Back Chat #4

Alice Lee

July 12, 2018

Alice Lee is an artist and curator based in Norwich, who develops a variety of independent, nationwide projects under the name of Parallel Point. Back in 2015, she was short-listed in both ‘The Visual Art’ and ‘Eastern Daily Press People’s Choice’ categories for the Norfolk Art Awards. Many of her more recent projects have been collaborations with charities, such as the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and Little Lifts. Elsewhere, her illustrations have appeared in various poetry anthologies, and she is currently represented by Curious Duke Gallery in London.

26/06/2018, 10:46 - Alice Lee:

Hi Joe! Good timing I’m just waiting for the washing to finish before I go to the studio 🙂

26/06/2018, 10:47 - BTF:

So while the washing is whizzing away – can you tell us what you do for a living, on the side, and for fun?

26/06/2018, 10:48 - Alice Lee:

Well ideally I would say I’m an illustrator but I have two day jobs to help me pay the bills, one in a clothes store in Norwich and one in London for an art gallery 🎨

26/06/2018, 10:49 - Alice Lee:

My illustration work fits in around my jobs so it’s kind of what I do on the side but really that should be flipped!

26/06/2018, 10:53 - Alice Lee:

As for fun, I actually just love being at home as I’m away a lot and my cat is there…

26/06/2018, 10:59 - BTF:

That’s quite a mix! Do you find that your jobs at the shop and the museum impact your illustration? (and could you describe your ‘style’, if you’d call it that?)

26/06/2018, 10:59 - BTF:

(Also – not to derail the interview – but please tell us about your lovely cat!)

26/06/2018, 11:03 - Alice Lee:

They do in a round about way… firstly I should mention that my practice at the moment is focussed on drawing birds 🦅 🦆🦉 and my ‘style’ is geometric, using mainly circles and occasionally lines, hang on I’ll send an example.

26/06/2018, 11:03 - Alice Lee:

26/06/2018, 11:06 - Alice Lee:

I’ve been drawing birds in this way for about 5 years now and slowly building a portfolio…

26/06/2018, 11:16 - Alice Lee:

Going back to the question, the way the day jobs impact the illustration in a positive way is that they allow me to interact with people, get opinions on what I’m doing as when I’m drawing I’m on my own, particularly at the shop because everyone there is pretty straight talking individuals ha ha. The gallery (not museum – it’s a very small team!) offers a different perspective as the art we work with is contemporary and often ideas-based (some might say pretentious 😝) but it’s super interesting for me to think about how I can apply that sort of thinking to my work. Obviously the negative impact is the time they take away from me to make work.

26/06/2018, 11:18 - Alice Lee:

26/06/2018, 11:18 - Alice Lee:

Here’s the cat Wilma 😻

26/06/2018, 11:26 - BTF:

Wilma is wonderful! 😍🐱

26/06/2018, 11:30 - BTF:

…and so are your illustrations. Is there any reason you have gravitated towards birds over the last few years? And as for your portfolio – what are you working on at the moment that you find particularly inspiring, or feel is particularly important? (Rumour has it you work with wildlife / cancer charities…)

26/06/2018, 12:08 - Alice Lee:

She’s is weird and wonderful the best combination!

26/06/2018, 12:09 - Alice Lee:

Washing is out on the line glorious drying conditions out there 🌞

26/06/2018, 12:09 - Alice Lee:

Going into town now and to the studio so will answer q when I’m settled again!

