Desktop - Grace Lee, Illustrator

18 October 2015

This week we're heading to Tokyo, Japan to check out illustrator Grace Lee's super colourful workspace. Grace's drawn Instagram updates always brighten my days. Grace shares beautifully observed moments from everyday life, holiday sketches and illustrates funny stories she's heard too. A full-time freelancer, Grace shares what she gets up to on any given work day:

What are you working on during a typical drawing day?

I tend to work to deadlines, which means that I'm either super busy or dead quiet. I'm still getting used to full-time freelance life, there are days when I wonder if this is the end and if the work will dry up next week but it always ends up busy again. I'm trying to really make use of that quiet time, to write emails, do invoices and work on personal work.

On a typical work day, I usually work on the drawing part first, and if I have multiple jobs I'll try to do them all together. Sometimes that works out for something fun to put on Instagram, for example when I was working on a job for Australia and one for Japan at the same time, I ended up creating this with the process work:

A photo posted by Grace Lee (@midnightgracie) on

After drawing, I scan the work and then ‘build’ it in Photoshop. Depending on what I'm drawing, sometimes the only thing I need to do is clean up the file. Other times if the drawing is a little complex, I'll draw the object in parts and then build it in Photoshop. I also change colours and contrast if needed. 

Click play below to see an example of a build:

A video posted by Grace Lee (@midnightgracie) on

This is actually my favourite part of the job! Sometimes even better than drawing! Insert that ‘speak no evil’ monkey emoji here.

Do you work on one project until it's done or switch between different things throughout a day? 

It depends on the project, but scanning is a little boring, so if I can fit a couple of extra drawings on a page, I'll do two jobs at once.

I love your Instagram feed and am especially interested in how your observations from everyday life come together - whether they're sketched on the spot or remembered for later.

I can't draw from memory. I still have trouble drawing people without a reference, so all of my observations from daily life come from photos I've taken. If you were to look at my iPhone there would be tons of blurry, badly lit sneaky shots of people on the train and in the street. I have a Japanese phone and you cannot turn off the ringer. So it's tricky at times to get a shot - that’s when I wish I could draw from memory.

What are you working on at the moment?

I just set up a little online shop to sell my new zine from this year's Tokyo Art Book Fair. It's a little book of drawings from super short visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I'm also selling my Japanese counting zine, which I probably need to use myself as I recently started Japanese school. I go Monday to Friday for three-and-a-half hours, so I guess that means I'm working on my Kanji ;) I'm starting to think about new stuff to add to the store but like with most things online, I'm slow! So stay tuned but don't hold your breath ;)

Thank you Grace! Find her on Instagram, pop into her online store and visit her website to see more of her gorgeous work. Grace also illustrated 'Amazing Babes', a picture book that would make a great gift for a little girl or your best friend. And just for fun, here's a wonderful story she illustrated for the Radio with Pictures event at the Opera House in 2013: 

Illustration by Grace Lee.

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