I think it is great to experience diverse art fields when you are still young. Some of my friends come from other fields like transportation design or graphic design. Even if they didn’t major something related to animation or concept art, sometimes they have more ideas or skills in many unexpected ways.
You are a very skilled concept artist. Have you always wanted to become an artist? What motivated you?
I grew up in Seoul in South Korea. I always liked to draw and read manga as a kid. Comic books and animation always fascinated me. Later on, I wanted to learn how to become an animation artist.
Apart from studying art in college, I see from your resume that you were mentored by visual development artist Tyler Carter. Tell me more about this mentorship.
Tyler Carter is a visual development artist at Blue Sky studio. When I was still at school, I went to CTN to get some feedback or internship position. Since Tyler has already been popular on online, I wanted to get some feedback about my portfolio. He liked my work and asked if I can do some mentorship program with him next term. There were about eight people in the program. We saw each other through Skype. During the time, he showed us the demo and gave some advice about each one’s artwork. We learned how to use the color and light. Also, it was great time to hear how the animation industry is working.
You previously worked at DreamWorks Animation as a toy design intern (which is so cool!). You designed the Kung Fu Panda plush toys, is that right? How was that, for you? What were the challenges and did you like it?
It was one of the greatest experiences that I’ve ever had in my life. Even if I did intern from some places, I’d never worked at big animation company before. When I first went there, I was the only intern working something related to art. Rest of them got hired from business related departments.
Even if I was very nervous, my boss, named Ray, super welcomed me. Since it was the first day, he gave me some free time to stylize Kung Fu Panda characters in drawing. Since I loved the drawing, it was super fun and exciting. I showed all my drawings later and he really liked it. And then, later he decided to ask me to design all the toys and figurer for Kung Fu Panda 3. It was really fun and great time. Even if I designed the characters, sometimes 3d artists didn’t follow up my designs. At that time, I had to give them the directions to do it right. Later, when I got the products that I designed, I was really proud and so happy.
Working in LA, what is that like (I see you have also worked in Hollywood, previously)? Do you think you have better opportunities just for being there?
As I mentioned above, I grow up in South Korea. Its animation industry is very small compared to America. I think overall, it is really better to be here. Here its about treating artists well and giving better payment.
You work at Blizzard now. What is your work there? What projects do you work on?
I am a cinematic concept artist working on trailers and cinematic. Currently, I am working on upcoming cinematic for their IP.
Has working at a big gaming company like Blizzard helped you become better at what you do? How?
I am currently working for Blizzard Entertainment, working closely with art directors and other artists. I have a lot of fun there and I have great colleagues. When I need some feedback, they are always there to give me some inspiring advice.
I see your work includes both background painting as well as character design. Is it a challenge doing both? Or is it something common? (from what I know, usually people specialize in either one or the other, so I’m really curious how it works).
In my opinion, if you build up strong foundation, you can do both. Personally, I wanted to be good at both because I don’t want to show any weakness and I wanted to work on lots of things in the works. If you are specialized only in one area, it means you will do that in most of your life at the company.
Do you use real life references in your work? In other words, how much of your art (backgrounds, characters) is real life and how much is your imagination?
I grew up reading Japanese comic books and watching Disney and Pixar movies. All of these things influenced me a lot. In artists, I always get inspired from Shiyoon Kim, Helen Chen, Dice Tsutsumi, Robert Kondo, Ryan Lang, Mathias Verhasselt, Woonyoung Jung and Jeff Turley.
What is your work process? Do you start on paper, with sketching…?
I mostly work digitally and mostly use Photoshop. I just do some brainstorming, sketching, and painting. I don’t really have a special work process.
You must have days when you feel demotivated and in no mood to work. How do you deal with these days, what do you do?
When it happens, I try to avoid art, I do something else like watching movies, doing shopping, going for a walk and so on.
What about discipline? Do you have rules, to work more efficiently? What is your work routine?
No, I don’t have specific rules to follow. I just to try to balance out my mood.
What do you hope to accomplish, in the future?
My long-term goal would be to become a production designer and an art director for feature films. And then later, I’d love to make my own films and inspire people with them.
What do you think is important to do, in order to become a concept artist? For aspiring artists, how can they get to where you are?
I think it is great to experience diverse art fields when you are still young. Some of my friends come from other fields like transportation design or graphic design. Even if they didn’t major something related to animation or concept art, sometimes they have more ideas or skills in many unexpected ways. Therefore, experiencing new fields has a lot of potential and can be even better than focusing on only one path.