Mei Lee – BA (Hons) Illustration graduate

Current employer: Self-employed

Current job title: Freelancer

Current location: Johor Bahru, Malaysia

“Everyone worked in studios and the atmosphere was great: we chatted, laughed, talked nonsense, encouraged each other and asked for feedback from classmates and also from lecturers. That was my best memory from Plymouth.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

I worked as kindergarten teacher for a month and completed a children’s book illustration, collaborating with Malaysia’s publisher, Odonata Pte Ltd. My longer plan is to work independently as a professional illustrator.

How has your degree helped/influenced your career path?

During study time at university I got to explore different subject areas, such as children’s literature, comics, editorials, character design and so forth. I learnt how to work like a professional, which has helped me to decide upon my future career.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

Since I am going back to my hometown in Malaysia, I know that the illustration market is going to be really tiny and tough. Most of the people living in Malaysia are more aware of graphic design than illustration, so this will be the most challenging part of being an illustrator.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

I have published a children’s book ‘Swimming With Bertie’ in collaboration with AquaElite. Antony James is the organiser of this company as well as an Olympic swimmer, so it was an honour to work with a live brief and get it published. Also, I collaborated with my friend to make rubber stamps, which I designed and she made. We will sell at these at a flea market in Singapore and probably also in Malaysia at the end of this year.

I’d say every project has their own exciting part, yet they are also very challenging. For example, with regards to 'Swimming with Bertie,' I needed a lot of time to research children’s book, finding references for drawings, colour schemes, etc. Then, with regards to hallmark greeting card, you need time to research greeting cards, visit stores, consider your target audience and styles. Both of these adventures were fun and challenging. Every project is different.

If you were just about to graduate again, what would you do differently?

I might have contacted more publishers and professional illustrators in the industry.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

It is as simple as this: do what you love. Be passionate, be persistent after knowledge, and be humble.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

I loved the tranquillity in Plymouth: the calm, laid back pace which helps my thinking (both creatively and career wise). I used to live in Singapore which is a city full of the hustle and bustle of big cities; everything moves so fast over there. So, when I started studying at Plymouth, I really appreciated the peacefulness to be found on campus and in the city. Studying at Plymouth allowed me to sharpen my drawing styles. Also, working on different areas helped me to define my career direction.

What lessons/skills did you gain from your course?

I had the chance to explore screen print, mono print, etching, risograph, and other forms of printing that I had never tried before. I learnt to self-critique and make annotation on my artwork, improved under the guidance of our lecturers. I learnt to shoulder responsibility with regards to my career, and all the projects that I have done since have been milestones towards my future career. And finally, at university I made contact with other professional illustrators in the industry, which was extremely helpful. I have had a fruitful study period in Plymouth over the past two years.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

Everyone worked in studios and the atmosphere was great: we chatted, laughed, talked nonsense, encouraged each other and asked for feedback from classmates and also from lecturers. That was my best memory from Plymouth.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with the University, and why?

I would recommend the University’s illustration course for those who like a peaceful yet competitive environment in which to work, and I would also recommend the course for those who love to explore a range of different traditional mediums. Lecturers are very friendly, approachable, and professional in guiding students. It is definitely one of the best choices that I have ever made in my life.

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

Explore as many avenues as you can whilst studying. Don’t limit yourself. You will find your own voice eventually.

Inspired by this story?

For more information about studying illustration, please visit our BA (Hons) Illustration page. For more information about our range of courses within the School of Art, Design and Architecture, please visit the school page.

Want to find similar alumni?

If you would like to find out what other alumni from the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business are currently doing, please visit the art, design, media and performance interest area.

Image by Ross Ingielewicz,

Image by Ross Ingielewicz,