Sunday, June 28, 2009


In my Independent Study Project (ISP) course with Kelly Murphy, I worked on a number of educational illustration/design projects, one of which was initially going to be a supplementary reading booklet targeted for ESL students. I started learning English as foreign language in middle school in Korea, and when I moved to the Stated, I was in ESL courses until 9th grade, so designing a textbook/study guide for that particular use had personal significance.

As the semester progressed, however, I became more interested in designing a foreign language textbook, whose audience was in my age range now, rather than in their teens. I had been taking Japanese language courses at Brown Univ. for 3 years, and remembered the textbook for the beginning level students titled "Moshi-Moshi," written by Prof. Yamashita, Head of East Asian Studies at Brown.

Although the content of the book was full of interesting topics and informative linguistic instructions, it was clearly designed and published with cost-efficiency in mind, but with little consideration for readability and effective visual hierarchy. Therefore, I thought it would be fun to redesign our beloved first-year textbook as an art student's way of saying thank you (or "お礼を言う")

I took take a chapter from Mosh-Moshi, and tried to create a more visually pleasing system of organizing its content, which had many layers. Here in a close up of the beginning of a new section, you see varying type treatment, use of color, and drawing elements such as dotted lines that indicate the multiple steps of the hierarchy.

Another part of the redesigned chapter that describes a grammar point.

I've also found an opportunity to include handwriting in the Narrative Passages Section, which contained a journal entry. It was Kelly Murphy that suggested this, and I'm quite happy with the variety that the look the handwriting brings to the overall design.

Of course, this project was an illustration project, so I added a few spot illustrations in appropiate places to enhance the content. Also, if this project were to become a real undertaking, where I would have to design over 12 chapters' worth of material, it would enable me to deal with inevitable page breaks and awkward white spaces more easily.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Seven Deadly Sins: Envy

Gerry Kelly came to Sarasota and gave a number of amazing demonstrations and presentations at the Illustration Academy. His project was illustrating one of the Seven Deadly Sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride). Each student was assigned a number which corresponded with one of the seven sins. Mine was Envy.

1. Not everyone in the crow is happy for the bride.

2. There are only few who perform in the spotlight.

sketch. Georgie and Leah in the Academy posed for the scene. They were awesome models!

few changes in the foreground figure and tighter cropping.

value study in charcoal.

color studies. "Green with envy" was the overarching inspiration for all three studies. I did not feel quite right with any particular one, which happens often when I do color studies. In such cases, I usually move on and let the painting process inform my decision making. This time, I started and simultaneously worked on three separate paintings, two in full-color watercolor and one in black and white. As the paintings progressed, I decided to let go of color altogether, except for roses.

Finish in ink and watercolor. the roses were colored after I layered matte medium on top of the ink painting. I really enjoyed using ink which behaves differently from watercolor. Working on the lighting on the figure and texture of the costume was especially fun!

Conceptual Portrait: Yo-Yo Ma

This assignment was given from Anita Kunz. Two important goals of the project: likeness, and simple, clear idea that describes a certain aspect of the chosen subject.

My first memory of seeing an image of Yo-Yo Ma was in 9th grade. In classrooms and the library, my school put up many "READ" posters with a photos of different celebrities (usually a sports man or an actor/actress) in their casual attire. I was drawn to Ma's poster for several reasons: he was the only one in full tuxedo, he was the only Asian, and he was the only one holding a classical instrument, cello, which I happened to have just started learning at that time. Plus, he had a name impossible to forget - I mean, Yo-Yo? Are you kidding?

In my high school orchestra class, however, I soon learned that his musical career was a very serious one, and perhaps one of the most influential and creative endeavor in the contemporary musical world.

Ma later reappeared in my life at RISD through his Silkroad Project, which he launched about 10 years ago as an effort to bring cultural riches from the traditions of many countries that existed and still exist along the cross-continental trade route called the silkroad. I was in a Wintersession course that invited the Silkroad Ensemble musicians to collaborate with the students who provided the visual component of the joint multicultural and interdisciplinary celebration.

These indirect encounters with this internationally famous cellist were more than enough for me to choose him for this portrait assignment.

1. Yo-Yo Ma and his global renown

2. Yo-Yo Ma "bridging" the different musical traditions and cultural influences. The cello part that supports the strings and transfers the vibration to the body of the instrument is actually called "bridge." It also has a heart-shape cut out in the middle, which I wanted to play up as a symbol of his personal charm. Although the metaphor is interesting, unfortunately the figure is compressed down and looks awkward.

3. Yo-Yo Ma and his Silkroad project, which brings musical and narrative traditions from numerous cultures. The idea has some potential, but the artist's face have to be the dominant element in the image and the composition needs major revision.

So, I did two more thumbnails with the same idea.

The first sketch is more unexpected and humorous, but I wanted to depict him with more respectful approach. I decided to go with the bottom thumbnail.

The tuning peg are replaced by four iconic symbols that suggest various cultural origins. Instead of drawing them as if they've been engraved on the actual pegs, I suspended the icons in space to emphasize their symbolic quality.

Value studies.

Color studies.

Finish in watercolor.

Slice of Life in Sarasota

I've already shown my final sketch and value study for "Slice of Life in Sarasota," which was the first assignment at Illustration Academy, meaning things are a bit out of order, but here are some of the thumbnails made previously to that stage.

For this particular project, the thumbnail stage was greatly emphasized as an way to pour out ideas and quickly put them down on a piece of paper. I made about 40 of them.

Skipping through the rest of the process work, here are two finishes I painted in gouache and watercolor, respectively.

One of the requirements was that each individual shape has to be flat and that the rendering or shadow of an object much not interfere with the silhouette. Gouache was the perfect medium for executing a flat image and it felt like I had traveled back in time to my freshman year at RISD, working on similar composition/shape/color exercise (which was also in square format) in gouache.

I had a desire to create another version in watercolor, so I gave it a shot. It was a good practice for planning ahead laying down my paint to achieve flat shapes.

I was fortunate to come across the lady walking her three beautiful hounds while I was shooting photos for inspiration. At the time I was just excited to pet the dogs and have fun for that moment, but that afternoon left a lasting impression and became a direct inspiration for this project.

Finally, huge thanks to Corrin, for driving me to downtown bay area!

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Yes, here's the very first entry on my brand-new blog. Below are the process work for the first week assignment at Illustration Academy, taking place at Ringling College of Art and Design.

The project is titled, "A Slice of Life in Sarasota," the city where I am spending 7 weeks of intense studio hours and invaluable direction and interaction with the instructors. It's currently week 4, and I have created 3 pieces in response to assignments given by different guest illustrators each week.

Finished piece for the first assignment and more coming!