Korean-born, New York-based illustrator Helen Eunhwa Oh, creates diverse and vividly colourful images based on her experiences with living in a multitude of countries. By using a mixture of materials, such as acrylic, ink and digital software, her bizarre portraits and lively settings tell a unique story of culture and identity.
With a wide portfolio and a succinct sense of style throughout, Helen continues to draw the eccentric and peculiar from the mundane realities of everyday life. “Recently, I have been working on portrait projects with a focus on daily life. Most of my works are inspired by real life, usually from what I see during my day-to-day activities,” says Helen.
“In the heart of New York City, there’s an abundance of people from different countries with their own diverse culture. I observe many interesting people who wear exotic dresses, or have unique features such as creative hairstyles which offers plenty of ideas and inspiration.”
“I have frequently been to several countries in Southeast Asia, such as Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Malaysia. This where I draw most of my inspirations from,” says Helen. “Even though the countries are closely packed alongside each other, they each offer unique sentiments and ideas. Laos and Thailand are prominently reflected among my works, as I have lived in Laos for a long time and visited Thailand on many occasions.”
When admiring Helen’s work, the first instinct would be to question who these characters are and where exactly the images are rooted. Rather than being a direct imitation of the people she has met and the places she has visited, these energetic illustrations stem from a broader source of influence. “The characters are not based on particular things, but instead from a mix of objects that I have seen,” Helen tells It’s Nice That, “Although most of my works are portraits, I do not portray them as real human beings because I start my work from “accidental” brush strokes to make an exclusive and bizarre image. Then as I see fit, I will add characteristics and elements that match well with the aforementioned portrait.”
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