Seoul, South Korea based independent illustrator Donghyun Lim works extensively with editorial brands. Donghyun’s portfolio includes illustrations for various well-known international publications like Monocle, The Washington Post Express, Variety magazine, SHOP magazine, Modus magazine, Computer Arts UK, etc.
Over an email, we spoke to Donghyun about his interest in editorial brands, creative inspirations, and Seoul. Edited excerpts:
Tell us about your childhood.
I was born and raised in Korea. As a child, I used to love sharing my drawings with my friends. Drawing came to me quite naturally, and in my class, I was always referred to as ‘the boy who draws’. Naturally, my parents encouraged and supported me, and their support still means a lot to me.
What influenced you creatively when you were growing up?
My interest in drawing started with comic books. However, ‘I and the Village’ by Marc Chagall that I once imitated during an art class in my elementary school influenced me the most. It was the first time I immersed myself in the fascinating story of a painting.
When and how did you realize you wanted to pursue design/illustration?
I think doing design is like writing poetry. We create visual sentences with carefully chosen words. I’ve been concentrating on creating my own sentences since I seriously started thinking about putting a story in an illustration a few years ago.
Did you pursue a formal education in arts? How was that experience?
I majored in Digital Contents at the university. Though I extensively studied Motion Graphics during the course, I also took classes in the Department of Theater and Film because those were recognized as credits. I found them very interesting. What interested me the most at that time was Mise-en-scène.
Could you pick one personal project of yours and tell us about its inspiration?
I have been trying to learn how to draw shots from films, because I feel that it’s good to study the layout and colors of the elements. I basically choose shots from some of my favorite films for this.
I think doing design is like writing poetry. We create visual sentences with carefully chosen words.
Your work with a lot of editorial brands. Is that something you choose consciously?
When I started off as an illustrator, my first works were editorial illustrations. Ever since then, I have been fascinated by the process of converting text into visual language. But at the same time, creating editorial illustrations feels like I am answering a pop quiz. Nevertheless, seeing the finished works in the magazines gives me a lot of satisfaction.
What’s been your most challenging project so far?
I think that would be the illustrations for Monocle magazine’s 103 issue. The project schedule was too tight and I was in the process of trying out a new style in my drawing at that time. It was one of the biggest challenges I faced, but I think the final result turned out to be good and successful.
How do you balance between your commercial work and personal projects?
I always try to put my own style in my commercial works, and the rest of the time, I primarily focus on my personal projects and studying. Though it may take some time to release, but my first children’s book is currently in the making.
And what have you been studying?
Collage. The study of using collage is really important for me as I am someone who pursues simple shapes. The most important thing in the study is the simplification, not structural accuracy. I want to spend more time on this.
How much does technology help you as an artist?
Doing art digitally is very helpful in reducing the fear of new experiments, because there is always the ‘Undo’ option.
Tell us a bit about your workspace.
My workspace and my living space are the same. People often ask me how am I able to concentrate on work in this environment, but I feel it’s the best working environment for me. Having my bed next to me while working is a strong motivating factor.
How does Seoul inspire you and your work?
I used to not like the complexity and heterogeneity of Seoul, but it has recently turned into my favorite thing. The numerous layers of the buildings and the mountains between them feel quite new to me. Those contrasts really inspire me these days.
Who are the visual artists around the world that you really admire?
There are several people I admire but I especially respect Minjung Kang of Devil Planet studio. In fact, I take weekly classes from her on anatomy and character design. I respect her attitude towards drawing, and thanks to her, I now enjoy drawing things that previously felt burdensome.
What are some of your biggest inspirations in life?
Films have always inspired me a lot. If I hadn’t become an illustrator, I’d have probably been a film director or a film critic. I have been fascinated by the visual language of films for a very long time now.
What are you currently working on?
I recently finished an illustration for a friend’s wedding invitation. That was my way of congratulating her.
I used to not like the complexity and heterogeneity of Seoul, but it has recently turned into my favorite thing.