What started out as a hobby for Jane Lee has caught the attention of European publishers, writes Lai Ying-kit
Drawing comics has been Jane Lee Mei-yan's favourite pastime since her primary school days. The graphic information design student at Hong Kong Design Institute never imagined it would be anything more than a hobby.
But when she posted her work online and caught the eye of international publishers, she realised her future was as a professional artist.
Thanks to the power of My Space, Lee's colourful avant-garde works are being recognised by the European graphic art world. She initially joined a comic artists' group on the website about three years ago, aiming to learn from other artists around the world.
But to her surprise - and delight - her works caught the eyes of British and French publishers, which printed them as posters and in comic periodicals. This unexpected development encouraged her to take drawing more seriously.
'I didn't imagine the online forum could lead to so many things happening. At first, I just wanted to learn from graphic artists,' she says.
One of the publishers was British poster company GB Eye. More than 1,500 copies of her work, Rainbow World, have been sold in Europe since 2007. The poster features hundreds of colourful, smiling, cartoon-like figures, in a celebration of life.
'The British poster publisher sent me an e-mail one day, asking if I was interested in letting them publish one of my comics as a poster to be sold,' Lee recalls.
Two other pieces have appeared in French manga journals Modern Spleen and its successor, bimonthly L'Episode.
Although she only earned several thousand Hong Kong dollars in copyright fees, Lee sees the sales as symbolic: as recognition of her potential.
'Every time I received good comments from My Space users, I was injected with new energy. But I was particularly happy about the publishers' request because someone saw commercial value in my work,' she says.
Lee's style is different from Japanese and local artists. Rather than telling her stories in pages of neatly aligned boxes, which is the traditional format, she tells her stories on a single page.
Lee says her style is heavily influenced by British designers.
'I developed this style of drawing because I want to depict a sense of congestion in modern life. My drawings often feature stairs, as they can be found everywhere in Hong Kong. They are part of our city life.'
But despite this, she also has a penchant for bright colours, as is evident in nearly every one of her drawings, which she creates using marker pens and highlighters. She hopes her work will show people that the world is full of colour and happiness.
'I think life is beautiful, and bright colours can make people happy,' Lee says.
Her talent is also earning her local recognition. This month, she received an outstanding student award from the Hong Kong Design Institute, and a HK$10,000 scholarship.
'My next project will be to do a graphic novel. I also hope I can have an exhibition of my own works in three years' time.'