meat: LOVES

Today, I'm thrilled and excited to launch meat LOVES. A new department in our online store showcasing the work of artists and makers we love, especially curated for you. Over the coming months, I'll be building up a portfolio of work you can buy from specially selected queer artists and makers from the UK and beyond.

Our first artist is Lee Bear. Lee is an artist and illustrator based in Chester. He self-publishes his own zines and makes unique art pieces inspired by pop culture and the LGBTQ+ community.

Frustrated with poor representation of LGBTQ+ identities and different body types in the media, Lee proudly combats

fat-shaming through his art.

The Bear with Lee zines focus on facets of LGBTQ+ issues and representation. They cover topics including body positivity, mental health, case of the ex, anonymous secrets, creativity, coming out stories, fetishes and Grindr encounters. Lee uses the zines as a platform to share the voices of everyday people with a story to share.


Ahead of the launch of meat LOVES, we caught up with Lee to find out more about his work.

A specially curated selection of Lee Bear's work is available to buy HERE

...

Hey Lee, firstly I want to say I love your work and I'm so happy to collaborate with you on meat LOVES and share what you're doing with the meat audience.

Awww, thank you so much. I was genuinely very flattered and happy you asked me to be apart of this exciting collaboration. Meat was actually one of the first zines I ever purchased, so it's kind of a full-circle moment for me.

Well I appreciate that. How are you?

All things considered, I'm doing pretty peachy. I took last year and the extra time many of us found ourselves with, to focus on me, my health, my work and take action on things I had been putting off. It's made me more proactive and positive.

Where in the world are you and what are you up to?

I'm a Welsh boy living in the cute, historic city of Chester, in the North-West of England. I've been working on new projects. I'm slowly making a start on my fifth Bear Lee Exposed Zine, in-between trying to perfect a death drop and binge-watching the Murder, She Wrote box set.

Tell me about your zine journey. How did you start and why?

I remember being in London one weekend and going into a book store that sold independent publications. This was when I first discovered zines. As someone who studied art, I was fascinated by them. I loved that I could have art to own and LGBTQ+ art at that. That it didn't have to be hung on a wall but was still something collectable. Shortly after that trip, I was diagnosed with cancer and went through 9 months of chemo. During that time, I occupied myself with drawing and keeping a journal. I decided to plan and create my own zine based around something I couldn't find in the zine community. I wanted it to be a space where people who had a story to tell could write and share it. It's been a fantastic experience, where contributors and those who buy the zine could relate to someone they had never spoken to.

What has inspired you?

My work is mostly LGBTQ+ based. My topics are usually things that interest us as humans, make us tick or grind our gears. They're experiences many of us in the community have a story about. I've covered creativity, relationships, coming-out stories, anonymous secrets, fetishes, Grindr Encounters and body diversity. The beautiful thing I realised through submissions and feedback is that we are often more similar than we think. We internalise our thoughts, feelings, and history because we feel alone with that experience, mindset or fear. What ended up happening was people reading stories in my zines and finding similarities to their own lives. It created conversation and made people question their stance, view or outlook on something and sometimes flip it. This is the most inspiring thing to me.

Where do you find the guys you draw and what's the process?

I have a notebook of topics I want to cover and make lists and scribbles of stuff in my head. I ask for story or photo submissions on social media. It's very much about a person trusting me with a part of something important to them and often nude photos. I respect that and appreciate the trust and belief they have in my work.

I'm a photographer, so illustration is a very different medium to me. However, I was surprised by how sexy I find your images.

I'm blessed to have drawn many sexy, beautiful and diverse men. I love that you find the images sexy. The entire point of the exposed zines was to celebrate diversity and equality. I also hope I show that you can be any shape, colour, ability, size, age and still be sexy and desirable.

I also think the zines sit really well next to meat. They're like the illustrated version of what I've been doing really.

It's funny you say that because one of my early brainstorming session ideas for exposed was an illustrated version of meat. I guess only you could say for sure if I achieved that. I saw lots of illustrative work on female body empowerment and not a lot on men, especially with diversity. I don't think I'm reinventing the wheel, but my work stands out as it uses the zine format and is purely illustration and text.

I'm very flattered to have been an inspiration and now to be working with you. Diversity and representation are obviously hugely important to you.

Massively important. Bear Lee Exposed is me giving the middle-finger to the gay media for trying to pigeon hole gay men's looks. They are not adequately representing the diversity we have in our community. I love that my nude zines celebrate all men.

I love that you're northern (like me). How does that inform what you do? Does your identity as a northern queer have any bearing on your work?

I feel it's a little trickier to be seen in a small city where you don't have a lot of diversity or opportunities to showcase your work publicly. I've shown work in Liverpool through Small Steps and also Make Liverpool. I've spoken to some lovely people and had advice from visitors and professionals.

I do talk to many talented queer artists in the north; Evan Barnes, Dave Hall, Carrie Doughty and many others. Being northern doesn't seem to impact my work though or have any impact on my thought process. I'm just happy working with people who want to show diversity, equality and create positive representation.

So obviously you're selling some work through meat LOVES. What else is going on? What's next for you?

Well hopefully with your help, world domination! I'm also trying to break the 2-year curse of single life and bag a nice man! :-)

2021 is about continuing to spread joy, through my message and maybe show my work somewhere. My work is all self-funded, so any profits go straight back into making art. This means I can get more stickers, zines and prints made. I've just started the process of creating Bear Lee Exposed volume 5 and will be starting issue 8 of Bear Lee Zine soon, I just need to narrow down my topic. I'd also love to start a queer art collective for the north-west, based in Chester, where people can come together and show what they are working on and creating.

I want to show my supporters the genuine love and appreciation I have for them.


A specially curated selection of Lee Bear's work is available to buy HERE