Ji-yeun Kang is a Korean illustrator based in Seoul.
She mainly uses Photoshop to produce delicate and high-quality digital 2D graphics.
She is particularly strong in detail and delicate expression that conveys emotions, moods, and themes.
Using the airbrush effect, her paintings, which come and go between photos and graphics,
are full of subtlety to the smallest parts and show off their intense colors.
Her identity as a Korean and Asian creates a unique atmosphere with her unique colorful colors and a delicate touch.
Check out her paintings through existing works and several award-winning works
that collaborated with diverse international clients such as Allure magazine, the Boston Globe, Politico, and so on.
BackPacker, Allure, BostonGlobe, POLITICO, MARRIOTT BONVOY, a.testoni Korea, DaeKyo, JiHakSa, ChangBi, HanSol, Hyunbooks, Halla Group, ChunJae, FROEBELRead more
- American Illustration 40 Selected Winner
- World Illustration Award 2021 Longlisted
- Communication Arts 2020 Illustration Shortlisted
- Illustrators 63 Annual Competition Winner
- American Illustration 39 Selected Winner
- Communication Arts 2019 Illustration Shortlisted
Illustrating the future
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I think my pronoun is ‘She’, but I want to use it if there is another pronoun that everyone uses regardless of gender.
Korean is not classified by gender and usually uses the word ‘GueI’ for everyone. But this is a literary expression, and in everyday life there are several words that disparage and refer to ordinary women. So sometimes the pronoun that represents the gender of English seems good. At least it doesn’t contain the meaning of disparaging, so it reveals gender, but I get the impression that it is polite. The attitude of the people who use the pronoun makes me feel it.
How do you define your identity? Do you identify with (or advocate for) any marginalized communities?
I am Korean woman who live in South Korea. I am mother of two children. I love to draw.
I think mothers and children are one of representative object of hatred in Korea. The number of mothers and children is decreasing noticeably, so they are easily criticized. I’m easily find out myself shrinking with children. I don’t think I’m a desirable mother and I always have fear on children’s future.
So I have to be more careful. I advocate mother’s communities. Of course, there are diverse people of various tendencies and situations in it.
Where is home?
My house is located in a suburban city a little far from Seoul.
Describe your illustration style in one sentence
My style of illustration is to delicately present the subject, the story, and the emotion of the character.
What lights your soul on fire?
What attracts my attention these days are trivial things, everyday moments. There are things that are not refined but comfortable, such as flowers and plants, children and animals, big and small events in everyday life, and moments that shine in them.
What themes do you enjoy exploring in your illustrations?
My favorite theme is always imaginative stories. Especially, I like reading stories of fictions with detailed descriptions of scenes and emotions. Whether specific or abstract, the images associated with the text float around in my head often take me far away.
What techniques do you use?
I usually work with Photoshop programs using my laptop and iPad. It is especially useful for communicating with people far away and working together. But these days, I’m trying to do manual work little by little. It’s a time that reminds me of when I first started painting. These days, I feel very comfortable and comforted through manual work.
How much of yourself and your own story can we see in your work?
Well, I feel myself projected when I paint about things that I know very well. When I express a theme that includes Asians, women of similar ages and experiences, descriptions of familiar emotions, and such things, I feel affectionate, as if it were my alter ego.
Is there an unmistakable thread in your creative work?
My process is collage with much alike. Lists the keywords related to themes and collect data, including taking pictures, and searching via online. Combines what I collect and adds graphic elements. Unexpected combinations are also meaningful. Then I complete them with delicate depictions.
What do you want to be known for?
I want to express and communicate with my illustration and be happy in my daily life. My wish is to love drawing time forever. I would be happier if that moment could be conveyed to other people’s hearts.
Which projects excite you most?
My favorite projects are editorial illustrations and books which compresses the story or atmosphere in one scene, such as magazines, posters and book covers.
What is your dream gig?
I want to complete a large-scale work and proceed with the exhibition. There is a thirst for large-scale manual work, perhaps because digital work has been prolonged.
Where, when and how do you best create?
In the past, I used to work using quiet night time. Recently, I use daytime. The working hours are as short as possible, but it’s fun to work in the sunshine. I don’t have a studio, but I’d like to have one after several years.
How has your style evolved since you started?
I think it’s been going in the direction of adding a more detailed and delicated description. Simple characters became more three-dimensional and more descriptive. It was intended to make use of the advantages of digital work, but I think personal satisfaction was also the reason.
What do you find most challenging in your practice or in the illustration industry?
I think it is to understand and recognize the purpose of the project clearly. When it had been resolved, the process after this seemed to follow.
The next thing is an urgent schedule. However, there are many occasions when the satisfaction level of the result offsets all the difficulties. I think it’s two sides of the coin after all.
How as being an illustrator changed your life?
Like the literal meaning of illustration, it is a thing that shines a light on my life. This is because it supports difficult period in my life and let me communicate with the outside world. The life of painting is so natural for me that it’s hard to imagine anything else. I am not a person who enjoys a lot of communication, so illustration is often a window of communication that I lack. I pray that it will shine a light on my daily life and future like now.
Name a tool you can’t live without!
My laptop and I pad, apple pencil and real pencils!
Tell us about a project you worked on that was meaningful to you as an artist.
As mentioned above, there are a series of works for the book review pages with the Boston Globe. A project with Allure Magazine was also very impressive. Especially for the latter, It was nice to express my identity as a Korean in the illustrations.
What influences or inspires your art?
I love paintings by surrealist artists like Rene Magritte, Dali, and Remedios Varo. Tamara de Lempicka is also my favorite.
What would you tell your younger self?
It may be hard, but life will be going on and another happiness will come back to you. It will be different to what you lost but still meaningful. So don’t get tired and keep going slowly but steadily.
Why do you think art speaks louder than words?
Because it’s powerful. An artist’s work is not made in a short time. There is a silent power in it because it contains the years and experiences that the artist has not given up.