On my first few projects I found myself writing and rewriting and rewriting emails, even when I knew the client personally. Deciding what tone you want to use, and even what you want to say, when talking to a client at first can be one of the most daunting elements of starting to freelance. No one really teaches you how to be in charge of your own business emails in the same way they teach you to use photoshop. I most certainly don’t have all of the answers, or particularly outstanding email etiquette, but these are the most important factors I’ve found when communicating with clients.

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BE FRIENDLY

If you’re a good person to work with, people will want to work with you again. It’s that simple. Whilst you should always be professional that doesn’t mean you can’t be pleasant. You probably don’t want to be throwing emojis out there but you do want to have some personality in your messages. That personality can come through in your phrasing, in asking the client about their day (or at least wishing them a good one), or even the occasional joke. Being friendly also comes down to making the client feel like they can approach you, make sure they know at the start that they can come to you with questions and if they do ask you something take the time to answer it properly. The hardest part of this tip is always being patient on the surface, sometimes a project can be frustrating, but you shouldn’t take that out on the client. Talk through any issues as calmly and clearly as you can not only will this help keep the client on side it also, usually, leads to a better solution.

The client is always right, but they’ve hired you for a reason

The age old idea that the client is always right definitely has some merit. They know what they want and you should work to it, it’s their product in the end and they’re the ones paying for it. However, if you think they’re going in the wrong direction or if you’ve got a great idea that lies slightly outside of their brief you should tell them. When you’re hired as a designer you’re not just hired (most of the time) you’re not just hired as a photoshop monkey, you’re hired because you’ve got a brain in your head – use it! 

Be honest

Being honest and transparent is absolutely key to building a good relationship with a client and creating something you can be proud of at the end of it. When I say be honest, be honest in all things. Be honest about what you can do. If there’s something beyond your capabilities or something you’ve never done before let them know. Clients have always seemed to respect me more if I’ve been honest and said X isn’t my strength, but I’m happy to give it a go or I can suggest another way to do it. When you do that you’re showing them that you value the product you’re creating for them and you’re putting their needs first. If you really can’t do it help them find someone else to help. Be honest with your opinion. This is kind of part of the last tip, but if they ask your opinion on a design or and idea, tell them the truth and make sure you’re making something you’re happy with too rather than pandering, even if it’s hard. Be honest with yourself. Make the best work you can, don’t cheat yourself out of making something amazing.

 

Ask Questions

When a client gives you a brief one instinct can be to just take it and run without thinking about it. But asking them about the brief at the start can really make sure you get off on the right foot, and save you a lot of time in the long run. If you can, call them, or meet face to face. I’ve found that’s the best way to get what someone actually wants out of them. Having a proper conversation is also a great way to get the creative juices flowing for you and the client, setting you up for a productive working relationship. Don’t just ask questions at the start of a project either, ask them throughout – especially why questions. If a client doesn’t like something, make sure you know why rather than guessing that way you don’t do it again. One caveat to this is don’t send them 50 emails a day asking a single question, work through what you can and at natural feedback points see what they’re really thinking.

Keep Talking

Don’t just stop talking to your client once you’ve finished working on the project you’re doing, keep in touch. This is a really great way to make sure you have a strong relationship with a client, and are more likely to get work from them in the future. If you see they’re doing something new or interesting send them an email. If they’re running an event show an interest. If you can, ask them for a coffee and catch up if it’s been a while

Putting a price on your work is one of the hardest, and most awkward, parts of freelancing. I’m still pretty uncomfortable doing it, but I am a lot better at it now than I used to be – I hope. Now I’m a couple of years into doing it, this the advice I wish I’d had when I was first starting out.

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FREELANCE DOESN’T MEAN FREE

You deserve to get paid for what you make. That’s it. There are lots of people who will ask you to work for portfolio points, and sometimes the value of what you’ll get out of that is recompense enough. But most of the time it isn’t, and it shouldn’t have to be. If someone else is going to profit from your work, then you should share in that profit. 

THERE’S NO SECRET FORMULA

I spent a lot of time googling ‘how much should I charge as a freelance graphic designer’ to very little avail. There’s no crib sheet out there, because there is no secret formula. Sure it’s important to  see how much other people are charging (you want to at least be in the ball park) but how much you charge will change as you develop, it will change between clients, it will change between jobs, sometimes it will even change within a job. Don’t sweat it. Go with what feels right and appropriate rather than how much you think you should cost.

