Ji Hyan Yu: Tiger & Oasis

Work / Illustration

Ji Hyun Yu’s scenic illustrations epitomise the ironies of everyday life

Ji Hyun Yu is an illustrator with a curious eye on her surroundings. As a Seoul-native now currently based in Germany, Ji has built an impressive portfolio filled with visual stories based on a strong fascination with what she sees.

“There are so many ways to come up with ideas. Sometimes while I’m browsing and I see a photo of a beautiful scene, place or person, I then get an idea of what I can draw. Or I look through images that I’ve collected over the years,” Ji tells It’s Nice That. “I think there’s no certain or correct way to get inspiration — I just keep my eyes open to my surroundings.”

These illustrations are the kind that slowly release hidden details the longer you look at them. Through intricate settings that mimic the realities of everyday life and human nature, each scenario is riddled with the perfect amount of irony and humour — all of which alleviate any sense of predictability. “I often use images of real places but I create the whole narrative. It’s like playing with dolls in a doll house,” says Ji. “You make a story by setting it in a house, but there’s no profound meaning in it — I mean, not in all of them. What I am trying to do with my imagery is to capture a moment in my imagination.”

When working to a brief, Ji’s creative process is simple but strives to be the most effective. “For commissions, firstly I look up some key words in a dictionary and thesaurus — this doesn’t mean I don’t understand the word, it’s just a habit. It helps me to come up with ideas, especially when I want to create an image in a metaphoric way,” she says. “Then, of course, I do some research before doing sketches.”

With her main sources stemming broadly from architecture, people and film, Ji’s illustrations present an abundance of witty moments and surreal characters all with a familiar edge of modern satire. Hide and Seek with a Peanut Boy, Quality Time with Myself and Unfair or Smart are to name a few; each illustration makes you question something, whether it’s to do with using the wrong door, not following your peers or simply the fact that you spend too much time alone with your critical, narcissistic self.


Ji Hyan Yu: Quality Time with Myself


Ji Hyan Yu: Hide and Seek with Peanut Boy


Ji Hyan Yu: Summer


Ji Hyan Yu: World of Book Day


Ji Hyan Yu: Love


Ji Hyan Yu: Space


Ji Hyan Yu


Ji Hyan Yu: Yoga at Night


Ji Hyan Yu: The Hotel Lobby


Ji Hyan Yu: Ordinary Day


Ji Hyan Yu: On the Beach


Ji Hyan Yu: Discovery


Ji Hyan Yu: In the Living Room


Ji Hyan Yu: Atelier


Ji Hyan Yu: Unfair or Smart


Ji Hyan Yu: Recharging


Ji Hyan Yu: Cafe Lake


Ji Hyan Yu: Nasty