“I can’t be listening to bangers while I’m drawing. The lines would get too crazy.”
The first place we came across Dami Lee‘s illustrations was on Instagram, where she has an understandably massive following. Many comics are infamous for visually representing life’s little banalities with a misanthropic humor, but Dami Lee’s comics do so with a fresh, modern take. It’s easy to understand their popularity when they capture pop-culture eccentricities, technology-induced interpersonal alienation and 21st-century relationship woes so perfectly and succinctly. Due to this palatable medley, she’s also been popping up all over the internet: from Buzzfeed to The Verge to random features on sites like Hypebeast and the Huffington Post, if you hadn’t heard of her before now you inevitably would’ve soon anyway.
Though Seoul-born and California-raised, Dami moved to New York for a web artist fellowship at Buzzfeed, and is now living and breathing the daily hustle of trying to make it as a cartoonist in the Big Apple. Currently working in the business of making witty social commentaries as well as doing social media and illustrating for The Verge, she also finds time for a plethora of creative projects: she draws As Per Usual and Illustrated Internet on LINE Webtoon, and Hot Comics for Cool People in partnership with her writer-buddy Brandon. We decided to catch up with the artistic powerhouse herself for a little chitchat about her art and her obsession with Netflix-sponsored Japanese reality TV.
GIRLS ARE AWESOME: Hi Dami! Were you always into comics and animation? What were some of your favorites growing up?
DAMI LEE: My family immigrated to the US when I was six, so I spent a lot of time reading an obscene amount of Garfield and Foxtrot comics from my local library and learned English that way. Then there was a period of time where we moved back to Korea, so I read a bunch of Pokemon manga and learned Korean that way!
Have reactions to your work differed at all between the US and Korea?
Sometimes I’ll show my comics to my parents and they’ll be like, “Hmm!” and “This doesn’t make any sense.” Which is fine: it’s a different kind of humor! I’ve never tried translating my comics into Korean, but that would be an interesting project for the future. My favorite thing, though, is when I see people commenting on my comics in different languages. ESPECIALLY “Jajaja”, that’s just the best.
How do you balance illustrating stuff for work versus illustrating stuff for fun? Does illustrating for fun start to seem like just more work, or vice versa?
I rarely illustrate for fun anymore, which is sad! Between my IRL job and freelancing, I’m constantly on the verge of crumbling into a heap of flesh and bones! It’s exhausting, everything hurts and I’m dying! I wouldn’t have it any other way, though. I’m naturally very lazy so if I didn’t have deadlines and consequences for my actions, I’d never get anything done.
Your site mentions that you love 90s R&B jams. What are some your favorites? Do slow jams make good background music while drawing?
I love jams from all decades, really. I recently found a really good Spotify playlist called ‘beggin ass men <3’ and it’s just full of men pleading for forgiveness in four-part harmony. Slow jams are absolutely ideal for working – I can’t be listening to bangers while I’m drawing, the lines would get too crazy.
Word on the street is that you love Terrace House. I absolutely understand the Terrace House love, but I can’t convince anyone I know to watch it with me. Do you have any advice for enticing friends into partaking in reality TV binging?
Oh my god! Thank you so much for asking me about Terrace House, it’s my number one obsession right now. I would say the best way to get your friends to watch with you is to do it sneakily. It’s hard to get people hooked onto things until they actually see it for themselves, so you have to pull a fast one on ’em. Invite them over with the promise of food, and don’t let them leave until they’ve binged at least three episodes with you. Sure, you’re essentially keeping them hostage, but that is what must be done.