Art Corner: Yejin Huh

Looking at the work of illustrator/designer Yejin Huh you cannot help but smile. The bright colours and childlike imagery evokes a sense of innocence and fun. The artist studied at the Art Institute of Atlanta (Magna cum Laude, 2011) and currently lives in Daegu Korea with her family. Although her work is childlike, she has worked for big companies in Korea. Her work can currently be seen in the SERI reports issued the Samsung Research Institute. Here at the London Korean Times we wanted to find out more about this exceptional illustrator.

Mimi: Why did you want to become an artist? What is your background?

YH: To be honest, I have always been interested in cartoons since I was a little kid and wanted to be a cartoonist. I was the kind of student who was always drawing something at the corner of every textbook. Though I was majoring in computer engineering for my parent’s wishes, I have never stopped drawing and continuously uploaded them on my website. One day I got an email from a company who wanted me to draw cover illustrations for their company magazines for two years – I still think it was a large piece of luck to me. I can never forget the magical feeling that I had when I first saw the printed version of my own illustration, and that’s the moment I decided to be an artist. 3 years later, I left my home to study graphic design and illustration in the US.

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Mimi: How would you describe your style of illustration/design?

YH: While I was studying at the Art Institute of Atlanta, I thought that my style would grow naturally as time went by but it was not good enough for me. So, I tried to take an objective view of my works and realised that I was quite good at dealing with colours and line drawings, but no good at making depth and adding volume. I made a lot of effort to capture perfect figures, perfect perspective, and perfect chiaroscuro. Meanwhile, in my art history class, I saw some pieces of Japanese wood block printings and got the answer I’d searching for all this time. Those printings were just perfect with simple line drawings and some limited colours. Moreover, there was no Western illusion of depth at all. After that, I decided to develop my style to maximize my strengths, and it turned out that printing was the best option. Thanks to computer graphic technology, I can incredibly shorten time to make plates for prints and also can experiment with various styles and techniques.

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Mimi: Do you see yourself as just an illustrator or an artist as well?

YH: Nowadays, It’s really hard to point out who is an artist and who is just an illustrator. As an artist, my philosophy and my opinions are the most important thing that matters. But during commissioned works, I try to see myself as an illustrator since the clients’ requests are above everything else. However, if clients are overstepping the boundaries too far or beyond my philosophy, I politely decline and refuse their proposal to keep my pride as an artist.

Mimi: Does your Korean heritage have an impact on your work?

YH: Yes, it definitely does. Because I do my illustrations through my experience, it’s inevitable being free from my background. Especially when I did the piece ‘It’s beautiful the way it is’, I was strongly influenced by Korean traditional Munjado and it was created for a packaging container for Kiehl’s cosmetics through their design competition. That served as an important momentum for me to look back on my Korean heritage.

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Mimi: Looking at your work I get a sense of magic, it’s very bright and colourful and reminds me of children and certain innocence. Is this what you are aiming for?

YH: When I do my illustrations especially for children, I try to recall memories from my own childhood. Whenever my parents let me choose a book for a gift, I always picked one that was full of colourful illustrations. To be honest, I didn’t really care about the story at first. As an illustrator, I personally think that illustrations have to make a favourable impression in customers’ sight, and I suppose this impression is developed and judged from my childhood memories.

Mimi: What has been your favourite piece of work?

YH: Normally the project I am working on becomes my favourite, but if I have to choose one, I’ll say the ‘Merry Christmas, 2012’. This was made for Christmas cards to my friends who have supported me and my works for a long time. It is a very meaningful piece of work because it’s a devoted present straight from my heart.

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Mimi: What project are you working on at the moment?

YH: I am working on a picture book for children, the steadfast tin soldier with Fröbel Korea.

Mimi: Have you showed your work anywhere abroad?

YH: I haven’t yet officially. When I was at school in the US, I had showed my works everyday to my professors to get feedback but never showed or sent them to publishing companies or agencies because I thought I was not ready yet. In retrospect, I was too afraid. But now, I think it is time to show them abroad. I really hope to work in the international market as soon as possible.

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Mimi: What does art mean to you?

YH: It’s like air. I cannot breathe without it.

Mimi: Do you want people to take a message from your work?

YH: It depends on the way people enjoy my works. The only thing I can say is; “I always draw for happiness”.

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Her work is light, bright and simply fantastic. This illustrator is definitely one to keep an eye on. More of her work can be seen on her website.

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