Sunga Park didn’t venture down the road of regular art school. Instead she works in Busan as a designer and illustrator who isn’t asking you to define her. She is a wallpaper designer but it seems her true passion is for watercolor and other artistic endeavors. I talk to her about her feelings towards formal education in the arts, films, and more. Read below for the full Q&A…
What is the biggest challenge when creating architectural landmarks? Is it an issue of scale or accuracy?
Sunga: It is a balance between the space and the shape generated by the water bleeding effects. Only after making that beautiful can I bring myself to do the detailed descriptions. Once I start carving lines, I just remind myself that I’m not in an architectural drawing competition. There is no need to sketch in perfect ratios or perspective and I always focus on showing my feelings through the common architectural features. Most buildings have some repetitive structure, like windows, roofs or decorations. In a way, I thought I could show people a different view of buildings than what photos can do.
The only purpose of leaving space and unfinished details is to lure in the imagination of the viewer, as the beauty of space does in oriental paintings. I really love how the painting creates new outlines in space. I was taught from books that the beauty of space exists for the viewer. When people look at an oriental painting, their ideas can float along with the objects in the piece. I intend to attract the participation of viewers in this way. For me, the art is completed by the people’s imagination or appreciation.
Many of your locales include Stockholm, India, etc. Are these places you’ve been to before, places you want to visit, or just places that inspire?
Sunga: All locations in my watercolors are places that I’ve visited before, apart from Stockholm where a friend had been. I created my style at first when I was so impressed by a massive temple carving into a monolithic rock in India. That site is the Kailash temple in the Ellora caves in Maharashtra. Every strange place inspires me indeed and motivates me to develop my own style. That’s why I cannot stay in one place for a long time.
Also, what gravitates you towards the medium of watercolors? It is one of the most unpredictable mediums, so what advantages and disadvantages does it grant you?
Sunga: You mentioned a keyword in your question already. The ‘unpredictable’ nature of water is the ideal way to show natural aspects specifically. Before applying watercolors with pen and brush on real paper, I only lived in graphic programs consisting of ‘ctrl+z’ and ‘ctrl+s’ keystrokes. No one can save their own life onto storage media, and in real life, what we have done cannot be undone. I really wanted to escape such an unreal world. Watercolors taught me about life, because I created tons of failures over repeated attempts. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this process. Also, watercolors dry fast, are cheap, and easy to use for the beginner. For me, there’s a lot to be said for the advantages.
Did you have any reservations about not going to art school and how it could ultimately hold you back from opportunities?
Sunga: First of all, I was never convinced about going to an art school at all. When I was a little girl, I didn’t want to do what most people did. When I saw all of my friends who attended after-school art classes paint perfectly in the same way for a sketching contest during a field trip, I decided against going to art school. I was afraid I would get into a habit of mimicking teachers who graduated from art school. I never understood why people go to art school, to repetitively memorize how to draw some statues like busts of Venus, Agrippa, Julian, etc., and spending a lot of money each month for years.
I majored in economics at a university, but I wasn’t that into it. So I started taking history and philosophy classes without permission between my required classes. I kept studying other subjects until a professor caught on to what I was doing and kicked me out of the classroom. This didn’t drive me to art directly, but taught me how to think more about art and life. I was doing my job while art school students were doing theirs. Ultimately I wasted time and school expenses, and maybe lost a lot of opportunities that art school graduates received. I’ve never regretted not going to art school even when I was refused by a job interviewer in the reason that I’m not an art school graduate. If I can’t get good opportunities, though, then it has to be for a poor portfolio. Not a graduation diploma.
What are some of your favorite Asian films or Anime?
Sunga: I’m a big fan of Cowboy bebop and Mushishi. I love all of the solitary characters which appear in these Japanese animations.
What are your feelings towards formal education in the arts? Do you feel it is necessary or beneficial to an artist?
Sunga: If someone can find a way to express what they want to do in art school, acquiring good skills over many years, then it is really worth attending. But formal art education which makes someone spend huge sums for years and pushes students into stressful competition is not beneficial at all. If I can change your question to ‘What do you think is the advantage of a formal education?’ then I would mention some things that I was deprived of by not attending an art school. The human network, fellow artists and great teachers bonding and spending years in the same place. Or the information that is easily accessible to students in schools, such as contests, lectures, lessons, and exhibitions only open to students.
We live in an age surrounded by an ocean of self training methods. There are uncountable number of books introducing every skills for watercolors, oil painting, digital painting, drawing and sketching everything. Even on the internet, we can get thousands of kind and very detailed information about all of them if you put your mind to it. I just approached to art from a slightly different starting point. In my case, I spent many years seeking what I really wanted, and having jobs that I didn’t really want to do. It would be comical if I said that art school was unnecessary and not beneficial to artists. So far though, I’ve only lived life rather than going to an art school, and the advantages of a formal art education have not been apparent to me.
Working in so many fields like cell animation, flash, web, and illustration…how do you acheieve balance being so multi-disciplined in the arts?
Sunga: This is a result of not going to art school. Instead, at age 20, I chose to go to a cell animation factory that reminded me of a chicken coop, and then applied for a web designer position as I only had a portfolio of websites at the time that I had designed. I worked in any field for a living, and the names of jobs started piling up around me. Some of them pleased me, but mostly I got sick of them quickly. Getting to know each new field and learning skills is very enjoyable. But I couldn’t feel satisfied without drawing.
Do you have any plans for any art exhibits or group shows? Do you feel vulnerable showing your work publicly?
Sunga: I can share my works online with people across the world, so I never felt the need to show them in person. I wasn’t interested in taking my pieces to art galleries and showing them to the staff there. Maybe some of them would ask me from which university I graduated. Anyway I was too busy with work before, and I am ready to start sketching and travelling for months starting early next year. After that, I’ll prepare to apply to art fairs in Europe with my travel pieces drawn on location. Wish me luck!
Lastly, any advice for any budding artist out there?
Sunga: I am not enough to give any advice for fellow artists yet, I’d like to share a quotation; Where we act with enthusiasm, the brain develops in a spectacular and automatic way.
Want to know more about her artistic journey and see her work? Follow her cookie crumb trail below: