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Thursday 12 January 2023

Meet The Illustrator: Monty Lee

Monty Lee

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
A collage of many ideas in muted colours.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Most definitely children’s books from all over the world. And of course, my inks, crayons and pencils. Without those I can’t get inspired, just the smell of them puts me in a happy place. I’m also surrounded by prints and artwork by many other artists. Nothing more inspiring than beautiful artwork.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I like to work with different media, try-out new techniques but mostly I work with colouring pencil and crayons and any assortment of paper I can get my hands on.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
That’s a hard one as there are so many artists out there that do exactly that. But if you put me on the spot I’d choose: Maurice Sendak, Tomi Ungerer and Fiep Westendorp.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
I think every era has its particular beauty in art. Just think of the exquisite jewellery of the ancient Egyptians, the sculptures of the Mayans, etc. Go into any great museum and you’ll find great art. All these different periods lead us to the present, we’ve learned new skills and created our own artforms. I really like where we are now, no rules in which media to use or which format to put it in. Just go with what you feel is right.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
It was a combination of things, first of all my parents are both artists who provided the most incredible children’s books and all art materials my heart desired which was an inspiration in itself. But the exact moment I knew that I wanted to illustrate children’s books in particular was because of my childhood friend whose mother (Annemie Heymans) was an illustrator of children’s books. I remember sitting in a small room above their stairs looking down at her, working at her table, completely focused. It seemed such a magical world to get lost in. And I knew there and then that that was what I wanted to be.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it.
Up till March, when the heavy rains ruined so much, my studio was my special place. (At the moment the living room will have to do). My studio looks out on the bush. It’s a very quiet place. I have a soft spot for chairs (one can never have enough of them) and hands (a collection resides on my table and a giant hand stands outside my studio). I get easily distracted and create lots of in-between-projects for myself, like making little useless chairs and decorate the old building blocks which clutter up my shelves.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
My favourite part is definitely when everything is drawn and cut out. The moment before gluing it down, I can move things around on the backgrounds. It’s my own little world, I decide where everything goes, it must be a control-thing.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
I’m not very good at advice as I stumble through life and the illustration process myself. I do know you have to be very passionate as it’s a job that’s not very widely recognised. (How many times have I heard: Children’s book illustrator? That’s just a bit of scribbling). Not a lot of illustrators can actually make a living out of their children’s books, so my advice is that it’s probably handy to branch out.


Monty Lee is an Australian artist who has displayed work at exhibitions and collaborated with several artists on varying projects.
Amongst her work are the illustrations for
Songs to Edward Lear, Grumpy Bear, Grouchy Bear, Theo’s princess and A Special Treat. She has also been featured in international illustration magazines.

For more information please follow Monty on instagram.