Pittsburgh-based illustrator and designer Christina Lee is synesthetic, she says. "I can close my eyes and imagine a story or shapes that go along with a song I'm listening to." And when listening to the dance-y tunes that score her goofy animations, only her signature shade of pink, #F334FFF, really seems like a match.
Born in Austin, Texas but raised in an idyllic suburb of San Jose, California, Christina first became interested in art as a kid. "Comics are a great medium for storytellers who don't know how to write, like myself. Sequential art is an outlet for my storytelling." Christina left her anime fan art and Cali behind for an art degree at Carnegie Mellon University and the DIY art scene of Pittsburgh, where she finalized her absurd and occasionally crude illustrating style. She creates bouncing GIFs of butts, melting ice cream cones and Drake. And recently, she published a Kim Kardashian coloring book, filled with black-and-white illustrated Kim K selfies. Christina's art is simultaneously innocent and inappropriate. Her crazy scenarios and bright colors remind us that art is meant to be fun.
When did you start drawing?
I knew that I was going to be an artist when I was pretty young. I was an avid drawer in elementary school. I drew things from angsty comics to fantasy illustrations to Sailor Moon fan art. I was really into creating my own characters, which I think speaks to why I tend to make representational work.
How did growing up in California influence your art?
I grew up in the suburbs, surrounded by logos and cars, basically engulfed by symbols of capitalism. So now I'm comfortable whenever I go to a mall or grocery store. I don't want to be a cheerleader for capitalism, but I like to communicate this California-pop mentality in my own work.
Why do you think comics are a unique medium?
Comic books occupy this interesting space in storytelling, right between writing and film. They have the ability to be more straightforward than a piece of writing, but unlike film, they can be more ambiguous to the reader. Comics are simultaneously accessible and ambiguous.
What's unique about the art scene in Pittsburgh? How do you see it growing?
It's up-and-coming. There are a lot of artists here because the cost of living is so cheap, and there is a lot of support for the arts from the local community. The DIY scene is very strong, and most of my friends work on a couple of side projects in addition to their 9-5 job. The art scene is definitely growing because the city is growing. Big companies are moving here, the nightlife is decent, the restaurant scene is gaining national recognition. It's exciting to be in a city where so much is changing.
Does your fascination with celebrities go beyond Kim?
I find our obsession with celebrity hilarious. We worship them like they're Gods. Kim Kardashian might be more recognizable than the McDonald's arch or even Jesus.
What's your favorite Kardashian moment?
Probably when Kim dyed her hair blonde. She looked great in an all black outfit, and everybody else bleached their hair after she did. I'm pretty tempted to do it myself too.
What are you working on right now?
A project based on the history and cultural impact of the American diner. I'm currently collecting all the facts, but I'm not sure what I want the medium to be yet (zine, animation or comic). I've also been creating a lot of animated GIFs and quick drawings for Instagram. It's a good way for me to keep on making work - that in itself can be a challenge from time to time. I've also been working on some new screen prints. I haven't screen-printed in over a year, and I really miss it. Hopefully, I'll be back in the studio with new prints soon!
Text Hana Beach
Images courtesy Christina Lee