Up this week in the Creative Spotlight is Julee Yoo, an artist and illustrator that was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. She was molded in New York City after she graduated from Parsons the New School of Design in May 2012. She has a distinct, raw and intricate rendering style that has developed and is cohesive throughout her body of work. Read below for the full Q&A…
There are two observations about your art I wanted to dive into. One being the color palette in your work is very soft. It provides built up scenes with rich details. How has this developed into your signature style?
Julee: I still remember the scent of rice paper drying in the sunlight and the sound of paper swaying in the breeze-this is the memory I revisit often. My mother’s hobby has been painting Korean folk art and I grew up watching her paint while she hummed my favorite lullaby. My mother’s color pallets truly reflected her essence; subtlety and grace. I subconsciously inherited her inclination towards soft colors and intricate lines that somehow represented everything and nothing she had wanted to say.
In addition, you draw upon your ethnicity and culture to influence your works’ themes and imagery. Could you go into specifics on how you bring your heritage into modern times?
Julee: Maybe it’s because I have been exposed to equal amount of both Western and Eastern cultures, but my interest always seem to linger on the topic of investigating the dichotomy of the two cultures. The series, “Transcultural Flow” perfectly embody this concept-I had wanted to visualize the similarities between the queen of France and the queen of Joseon, both known for their tragic and untimely deaths.
Again, stemming from the last question you also work with clients from other countries. For example when it comes to working on French material, how does your creative process shift trying to grasp the barriers of east meets west?
Julee: This concept of merging of cultures is applied to professional projects on a very subtle level. For the series of French women, I had illustrated them on rice paper and formulated a relationship between the content and the medium of the illustrations.
We’ve interviewed countless grads from Parsons the New School of Design. It’s almost been a year since you graduated. Has life after graduation been about how you pictured it?
Julee: I really did not know what to anticipate after the graduation, since Illustration degree is not the most stable degree you can walkout of school with. But through careful planning and helpful advices from my professors, I was equipped to begin my next chapter.
What are the biggest differences between pursuing an art career in Korea versus America? Do you believe it is easier or harder depending on your location?
Julee: I do think it is much easier networking for projects in New York than here, in Seoul, due to the nature of different cultures. But the beauty of being an illustrator is that you can pursue this profession anywhere in the world as long as you have access to your passion, laptop and scanner.
What are some of your favorite Asian films?
Julee: One of my absolute favorites is Untold Scandal, directed by Lee Jae-Yong in 2003. The film is an adaptation of Dangerous liaisons and the story is delicately unveiled through the beauty of simplicity. Also Castaway to the Moon, directed by Lee Hae-Jun in 2009, has the warmest place in my heart.
How has your transition to corporate work affected your freelance and sketching?
Julee: It hasn’t affected me in a dramatic way. In fact, I sort of enjoy this tension of working as an office worker during the day and as an artist in the evening.
As a big reader of art history, did you learn any techniques or important lessons reading these essays that you have applied to your overall style?
Julee: The most prominent trait I have internalized by reading essays on the great masters was how guide the eyes of viewers through the usage of colors. Red against white and red against black convey completely different mood and story.
I noticed on your blog you always hide the lower half (or upper half) of your face. Since you are used to always putting your work front and center would it be accurate to describe you as an extremely vulnerable artist?
Julee: Like every normal person I feel things. But I guess my ability to transform those intricate emotions into something tangible is where I deviate from the norm. Each of my work, in a way, reveals my identity and history. It is never easy to exhibit your fears and hopes for the world to decipher. But these real emotions are the very foundation of producing evocative work. So, I take great pleasure in sharing my pain and joy that I’ve collected in the hopes of connecting with a viewer of my work.
Lastly, what can we expect from you in 2013? How would you like your work and yourself as an artist to progress and evolve?
Julee: I love the word “wistful”- full of yearning tinted with melancholy. This exact feeling is what I want to eventually leave my viewers with. Something that seems light and airy. But you discover that there is something more to it and you yearn to discover what is underneath all the layers.
Want to follow her artistic journey? Follow Julee’s cookie crumb trail below: