Seoul-based illustrator Stella Park says she has been documenting life with coloured pencils since she was a child. She was drawn to illustration in particular because of the different ways the same moment can be drawn and interpreted and this can be seen in the unique way she captures the world.
Park has been a full-time freelance illustrator for just over a year now, having previously been a children’s art teacher. She says her time studying media design at Dongduk Women’s University in Seoul was key in helping her to understand what field she wanted to specialise in. “I was able to experience many design fields through this major, like typography, interactive, UX/UI, video design, and animation,” she says. “There were great professors and students, so I was able to learn not only about design but also communication.”
Park’s style is full of soft, cosy textures and she typically uses coloured pencils to get that fuzzy, heart-warming effect. The level of detail is incredible, and though her colour palette gives the world a much brighter sheen than it sometimes has in reality, her worlds are recognisable, familiar and portray humdrum situations. “I usually get a lot of inspiration from my daily life or travel. I know that nothing special happens every day, but one day, I felt sad about time going by so quickly. So from then on, I began to look more into my daily life,” explains Park. “As a result, while I thought every day was normal, I realised that there were always special moments happening. It felt like the children running in front of me, the elderly man taking a break on the bench, the tea I had today, and the bus I took were never coincidence.”
The illustrator’s desire to highlight the everyday sees her capturing sweet sunsets, trips to the bakery, and busy streets. “I like to draw city landscapes because I get to draw not only various people but also signboards, buildings, and cars, which require more detail,” says Park. “It’s definitely a good opportunity to fall in love with a city.”
When the illustrator is inspired, she typically starts by taking a photograph of the scene she wants to capture and makes notes about what she was feeling at the time. “I tend to draw scenes with the emotions I was feeling, rather than basing it on the original. For example, if the sunlight was good at that time, I would draw the light rather than people,” she explains. “And when I draw a person, I draw a new person to fit in with the mood of my artwork. In this way, I paint the mundane life I see, but try to capture the warmth in there.”
Park sketches and draws the initial drawing by hand using coloured pencil, and slowly adds more detail as she goes. When it’s done, she then scans it and edits in Photoshop. “During this time, I usually modify the paper texture or coloured pencil powder that messes up the artwork, and I adjust the colour a tiny bit to express the feeling I want in the artwork,” she says. “As you can see, I don’t have any special or great skills. But when I paint, I draw with a really careful and positive mind. I think this careful attitude is my strength.”
Park is modest, and though she is new to the full time world of illustration, she’s seen the value in developing your own style and making the work you create personal.
“People live different lives and have different ideas, so even if they draw the same moment, different results will come out,” she says. “It’s better to know your own style, rather than trying to imitate someone else’s. Of course, at first you might not like your own illustrations or feel awkward, but even that is your own personality and style coming through, which I think is good because no one can never copy it.”