PRICING BY THE HOUR IS OKAY

When you’re just starting out working by the hour is probably the easiest way to price your work. It feels tangible, and you can give your client proof. There are even apps to help you with it.  

BUT REALLY PRICING BY VALUE IS WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING

First, as you get better at what you do you’ll work faster. So if you’re using a time tracking tool, you’ll start getting paid less for doing better work. That doesn’t make sense at all. Second, how much time a piece of work takes you on a computer isn’t a judge of how much value it will add to your client’s business or the amount of time and training that has gone into you being able to produce that piece of work. If you don’t want to just take my word for it Jake Jorgovan, wrote a great article all about it for Career Foundry.

 

CHARGE MORE THAN YOU THINK

This is the main thing I wish I’d told my younger self. When you start out there is a tendency to undervalue your work, because, well, you undervalue your work. You should have no fear in asking for a bit more than you think, if it’s more than your client can pay I promise they’ll tell you about it. Not only does pricing your work a bit higher than you think mean you get paid more, it also projects a level of confidence and quality to your client.

 

IT GETS EASIER THE MORE YOU TALK ABOUT IT

This really ties into the last point. The more you discuss your pricing, and the more you realise that people will pay you for your work the easier it gets. Discussing pricing up front is key. Make sure whoever you’re speaking to knows what they’ll be paying, and for what up front. When I’m discussing pricing with someone new I like to suggest the number of iterations I’m willing to do for the price quoted, then if we have to do more redesigns I let them know that it will cost more. If a project changes in scale so should your pricing, but you’ve got to be open about it.

 

This is where I’m at right now, but I’m still learning – what else should I know? What else should I be doing?

I’m by no means an expert in starting out as a designer, I’m still only starting out myself. But now I’ve overcome the first hurdle of actually getting going, I thought I’d share how I got started in the hopes that it helps someone who wants to have a go but isn’t sure how.

 

TOOLS

Having the right tools can seem like it’s a big barrier to starting as a designer. You don’t need anything to start at a very very basic level though, you can start to learn a load of the skills you need with a pencil, some paper, a laptop and some creative use of pages. But to properly get started, the only two things I would highly recommend you purchase are Affinity Designer and a tablet. I’ve spoken at length about Affinity Designer, and done a full review, but it’s a really powerful design tool that’s cheaper and easier to pick up than illustrator. It’s very rare that I need to do something that it can’t, and if you’re starting out I can think of no better companion. Adobe Creative Suite remains the gold standard as a design toolset, but it’s a huge investment if you’re just starting out and includes a whole host of things you won’t need and requires a bigger learning curve. The moment I bought my first tablet it changed my world. That might be too far, but it opened a lot of options up for me and made everything I did easier and quicker. You can’t really go wrong with Wacom. You don’t need of their more complex offerings if you’re just starting, I still use the Intuos Pen and Touch. I would recommend going for one that’s around A4 size (usually a Wacom Medium), anything smaller and you don’t get as much creative freedom, anything bigger can be hard to lug around and will obviously be pricier. I think my first tablet was only £20 second hand from eBay, and you can get similar ones today for well under £100. Of course it’s nice to have a camera and a scanner, but those things aren’t essential and you can normally work your way around needing them.

 

PRACTICE

This should be obvious but just make stuff on your own. It develops your skills, allows you to create a style and start to grow a portfolio. Working for yourself is a pressure free way to find out if you actually like designing. Practice tasks you could have a go at are: designing yourself a logo, creating a book cover for your favourite novel, creating an illustrated map of your area, or designing a poster for a band you love.

 

GETTING OUT THERE

I was very lucky that when I decided to get started I was at Uni, so there were loads of things I could get involved with, without having to have very much experience. But if you’re not in such an obviously opportunity rich environment there are still loads of things you can do. First, work on your portfolio – read just make some stuff and get better. Second, there are loads of small projects that can be designed that you don’t realise. Is your work having a social? Ask if you can design the invite. Do you have a friend who has a blog? Ask if you can help them create content. Basically ask people if you can help them, and I promise at least one of them will say yes. Post your work on social media, and try and build a following. Once you’ve got a few of those kinds of projects under your belt try reaching out for bigger things like offering to help charities on Pimp My Cause or bidding for work through sites like 99 Designs.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM YOUR FIRST PROJECT

Every project is different so this is going to be pretty general, but I feel like there are some things you should be prepared for:

