Shame. We’ve all felt it from time to time and dating back to Eve’s fall, the feeling of discomfort is an integral part of human existence. For the Korean illustrator Leebin Soyeon, who “often feels shame about a lot of things”, the emotion has been so prevalent, it’s even become a source of inspiration for her latest publication.
Titled Shape of Shame, the illustrator captures moments of shame through a beautifully crafted graphic novel. Leebin’s highly original drawing style, which utilises a melting pot of muted amber, turquoise and violet tones, acts as the underpinning engagement throughout the comic. She illustrates the things we feel most shameful about trapped in translucent objects from jellies, balloons, slime and so on.
“I know very well that my feelings of shame don’t come from immorality, mistakes or imperfections” explains Leebin. “It’s because of the incongruity that comes with not being able to meet the womanly role that my parents, society or men set.” Despite these conventional pressures, Leebin finds herself freed in the day-to-day trivial jokes that provide a release. And in turn, she visualises feelings of shame through humour in an attempt to normalise them. “That’s why I decided to put something that causes shame into translucent objects, like jokes,” she says on the matter. “I thought if I made an illustration art book about the aforementioned, it would become more about human universality rather than focusing on my own personal shame.”
In its first issue, Pilot Episode, Leebin depicts a YouTuber who arbitrarily reveals parts of her life online, but faces more criticism on her actions because of her gender. “They [women] are excessively asked to take more responsibility, integrity, political correctness, morality and gratitude in return of profiting from YouTube,” says Leebin. She likens the video uploading website to a “real-time Netflix” where you can watch a lot of videos but are more realistic than the dramatisations on Netflix. “It’s a window to see how social culture and phenomenas are used and reflected,” and as a result, Shape of Shame was planned to be a sitcom like on Netflix.
Under the usual circumstances, Leebin can become “so obsessed with the perfect drawing technique” she can spend a rather long time on one drawing alone. But with the long-term nature of Shape of Shame however, the illustrator had to carefully plan her time to be as efficient as possible. “I came up with some rules and styles before starting the series” she adds. “I chose three or four colours and created a realistic and surreal background by picking out parts of the drawings that are slightly transparent, and then intertwined them with other colours and a low transparency. Ultimately, she wanted the publication to look as if it should have been Risograph printed, without looking too much like Riso.
Currently working on the second episode of the publication which sees the protagonist’s Youtube channel tackling Marie Kondo’s cleaning theorems, Leebin is also working on a collection of illustrative art books titled I Love You. This new series centres around female sociopaths and psychopaths using Cupid and hearts as visual motifs. As well as organising an exhibition that will be lit by candlelight, and display illustrations set within candles, the illustrator hopes to broaden her international market while continuing to create works that challenge her both creatively and emotionally.
About the Author
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.