How many of you have a unique dream? Considering that the goal of most students is joining a big company, this number would be not high. The number of students that do not have the minds to enter a new field and are just going with the flow is increasing. Furthermore, even after getting a job, it is very common for people to quit because they feel they don’t really fit in. Then, for them, is there no hope anymore? No, it is too early to give up. Here is a person who achieved his dream after graduation, which he couldn’t achieve with his undergraduate studies. We met the Lee Jang-hee, someone who eventually achieved his dream even when the going got tough.
1. What made you to paint?
- Since I was a child, I enjoyed painting and I naturally got in to the department of urban planning. When I was in college, l liked design classes that were related to painting. At that time I worked part-time at a design firm. Fortunately, I continuously worked there after graduation. After working, I had the desire to want to learn painting. So I quit my job and left for New York. After that, my life of painting had begun.
2. After graduation, you went to New York to study arts. At that time, was it hard to oppose your parent’s opinions?
- It was not too bad. I had already graduated from a university so they told me “Do as you like.” Since I was the youngest of the family, they understood me. They just gave me money to use for studying. It was a great encouragement for me.
3. We often see certain figures drawn in your paintings. Are there special reasons for this?
- There aren’t any particular subjects in my painting because I travel to sketch alone. It is the same thing as not having a particular idea for a theme. If you don’t have a theme or a subject for a painting, then it would just be plain, simple and boring. So, I began to put myself in the painting. If figures are put in a painting, it becomes a vivid point. Moreover, we can learn a proportion of the size and a sense of distance by drawing figures. So there are always some figures in my painting.
4. You said that “the department of urban planning opened up my eyes to a different view”. What was the view that you meant?
- The thing that most influenced me in the department of urban planning was when I got to see a map. Originally I had a sense of finding paths well, but after studying this major I got a depth of the sense. Honestly, the department of urban planning had started with a map. For example, it made me question things like “Why is the road like that?”, “Why is the bridge built like that?” In other words, I got a new impression and inspiration through understanding the structure and system of the city.
5. I took a look at your painting and it seems that you mainly drew a painting of Seoul. What is the color of Seoul in your opinion?
- Okay, let’s start with the conclusion. To me, Seoul can never be described in a particular color. However, if I were to define it into a color, I would call it a new color. The reason that Seoul became like this was because of its excessive development. After the Korean War, everything was destroyed during the restoration process. When people commonly promoted the city of Seoul, they said Seoul was ‘A heritage in an urban area’ because four main palaces were located in Seoul. It doesn’t make sense. They can’t express heritage with only four palaces. And if the city of Seoul wanted to be promoted like that, they should have concentrated on restoration, not development. For example, the location of the history museum was originally located in Gyeonghuigung Palace. After Gyeonghuigung Palace was destroyed, they built a history museum in that exact location. The city of Seoul had no plans for restoration for this site. On the other hand, the USA has unique colors and feelings for regional states like the east and west. Other countries are the same, so when comparing other places to Korea, I’m a bit saddened.
6. I know you publish in the Dong-A Daily News every Saturday. Are there any standards on what you draw? In addition, may I ask what is the reason why you add additional script to your illustrations?
- I have no certain standards to choose what to draw and I just pick what I want to draw. I believe that text is as important as drawing. Sometimes we can’t fully express what we mean by a picture, so we must make it up with text. Moreover, there are so many talented people in terms of drawing, so if you can deliver yourself through text that is a definitely plus. It has been two years since I’ve been published in the Dong-A Daily News and I’ve always thought this week could be my last chance. I tried my best to publish a better cut and decided to add text to communicate better with the readers.
7. I read your book. It was a travel book about New York and Seoul. Do you have a plan to publish about other countries and regions?
- A publishing company has constantly asked me, but I think that there would be a distinct difference between painting as a local and as a traveler. The method of painting could be different and I may lack the skills to do so as well. Therefore, I recommend requesting the book to a local person in that region. However, I am willing to work in Jeju.
8. I read your travel book and noticed there were a lot of paintings. This is very different from your average travel guide. What made you do this?
- When I was in New York, I couldn’t complete my studies due to personal reasons. At that time, the only thing I had were the painting that I drew while traveling in America. I decided to publish, thinking it was a waste to let it rot. When people began seeing it, I began to receive positive reviews. People felt they were seeing the image in real life and it made them want to visit.
9. I think that you are a person that has turned his habit into a profession. Do you have any regrets on
- It is hard to make money through painting. For example, artists can draw anything at anytime, but illustrators have to draw what a customer requests. Situations often occur where I have to break my will. When a habit becomes an occupation, it becomes harder to enjoy. But even if it is hard to enjoy, it is something that I love, so I don’t have any regrets.
10. There are many people changing fields. Any words of advice?
- Refrain from quitting the work just because you do not like it. You have to check whether you fit the job or not. For example, if you want to be a writer, you have to make your portfolio and have it checked by a publisher and take advice. This means that both our abilities and passions are important. We should always consider these factors before making decisions.
11. Please explain your plans in the future.
- I want to paint until I am no longer of this world. No one knows about my true passion of wanting to paint everything that pops up in my mind. I still wish to concentrate on Seoul more than other countries. I’ve drawn one part Seoul, but I want to show the part that I haven’t been yet able to express it to more people. Not long ago a reader told me “I fell in love with Seoul through your painting”. It gave me satisfaction. From now on, I want to live a life that is connected with painting.
He recently held a private exhibition in Itaewon. Though it was a small-scale, it created a comfortable atmosphere thanks to his detailed and smooth presentation. Since his paintings were based on Seoul, we could experience Seoul’s general feel just by observing the paintings. As he followed his dreams, I too hope that the younger generations find their own paths. Let’s not be afraid of life and change ahead. Do not be afraid of what lays in the future, but instead be encouraged by it. Let us paint our own future.
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