Turning to art in crisis | The A List
Singaporean artist Josef Lee, a popular author and illustrator of Chinese picture books, has been drawing comics to inspire and uplift people in the time of the COVID-19 situation. (Photo: Josef Lee)

Turning to art in crisis | The A List

While some responded to the COVID-19 situation with dread and panic, artist Josef Lee chose to keep calm and carry on making art. Specifically, art to uplift the public and inspire people to love their neighbours in this time of gloom.

Since the virus started spreading worldwide, Lee has created and shared 11 illustrations on the COVID-19 situation on his Instagram channel @joseflee.stories and the encouraging images have been shared virtually.

We speak to Lee to find out more about his recent works and his inspiration for them.

What moved you to make art about the COVID-19 situation?
The first piece I did was a graphic design based on the Chinese characters for Wuhan. I drew it shortly after news reports said the virus was spreading rapidly in China. I was saddened by the news and I wanted to spread positivity and rally support for Wuhan.

Then, the news sent some of us in Singapore into a panic and there were reports about people hoarding masks and behaving in unkind ways to others. So, I started doing single-panel comics to express my views on some of these issues.

How long does it take you to complete an illustration?
The ideas are usually spontaneous, and each drawing or comic generally takes about an hour or more to complete.

Are your recent drawings a departure from your usual style?
I am better known for my picture books, although I started out drawing comics in my teens. The drawing styles of my COVID-19 comics and picture books are different, but I have been expressing my views on social and environmental issues even in my picture books such as The Boy Who Caught The Sea and Peace, Will You Play With Me?.

The COVID-19 situation has been developing very rapidly and new things unfold almost every other day, so these comics are the fastest way for me to express my thoughts on these issues.

Do you plan to continue drawing comics related to the COVID-19 situation?
Yes, to raise awareness and spread positivity, but I hope I don’t need to do too many of them because that would mean that the COVID-19 situation persists.

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