The Musically-Inspired Waterlife Series of Joel Lee

Joel Lee (alias Ceasebreath), based in Toronto and currently freelance Art Director at Ceasebreath, has put together a set of impressive explosive mixed-media illustrations. Under the series name: ‘Waterlife’, these pieces were inspired by ‘the unknown mysteries of the deep ocean’. For me, the work could be described as peering into an electronic music track, which is just as well, as Joel forms one half of electro duo Betamax.

joel lee ceasebreath waterlife series mixed media

Photography by Jess Baumung

Lee has been heavily involved in music since 5 years old, playing in bands since then, specializing in thrash, ska and hardcore. After this period up until high school, he called the rock music quits and began focusing on graphic design. Before working in Toronto, Joel was Interactive Art Director at Juxt Interactive in California.

‘I would say I got into illustration because of graphic design, and graphic design because of music. Working in interactive advertising made me venture towards the path of illustration. It took a lot of trial and error to get to where I am now’.

joel lee ceasebreath waterlife series mixed media
Photography by May Truong

joel lee ceasebreath waterlife series mixed media


Joel describes his work process and equipment used for the series:

I used numerous tools such tracing paper, marker pens, a digital slr (Canon 5D), a Wacom tablet, a scanner, a deskjet printer and my dual quad core Mac Pro (it took at lot of processing power to create these as I made them at 300 dpi).

In terms of concept I usually start with a mind map and associated words that had anything to do with water. I knew I wanted to base this series on living creatures in the water because of my infatuation with the deep sea creatures and the deep unknown. Because I came from a digital background, I wanted to further explore traditional methods and try to combine the two together to make something a bit more distinguished for myself.

In terms of process I normally sketch out all of concepts on paper, and then take photos myself. In this case I did what I would do normally but additionally sketched things out based on photographs taken by friends who are photographers. From there I would put together my composition digitally and print it out. The next step is to apply a sheet of tracing paper, then start to pencil and ink in the drawings forming an overlap. Once satisfied, I scan my drawings as well as other sketches in and bring them to Photoshop or Illustrator and then bring things together based on my composition.

joel lee ceasebreath waterlife series mixed media
ⓒ Joel Lee, 2009

In mid-April he will be working with Canadian musician Kae Sun on his debut album release on Urbnet Records. Joel’s main aim is to keep pushing hard on both his art and music, hopefully showcasing his art in an exhibition and releasing an LP, as well as ‘moving somewhere foreign’.

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5 Comments

  1. Thanks for interesting article. I will take into consideration

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  4. Interesting work… although I would have pictured “Waterlife” from a different perspective. I think these illustrations would fit great for an music album cover.

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