Welcome to Week 2 of the TOKYO HEIST ART GALLERY!

Every Tuesday leading up to the June 14 launch of Tokyo Heist, I’m featuring illustrations by artists to watch out for. These professional artists have generously donated their time and talent to illustrate a scene or a character from the novel, and to answer questions about their creative careers. I hope you’ll check out their websites and see more of their exciting work! There will also be giveaways each week. (If you missed last week’s featured artist, Ming Doyle, you can click here to see her illustration and read the interview).

Today I’d like to introduce you to illustrator/graphic designer Rich Lee, who’s dropped by with a couple of shady characters from Tokyo Heist!

Illustration by Rich Lee

I think Rich perfectly captured what I had in mind when I dreamed these guys up, and I love that they captured his imagination as an artist. Also love the colors in this picture, the feeling of Seattle damp and gloom, and the sense of intrigue.

And now, here’s my interview with Rich!

Q: Tell us about your illustration. Why did you choose to draw this scene from the novel? 
A: I liked the ironic image of the two Yakuza trying to fit in with the locals (with the Prius and Seahawks umbrellas) but you can easily tell that they’re kind of shifty.

Q: Can you describe your process for us?
A: Sketched and colored in Photoshop.

Q: What kind of work do you do as a professional artist? Who are your clients?
A: I work on everything from sport illustrations to comic books to logo work and formatting teacher guides. Some of my current and past clients include BMW Motorcycles of San Francisco, San Francisco – Osaka Sister City Association, Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California, Cycle World Magazine, Giants Magazine, MINI Cooper of San Francisco, Stanford University’s SPICE Program, and Versus.com, to name a few.

Q: What work are you most proud of?
A: Some of the work that I’m most proud of are the motorcycle, baseball, and basketball drawings I’ve done and subsequently had signed by the players/riders themselves. One of my recent drawings of Jeremy Lin got signed and is proudly hanging in my studio.

Q: When did you know you wanted to become an artist? Was there one “a-ha” moment, was it a gradual process, or did you just always know?
A: In 2005 I came upon a fork in the road where I could stay comfortably at a local motorcycle shop or go back to school for formal art training. It was at this point I decided to quite my 9-5 gig and go freelance full-time. While freelancing can be frustrating at times, I am very happy to get paid for doing what I love.

Q: How did you go about pursuing art as a career? What kind of education did you have?
A: I received an undergraduate degree in graphic design from Sacramento State University and a few years later I earned a Master’s in illustration from the Academy of Art here in San Francisco. The training I received form the Academy of Art sharpened my skills as an illustrator, and the time I spent studying graphic design allowed me to use various digital tools to enhance my illustration work. Equally important, I believe that graphic design has also helped me “package” up my illustrations with more of a design-conscious manner.

Q: What artists have influenced you?
A: John Singer Sargent, J.C. Leyendecker, Moebius, Katsuhiro Otomo, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Franklin Booth, Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri, Milo Manara, Jim Lee.

Q: What inspires you?
A: I think I am inspired most by anyone who does anything with not only passion but an eye for detail and quality. Whether it’s cooking, music, kung fu or whatever, I enjoy listening to and learning from people who are into their respective crafts. I respect people who are never satisfied with their work and who are willing and ready to put in the work. 

Q: What is the most challenging part of working as an artist? What is the most rewarding? 
A: The most challenging part of being a freelance artist is definitely the business side of things. The most rewarding part is knowing that I am getting paid to do what I love — not many people can say that I think. It’s like, “Dude, I’m getting paid to draw!” 

Q: What misconceptions do you think people have about artists?
A: I think the biggest misconception is that people think that since I love to draw, I would also love to draw their ideas in my “free time.” I don’t ask others to do work for me for free, so I expect the same in return.

Q: What were you like in high school?
A: Wanted to be part of the crowd — and never really made the most of my potential in class. Most of my notebooks were filled with doodles, and not words.

Thank you for visiting, Rich, and thanks for the great illustration! 

Here’s where Rich Lee lurks online:
Website: Rich Lee Draws!
Twitter: @richleedraws

But wait . . . there’s more! Here are the week 2 gallery giveaways! You can win one of these prize packs:
1. A hardcover copy of TOKYO HEIST, signed by me, to be mailed on its release date 6/14/12, PLUS five feet of official TOKYO HEIST crime scene tape. (Great for decorating or for mystifying your neighbors!)
2. A print of Rich Lee’s illustration inspired by TOKYO HEIST, signed by Rich. PLUS five feet of official TOKYO HEIST crime scene tape. PLUS five TOKYO HEIST bookmarks.

Click on the Rafflecopter thingie below (where it says “read more” if you don’t see a box) and follow the instructions!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

UPDATE: We have winners from last week’s giveaway of art by Ming Doyle!

Winner #1 (signed copy of TANTALIZE): Artemis
Winner #2 (Wonder Tote Bag): Maria Qa
Winner #3 (Set of Girl Reporter prints): Evic Or

Congratulations to the winners — you’ll be hearing from me soon — and thanks to everyone who entered and helped spread the word about this gallery!