Chinlun Lee grew up in Taipei, Taiwan. She studied Illustration at the Royal College of Art in London, later writing a book about her experiences there, called in English "The Light from a Window Seat" (Locus Publishing (Taiwan), 2009).
Chinlun has illustrated many children's books, of which only a handful are available in English: she is the author-illustrator of The Very Kind Rich Lady and Her One Hundred Dogs and Good Dog, Paw !, as well as the illustrator of Totally Wonderful Miss Plumberry by former UK Children's Laureate Michael Rosen.
Chinlun Lee lives in Kaoshung, southern Taiwan, with her vet husband and their tortoise and many cats and dogs.
Even when I was little, I wanted to be an illustrator.
What and/or who have influenced you most as an artist?
My daddy influences me most. He is an Industrial Design professor in university. His dream was to be a professional watercolor artist. I asked him a long time ago, "Why didn't you become a watercolor artist in the end?" He answered, "Because I had three children to feed." He holds a solo exhibition every one or two years. I watched him paint and also learned art things from him a lot, naturally.
Where did you get the ideas from for your two picture books about dogs?
The first book I worked on with Walker Books was The Very Kind Rich Lady and Her One Hundred Dogs. My husband is a vet and the story is based on one of his clients - a very kind rich lady and her FOUR hundred dogs! One day I went to the lady's house with him to treat her dogs. There were more than 20 little doggy faces looking at me to greet me - and of course, that was followed by welcoming barks!
From that day, the images which I captured in the very-kind-rich-lady’s house were just like a story seed. It sprouted and became a picture book two years later.
The second book, again with Walker Books, was Good Dog, Paw. Paw was my dog; she was a cocker spaniel. Because of my husband’s background, I have so many opportunities to get close to animals and observe them. As well as drawing Paw as a very personal documentary for myself, I also wished the book to express well how to take care of pet dogs and love them as a family member.
Please tell us about your pets.
I have four dogs, ten cats and a tortoise in my pet family. I call them my furry children. All of them were strays and they are mongrels and moggies – all very clever as well as beautiful. They all follow many different fashion styles in their colors and patterns! I walk the dogs four times a day, and am always chatting with my cats.
As well as being an illustrator, I do "many other things". One of these is that I have my own brand Chinlun and I run a shop called Bobo-Chi.
My logo is a portrait of my cat Ban-Don, which means rice-box in Taiwanese. I nursed her and gave her milk from a bottle when she had barely left her mummy's tummy. She had been abandoned and was so, so tiny. The year I got her was also the year I launched my brand. She is the youngest cat in our animal family.
People love to ask me what she is doing. I think she is stamping… or playing… or making something… or thinking…
Ban-Don likes to try a little bit of my drink. One day I caught her drinking coffee from my cup. Soon afterwards I drew this:
Can you tell us something about any other books you have done?
My first book was published in Japan in 1992. Since then, I have had seventeen books published - three by Walker Books, the others in Taiwan. Most of them are available in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. Some of them are children’s books and some are books for adults. I love telling animal stories that have happened in my daily life and also writing my thoughts about them.
I always hope I can capture more and more human hearts to love animals via my drawings, words, photography and book publishing.
Please describe your studio and what your ideal day would be.
My studio is attached to my shop and I called them Bobo-Chi after two of my cats, Bobo and Little Chi. They were strays. They were attacked by dogs and passed away while my studio was being built. I recorded the wonderful times I spent with Bobo, Little Chi and other street cats in my book called "Good Days at Bobo-Chi " in English (Locus Publishing, 2011). My studio will be a cat base forever - they can come and go; I will always be here for them.
In my studio there are two long tables that I have put together. They are always covered – with gouache, pens, pencils, paper, mugs, jugs, brushes, boxes, and… cats!
A quiet day with no visitors would be my ideal day. From morning till night, just think then draw, draw then take a rest, take a rest then walk the dogs, walk the dogs then chat with the cats, chat with the cats then think then draw. Quietly and peacefully, a wonderful creative day.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a warehouse refurbishment project at the moment!
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