VIEW: Artist Lee McConnell


Photo by Scott Bruce 

These sweet yellow tins started their life on the sketchpad of Lee McConnell. He’s the artist behind all of the album art for Dune Rats’ The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit - 12 in total, one of which features Dunies Lager. It’s a homage to the classic Australian lager tins of old, and it's now become Young Henrys Dunies Lager IRL. It’s art imitating life or life imitating art, or maybe it's beer imitating art imitating beer…Who knows. It's thirst quenching whatever it is. 

 We caught up with the man behind the art...Lee’s from up the coast at Forster, but these days he kicks it in Freshwater Sydney and Monday through Friday you’ll find him designing for Mambo. Makes sense then that his art feels so coastal. If you held it up to your ear you’d probably hear the ocean. We chatted to Lee about life and art and dream collabs...

How’d you first meet the Dunies fellas?
I met Danny first out of the fellas. He was in a mates cafe in Chippendale (‘The House’ which has now moved to South King St in Newtown for anyone reading - sick joint) and saw a painting of mine that the fellas had bought. It was a Scottish looking bag pipe kinda dude riding a stand up jet ski smoking a joint while getting barrelled and he loved it apparently and reached out to see if I was keen to do some stuff with them. I was, so we had some beers and chatted and then had more of those sessions and met BC and Bretty during the next coupla. 

How did this collab first come about?
Well yeah to move from the last question I started to do a bit of work with the fellas just a couple of posters and some merch and that. So it sort of grew from the initial hang out with Danny and then did a bit of work and we all started hanging out more and the fellas said they were working on new tunes and ask if I was keen to do the album art which I was.. I actually think they were looking at Ben Brown at the same time too haha so I think it was a bit of a battle maybe that none of us knew about haha.. maybe a quiet one. Ben and I are good mates so when I got the gig he was like 'ahh I got hit up about that too, you got it!’ We just had a laugh. Ben’s good, he was pumped for me. He has been a good mentor over the years. But yeah it’s been hell fun working with the boys!

What was the process for creating the artworks? Did the guys come to you with a brief or was it more of a back-and-forth?
The boys had initial ideas for the cover art so we were going off those and done in my style of art. But there was one day when they were on their way back to Sydders from the Cenny Coast and they called me and said they were coming round so we can nut out the album art because I hadn’t started it yet and it was getting down to crunch time. They came round and we had a coupla and smashed out in about 45 mins I reckon. The idea changed from the original concept to the dropped ice cream with the hidden veggies. Scott Green art was nutted out same day too. The process creating this was pretty easy with the fellas, nothing was ever hard, they got pretty pumped on everything and everything was really smooth hey, not much back and forth at all. They had all their ideas for the track art too and said to go for it with my vibe and spin on it. 

Talk us through the creative process for ‘6 pack’
The creative process was really like all the other tracks, the boys had the idea of an old school sixy with the plastic rings and beer branding like most of your beers from say the 80s or whatever.  I found some reference images to back up what I was seeing in my head and started drawing it up. I really like the yellow against the blue so I chose to have that as the main colour of the tin and then the red was a pretty classic colour for a beer label I thought. Kept it pretty simple and decided the call the beer Dunies Australian Lager..

What’s it like to see your illustration come to life with the release of Dunies Lager? And have you tasted the beer yet??
Unreal! It’s so rad to see everything come to life so quickly but then to have the 6 Pack art actually turn real is pretty fucking sick. I haven’t yet! I’ve held them and seen them but haven’t had a sip I’ll be doing that tomorrow at the launch :)

Do you have a favourite artwork from the album?
Umm I really am happy with all of them. I do like the back cover a lot I’d probably say that is my favourite. But I’m stoked with the front cover too haha

And does that correlate to your fave song on the album?
No not really well maybe I guess the back cover has the whole track list.. I’m liking 'Brain Dead' right now.

Do you have a routine?
Nah I’ve given up trying.. I think it's more interesting not being in one.

What’s your favourite medium to work in?
I love painting on timber and I really love drawing on paper free hand using my imagination. It’s pretty special I reckon and it’s the one thing that I have been doing the longest I guess. My dad did keep my first drawing I think I was about 2 and it was a scribble that looked like a lawn mower.. I need to find that.

Who are your art idols?
I always admired Jeff Raglus and Reg Mombassa growing up. They had a big influence on me, but I reckon my idols now are the crew I’m working with at Mambo - Ben Brown, Lauren Webster and Kentaro Yoshida. They are all fucking rad and inspire me everyday and keep me stoked to be doing and progressing. All legends too! 

You’re from Forster, you live in Freshy - those chilled coastal vibes seem to come through pretty clear in your style. How would you describe your style, do you think it has a strong sense of place?
Yeah I guess a lot of my paintings are inspired from where I live or have grown up but a lot of my design and commercial work differs in subject rapidly it’s always changing it’s fun and exciting so I guess it is always evolving. I know I have a style but I feel it’s not stationed or stamped down as a distinct style. I actually never think about it really. I find it hard to name it haha.. I guess it is pretty loose and free. It’s colourful and fun. I guess i do try to make things happy and colourful - after all we do all want to feel like that and sometimes we just don’t. I don’t even know I answered your question then ha.

If you weren’t an artist/designer what would you be doing?
Probably travel a whole heap.. But I would still hope I was doing something creative.. 

I’m gonna presume we know what you were listening to while you worked on this stuff but what do you normally listen to while you work?
It depends on my mood really.. I listen to lots of different stuff when I’m working. King Gizz at the moment though.

And—dream project—if you were to create a  ~visual album~ for any musical artist in history who/what would it be?
Ahh this is the question where you want to be super creative and come up with something epic but I’m too tired to even think haha. Off the top of my head I would say Bowie for the fact his work is super creative and innovative and to have to chance to create visuals for all his ideas and characters and lyrics would be pretty epic. Anything conceptual with attention to detail is always rad.

Lee McConnell on Instagram