  • You’re probably going to go through more redesigns than you expect, this doesn’t mean you’re not doing well, most projects take a few goes to get right.
  • You might not be instantly inspired. Going from working on your own stuff to project for someone else is a bit of a change, not least because you might not instantly be interested in what you’re working on. But taking a breath then having a good google and a brainstorm normally solves that.
  • It’s going to be time intensive. If you’re still developing your technical skills things are just going to take some time to do.
  • It’s not all going to go to plan. As with the first point, this doesn’t mean you’re not doing well. There are always external factors you can’t control that can affect a project. You’ve got to be prepared to adapt to whatever happens and deviate from what you thought should happen at the start.

 

JUST DO IT

My final thing is just to have a go. It’s so easy to say “I’m not good enough” “There are too many other people with more experience doing” “It I don’t have this I don’t have that” “I’ll start when I have more free time”. As Walt Disney said “the way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing”

It’s the end of the week which means its the end of my series of throw back interviews. I don’t want to say I’ve saved the best until last, but I definitely think this was the interview I was most excited to get to do.

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PORTRAIT WITH A SPECTRUM 4/CHAD WYS

Chad Wys is one of my favourite contemporary artists. I tried to start this article with something that sounded more professional than that, but I thought I should just be honest. His work is conceptually focused without being aesthetically compromised, it’s approachable without being dumbed down, and it’s fun without ever lacking gravitas.

After Wys completed Masters at Illinois State University, his studies in art theory, criticism and philosophy led to an interest in conceptualism, minimalism and the postmodern as well as the idea of “objecthood”. A major theme in his work, “objecthood”, for Wys, covers questions of “how we decorate our lives with arbitrary as well as meaningful things; how we objectify the ones we love and the strangers we see; how we objectify pain and death; how we objectify complex and sensitive cultural histories.”

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CAUTION GOYA/CHAD WYS

Although he describes himself as an “apprehensive artist”, the immediate impact of his adept use of colour and form mean it’s hard to imagine his skill going to waste. When working canvases of readymade works Wys either commits to a completely complementary or a caustically contradictory colour palette. The “aggressive” addition of foreign colour to the familiar, is Wys’s way of creating new meaning from the ensuing tension between ‘paint’ and ‘canvas’. This satisfying visual disharmony is a form of destruction in its own right, asking the audience to question their own response to reviewing a reclaimed object. It is the erection of these barriers of colour “between the viewer and the object through which one must negotiate an understanding of what is both present and hidden” that Wys sees as his “distinctive vocabulary suitable for not only sharing ideas but provoking serious deliberation in the viewer”

“Sure, I’ve got some ideas I want to get across, and aesthetics will always be my main tool for doing just that, but it’s out of my hands by the time it gets to you.”

His most popular pieces feature reproductions of images like those he saw in the “picture books devoted to 19th and 20th century painting” that captured his imagination at a young age which have been reworked and reimagined. In his choices of media Wys experiments with mixing the technological and the traditional with a view “to blur the boundaries between the material and the digital”. This range of visual sources, styles and suggestions make the audience unquestionably aware of the reappropriation at work in front of them. Consequently, the marks that Wys leaves on these readymades can’t help but to instantly evoke images of “R.Mutt 1917” signed on a urinal in their sentiment and often their line quality. These acts of applying contemporary ideas and marks to objects from the past plays with ideas of social constructs, meaning and influence. Wys strikes up this multifaceted conversation with the viewer to engage them into considering their own conceptions of object ownership as a marker of both social and self worth.

“When people get angry at me for “stealing” and/or “vandalizing” another artist’s “hard work,” they unwittingly underscore the complex web of problems at play in our visual world, since, really, I’m doing nothing of the sort; quite the contrary in most cases, I’m pointing out that the original was “vandalized” the moment it was reproduced”

Additionally, Wys only works on mass reproductions of works further raising questions of both image ownership and what it truly means for a work to be an original, especially “in the age of the Internet reproductions, which are now digitally transmitted instantly and endlessly, are more present and more malleable than ever.” Wys warns us as observers to “be as vigilant as ever to distinguish between aesthetics and context, form and function, and the re-presentation of likenesses and the disassociation from referents.”

“Processing “life” and art through a screen requires a good deal of adaptation, as does presenting one’s “life” and one’s art through various screens.  I choose to look at that sort of adaptation as an opportunity, not a compromise.”

