1. What’s your story? Where are you from?
I’m from northern Virginia, U.S., although I was born in Seoul, South Korea and recently moved to a small town in North Carolina. I always knew I wanted to be a creative professional in some form or another, but I didn’t know exactly what an “illustrator” was until later in my life. I went to university for fine arts, thinking I’d be a gallery painter. After realizing that what I really wanted to do was tell stories, I looked into illustration programs and decided to transfer schools. It took a lot of soul-searching, and I even tried running away from art for a couple of years, changing my major to psychology and dreaming of becoming a therapist. But eventually it became very clear that I need to be an artist to be happy. I finished my degree in communication arts at VCU and really planted both feet deep into my illustration career. At the end of last year, I became a mom to the best little girl in the world (seriously, she’s the best!) so it’s been a slow start, but I’ve been doing my best to balance my career and my little family!
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.
I always try to show a child-like quality in my illustrations. I’m a sucker for texture and the hand-drawn aspect of traditional work. I also use a lot of blue.
3. What is your favourite medium and why?
Can I choose two? I have a love-hate relationship with gouache — personally I think it’s the perfect type of paint, but I haven’t quite mastered it yet. I love colored pencils as well, and how gritty and playful they can be.
4. What is your artistic process like?
It can start with a clear picture in my head (usually at night right before I fall asleep — the worst timing) or a piece of text. With illustrations that need to be more conceptual, I do a lot of planning beforehand, although it is very organic. My process includes thumbnails, tracing paper, color studies, and leaving a gigantic mess on my studio desk. For my recent work, I’ve been going in with light washes of paint and then furiously scribbling over them with colored pencils. I’ll add more paint on top or bits of acrylic ink for finishing touches. I try to avoid editing digitally when I can, but sometimes it’s unavoidable, and I’m thankful for Photoshop when I really need it!
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?
I’ve been trying to look at less illustration and more fine art, photography, and the natural world. I’m a sponge when it comes to style and I end up emulating too much of what I see! Still, I can never get enough of the great Dave McKean, Ben Shahn, and Beatrice Alemagna. My favorite painters have always been Philip Guston and Picasso.
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?
Making art gives me a sense of purpose. It allows me to communicate not just stories, but certain thoughts and moods that I can’t express through words. Art can be meaningful, or simply beautiful, or both. I feel that being an artist trains me to look at the world more carefully. I appreciate how the light falls on my dog’s fur as she sleeps by the window, or a stranger’s oddly shaped head at the ice cream shop.
7. Where did you study?
I studied fine art at Carnegie Mellon, and transferred midway into the communication arts program at VCU.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’d hope to make a comfortable living as an illustrator, possibly working on a children’s book for a reputable publishing company!
9. What about in ten?
I want to walk into a book store and find my name on a few of the books. That’s the dream.
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?
I want to create beautiful, engaging, and moving illustrations, that make it easy for the viewer to feel like they’re in a different world. I want to tell stories that stick with people for years afterward. Art that has to do with mental illness also holds a special place in my heart, and I want to continue sparking discussion about it through my work.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?
Any kind of fruit!
12. Favourite book?
A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis. That book has gotten me through some hard times.
13. Favourite genre of music?
14. What are your hobbies?
Drawing, of course — but if that doesn’t count in this case, I am a huge reptile nerd. I drag my husband to reptile expos and my whole Youtube history is just videos on taking care of exotic animals that I’d never own.
15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
I’d probably pursue something related to herpetology, or zoo keeping!