Illustrator Haejin Park is reimagining the meaning of childlike motifs

27 November 2018

Illustrator Haejin Park is bringing her unusual style of watercolour illustrations to the forefront of the editorial illustration industry. The New York-based freelancer has recently been commissioned by the likes of The New York Times, Buzzfeed, Vice and Medium, unleashing her original and carefree painting style to the masses.

Haejin originally discovered and developed her childlike style while she was a teaching children. “I remembered things that I forgot that I’d once loved; rainbows, unicorns, flowers, stars, hearts clouds,” she tells It’s Nice That. These typically youthful associations are often seen as juvenile or cliché amongst some illustrators, but Haejin’s work is deliberately transportive of drawing as an innocent child, a rather sophisticated concept in itself. “These elements may seem very basic but I don’t get sick of drawing them over and over,” says Haejin. “When I draw, I think it is not the adult me drawings, it is a five-year-old who is excited to use every colour possible.” In turn, the illustrator goes on to say that her “illustration practice is about going back to being a child.” Her illustrations capture a child’s free reign over colour; undeterred by visual trend and aesthetically formalities.

Haejin’s definitive control over the unpredictable medium of watercolours is evident in her work. With the gifs she makes each frame is individually painted, which evokes “flow and texture” and then combined on Photoshop to create a sequence. The colours are skilfully layered on top of one another to create a variation of texture. From that fuzzy texture that results from wet overly paper, to the coinciding colours that arbitrarily run into each other, Haejin’s natural use of watercolours results in a form of editorial illustration that is unique to her.

Her work frequently features “cheerful, happy and curious” characters. Haejin instinctively knows what the illustrations “should look like in [her] mind” and the drawings come from a “personal and private” place. In being so personal to her, Haejin finds she creates the work quickly and intuitively; starting with a blank piece of paper which swiftly becomes a finished work of art.

Gradually expanding her practice into animation with psychedelic morphing moving images, Haejin continues to bring her sense of fun to editorial illustration. The illustration rethinks associations with childlike motifs and demonstrates how editorial illustration can be charmingly rough around the edges through hand-rendered techniques.

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.

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