For tattoo enthusiasts, body art is their way of communicating with the world at large. It’s a way for them to express their own interpretations of reality, however zany they may be. This is the belief of Taipei-based illustrator and tattooist Sic Lee, whose work effortlessly weaves together humorous absurdities with insightful context.
Almost every kid has scribbled in the pages of their textbooks, and Lee is no exception. These mischievous doodles became his earliest memories of creating art. He drew on and off for a number of years throughout his teenage years, and ended up pursuing a degree in visual communication at Taiwan’s Shih Chien University where he found himself in awe at the illustration skills of other classmates. This was where he realized that perhaps becoming an illustrator could be a viable career path, and he began attending fine-art classes. However, the fun for him typically began once classes ended—in his personal time, he drew demons, trolls, and fictional species. Irreverent towards the pretentiousness of the fine-art scene, he even parodied the works of world-renowned painters.
纹身，像是人与世界的内在交流，通过对现实景象的重新诠释，回归都市化的纹路。就像纹身兼插画师 Sic Lee（李金霖）笔下那些充满戏谑和深意的作品，让人重新感受生活中那些有点荒谬但又滑稽的片段。
也许我们每个人，八成都经历过在课本上乱涂画的快乐时光，而那也是 Sic Lee 记忆中开始创作的起点：“我一直喜欢画好玩的，大学攻读实践媒体传达设计学时期，一切开始发生转变。”当时 Sic 看到班上几位同学私下的画作心生敬佩，于是便开始有了 “不如也来认真画画” 的念头。从那时候起，他开始上绘画课外班，自创各种生物和怪兽、并发布在网络，算是把人体写生课程“学以致用”。
In late 2020, Lee joined Taipei’s Moon Face Dragon Temple tattoo studio as an apprentice artist. Along the way, he’s stuck with his unconventional style of illustration that comes with an unfakable sense of spontaneity. Since joining, he’s developed a distinct aesthetic defined by bold line work and unconventional silhouettes. Sometimes, the illustrations he uploads are accompanied by concise English copy with a dose of levity. “I love encyclopedias, so my work sometimes imitates encyclopedic entries,” he explains of this approach. “It’s more fun when my drawings come with a caption. My English may seem a bit goofy to native speakers though because it’s not always grammar proper usage.”
This affinity for humor is a stark contrast to the deadpan calm Lee speaks with. Similar juxtaposition can be found in his work, whether it be his muscle-bound cupids or lovelorn zombies. These dualities are precisely what makes his art so unexpected, and that much more hilarious.
2020 年下旬，在加入太陽龍宮拜师学习纹身之前，Sic 一直沿袭自己的 “乱想乱画” 道路。他一边接插画私活儿，一边忙于一些无关绘画的工作。Sic 擅用对比鲜明、令人印象深刻的配色画出五官独特的角色，衬以版画线条构成的背景；搭配简短的配文，这些旁白时而带有调侃讽刺，有时温馨得格外诡异。“我蛮喜欢百科全书的感觉，所以常常以系列进行创作，搭配文字则是单纯觉得这样更有笑点。其实有些英文在外国人看来可能笨笨的，搞不好弄巧成拙。”Sic 说出 “好笑” 的语气格外冷静，就像他笔下壮汉模样的小天使、面目狰狞却在讲述爱情观的怪物，这种反差涌现奇特的幽默感，不知不觉地触发观众的笑点。
Whether it be inside jokes or his unconventional approaches to art, Lee’s work is undeniably memorable. “One of my favorite mangas as a kid was Old Master Q,” he says. “No two frames are alike in each graphic novel, and even when there wasn’t any dialogue, it still managed to be hilarious.”
Lee’s passion for creativity followed him well into his college years, where he consumed as much music and films as he could get his hands on. In the case of films, he’d purposely find the most avant-garde works that he could, such as The Holy Mountain (1973) and Naked Lunch (1991). Understanding the plot was hardly of any importance. The visual direction and compositional genius were more than enough to spark Lee’s creativity.
These influences have been deeply engrained into his mind and manifest in his art today, whether it be the absurd plot devices of his favorite films or the visual storytelling of his childhood comics. One of his favorite past times is drawing short-form comics, which in a few short panels is able to induce leave viewers feeling poignant or dying with laughter.