26/06/2018, 12:17 - BTF:

Cool no problemo! Enjoy your walk in the sun ☀☀☀

26/06/2018, 15:19 - Alice Lee:

Having a quick tea break at the studio now. The gravitation towards birds was a mixture of chance and destiny 🙌 it sounds quite strange saying it like that but I feel it’s true. I had never been into birds growing up however when I look back there were always links particularly with my dad. Sadly my dad passed away in 2012 and the last conversation we had was in a hospital room and I asked him if he was bored (there was no tv and I love tv) and he said no because he had been watching two pigeons kissing each other from the window. ‘It’s so beautiful,’ he said. Later on that year I bumped into someone I met through my work at the clothes store at an exhibition opening. She’s a lovely lady called Ruth Wiggins, a poet, and we talked about illustration and poetry and pointed me in the direction of a small publishing company called Sidekick Books. At that time they were putting together an anthology of bird poems and were looking for drawings of birds to accompany them. I chose the poem about a pigeon. And that’s sort of how all this bird stuff began. I started posting my pictures on social media and got such a nice response so I’ve carried on. I used the term destiny earlier because when I look back at my work before this there were lots of avian themes so it felt like it was always something that was waiting in the wings (excuse the pun).

26/06/2018, 15:20 - Alice Lee:

Ooo sorry that was a bit of an essay!

26/06/2018, 15:30 - Alice Lee:

Because I have a job(s) it takes a lot of pressure off my practice as I don’t need to make it work for me financially. There is a lot of stuff associated the financial side of the art world that I’m still trying to get my head around if I’m honest. So with that in mind, recently I’ve used my work on a couple of projects to help support charities as this feels personally rewarding and a good, organic way of reaching new audiences. As you mentioned, earlier this year I made a colouring book with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust to explain more here’s a little video the BBC digital team in the East made…

26/06/2018, 15:33 - Alice Lee:

Bit cringey…

26/06/2018, 15:36 - Alice Lee:

Also over the last couple of years I’ve been working with a newly established breast cancer charity called littlelifts, making pin badges of some of my bird drawings to help fundraise and spread awareness. The beeb also made a video about the charity so here it is: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-norfolk-44170556/comfort-box-gives-norfolk-cancer-patients-a-little-lift

26/06/2018, 15:36 - Alice Lee:

Anyway, break over better get back to work 🙏

26/06/2018, 15:52 - BTF:

Wow! Thank you this is all fantastic. What a beautiful, moving story. I think destiny is the perfect word actually. And how glorious that those two kissing pigeons have led to such heartfelt, important work that’s having a positive impact on the world. 🐦❤🐦

26/06/2018, 15:53 - BTF:

(Cheers for writing all that in your break by the way!)

26/06/2018, 15:55 - BTF:

That has really inspired us. But what about you – outside of your own work, is there any arts, social or charity thing that you’ve been particularly impressed by recently?

26/06/2018, 18:14 - Alice Lee:

Awww thank you ☺ and no worries! Bit more fulfilling than scrolling through Instagram ha ha. Well you might be able to tell that my life is pretty full trying to juggle all the bits and pieces so it doesn’t leave me much time to notice too much that’s not in my immediate field of vision! I’m trying to work on that… I guess my current surroundings right now is impressive. I’m working on my next exhibition in a studio building provided by OUTPOST, a Norwich-based art gallery but is also a charity which gives opportunities to artists and helps support them with affordable spaces in which to work.

26/06/2018, 18:16 - Alice Lee:

Here’s a sneak peak of what I’ve been working on at the studio today

26/06/2018, 18:24 - Alice Lee:

One thing I’ve been doing a lot of lately is listening to a podcast by an artist called Harry Meadley I met at the studio a couple of years ago. Coincidentally it’s focusses on interviewing but I’ve found it so interesting and inspiring listening to other people’s journey. I really like the down-to-earth manner in which he talks and draws the finer details out and they are about 1 or 2 hours long. I’m slowly working my way through all the episodes. Most of the people on the list I’ve never heard of but I’m going to listen to them anyway and see what I can discover

26/06/2018, 18:25 - Alice Lee:

https://www.harrymeadley.studio

27/06/2018, 16:05 - BTF:

Great tips! We will be sure to check out both the studio and podcast 👍👍👍

27/06/2018, 16:06 - BTF:

And cheers for the sneak peek!

27/06/2018, 16:06 - BTF:

Speaking of being inspired by other people’s journeys – what’s the best bit of advice you’ve been given?

