Meet Lee Hodges: An International Illustrator

Lee Hodges is an international illustrator from Cornwall, UK. He is known for his colorful and energetic artworks inspired by music, which have appeared in festival posters, magazines, and album covers.

“… I also think styles aren’t necessarily restricted to one. I think it’s healthy to have a few different approaches if you can handle them.

(c)Lee-Hodges
Artwork by Lee Hodges

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Can you please tell us a bit about your background? Please add at least one random interesting fact about you.

OK, yea…I am from the far-flung lands of Cornwall in the UK, which is rich in culture and history, plus very beautiful….it would be fair to say it has had quite an influence on me as an individual and my work.

The places you live or travel I think are quite significant in how they shape you and your inspiration.

Random facts…hmm…I got too close to a volcano in Guatemala once, it exploded and I ran very fast! 🙂

What inspired you to make art?

You’ve probably heard this a lot, but I’ve always drawn/made art…it’s just something that comes along with you as you go on your ‘journey’.

Different things influence your process at different times, depending on what you are into or obsessed with at the time. On a day to basis, there is always something that influences me and inspires my work, it could be anything. 

Did you study at art school(s) or are you self-taught?

I did study at Art School. I studied design and Illustration, though now I consider myself more self-taught, as I have learned and experimented with lots of different processes and mediums since.

I’m always having those lightbulb moments, however, I think my first travel experience in South America was a huge ‘aha’ lightbulb moment, travelling through countries such as Mexico and Guatemala exposed me to cultures that have endlessly influenced me since in my artwork, whether that be in the lands of art and colour, music or history….it’s an exotic mixing pot for me.

(c)Lee-Hodges
Artwork by Lee Hodges

How did you develop your own art style? Where do you go for inspiration? How do you keep your creativity flowing?

I have always had a really strong colour sense.

My art teacher at school said that to me, so it’s always been there. I think my style came into its own when I started illustrating the posters for a club night I started with my friend a while back. It developed from there, it jump kicked a style that had been brewing a while. It’s important to be aware of these avenues that can present themselves and allow new magic to happen. 

I also think styles aren’t necessarily restricted to one. I think it’s healthy to have a few different approaches if you can handle them.

How do you keep your creativity flowing? It’s not a 9-5 thing, it’s 24/7, it’s who you are. I’m always dreaming up something or problem solving a current job or just observing. Everything I do on a daily basis is a part of it.

One of the key things I think though is to PLAY, being playful is key … it allows new ideas to appear for me, I also have to challenge myself and set challenges out of my comfort zone, I get bored otherwise…

I love the Maya Angelou quote – “You can’t use up creativity, the more you use it the more you have”.

Music has a massive influence on my work, my sense of colour and movement links in with that, so does the way I use shapes and composition. Artwork works in a similar way to how a song is composed…base colours, high sharper colours, line, and tone…it all works as a whole.

I see movement in pretty much anything that is ‘static’.

How did you start making a living as an artist? What was your first paid art job?

I think the bigger jobs are probably the most significant.

One of my first jobs was as a video designer for a Theatre production, which was a really interesting job, especially seeing the magic come together for the show.

Since then as an Illustrator one of my first biggest jobs was the festival artwork for New Yorks Lincoln Centre “Out of Doors” festival.

What do you live from as an artist now? What are your main income streams and what is the approximate % split of each?

I get commissions from my agency, sometimes big, sometimes small…sometimes there are big and small dips as well. 

I also have a good stream of my own in-house clients, which is mostly music and events-based work, so that often acts as a buffer if other work is slow.

I also run my own music night (the club night I started) which has evolved considerably over a good few years and is quite popular. This is another ‘arm’ that helps work to flow. I DJ, create big stage sets, make moving projections. I also lecture part-time a bit. As a creative, you often have to be pretty flexible and wear different hats to allow for dips in one stream. And it also keeps it interesting!

What are you currently working on?

I have just finished illustrating my very first Children’s picture book! I didn’t write it, so it was about interpreting the writing into images.  It took most of the summer to create and finish…It’s all a bit secret, until November, watch this space! I’m also just creating a one-off design for a skateboard, which is something I’ve always wanted to do…

What do you think are the most important characteristics of an artist?

Being yourself and following all those things that obsess and inspire you.

If you aren’t being true to yourself how are you going to stand out? Keep pushing your boundaries too, surprise yourself! I find as an artist, you have to be belligerent too, there is a lot of competition out there, keep at it, never give up!

(c)Lee-Hodges
Artwork by Lee Hodges

What are the art tools and other products and services you can’t live without?

My DJ mixer! It’s not so much about the tools, it’s the ideas, so I tend to surround myself with things that instigate that, like books, and stuff I have collected!

Though a good mix of different materials and mediums like spray paints, screen printing, posca pens, and a graphic tablet are pretty important!

What are your favorite art and other books (fiction, non-fiction)?

Don’t get me started…I have loads…they tend to change with whatever I’m into at the time.

I’ve always had my ‘Haiku Anthology’ close by, which is lovely. Art books – current faves are ‘Make Your Mark’ By Tristan Manco and an amazing poster book about the work of Polish Designer Roman Cieslewicz. I just found a book on Mexico – Masks and Rituals by Phyllis Galembo, costumes linked in with folklore all over Mexico.

What advice would you give yourself as a beginner artist? Or alternatively please include your favorite quote and the author.

IMAGINATION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN KNOWLEDGE” by Albert Einstein.

Get in touch with Lee

Thank you, Lee, for joining us today!

All artworks by Lee Hodges, used with permission.

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