In college, Lee discovered that with a bit of imagination, anything could become his canvas. He’s since drawn on red envelopes, court summons, and even bento boxes. His enjoyment of working on varied surfaces eventually led him to the world of tattooing, where the human skin offered new possibilities. “It felt like working on a living, breathing canvas,” Lee laughs.
The irreversible nature of tattoos added a new layer of challenge. Each pen stroke had to be decisive. “I used to start with drawing the eyes before I develop the rest of my drawing,” he says. “With tattooing, I had to learn how to create the outline first.”
Skin, with its elasticity and unique textures, was also quite different from the styluses and iPads he had grown accustomed to. Doing away with technology and working with a more hands-on approach felt like a blessing though. “Returning to the basics might be the best way to go about things,” Lee says.
小时候拿课本当画板的 Sic，上大学后喜欢出门乱晃，信手拈来的不只有灵感，还有千奇百怪的物品：红包袋、传票、路边捡来的纸条、便当盒、招租的广告单……直到他了解纹身后，人体肌肤成了他全新的创作媒介，“有点像是活招牌的感觉”，Sic 笑道。
同样以绘画作为基础，但纹身一下笔便成定局，因此 Sic 感到不小挑战：“我以前习惯先画眼睛再发展其他部分，让人物轮廓慢慢形成；开始纹身后，则要试着直接抓好画面的整个轮廓。”由于肌肤有幅度与触感，让已习惯用 iPad 绘制草稿的 Sic 不得不卸甲归田、返璞归真，他感悟道：“有时候第一次创作出来的东西，往往是最好的。”
Adaptiveness is key to growth, but there are advantages and disadvantages to being so creatively malleable. “I’ve found my recent work to be a bit too commercial,” Lee says. “They’re clean but rigid, while my older works were more humorous and impulsive. Some people have even commented that my newer drawings are missing a certain warmth, which to me, is a more scathing critique than saying my works are ugly. I’ve started looking to my past self for guidance.”
说到这，Sic 提到自己最近尝试用多种创作媒介来呈现的画作：“羊毛毡也蛮好玩的，未来可能会找这种创作者合作。”全新的尝试仿佛一门刺绣工艺，从人体肌肤到羊毛，由平面化为立体，Sic 的画作在各物种之间穿梭，将无边想像力附上特殊材质，搭建属于自己的一座新颖的生态圈。
Lee feels that getting older has made him duller, as there are a new myriad of pressures that he has to deal with. He says he has less chances to take creative risks, and even when he feels bottlenecked, he often still forces himself to draw. Despite this, he still sees art a way of relieving stress. Sharing his work with people is a way for him to find respite. “Some artists might only be interested in working for themselves and aren’t interested in sharing their work with others,” Lee says. “Not me though, I want as many people to see my art as possible.”
Aside from tattoos and personal illustrations, Lee enjoys working with varying mediums and collaborating across different fields. His illustrations have since been released as stickers, stamped on accessories, and even printed atop T-shirts. As long as it gets his work in front of more eyes, he’s open to any means. Of his favorite collaborations though, his favorite so far is the animation work he created for “Friend Friend,” a music video for Taiwanese rapper Leo Wang.
“I listened to the song on repeat over several days, and after meeting with the label to discuss the characters I wanted to make, I got to work,” Lee recalls. “Animation is very different from my illustrations, so it took a lot of time and effort to complete. But after finishing, it felt amazing. It was really rewarding.”
将画画从消遣变为职业，自嘲 “年纪越大越无聊” 的 Sic 觉得，如今难得闲晃，没什么机会乱捡东西；有时即使画不出来也得硬画，难免颇有压力，但他仍旧视画画为纾压之道：“不像有些人画了图后不给别人看，只想自己留着，我最大目的还是希望越多人看到越好。”
Going forward, Lee remains committed on experimenting outside the bounds of his comfort zone. He’s even looked into tufting recently, but tattoos will still remain his core area of focus—the steady stream of customers looking to get work done by Lee is a testament to his success. “I have a lot more clients lately, so in the short term, I plan on just staying posted up in the shop, arranging appointments, and inking customers.”
When asked how long he thinks he’ll continue on his path of art, Lee responds without hesitation. “I’ve never thought about stopping, so I supposed it’s something I’ll do forever,” he says. “Illustration has so many diverse forms. I never thought I’d dabble in tattoos before, but now here I am, so I believe I’ll discover even more new approaches going forward. Even years from now, when my hand trembles from old age, perhaps I can even turn that into a new art style of sorts!”