Hyesu Lee


Brooklyn, NY

I was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. And I would be proud to say I’m fresh off the boat—although I'm not as fresh as I used to be anymore! I lived in Seoul until my mid-twenties, and went to study abroad in the UK, where my journey began.

I graduated from the University of Arts London with a BA in Illustration, then moved to New York City, where I earned an MFA from the School of Visual Arts. I’ve been here for 11 years now, based in Brooklyn and going about my life as an illustrator, artist, muralist and educator. 

My art has always been driven by a curiosity about how people connect. I was very shy growing up, so I never knew how best to communicate with those around me. But drawing people — observing them, and learning about them — that’s my way of connecting. Art, after all, has no language barrier.

I’ve been collaborating with various clients across many platforms all over the world — creating illustrations for brands, magazines, public murals and packaging.

My belief is that anything warm and cheerful is contagious.

"I love to draw poop."

What did you get in trouble for as a kid? Anything adults told you to avoid that’s actually a big part of your life now?

I got in trouble as a kid for painting on everything — basically, like the walls in our house, my mom's expensive purse, my dad's glasses, floors, my mom's work papers, etc. Now I draw for a living! Haha.

Any person who really helped you in your awesome artistic journey?

My chairperson Marshall Arisman at my grad school. Every time I told him how I struggled with my art practice, he always said, "Draw what you know, draw what you like!" and it resonated with me so deeply that I still think of the quote every time I'm lost.

What do you do when you need a break?

I love to combine two very opposite activities when I need a break: I either go for a long run or go to a kickboxing class, and then I’ll be a couch potato while eating tons.

What was your favorite thing to draw as a child? Why did that lodge in your head?

It is still my favorite thing to draw, though. I love to draw poop. It's fun to draw and everyone poops, so there’s an instant connection there also.

On a project, what’s the rush like when everything clicks?

Oh, it's amazing! It's hard to describe. I’m usually sitting in my chair drawing but I dance in my chair because it's so much fun.