New York-based illustrator Jinhwa Jang collects powerful memories from her past and recreates them through illustration. Drawing on her experiences of growing up in South Korea, Shanghai and now New York, Jinhwa recalls one particularly poignant memory that continues to inspire her creative practice today. “Once me and my family went out for an evening drive to Waitan in Shanghai. It was unusual to go downtown that late at night and I gazed at the city’s view in the night.” She recalls how “it was a perfect moment that made me forget all my cares.” To this day, the illustrator draws on this memory in her illustrations to “celebrate such a moment”.
“By collecting images of the city and creating a landscape,” says Jinhwa, “I feel like I’m reconciled with my memories in Shanghai.” Her work sees bold neon colours, reminiscent of Asia’s zinging signage, contrasted against the black-skied nightlife. In her own unique style, Jinhwa brings these digital cityscapes to life, highlighting shadows with clashing glares while punctuating the night sky with bright yellow dots for stars.
“What I like about illustration is that there are thousands of ways to approach a brief. There is never only one right way to convey an idea and there’s also a lot of self-expression as an illustrator,” says Jinhwa. She views the medium as a “different way to interact with the world”, taking in the environment around her and re-envisaging it through an explosion of neon.
Similar to many other art school students, unsure about what’s ahead, Jinhwa didn’t really think about a future as an illustrator. At first, she says, “I thought this profession is less creative and restricted than the others, but now I know that to be an illustrator, I need more than just technique. I have to know about myself, about culture, history and people, which has been the hardest part for me.” This is evident in Jinhwa’s crowded compositions, piled high with an amalgamation of eastern and western references.
She produces all her illustrations in Photoshop. For this illustrator, starting with a blank sheet of paper in front of her is the hardest part, and she needs a strong concept and idea to get her going. Once she’s mapped out her composition, which is “somewhat repetitive and monotonous” she embarks on the colouring process which in turn, is “all about problem-solving”. On this stage, Jinhwa says, “I keep changing the colours or textures until they look right.”
Influenced by a Risograph aesthetic, Jinhwa also takes hundreds of pictures of the streets and buildings around her. Combining the limited colour palette of the Risograph process with a personalised music playlist that sets an “invigorating rhythm and healthy mood”, Jinhwa churns out beautifully-detailed works exploring her vivid memories and surrounding environments.
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