But, ultimately, what lies in Wys’s work is entirely in your hands as “in the end as in the beginning [he is decidedly postmodern leaving] the activity, reception, and understanding of my work entirely in the viewer’s hands.”

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GARAGE SALE PICTURE OF AN ENGLISH OFFICER/CHAD WYS

You’re currently on Twitter, Tumblr, Behance, Society6, Etsy and you have your own website. Why did you feel it was necessary to cover so many different social media outlets, is it a case of simply ‘getting your name out there’ or do they serve different purposes for you?

Don’t forget the behemoth: Facebook.  Superficially, each platform is suited to different modes of information, and so they cause people to interact differently even with identical content.  The same people can follow me on each platform but expect a different level, or style, of engagement from each.  For example, I’ve found that the casual thoughts I tend to Tweet don’t go over quite as well on Facebook or Tumblr (Twitter being a space for short, subtle observations), and the images I share aren’t generally as effective on Twitter as opposed to a visually-rich platform like Tumblr.

To a large extent proliferating out onto multiple social networks is an effort to be seen and read by as many people as possible, what is your motivation behind gaining an audience?

Networking and name recognition has never been a goal of mine, and it still isn’t.  Primarily, I enjoy the process of communication and I enjoy aspects of the different ways of interacting that each of the these platforms provides.  Ultimately, I see some value in sharing my thoughts and creations in this way.  There are still more platforms for me to try and still others I’ve determined aren’t as useful.  However, I think one ought to use these tools responsibly because drowning in the deep end of narcissism is easy.

More and more artists today are putting their work online, do you think an online presence is essential to being a successful (commercially or otherwise) at present?

I doubt it’s essential.  The art world still seems to be dominated by the politics of collecting and selling and the influence of subjectivity from a select few, which still seems to originate in particular real-world, geographic hubs like New York, London, LA, et al.  But I think being technologically-present, -aware, and -fluent will always be useful, especially for communicators such as artists (and especially for emerging artists).

It’s obvious that the Internet is not a fad and that it’s only the most powerful communications tech the world has ever known.  An artist who doesn’t wish to exploit that premise is, for whatever reason, proactively invested in preserving traditions of the past.  That’s their prerogative and I certainly won’t judge them harshly for it; there are good reasons to base one’s practice and the reception of one’s work in the material world.  However, I think the Internet is so pervasive and so utterly powerful that it has become the norm.  To not have a portfolio website and to be a visual artist is to be a kind of “off-grid rebel,” or you’re someone who hasn’t caught-up, or you’re someone who’s made a particular set of choices that exclude the massive elephant in the communications room, or you’re so well-liked by the correct art world elite that you don’t need to do much of anything to assert yourself.

The advantage to being an Internet-present artist is fairly clear: access to a virtually unlimited audience; while the disadvantage is also fairly evident: there’s practically infinite noise in which to get lost, and the noise is chaotic and difficult to overcome on one’s own terms.  Adaptation is a prerequisite to using the Internet and especially social media.  I can understand why some would not be willing to adapt to tech systems of this sort because that can easily be construed, and I think often wrongly so, as compromise.  You’ll have to ask someone who avoids the Web why they do so, but you’ll have to dig up their phone number or unearth their street address first (maybe that’s the advantage!).

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COMPOSITION 476/CHAD WYS

You refer the internet as “the most powerful communications tech the world has ever known”, I was wondering if you feel like there’s a dialogue then between you and your audience, for example the people you mentioned being angry you use of other works? And if so, how do you feel that dialogue informs you or alters you perspective or is even part of your work?

There’s certainly some dialogue there, and there’s always potential for more.  That’s part of what draws me to the Internet: it can be as “one-sided” as a typical gallery show, or it can spur on engagement with people from any corner of the globe.  The folks who react vehemently to my work generally aren’t up for a debate; much of the time they’ve made a series of determinations about what I’m doing, and that’s that.  I’ve engaged with a few of them over the years–either they have contacted me directly and opened up a line of communication or I’ve found their public comments and I’ve engaged.  Whether or not they’re receptive in the first place has a bearing on how constructive the dialogue becomes; though I often find that people who are receptive to new and different ideas aren’t likely to resent my work.  But these dialogues do happen.  The key is not to get involved with arguments where I am, for example, put in the position of defending all that is, ever has been, and ever will be “art”… what a hopeless and uncomfortable spot to be in.

