You'll never guess which artists inspired this week's Exhibitionist in Residence

This week's Exhibitionists episode is all about "artists inspired by artists," so we asked Toronto illustrator Jo Lee to share her top 3.

This week's episode is all about 'artists inspired by artists,' so we asked Jo Lee to share her top 3

Toronto-based illustrator Jo Lee is this week's Exhibitionist in Residence. (Jo Lee)

When you meet Jo Lee on this week's episode of Exhibitionists, check out her t-shirt.

Lee, 31, is the founder of La Jolee Designs — a line of stationery and home goods she sells online and around Toronto — and she wore one of her custom tees when she shot her intro for the show. 

The shirt's splashed with Lee's watercolour portrait of a modern Frida Kahlo — a fun choice, and also a totally appropriate one. (The theme of the show this week is "artists inspired by artists.") And the Mexican iconoclast is one of Lee's all-time heroes.

That said, Kahlo's not the only artist Lee's painted. There's a whole section of portraits on the illustrator's website, and in the mix of whimsical watercolour GIFs that we'll be airing on the show Friday, you'll find tributes to Seu Jorge and Beyonce.

Check out some samples of Lee's animation after the jump, but first, she shouts out three of the artists who've inspired her, starting with...

Frida Kahlo

(Jo Lee)

Lee painted Kahlo last year as part of a fundraiser she launched for International Women's Day. (Between March and August, she donated sales from a series of postcards to organizations supporting equality for women and girls.)

"I had always been wanting to do a portrait of Frida Kahlo," says Lee. "She was really a trailblazer — especially for her time. So I really wanted to pay homage to her."

"She has such vibrant colours and is really inspired by nature and I think that there's a lot of femininity in her art but it's very strong. And that's something that's definitely been an influence for me."

Seu Jorge

If you know one thing about the Brazilian singer-songwriter, it's that he was the dude from the Life Aquatic who played all those David Bowie covers.

It was the same for Lee, but when she caught his recent concert in Toronto, she was immediately moved, and right after the show she made this sweet little animated illustration of the musician — strumming his guitar on the back of a friendly giant octopus.

His music wasn't all that inspired her, though. Lee says it was what he had to say during the show that struck her the most. "It was interesting to hear him talk about when he got contacted to do the Life Aquatic soundtrack," she says. "At no point did he compromise the way he is as an artist" — and it's a value she strives to stick to, as well.

Yayoi Kusama

"I definitely like people who are daring and willing to go outside of their comfort zone," says Lee, and Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama fills that order. A survey of her work, featuring her famed "infinity rooms," is coming to the Art Gallery of Ontario in March, and Lee made an animated portrait of Kusama — her signature polka dots flashing in the background — after diving into research about her life and work.

How does Kusama inspire Lee as an artist, though? "I guess the theme is [she's like], 'This is what I do and I'm unapologetic about it.'"

More of Lee's animation...

Watch CBC Arts: Exhibitionists online or on Friday nights at 12:30am (1am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT) on CBC Television.


Leah Collins

Senior Writer

Since 2015, Leah Collins has been senior writer at CBC Arts, covering Canadian visual art and digital culture in addition to producing CBC Arts’ weekly newsletter (Hi, Art!), which was nominated for a Digital Publishing Award in 2021. A graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University's journalism school (formerly Ryerson), Leah covered music and celebrity for Postmedia before arriving at CBC.


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