The Creatives: Olivia Lee

We speak to Olivia Lee, the artist behind our SS21 Lily Hawaiian print shirt, on her signature style and her dream summer vacation.

Describe your illustration style

My illustrations are bright, bold, and often wonky interpretations of plants, fruit and animals. They’re all very loose and wobbly in their form. My process is a mixture of analogue and digital – I always start out with pencil and paper, even if I know the end result will be entirely digital. I then paint them out in gouache, and scan in my paintings to edit the colours digitally.

What inspires your work?

I’m inspired by my home and surroundings – we live in a small coastal town with stunning beaches as well as rainforest and bushland. I’m always drawn to the interesting forms, textures and shapes of Australian native flora. The flowers here are unapologetically bold and a little bit eccentric – I’m completely inspired by them, and they often make their way into my illustrations.

Artistically, my dad is my biggest influence – he was an incredible artist who made intricate wood carvings and detailed drawings. His art featured mostly native Australian cockatoos and native flo-ra. He showed me the endless beauty and inspiration we have in our own backyard.

What was your creative process behind the collaboration with Bouguessa?

I started out with the feeling I wanted to evoke when people wore the shirt and found myself (men-tally) travelling to a summer on the Amalfi Coast – long lunches in the sun, beautiful beaches with turquoise water and coloured umbrellas, farmers markets with fresh produce. I also looked at a whole heap of vintage Italian summer photos from the 1960s and 70s for inspiration.

I then sought out some bush lemons, which are lumpy and misshapen and painted these and their leaves, staying true to their form. I then scanned in these paintings and edited the colours so they were just right.

How did you start illustration? What inspired it?

I’ve always loved making things and after university, I went straight into a full-time role that was great but wasn’t exciting me creatively. As a result, I spent years and years constantly creating on weekends and trying all different art forms – from woodblock printing to collage to fine-line botani-cals before I finally landed on my current style, which feels authentic to who I am as an artist. I then started posting my illustrations online, and people seem to resonate with it, which is really nice to see and has enabled me to take my illustration work full-time.

Your perfect holiday destination (to wear the Hawaiian shirt!)

First choice would be to the Amalfi Coast so I could go full-circle on my creative process! But considering all things right now, I’d stay local and go north to South West Rocks, NSW – it’s a sleepy coastal town with pristine beaches and bays and great bush walks. It’s really nostalgic for me – we used to holiday there when I was a kid, it’s a very special place.

Photographer: @jordantlyerlee