What do you mean by the “noise” of the internet? And what’s involved in adapting to online communication?

Well, adaptation can be as simple as learning to use 140 characters effectively on Twitter, or learning to edit one’s oeuvre down to a manageable size on one’s personal Website.  One has to adapt to the tools one chooses to use, or one has to seek-out or invent new tools to fulfill one’s goals.  Processing “life” and art through a screen requires a good deal of adaptation, as does presenting one’s “life” and one’s art through various screens.  I choose to look at that sort of adaptation as an opportunity, not a compromise.

As for the “noise” of the Net: simply, there are a lot of us.  My attentions are strained through my various information “feeds,” whether on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or what have you.  There is a lot of information, potentially limitless amounts, and it’s impossible for each of us to process everything.  I think we can easily become desensitized to images, text, art, et al (not only online, but everywhere).  It becomes necessary to process information differently and more rapidly and each of us grapples with that in our own way.  It’s easy to gloss over an artwork to which one might otherwise deeply respond; it’s easy for one’s work to get lost in the shuffle of information, to be ignored, or to be shallowly received and unfairly dismissed.  There are different solutions for overcoming the “noise” for different goals.  I think the solution to being widely seen and perhaps even understood as an artist is to be present, persistent, consistent, and to create “good” work.  But the better “remedy” for the social noise is to not expect to overcome it, and to not desire to overcome it; it ceases being an obstacle at that point.

In the statement on your website you say that “notion of object” is a major strand in your work, how would you say that “objectification” has been changed by the free availability of (quite often sourceless) images on the web?

That’s an important and sizeable question and it strikes to the core of my practice.  My work generally grapples with art (history) and decoration/ornamentation and how we process our experiences of these things, so along those lines the game totally changed at the dawn of “the age of mechanical reproduction” (to lift a line from 20th century German modernist Walter Benjamin).  Art’s “aura,”  Benjamin argued, is dislodged, displaced, or diminished as reproduction is mastered and streamlined through advanced machinery.  For example, viewers stopped observing the painting and started observing photographs of the painting, and in so doing lost a bit of the influence/experience/meaning of the original (for it’s no longer necessary to observe the enormous canvas and the vivid color palette of, let’s say, a Klimt painting since it has been reduced to a two-inch black and white illustration for rapid consumption).

Computers, and the ease of the anonymous digital imaging and text that you speak of, are simply (but complexly) a continuation of the industrialization of aesthetic and intellectual experiences that has coincided with the industrial revolution.  I’m sympathetic but resistant to Benjamin’s notion that within each artwork there is an idealized “aura” waiting to be accessed by a special kind of recipient; that’s quite modernist and dated in its determinism.  But I think the spirit of Benjamin’s cultural theory–which is that reception matters and is malleable through re-presentation–continues to be extremely prescient, and this is why I grapple with image- and object-based reproductions as my source materials: information is easily displaced and manipulated in the age of the Internet, so we have to be, as ever, vigilant and informed receivers.  The marks I make on the particular materials I appropriate are my attempt to draw attention to the digital/mechanical outsourcing of experience… so by creating a new, modified experience through color and form, in my small way I’m trying to draw out the objectification, in some instances quite literally, of visual-intellectual experience.  The Internet is a huge, glorious, and horrible part of this dynamic.

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THE GIRL WITH STARS IN HER EYES/CHAD WYS

You also say that you “enjoy taking contemporary ideas into the past”, could it be said you are doing the reverse as well? As in your readymades you take older, quite often 19th century, pieces of art, rework them and then put them into a thoroughly modern context – the internet.

Yes, I think that’s true; certainly aesthetically speaking.  But much of what I do, much of the material I source, is distinctly contemporary (or modern) insofar as the digital image I appropriate, or the factory-crafted copy of the Greek statue with which I’m interfering, or the mass-produced photomechanical print of a 19th century portrait that I’m re-purposing are of a time and of a context often separate and distinct from whatever originals these copies are referencing/mimicking/reproducing.

