design but after graduating I focused on making it as an illustrator. It’s not been an easy road to be honest. I spent years working very long days and late nights. No days off. Sketching away in my Melbourne shared house bedroom / studio, scraping by and hoping for a break. However, with hard work, persistence, perseverance and a little luck I’ve slowly but surely built a career and a lifestyle that I love, by doing something that I love. These days, I live by the beach with my wife Regina and our 3 dogs, Tiaki, Susu and India, in the beautiful home we built together.
Rei: What are your favorite things to do besides making art?
Rik: Hanging with Reggie and the dogs. Surfing. Traveling. Drinking coffee. Enjoying a drink and a good conversation with friends. Playing records and dancing badly.
Rei: Tell me how you started making your art? How has your specific style evolved over the years?
Rik: I started drawing as soon as I could pick up a crayon! My Dad used to bring home these huge rolls of paper from his work, which I’d spread out beneath my Mums feet in the kitchen and draw this epic spaceship battles: Aliens, UFO’s, laser beams, the works. I loved it! In my early teens I got really into skateboarding. My friends and I were obsessed with skating and everything associated with the subculture, like punk rock music, streetwear, photography and art. This was in the 90’s and there was a lot of good stuff happening in those scenes. I’d collect all the skateboard magazines, which were super inspiring to me. I’d try to dress like my favorite skaters, listen to the same music and draw art like the designs they had on their skateboard decks. I discovered artists from that world whose work I admired like Raymond Petittbon and Jim Phillips, which inspired me to try drawing in a similar, graphic illustration style. After high school I studied graphic design and continued to develop my illustration skills while learning how to draw digitally. Back then, I rode the train to school and I’d sketch the other passengers, focusing on their clothing, which led to an interest in fashion illustration. I began drawing people, mainly women and focused on improving my portraiture skills.
So… long story short, my art is really just a big mix of all these influences and interests. I combine a love of graphic art with fashion illustration and portraiture. I mix traditional materials, like pencils and pastels with digital techniques. My work evolves as I refine my technical skills. It’s a constant, ongoing process and I love (almost) every minute of it!
Rei: What are your sources of inspiration for creating your art?
Rik: Ohhh, there’s so many! My biggest inspiration is everyday life. I like to celebrate people, our physical diversity and internal complexities. When I draw, I’m inspired by music and coffee.
Rei: How long do you work on your art every day and how exactly does this process work?
Rik: When I was younger and building my career I kept crazy working hours. Now, I try to maintain a healthier work / life balance. The dogs wake me up around 6am and I get up and head outside straight away. I like to spend the first few hours of my day outdoors being active. I’ll start my working day around 9-10am and I’m generally in my studio until around 6 or 7pm. I’ll take little breaks to see what’s in the fridge, chase the dogs around, check the surf or enjoy a drink with a friend, but most of the time I’m drawing. I rarely work at night; instead I like to spend the evenings with Regina and our 3 dogs, cooking nice food and lounging around.
As for my process, I make coffee, put on music and just… work. There’s always something to do. I find if I stay busy, good ideas and inspiration will eventually come to me. Some days are better than others of course, but it’s all about showing up. I show up every day, weekends included. It’s a good thing I love what I do!
Rei: Do you have a certain vibe that you want to convey with your art?
Rik: I like to tell stories within my work, so there’s always a strong narrative element. My MADWORLD collection explores the sad, beautiful, violent and wonderful world that we carry inside ourselves. It’s about dealing with our internal demons and there’s a dark, dreamlike, romantic vibe. I use my Foundation Gallery as an outlet for selected works. The themes can be more varied than the work in MADWORLD. Once again, I like to tell stories in the art. The narrative may not be obvious and it’s always open to the viewer’s interpretation, but there’s always meaning and intent hidden within. Ultimately I want the viewer to feel an emotional connection with the work.
Rei: Since when did you start making NFTs of your art? How do you like the journey in the NFT space so far?
Rik: I began my NFT journey in October and it’s been a wild ride. I’m shocked by how fast everything moves in this space, it’s constantly shifting and changing, the technology is ever evolving. It’s exciting and inspiring but I find it overwhelming at times. It can be difficult not getting caught up in the FOMO. I’ll check Twitter and everyone seems to be making, selling or collecting great art all the time. Which, in turn, makes me feel as though I need to work faster, sell more or collect more. It’s definitely not good for my anxiety! Haha.
I try to stay calm and move forward at my own pace. Reminding myself that it’s not about quick sales or volume of sales. It’s about making art that I love and building a body of quality work that I’m proud of. The coolest thing about the NFT space is the NFT community. I’ve met so many great, supportive people and I’ve discovered loads of awesome new artists. It’s comforting to know that there are so many like minded creatives out there. It’s as though we’re all realizing the incredible potential of this technology together, building it as we go by making and sharing something that we love – art! Which is a powerful, beautiful thing.
Rei: Do you have any specific goals you want to achieve in the NFT space?
Rik: Freedom! I hope that the NFT space gives me freedom artistically and financially. An opportunity to move away from commercial, freelance work and to focus purely on making my own art. That’s the dream: To spend my time making art that I love while supporting the people that I love.
Rei: Which artists do you look up to the most, in the NFT world and in general?
Rik: Ohhh, so many! Haha! I’m worried that if I start naming names I’ll forget people. I look up to the artists who have welcomed and supported me on this journey. It’s daunting embarking on something new, so having people reach out and offer advice while being super supportive and encouraging has been really cool. I admire people like that and now I hope I can do the same for new artists who join this space.
Rei: What do you think the world will look like in the next 10/25 years? What place do you think NFTs will have in this world?
Rik: Wow! That’s a tough question. I’m worried about how weird the world will look in 1 year let alone another 25 years! Haha
I’m an optimist though so I’ll say that we’re heading toward a utopian future. We’re taking an awkward road there at the moment, but hopefully things will improve and us NFT lovers may be at the forefront of this positive shift.
You asked me to be creative so I’ll say that NFT’s create a massive shift in global wealth. The rich, old jerks who currently rule the world will be overtaken by a younger, vibrant generation of progressive, creative minds who will work to unite people, celebrating the wonderful diversity of the human race and the earth we’re so fortunate to inhabit. That sounds corny but it will be awesome! And if I’m wrong, it’s okay because technology will be so advanced that we can escape to a virtual world of our choosing at any time while the real world burns to the ground.
Rei: Could you give me a sneak peak of something new you are currently working on?
Rik: This is the new piece that I’ll be dropping very soon…
Rei: Lastly, where can people find more about you and your art?