Kelly Lee: Elegance in Art


Arie Yamasaki

Pursuing art while still being a student in high school is nothing short of an impressive feat. This rings true for sophomore Kelly Lee, who works to create art pieces as she works to incite wonder and recognition upon those who look at her works. From her studies, to her friends, to her life at home, Lee faces struggles to manage her time and effort in order to navigate student life as well as artistry. Yet, she’s been hounding at drawing and painting for nearly 15 years and from that has garnered experience and improvement.
“The joy that I get is that each time I do art, and I see my improvement, my ego just boosts,” Lee said. “I hold so much pride, you know.”
Lee’s passion for the creative arts began at an early age as her first sense of enjoyment from drawing was scrawling doodles onto the walls of her childhood home. Upon discovering how she could use pictures and colors as a form of expression, Lee’s imagination took off and evolved into a dedicated practice that she’s been doing for nearly 15 years. Throughout all of these years, the artist still continuously works to find ways of working and improving her art.
“I would say maybe if you get better at art, it boosts your confidence, boost your pride. Because if it’s boosted enough, it will reflect in your art,” said Lee.
Ancient Chinese culture and fashion drew Lee in, sparking her interest to create artworks based on these elements. Because of this, Lee had originally aspired to become a fashion designer. She found herself scribbling designs for clothing and accessories and later felt a desire to branch out. With her enjoyment for character creation and storytelling in mind, Lee began to tie all of her passions together, leading Lee to explore different media and art forms to fully embrace these ideas, whether it be through storytelling in manga or experimenting in character design.
Lee’s love for combining elements of character creation as well as fashion manifests itself in her artwork that mainly consists of people, whether it be of original characters of her own or characters from pieces of media that she enjoys. Her artwork replicates the style of traditional East Asian painting with use of color and detail.
“I do a lot of character designing through clothes and stuff. Especially through fantasy elements since you have a lot to work with. But personally I like to stick with the ground base, down to earth kind of fashion, because I think those really suit my art,” said Lee.
However, Lee has had to muster up extrusive effort in order to put herself into creating her artwork. She works as a self-taught artist and oftentimes has struggled to find support in order to pursue her work. Lee faced challenges ranging from loved ones ushering her to steer away from art. Along with issues of finding support for her work, Lee has also struggled with the cost of living as an artist, especially being a high schooler.
“Back then, I didn’t really have that much art supplies. Usually like just, a really old mechanical pencil that I picked up from the ground and Crayola watercolor,” said Lee. “But now that I have a bit more money, I use cheap art supplies from Walmart. It’s better though. Like, I also do digital art now that I have a phone.”
Obstacles haven’t stopped Lee from working to create art pieces of hers that she’s come to appreciate. Pursuing her art has been at the cost of sacrifices such as trying to manage her hobbies and schoolwork and choosing which one to prioritize. Her duties as the Secretary of the Art Club has also tied her up in responsibilities that she works to manage. However, with the time she has to create art, Lee pays a high level of precision which has been the cause of many pieces she’s been able to take pride in. While it’s been quite the challenge, the young artist was forced to expand past her limits in order to make time in her life to focus on her own ventures of whisking up art and stories.
“I guess a lot of people would say that my art reflects the elegance of the ancient times and how my art tells stories inside them with lots of details and stuff,” Lee said.
Lee has found ways to overcome what might stand and interfere with her journey of elevating her art. She still considers art one of her greatest priorities and seeks to continue creating in the future as a side job. She hopes to take up commissions, as she has a desire to continue to create what she enjoys and boost the feeling of fulfillment that is achieved upon the recognition and pursuit of her art.
As of now, Lee serves as the secretary of the Mililani High School Art Club, where all students who hold a passion for art can congregate.