Minet Kim on the importance of developing her personal illustration practice as well as the commercial

The Seoul-based illustrator has been commissioned by the likes of The New Yorker and The New York Times, but still maintains the importance of personal projects.

9 June 2020

When we first met Minet Kim last year, the Seoul-based illustrator let us into the ins and outs of her colourful practice. Now, one year on, she’s finishing up an MFA in the Korean capital and looking into the history of surrealism and abstract art; a particular area of interest for Minet at the moment. In expressing unconscious emotions, lying under the surface through colour or just a few objects, Minet leaves her works open to interpretation, adding on the matter, “I think that’s very interesting.”

Recently, she’s been commissioned by many an illustrator’s dream list of clients including The New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek and The New Yorker, to name just a few. Picking up a variety of materials, inks, watercolour paints and marker pens for example, she creates a myriad of different textures, scans them in, then uses them as a kind of collage. Experimentation and play is at the centre of Minet’s work, and she moves various visual elements around her digital canvas until she’s happy with what she’s produced.

Readily prepared for any opportunity at any time, Minet always has a polished portfolio at her fingertips to show prospective clients. “It’s good to keep showing your work in many ways,” she tells us of this organisation. “In a way, we live in a the world of digital media, so it’s good to be able to take advantage of it.” When it comes to her visual aesthetic however, Minet is particularly absorbed by Wassily Kandinsky at the moment, citing his seminal book from 1926 Point and Line to Plane as a major influence for the illustrator at present.


Minet Kim: Nura

With this in mind, Minet talks us through a few recent artworks where she applies surrealist theories to her own work. In An Elephant and Lollipops and Jellies and Teeth for instance, Minet experiments with the expression of characters through form. Using only the depiction of two objects, she creates a visual dynamism between the two objects, highlighting an unexpected connection that was not obvious at first glances. At first, she chose the objects because they offered a visual compliment to one another, but on second glances, both object’s represent something opposite to each other, creating a haphazard disjointedness between visual pleasantry and conceptual arbitrariness. “An elephant’s body shape is served while lollipops are geometric,” asserts Minet. “Two objects have conflicting properties – jellies are soft and teeth are hard.”

In other work, Minet draws on a recent trip to Laos and the elephants she saw there. There, she witnessed how elephants are used purely for touristic means, giving travellers rides and tamed by various locals. Minet’s work however, focuses on something that her friend said which really stuck with her: “I feel sad whenever I see the elephants’ eyes,” she told Minet. “They all look so sad.” In turn, Minet’s illustration depicts these emotive eyes, abstracted in two different ways and surrounded by circus performing elements.

Concentrating as much effort into her personal work as much as the commercial, for this illustrator, there is very little distinction between the two. In fact, her personal work is often the thing attracting clients to her in the first place. “Sometimes clients want me to do what I’ve done in my personal work,” she finally goes on to say. “That means I need to continue developing my personal work in the future.”

GalleryMinet Kim


Medium: OneZero


Medium: Bad Ideas


Out of Line


An Elephant and Lollipops


Angels and Deep Sea Organisn


I Make Something


The Elephant Eyes

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Imaginary Fish

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

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.

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