Meet the Artist

Lani Jungeun Lee, the painter

Lani under a breadfruit tree
Lani under a breadfruit tree
photo by Danielle Shemesh


My name is Jungeun Lee, but you may call me Lani. A dear friend of mine, who is a native Hawaiian, bestowed upon me the nickname ‘Lani’, which means ‘heaven’ in their language. I was enamored with the meaning and the sound of this name and have since adopted it as my own in Hawaii.

Art has been my passion since childhood. I found great joy in observing the world around me and depicting it through drawing. Growing up in Seoul, South Korea, I pursued my passion by studying art in college and earning my Bachelor’s degree in 1998. After graduation, I honed my skills as a graphic designer in the fashion industry and for a game company, and even dabbled in DJing for a time. I also owned and operated a beach-vibe bar in downtown Seoul. However, I knew deep down that my true calling was to pursue a career as an artist.

Together with my partner, we shared a dream. I longed to live as a painter on an island, and my partner desired to surf every day as a local. Thus, we set out on a journey to find the perfect island to fulfill our dreams. After visiting many islands across various countries, we finally found our dream Island in Hawai’i.

In 2014, I made the move from Seoul, South Korea to Oahu, Hawai’i. Every day, my love for this island and its people grows deeper, and I primarily work in oil, watercolor, and ink to depict the beauty of the Hawaiian Islanders, plants, and wildlife.


This is a big theme in my works, a motto in my life as an Hawaiian islander, and also Hawaiian nickname of mine. My works are pieces of the past, reality of present, and hopes for the future. The more I explored subjects of my paintings, the more I became interested in environmental issues around the ecosystem of the Earth. I learned that many foreign plants and animals have brought in to Hawai’i and ended up living here in various reasons just like people have. We are the creature of circumstances but often become oblivious of that once we took for granted. Once being oblivious, we become easily blind to irreversible damages we have inflicted to the environment. I have a dream to paint heavenly things in the heavenly place. But no dreams come true for free. The more beautiful, the more prone to get damaged. And I have to keep awaken toward our environmental issues.


1998 Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dankook University, South Korea

* has regularly been donating to WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature, an international non-governmental organization, to help the wilderness preservation and the reduction of human impact on the environment) and Hawaii Foodbank.