Born and raised in Burma’s Shan State, Harn Lay was inspired to become an artist by his father, who pursued painting as a hobby, and has been fascinated by cartoons—which he clipped from local newspapers and journals—since his childhood. He enrolled in the School of Fine Arts Academy in Rangoon in 1982 and studied under the tutelage of renowned Burmese artists such as U Thukha, Balone Lay, Ba Kyi and M Tin Aye. Three years later, he began studying sculpture and architecture.
Harn Lay began his professional career by drawing film posters for theaters in Taunggyi, Shan State. After fleeing Burma following the pro-democracy uprising in 1988, he began contributing his art to several exiled opposition organizations and media groups. He now works as a staff cartoonist for The Irrawaddy, based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He occasionally does paintings and teaches drawing to young ethnic Burmese in Thailand in his spare time. His cartoons document with humor and depth the political struggle of millions of Burmese in the country he has been barred from visiting for nearly two decades.