Bryan Lee loves to draw very muscular characters, the artist tells It’s Nice That. “I’m not sure what it exactly is, I just find it quite humorous and it finds its way naturally into my work.” Despite their brown, these muscular figures manage surprisingly elegant poses as they dance and prance through Bryan’s portfolio, dolled up to the nines in sharp suits with deliciously decorative patterns. “Delicious” is definitely the word, because when Bryan describes his practice he can’t help but turn to metaphors about food. “Over time, I’ve seen my creative process as ‘making a new dish’ or ‘creating a new recipe’. The more food, flavours, smells, recipes, etc you consume… the more you have to work with!”
On describing how he came to develop his own “innate taste” for illustration and animation, Bryan transports us to the adorably-named town of Walnut, just outside LA, where he was born and raised. He was brought up a Christian by his parents who are from Taiwan. “Despite growing up with an eastern background, I was raised primarily on western cartoons and storytelling.” As a young thing, Bryan avidly created “scribble storms” and “pirate ships” inspired by hours of watching Spongebob and Disney shows. While his current practice retains the cheeky “sprinkles of humour” from his early experiments, it has now been enriched by the “wonders of eastern animation”, citing Masaaki Yuasa (among many others) as one of his creative heroes.
“Yuasa exploded and rebuilt my understanding of how characters can move in 2D space,” he tells us. The dynamic poses which abound in Bryan’s illustrations are deeply inspired by the Japanese animator. But he also delves into the realms of Austrian expressionism for his exaggerated figural compositions – Egon Schiele is another big influence on his work. In Bryan’s recent Fashion! series these disparate influences combine seamlessly through the well-dressed and balletic figures of his cheery “muscular men”.