Korean illustrator behind Sister Sun & Brother Moon

Artist Interview with Hye Jin Chung

What were you like as a child?



I was born in Singapore and lived/traveled to several countries. I was a sensitive child (I still am), and I guess living in different places made me more sensitive. I was an anxious girl, I think I was timid but bold at the same time. And because I am an only child, I knew how to spend time alone.

 


Tell us a story about childhood experience that made you believe in art.



I very much enjoyed playing with paper dolls, origami, and coloring books. I especially liked how to cut and fold the paper and fill the color in the blank spaces. These kinds of interests led me to keep making art. Oh, and I liked glue sticks (very much-more than barbies); I often hid them somewhere and asked my mom to buy a new one.


When I was around six years old, I took an art class. When Christmas day was approaching, kids in the class were told to draw Santa Claus. I don't know why but I kept lengthening my Santa's beard until it fills the space. One of the teachers who was about to pass me stopped and saw my drawing. She started to giggle and called the rest of the teachers, and they all chuckled at my back. I knew that my Santa didn't look cool at all; I felt humiliated. So I stopped going to that class. I think I cried a lot. But I shook off that terrible feeling and experience and didn't give up making art.




To you, what is the ideal viewer experience of your work? What do you want the viewer to feel?


I think the ideal viewer is the one who can appreciate the art well enough to read the message that the artist delivers through the art. Sometimes, I am surprised by those viewers who find stories or feel emotions that I didn't create through my work. This sometimes amuses me because viewers can interpret my work differently based on their feelings, backgrounds, or situations.

 

Can you describe in detail your artistic process?


When I read a story, I mark the sentences or words that might be good for illustrating and jot down my ideas. And then, I start to do thumbnails very quickly. I do a lot of thumbnails, but I bet no one would be able to read them. Even I have a hard time reading them sometimes. If I still have difficulty finding a good idea, I read the story again. After that, I pick the best thumbnails, blow them up, and start sketches. The selected sketch is still a bit rough, so I blow it up for the final, clean the lines, add more details, and fix some parts if necessary. I do the linework based on the sketch. I scan that linework and finish the piece in photoshop.

And then I sleep. Sleep is the best way for me to reset my head. It makes a new room to store new ideas.




Tell us about your favorite communal experience, something that you enjoy doing in a group. What makes it special?


Every year in middle and high school in Korea, students have to engage in the annual event of cleaning and beautifying their classes.
For four to five years, I was in charge of that event and designed the back of the classroom - a notification board, class schedule board, event board, etc. I liked to see the process of my classroom getting clean and pretty and felt joy when students from other classes came over to see my boards and steal some of my ideas. Haha.



Describe the sights, smells, sounds and feelings of a Korean tradition you love.


Before I came to New York to study abroad, I took a Korean folk painting class for a month. The class was held at the traditional Korean house, and they also offered other courses such as learning a traditional Korean tea ceremony and playing traditional Korean music instruments. The process of sitting on the wooden floor, spreading the rice paper on the wooden table, pouring some ink, and squeezing some paints out onto a palette is a ritual that makes you calm before you start to paint. And when you smell a warm tea aroma from the other room and listen to the sound of plucking the Gayageum (Korean zither/harp with twelve strings), you forget worldly thoughts and soothe yourself.

Headshot illustration courtesy of Hye Jin Chung.

SHOP THE ARTICLE

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