Interview with Illustrator Eunjoo Lee

Eunjoo Lee is a Korean illustrator now based in the UK after studying MA Illustration at Glasgow School of Art. She has won numerous awards, including AOI World Illustration Award 2016, American Illustration 25 and Creative Quarterly Illustration 44, as well as being a runner up for various others. Eunjoo’s illustrations are fantastical and fairytale-esque, often dark but with gorgeous colours in both pastel and bright hues, that stop them from becoming melancholy, and her work features intricate details and beautifully realised characters. We chatted with Eunjoo to find out a little bit more about her inspiration, her work and its message.

How would you describe your style as an illustrator?

When people talk about my illustration, normally they tell me it’s weird, classic, serious and a bit dark. I am interested in human figures from religious art, because their faces are stiff yet we can feel their emotion. So that interest inspired me to do this kind of style visually.

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Who or what are you inspired by?

Peter Doig and Picasso. Their imagination is really impressive. I especially love Picasso’s Etching series. Also Susan Sontag, she is one of my role models. She cares about modern society, and breaks rules because of this. Milan Kundera is my favourite writer. I’ve read all of his novels. Sometimes I read them again, if I want to get some inspiration. His work has very serious situations, but also a sense of humour.

You often seem to explore the concept of utopia in your illustrations, tell us about this.

I am interested in modern society, especially personal emotion in modern society. Through consuming, people can get their own utopia or fantasy (I prefer to say fantasy than utopia). People get their own utopia by consuming as they think they need more things, unsatisfied with what they have.

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Do you have a favourite series or piece of work that you’ve created?

An oil painting that I created 5 years ago, but lost. It disappeared in my studio. It was inspired by Milan Kundera’s immortality. I don’t know why, but I still I really like it, maybe because I don’t have it anymore.

What do you want to explore or convey in your work?

I want to talk about our generation’s fantasy. We seem happier than the previous generations, because lots of stuff seems to make us more comfortable and happier. But are we really happier than the previous generation? I just want to create sympathy for my friends and me, the people who feel a lack of happiness. It’s a bit cheesy but through my work I want to make the world better.

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Tell us about the work you’ve done for magazines.

Magazine work is always interesting for me, as I can show my opinion through the illustrations for the magazines. I especially love to do work on political issues, because I think these issues are directly connected to our lives. I show my opinions through my illustrations, and give ideas with sarcastic black humour, which I really like.

What is your creative process?

Normally I read some essays and books, they give me lots of inspiration. And I draw lots of thumbnail sketches to explore my ideas, and then I pick up some of them and draw them properly. Sometimes I look at my diary if I don’t have any good ideas, as I’m always writing and drawing ideas in it, even just simple things, so when I look through it later, it’s full of great things.

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What are you working on at the moment?

I am doing another Fantasy consumer series. It will be very fashionable work I think. It’s about a girl who is an Instagram celebrity but also just a normal girl in real life. I am thinking I will make a zine, and a short animation using a puppet theatre. I am super excited to show you that work after it’s finished. Also I am planning to make my own scarf brand with my illustrations. This would be something new, a different style than other scarves.

What’s your dream brief or project?

Being a friend when someone needs one, through my artwork. And also to make the world a better place with my art.

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You can view more of Eunjoo Lee’s work at: polarbluebird.com