ICONICA: Minjae Lee

Young, bright-eyed painter and illustrator Minjae Lee is a sef-taught artist from South Korea. Using mostly ‘old skool tools’ to construct his works (markers, pens, acrylics, crayons), the talented young spark (only just 21) is carving out quite the revered and successful lifestyle as an artist garnering heaps of underground acclaim and cred in all the right places.




Lee’s work expresses a semi-disturbing inner tension that is tough to ignore. His portraits hypnotise and engage with their powerful colors, halting imagery and clever juxtaposition of beauty, innocence and fragility with brash and aggressive overtones.




Due to the amount of detail and variation in these images, it’s easy to assume that these powerful female portraits were created using digital tools. You may be surprised to find out, however, he uses old-fashioned tools like markers, pens, crayons, and acrylics to create these loud, powerful illustrations.


“I have loved color since I was 7 year old,” Lee says. “Not many people accepted me using colors this way, including a few teachers so I’ve always drawn by myself. One day, I found markers and loved them because of the vivid colors they produce. So I always use markers now.”


The Dream, 2009, mixed media on paper


Characterising Lee’s work throughout is a sense of drama, his females exuding a certain dark, organic tension. A dark menace seeps through juxtaposing even his brightest colours and his ethereal dames seem shrouded by some sort of looming peril.



Mysterious, beautiful, captivating and edgy, his works speak to us on an aesthetic level with their pop brights and beautiful tender line work, and on a more primal level through dramatic textures and the deep, haunted and soulful glances of his subjects.


  Circulation, 2011, mixed media on paper

Says the artist:

“I find inspiration in the human face, and abstract movement and COLOR! When I draw people, it’s on the spur of the moment, very spontaneous. I’m always experimenting with new materials, and ways to do things.”

Blue Lip, 2010, mixed media on paper

You can check out more of Minjae’s fantastic works on his DeviantArt profile.

Indian, 2010, mixed media on paper

Reminiscence II, 2010, mixed media on paper

And here, a sped up video of Minjae creating one of his works. Talk about impressive. Watch it all come together:



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