Instagram: @krystallauk

1. What’s your story? Where are you from?

I’m from a place called Gilbert, Arizona. It’s as boring as it sounds. I’ve always wanted to be an artist ever since I was a kid. Of course, like any wannabe artist growing up in the 2000s, I wanted to be like James Jean. He really opened my eyes to illustrations beyond children’s books and newspaper cartoons. After a 2 year stint at ASU studying painting, I realized I needed to go to a private art school in a major city to make some kind of creative career happen. I fell in love with San Francisco and went to the Academy of Art. It was a huge financial struggle to get there, much less stay in the city, but somehow I made it happen. I didn’t figure out exactly what kind of illustration I wanted to do until I started an internship at a digital agency. As I learned more about the tech clients who came through their door, I saw a real emerging need for illustration for the interface and jumped at the opportunity.


2. Tell us about your aesthetic.

There is a derogatory term that’s flying around Twitter these days called “Corporate Memphis”. Well, it’s become a catchall term for any sort of illustration that’s flat, colorful, graphic, and tends to live on lots of apps. My style was born out of my desire to have lots of freedom making things highly conceptual, and playing with shape and color in unique ways that are fun, yet minimalistic. My job is to communicate a concept in a short amount of time and capture attention quickly. I think that’s why “Corporate Memphis” is in demand and why I’m drawn to it. Plus, it pays the bills.

3. What is your favourite medium and why?

I really love Illustrator for my commercial work. I like to purposely make things organic with the pencil tool, for example. For my personal work, I love using Procreate, although I’m shamefully married to only one or two brushes most of the time. When I go analog, I love collecting interesting bits of paper for making collages, and Posca pens are so satisfying. I would like to get back into oil painting but it honestly feels so tedious now after getting the sweet taste of digital.

4. What is your artistic process like?

I start off writing lots of words associated with what I’m trying to communicate, to get the right metaphors or feeling down. Then I’ll move on to super rough sketches. I like to be as loose as possible during this brainstorming phase, then produce a very refined sketch once I’m satisfied with a concept. To be honest -with color, I’m usually winging it, experimenting along the way with a rough idea in my head of the feeling I want to evoke. Sometimes I’ll bring up some color references.

5. Who and/or what inspires your work? 

Don’t get me wrong, I still love James Jean, but his work doesn’t influence me so much these days. I wouldn’t call it inspired, but I felt the need to respond to a lot of the awful events that went on in 2020 by making illustrations. I also just had my first child. Experiencing what my body went through, and caring for my son is so inspiring. It makes me feel powerful, like I can do anything. All the petty things I used to care about just fell away and now I only make room for things that matter.

6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?

I feel lucky that I have an expressive tool that helps me navigate through hard times, and that I can communicate my feelings and my perspective with art. Many people don’t have that kind of outlet. I think I view the world very much as an observer because I take a lot of pleasure in adding life’s little moments and details into my work.


7. Where did you study?

I studied painting at Arizona State University, and then finally finished an illustration degree at the Academy of Art in SF.

8. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Right now I run a tiny but mighty illustration and animation agency, specializing in building out illustration systems. I have a couple of amazing ongoing people on my team. My plan for the next 5 years is to build out a larger but tight-knit team, to then be able to take on meaty, exciting projects, and grow my scrappy agency into a very reputable, recognizable company.

9. What about in ten?

In 10 years, I want my agency to be running somewhat autonomously, and I can have the freedom to spend my days working on my own art.

10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?



11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?

I’m half Korean, so Korean food is always my go-to comfort food, whether it be a good old charcoal BBQ or a naughty bowl of jajangmyeon.

12. Favourite book?

Anything Murakami. The Goldfinch by Donna Tart also left a huge impression on me. I just finished Crying in H Mart, which was amazing and highly relatable too.

13. Favourite genre of music? 

I guess…Indie? I listen to way too much Glass Animals, FKA Twigs, Bjork, Radiohead, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, White Stripes, etc.

14. What are your hobbies? 

I love going on hikes, camping, and just being out in nature. I love watching a really good movie. My new hobby is staring at my baby.

15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

I once changed my painting major to Anthropology. I’m fascinated by human behavior and society, and how we got to be where we are now.