Q&A

March is coming in like a...tiger? Ness Lee on this month's fierce new logo design

Ness Lee has some big feelings about our profile pic. The Toronto artist shares the story behind this warrior woman design.

Toronto artist Ness Lee has some big feelings about our profile pic

Grrr-rrr-eat news. Ness Lee is our featured artist for March. (Ness Lee)

Will March come in like a lion or a lamb?

Neither, kids.

This time, it's coming in like a tiger — and it's all thanks to Ness Lee.

Around Toronto, Lee's work is everywhere — laneway murals, galleries, Top Shop racks — and her pillow-bodied creations are turning the city into their own personal California King bed. 

Frankly, we're all for it.

And for the month of March, we'll be featuring one of our favourite drawings by Lee, "Huntress," as our CBC Arts profile pic.

Originally designed back in 2016, the illustration features a flame-haired warrior woman and her BFF battle-cat. It's one of Lee's more popular images, and it's been printed on T-shirts and tote bags.

Writes the artist: "It's also been used as a tattoo!"

In an email questionnaire, Lee gave us a preview of what she's got on the go for 2018. First up: a new solo exhibition, How to Hold Yourself, at Toronto's Project Gallery. Catch it to March 31.

She also shared the backstory behind "Huntress" — and like so much of her work, it's all about big feelings.

From Ness Lee's current solo exhibition at Toronto's Project Gallery, How to Hold Yourself. (Courtesy of Project Gallery)

Name: Ness Lee

Age: 28

Homebase: Toronto

How do you like to describe your art?

I would describe my art as deeply personal and autobiographical. It consists of a lot of processing and interpretations of my own experiences, feelings and how it settles into a visual conclusion.

Let's talk about the design. What inspired the original illustration?

I created it as a shirt design for my 2016 solo show at Huntclub gallery

There was a "hunting" theme going on. I chose to interpret it personally as a fearless confidence I wished I possessed [...] a hunt for self-discovery, self-confidence and a fearless energy for adventure — something that I often desire for myself.

Who's that girl, and how'd she find such a badass tiger?

That girl embodies a feeling.

This one in particular addressed self-confidence and a desire for myself to be proactive in "moving on" — the feeling when you have just had enough and you need to go forward with reckless abandon.

International Women's Day is this month, which is part of why our team was so interested in commissioning this particular design. Do you consider yourself a feminist artist? How do feminist issues influence what you do as an artist?

I'm so grateful to be a part of this with you guys and to have my work as the design to celebrate International Women's Day.

I do consider myself a feminist artist, but also in a queer sense of non-binary as well. 

As a cis woman, these issues do influence and come into my work as a voice for myself to express personal experiences and to have that space to exist in — but also, I am so grateful to use that space to explore and process my personal feelings on gender and feelings on not exactly fitting in.

What's inspiring your work these days?

I usually use art to make sense of a lot of things for myself, and lately I've been trying to use it as a tool of progression and moving on.

I think a lot of what has been inspiring my work lately is the passing of my grandmother. I find that grieving is something I have been depositing in my work as of late, but also, in a way, to keep her alive in my heart.

What's the art project you're most proud of?

The larger scale paintings are what I am most proud of at the moment — mostly because of the journey I have gone through in creating those pieces.

For the most part I feel like I have expressed myself in a way I never have before in this medium and for that, I am happy I did. It was like a weight off my shoulders. A good therapy session.

You have a new solo show at Project Gallery, How to Hold Yourself. What's it about?

A lot of the work in this show is very much about my insecurities, and the experiences that have transpired from that.

From losing my grandmother and going through many mournings in other forms, I think I just needed a way to express all that hurt and the way it has shaped me into who I am today.

Any (more) new projects on the go that you can mention? What are your goals for the year ahead?

There are a few projects on the way!

I have an upcoming comic book with a very special artist I love and admire (soon to be announced!) and I hope to do more murals this year and more shows abroad.

This questionnaire has been edited and condensed.

Follow Ness Lee on Instagram and discover more art on her website.

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