To be honest with you, there was a moment when we came across illustrator Jiye Kim, as part of last year’s Graduates, where members of our team were jumping up and down with excitement. A year later, and since relocating from London back to her home of Seoul, Jiye’s practice has expanded considerably, from the tiniest detailed comic strips into more free-flowing illustrative figures; but with all the charm that made us fall head over heels for her in the first place.
Working as a freelance illustrator since graduating from Kingston’s animation and illustration course, Jiye’s work can mostly be seen in spots and features for magazines. “It’s been an exciting experience since I was able to explore various topics every time I start a new project,” she tells us. “Unfamiliar subjects have always been inspiring and evoked me to think in innovative ways.”
Working in this way has allowed Jiye to also recognise what self-initiated projects could possibly form, settling on the idea of illustrating the concept of “being ‘one of a kind’,” she explains. “I spent a long time trying to decide on a theme encompassing a wide range of my interests. There were too many ideas floating around my head and I had to write a brief to prevent myself from overthinking. Narrowing down choices has enabled me to clarify the aim of the project, which is to celebrate our individuality.”
While working out what her next creative step should be, Jiye has been observing. Her illustrations have always focused on people, whether it be individuals illustrated or giant crowds. “It’s very intriguing to observe how people create their own identity and express themselves, especially watching passionate people working hard in silence somehow makes me emotional.” In turn, Jiye’s latest illustrations feature other creatives, for instance, photographers who “speak through their lenses and make extreme sacrifices for perfect shots,” she says. “They lose track of time, like the way I feel in the midst of drawing.”
Gathering visual references from “tabloid pictures, snapshots or clips from fashion shows, stages and behind the scenes,” Jiye’s imagination was triggered. Her latest works, therefore, show personality through the garments her characters wear, compiling “diverse perspectives of the public, the model, the staff, the camera etc,” she says. “It helps me to see the invisible as visible, such as facial expressions of the crowd, shoes people are wearing or someone in the shadow lighting of the stage. I’ve started to capture certain moments that reflect the value of originality.”
Her illustrative style has differed while concentrating on this direction too, “using a mix of dry and wet materials,” more recently. Finding water-based liquid like ink works well with her work, “it’s simple and quick,” the illustrator also frequently leans towards using coloured pencils or crayons to add a unique texture. This relates back to the work she was making while at university too, having always loved “the instinctive and coincident depiction of hand-drawn artworks.”
With a tonne of brilliant drawings made, Jiye’s aim is to collate them into a narrative-based project based on abundant materials that fill our daily lives, hoping to show a new book at the Unlimited Edition art book fair in Seoul this October. “We are all extras in someone else’s movie. But, at the same time, we are all the main characters in our own stories. Life is not always beautiful but deserves to be remembered. I’m interested in shedding new light on our ordinary lives.”
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.