Broadly speaking, my work concerns the interplay between the aesthetic resonance of whatever image or object I’m sourcing, and that which the image or object literally is–which is often an inadequate transmission of the original, often several times removed by technology and through time.  When people get angry at me for “defacing a Raphael painting,” that’s the dishonesty of their experience of the reproduction bubbling up, out, and over; they wind up defending the very process–the process of mass-reproduction–that so “endangers” the experience of the original that they ostensibly wish to protect.  I’m quite interested in that sort of visual deliberation, or the deliberation of objectification.  I want viewers to consider what it is I’m appropriating and why.  When people get angry at me for “stealing” and/or “vandalizing” another artist’s “hard work,” they unwittingly underscore the complex web of problems at play in our visual world, since, really, I’m doing nothing of the sort; quite the contrary in most cases, I’m pointing out that the original was “vandalized” the moment it was reproduced (and that’s not a criticism of reproducibility more than it’s a criticism of our lack of consideration of reproducibility).

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NOCTURNE 109/CHAD WYS

How much are the marks you make on works influenced by aesthetics versus making a specific point etc.?

I once heard that Franz Kline, the great abstract expressionist, used light projectors to plot out his bold, black paint strokes onto canvas.  I’m not really interested in whether or not this’s true, but in my experience it could be.  It’s difficult to instantaneously and instinctively execute a perfectly balanced minimal composition.  It’s difficult to proportion a simple scene expertly and all of Kline’s compositions are expertly balanced.  His paintings look and “feel” perfectly proportioned, despite (or because) the fact that they’re often just black strokes on a white ground.  The reason why the light projector and the careful planning of the strokes could be seen by some as upsetting and detrimental is because abstract expressionist theory is so mythically built on the process of impulse… like an open nerve violently shooting paint onto the canvas.  If Kline plotted out every brush stroke, some might view that as a nullification of the attractive image of an abstract expressionist at work: an artist putting every ounce of his or her raw brilliance onto the canvas in a rapid, divine, artistic orgasm.

The reason I tell this story is because the aesthetics of the mark and the purpose of the mark don’t seem very distinctive to me; well, they do, but not insofar as qualities should change depending on method or intent.  Kline’s work represents the same things to me whether or not he carefully composed his compositions.  My marks are the same intervention whether or not I have a point to convey or I’m going for a certain brand of color theory.  How the viewer responds to the materials and the ideas I’ve put in front of them is all that really matters at the end of the day.  Sure, I’ve got some ideas I want to get across, and aesthetics will always be my main tool for doing just that, but it’s out of my hands by the time it gets to you.

You can see more of Chad’s work on his website, tumblr, facebook, twitter and pretty much every other social media platform

This sixth, and penultimate, interview is with Hae Jung Lee whose work I have always really admired and continues to be up there with some of my favourites.

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INEVITABLE/HAE JUNG LEE

Capturing the personal moments that may otherwise be forgotten and overlooked is the focus of Toronto-based illustrator Hae Jung Lee’s portrait based work. Lee produces exquisitely rendered fragments of faces, which are framed by and often interact with surreal elements such as mushrooms, bunting, and sewing needles. These surreal elements are Lee’s way of capturing the subject’s thoughts and feelings in as much detail as their eyelashes, so that her highly constructed offer the audience a realistic view of their exterior as well as an allegorical look at their interior. Lee’s work is an archive of the most intimate kind, as she works almost exclusively with images of herself, depicting her own “fragments of memories, moments within time, or internal struggles”. Each of her works is a snapshot of a past, and sometimes present, self.

However, Lee’s work not only acts as personal journal, but also a means of questioning the way we remember things. For me, this can be seen in the looping, almost melting, edges of the portraits suggest both the fabric of memory and the way the realistic elements of our thoughts bleed into the more abstract. Additionally, Lee’s selection of visual mementos become curioser and curioser as we are allowed to delve into the rabbit hole of her psyche, raising questions of what it is we remember and why those things linger in our minds.

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COCOONS/HAE JUNG LEE

Lee’s archive differs from the form of a blog and the cultural phenomenon of the selfie, not only in its considered aesthetic value but also it’s purpose. Due to the symbolic nature of Lee’s work, the hermeneutic process the audience has to undertake means that the portrait becomes an image of the viewer as well as the artist. In Lee’s own words her “works are presented to the viewers in hope of evoking their own life’s details and find beauty in the little details that make up who they are”. This quest to connect with her audience and to prompt them into accessing their own archive of the elements of themselves that “otherwise may be forgotten through time” has led to Lee’s use of, and subsequent popularity on, social media as the most efficient tool we have today to reach out to a vast array of people on a global scale.

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LETTING GO/HAE JUNG LEE

From what I can see you’re currently on Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook as well as having your own website (unless I’ve missed any). How does the internet feature in your process and life as an artist?

