Featured Artist Desarae Lee

Artsy Shark presents the whimsical and somewhat eccentric portfolio of featured artist Desarae Lee.  See more of her work here.




I was born in Whittier, California in the same year that Michael Jackson adopted the Moonwalk.  I was raised in a conservative Mormon household and was a very obedient child.  As a result, a large part of my self-perception became based on obedience and self-control.  As I’ve gotten older I’ve adopted a different belief system and learned the virtues of rule-breaking, but that obsession with self-control that I espoused as a child is still apparent in most of my work today.




At an early point in my professional life I realized that I was going to have to make the choice between having a dependable source of income and doing what I loved.  After determining that money meant less to me than happiness, I settled in Salt Lake City, Utah , chose to pursue illustration and have yet to regret it.




It is hard to put your inspiration into words when you yourself do not even know where it comes from.  Mormons call it the Spirit, Romantic poets called it the “divine winds,” Freud called it the subconscious, but anyone who’s ever been touched by it knows that there really are no words for it.  Rather than look for inspiration, I look for avenues through which I can connect to that it; things that remind me of lives I may have lived or people I may have been.  Most reliably, I find that connection through things like taxidermied animals, traveling carnivals, and vintage photographs from the turn of the century.




My work is largely based on narrative.  Each piece is a short story told through various subconscious symbols, some more obvious than others.  A lot of the thematic elements in my illustrations come from personal experience but I try not to make a conscious connection until the piece is complete, otherwise I find myself forcing the drawing and it becomes difficult to find the inspirational space for it to fully develop.


Abominable Snowman


My training as a photographer heavily influences my creative process.  Once I’ve discovered a theme, I immediately start constructing the scene as if it was a photograph.  I mentally configure light sources, composition, and angles until the three-dimensional idea translates into a two-dimensional drawing.  I think in values and layers, using detailed cross-hatching to block out light from the shadows.




I am currently working on a multitude of projects for upcoming shows, including a collaborative project with photographer Gregory Shearer.  Greg’s work focuses very heavily on place so together he and I create pieces that inhabit his carefully constructed spaces with my somewhat somber characters.


Deer with Victrola


I don’t really set specific artistic goals for myself outside of just meeting deadlines, but if I had to put my motivation into words, I would say my goal is to create a connection.  There are places inside of a person that no one else can possibly understand and about which I could never communicate with words.  But I believe my drawings are an attempt to connect those hidden places in myself to the hidden places in the viewer, to somehow create a bridge of communication over the immense expanse of our differing perceptions, languages, and experiences.



  1. I really enjoyed reading it. I checked your portfolio as well and your pictures touched me, whatever it is there in them, it acts or reacts with the viewer. I also like the clear focuses you have. Congrats and best wishes!

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