Hi Leah! Tell us a little about yourself, how you got into drawing and animation, is this something you’ve always wanted to do?
Ever since I was a little kid, I have been always drawing. My mom thought that I had a talent so I started studying fine art in art school when I was 12. I explored different media throughout my teens and decided to go further with painting in college. After 4 years of painting, I wanted something more…..like making my characters move! And that’s why I got into animation. I have to say what I do now is pretty much what I’ve always wanted to do because I have never thought about doing something else other than making art.
You grew up in Korea, how did you find yourself in Los Angeles. What was the motivation, was living in LA a dream or….
Haha..I had a big Hollywood dream! Just kidding. I was looking into a school for animation in The States and came across CalArts. I was accepted, learned a lot about animation and made great friends. That’s how I ended up starting my new life in LA.
We first met at the San Diego Comic Con a few years back. I loved the characters you were making on the prints you had there. Since that time, we have gotten to know each other well and I have seen a diversity of styles in your art and drawings. Your work can be dark, mysterious and other pieces are very light. How would you describe your work? Where do both of these different sides come from? Is it a feeling you have during the day that dictates what comes out?
I would describe my work as surreal, organic and fun… always has mini stories. Those stories are based on something that I have experienced or imagined. I do have an endless imagination!! I think most people have at least two different sides but usually only one side can be seen. I have a range of styles, I express more of my “dark side” in personal drawings, unlike my professional work. It’s great to have something just for myself. On the other hand, sharing light, fun and happy ideas with people is very satisfying.
I have come to be very fond of the characters you dream up. Tell us a bit about how you come up with them. Are they in you, waiting to come out and play or are they driven by projects you are working on?? For example, I love the characters you made for our Poketo stationery. How did you come up with those characters? How do you approach drawing characters? Do you think of their stories and background as you draw or before do you have the idea first?
The characters I create are definitely in me. It depends on projects I get, they will have different features. For the Poketo characters in the weekly planner, I imagined them having a different job for each day. That idea led me into various thoughts, such as, “what would they be into?”, “what would their place look like?”… I thought of their stories as I drew them.
I could see that in the planner you did for us. Each character was a different type of person for each day, I loved that!! Do your surroundings, music, and people inspire what you do. Do you listen to music when you draw? What are some things you keep around your studio for inspiration?
Yes, everything inspires what I do. Music is very important to my work flow! I have to have proper background music when I draw. I don’t really have specific things in my work area that I keep for inspiration though. I do like to collect books, prints and toys but those are more for the stimulation! I’d rather go out and walk around, experience things to get inspired.
You recently worked on a DIY tee shirt making concept store in LA. You created graphics and looks for the store. Was that fun for you? Tell us about an average day of making characters for a project like this.
“Fashionology” project was very dreamlike. Everyday I was happy for the fact that I was contributing to build a totally new thing. It was a great experience. I got to learn about what teenage girls are into these days. Making crazy hybrid characters like cupcake bear and cherry twins were some of the best work moments!
Your work can be hand drawn and sometimes created on the computer. Do you have a preference? Do you use both in a final piece? What is your process usually? How do you decide whether to do something by hand or on the computer?
Even though a final piece is done on the computer, I always have to draw rough ideas on the sketch book first. It’s very natural for me. If I want more organic and sophisticated look, I create things by hand. But for simple, flat and iconic things, I use vector programs.
Tell us a bit about your wallet design for 826. I absolutely love it!! It is so much fun. It feels like the story really moved you. What did you think of the project, the story, how did you approach doing the illustration?
It has been a while since I’ve had to work with somebody else’s story. Even though i have done children’s book illustration before, this was totally different. The little girl’s story was so pure and personal, i felt like i was reading her journal. I wanted to illustrate the characters as if she doodled while she was creating the story. I felt this project was challenging in some ways but very inspiring. I would love to do it again!
When we first went into 826LA together, you loved it and what they were doing. I know you have donated a lot of time and hard work into different community projects like this one in the past. Is it important for you as an artist and for you personally to give to projects you believe in?
YES! It is very meaningful. If my artwork can support a good cause, that’s the happiest moment as an artist.
Last but not least, what is the perfect day for you? If you can dream up a perfect day, what would it consist of?
Mmmm…the perfect day…after a good night sleep, I would make breakfast, draw something in my sketch book, sip tea all day long, and take a bike ride by the beach at sunset!