I hold a significant value in the interaction between my work and the viewer within my artistic practice so internet helps me tremendously by connecting my work with so many people all around the world.

Some artists I’ve spoken to have mentioned how the online culture of reposting work has negatively affected them as it means their work goes creditless. Have you had any negative experiences with uploading your work to social media?

I’ve had minor issues where personal works of mine had been mislabelled or important informations have been overlooked, but I guess I could be oblivious to works that are totally uncredited because I would not be able to find out myself. It is definitely an issue that is always lingering at the back of my mind.

Do you look anywhere outside of your own internal structure for inspiration, for example any other blogs?

I don’t think I’ve ever looked for inspiration externally in regards to my art. When I have nothing to draw, that means that I’m either numb and incapable of feeling at that moment or something bigger is brewing inside that is not quite ready to burst apart yet. It never lasts very long though. I don’t force anything when it comes to my art (or anything I do in life as a matter of fact), because that would mean I’m doing it for all the wrong reasons.

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SUGAR RUSH/HAE JUNG LEE

You mention quite often in your artist’s statements that you have an “obsession with documentation”, do you think the current culture of blogging and tweeting to document your life is connected or parallel to that obsession in any way?

My obsession with documentation is a way for me to internalize my thoughts and feelings and better understand myself as an individual. I’ve always had too much unorganized thoughts in my head so it was a way for me to capture those fleeing thoughts and feelings on a piece of paper before it disappeared. It is very much comparable to writing a personal diary. I think the use of social media today is quite different to my own intentions with regards to my obsession. Social media, to me, seems to be a way for people to externalize, expose or to purge out a personal thought or information outwards to the public.

How do you organise those “unorganized thoughts”, enough to structure them into such well composed images?

I would say that each piece I make is mere organized chaos. I find great relief in drawing with a lot of breathing space and well defined lines because it directly contrasts with a chaotic mind. I remember writing on a notepad not too long ago, actually, thinking how I would love to one day create a piece with a single line on a blank piece of paper that contained all my deepest, darkest problems and happiness that defined my life. I laughed at myself afterwards.

As your work is a way of internalizing and processing, do you ever feel uncomfortable sharing your most intimate internalized thoughts to an external audience?

I don’t feel uncomfortable at all sharing my work to the external audience. I would, however, feel very uncomfortable and a bit disturbed if somebody saw my work and knew the exact meaning embedded within it.

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COPY PASTE/HAE JUNG LEE

Your alteration of the form of the portrait is what I find most captivating about your work. Could you say a little on your use of one face (your face) throughout your work and your process of reworking the image of that face to represent the idea you’re attempting to internalize?

The literal use of self-portraiture is quite straightforward and self-explanatory for me in relations to my artist statement. I’ve recently been imagining my face as a sort of a landscape of my mind. It’s hard for me to explain it in exact words as to what that means so I will give an example. When a tear drops off of an eye, a living organism is able to feed off of it and grow around it. It’s a small ecosystem that circulates matters in my mind. By interpreting it that way, my suffering has a purpose and I am, in turn, able to cope better with it, if that makes any sense at all. 

That’s a really wonderful way of looking at your art, using it as a way to shape your life philosophy. Are there any other ways in which you feel art helps mould or has moulded your life?

Sometimes I’m not sure if I am shaping my art or my art is shaping me. My art needs my experiences in order to be created but I need my art to see who I am as an individual. Personally, art has opened my eyes to view the world critically with my own perceptions and opinions rather than with collective, conformed ideas acceptable by standards of society.

Within your use of portraiture, you also seem to have created a consistent aesthetic voice. What was the process of finding that voice, and do you ever worry you’ll be trapped by it?

I feel like consistency is what I am always looking for because I’m often bombarded with broken and inconsistent thoughts in my mind. Having said that, people always evolve and change based on life experiences.  The consistency I have now is what makes sense to me at this moment based on what I’ve experienced so far. I always try to keep an open mind to things and challenge myself on different levels so I would be deeply concerned if I had the same mindset I have now 5-10 years from now.

So, how do you see your work developing in the future? Or is it completely dependent your personal experiences?

Yes, My works are very much dependent on my personal experiences. I’m often very impulsive and indecisive so even if I had a plan of any kind, I don’t even trust myself on it.

You can check out more of of Hae Jung Lee’s work on Tumblr, Instagram, or on her website.