27/06/2018, 20:21 - Alice Lee:

Yes! I listened to an episode last night and it was an interview of Rory Macbeth – he’s the artist that transcribed (not sure if that’s the word) Thomas Moore’s utopia onto a derelict building in Norwich (where I live), perhaps you’ve seen it?

27/06/2018, 20:24 - Alice Lee:

27/06/2018, 20:24 - Alice Lee:

This one (photo stolen from internet)

27/06/2018, 20:26 - Alice Lee:

Best bit of advice in recent times is ‘DO TESTS!’

27/06/2018, 20:29 - Alice Lee:

When I have an idea to make something I want to do it right away and as quickly as possible. If it’s something I need a bit of help or advice with the advice is always ‘do a test’ 🙄

27/06/2018, 20:34 - Alice Lee:

I haven’t got much patience for tests… today I messed up a piece of work at the studio as I couldn’t be bothered to do a test and it didn’t work so I wasted both materials, money and time. Quite frustrating especially cos I was trying not to be wasteful…

27/06/2018, 20:34 - Alice Lee:

27/06/2018, 20:34 - Alice Lee:

Evidence of frustration 😤

27/06/2018, 20:35 - Alice Lee:

*do tests*

28/06/2018, 14:35 - BTF:

😱😱😱😨😨😨😣😣😣

28/06/2018, 14:35 - BTF:

We can feel the frustration there!

28/06/2018, 14:38 - BTF:

It’s a great piece of advice. The world of software and digital products likes to shout about being ‘iterative’ with work – and running user tests all the time – but actually that idea isn’t new. And it’s universal – particularly for artistic endeavours. It’s just about playing around, doing tests first, as you say. Balancing enthusaism and creative output with patience and craft.

28/06/2018, 14:40 - BTF:

Right – we have one last question for you (if you don’t mind!) Aside from remembering to do tests, what do you think is the biggest challenge facing people doing work like yours (both from an illustration perspecitve, and from a charitable perspective)?

28/06/2018, 14:40 - BTF:

(Then we promise to let you get back to your beautiful birds!)

28/06/2018, 14:41 - BTF:

🦉🦉🦉

28/06/2018, 14:55 - Alice Lee:

Yes it’s all about the balance. Thanks for unravelling that for me, I was in quite a different headspace yesterday…

28/06/2018, 19:44 - Alice Lee:

Sorry for the delay, have been at work today! I think the ‘test’ thing is important too to encourage people not to be ‘wasteful’ in all sorts of senses of the word.

28/06/2018, 19:44 - Alice Lee:

Hmmm the biggest challenge… 🤔

28/06/2018, 19:53 - Alice Lee:

From both an illustration and charitable perspective, the biggest challenge I think is being selective about the charity you work with and vice versa and whether they are appropriate for each other. For example, I worked with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust to make a colouring book but I was already doing colouring in workshops with my drawings of birds and the NWT has a massive focus on birds with their conservation work so it was a really good fit and an easy way to engage people with both my work and the NWT.

28/06/2018, 19:58 - Alice Lee:

With littlelifts it’s more of a literal interpretation of the charity name as birds are little lifts and also we’ve chosen birds with prominent breasts so that it correlates with the fact that it supports women with breast cancer. The pin badges are generally worn on that area of the body so it made sense for us. These could sound like more tenuous links compared to the NWT project, but I guess for me the choice was also personal having watched my dad go through chemotherapy and feeling quite clueless and unsupported at that time.

28/06/2018, 20:00 - Alice Lee:

Going back to the point, the aim of using artists etc. to help promote charitable aims adds another dimension to fund raising and awareness so the choice of who each other work with is important and not always easy to find. I guess it’s important to feel as though things are meaningful for both parties…

28/06/2018, 20:07 - Alice Lee:

Not sure if I explained that very well. Probably a bigger challenge is money and not making the right product/project that can help generate funds or awareness would be a bit of a failure for both perspectives!

29/06/2018, 16:19 - BTF:

Fear not – you explained it very well! Thank you so much. This has all been really, really fascinating (and inspiring). Keep up the great work! It’s been such a pleasure chatting.

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