London Korean Links

Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

The Drawing Hand: In Conversation With Illustrator Jieun Kim

The Drawing Hand - composite image

The Christmas that just passed has been undoubtedly a quite different one. Many of us didn’t have a chance to spend the day with their loved ones and the joyful atmosphere that characterises one of the most loved and anticipated time of the year was dimmed by the still ongoing health emergency due to COVID-19.

However, it has been also a chance to connect more and perhaps even more meaningfully with the people we love, often through a screen, as technology reached a point to where distance can be overcome, at least to some extent, through a video chat. And these moments of deeply wanted connection are to be treasured, as they remind us of how important the people we love are in our lives and how much our presence in each other’s lives is not to be taken for granted.

If I had to have those long Christmas video-chats and the spirit of those days visualised in a heartwarming way, I would not want anything different than the illustration Jieun Kim, also known as The Drawing Hand, created especially for London Korean Links. Like every year, the Korean-born, Spain-based illustrator crafted a special Christmas card for us and the one she made this year embodies the atmosphere of this unusual Christmas with a sweetness and positive note that are very much needed at a time like the one we are living now.

LKL Christmas card 2020 - the Covid edition

Two gentlemen, an English man and a Korean man, are busy with a video chat over a Christmas dinner. From the environment that surrounds them, we can guess that one of them is in the UK, whereas the other one is in Korea. Although there are miles and miles between them, despite the time difference, despite any other possible inconvenience, they are indeed not that far. They are virtually sitting at the same table in a very festive atmosphere and chatting over a meal. This illustration seems to pass on the message that we are only as far as our hearts allow us to be.

I liked this work so much that I wanted to learn more about it and its creator, so I asked Ms Kim a few questions about her art practice and the cute characters she draws.

  1. Would you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a bit about your background?

I am Jieun Kim aka The Drawing Hand. I am from Seoul and used to study and live in London, currently live in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. I studied Social Work and Graphic Design at university. I love playing with my illustrations in various forms. I rediscovered my passion for illustration during my master’s degree in London. It was scary to try a new direction, but I decided to try it before it was too late. I never regret that decision.

Since I became ‘The Drawing Hand’, my perspective toward life has changed a lot. I am not a student anymore but I am still learning how to make my visual works telling stories in a better way and my own way.

  1. The pen name “The Drawing Hand” is quite self explanatory: you’re someone whose hands draw a lot. How did this name come to life? What’s the story behind it?
I Wish (2017)
I Wish (2017)

I would like to draw a lot but I don’t think I draw enough though. As “The drawing hand’, I want to draw for many years, perhaps forever in my life.

I came with the name because of a simple reason. When I decided to become an illustrator in 2012, I started to sell my works at the Greenwich market in London. I needed to have my ‘brand’ name to be a seller there, so I put my wish into the name. It’s been 9 years since I used the name ‘The Drawing Hand’. It was just an attempt, but now it has become a permanent name representing me and my work.

  1. Have you always been into drawing or is it something you discovered later in life?

I was a kid who liked to draw and paint a lot. But until I was in my late 20s, it was always just a hobby. I never thought that I was going to be an illustrator or artist. I believed that being an artist would be a special way of life given to some special people not to me. However constantly I was curious about myself and what I would like to do. Curiosity brought me to London and made me realize how much I love drawing. After many years, finally I got brave enough to try my passion for drawing. From then, drawing has become very serious in my life.

  1. Illustrators nowadays have the chance to give their work a different look through graphic software. What is your relationship with technology in your art practice?

Since I studied graphic design, I am more familiar with the digital method than the traditional method. For this reason, I am still learning how to use the traditional media. I think technology was very beneficial when I started my career. It’s still playing a  very important role in my art practice especially in a way how to share my works through various platforms. Also I enjoy adding some movements with my still images. It is helpful to give life and depth of story to the work.

  1. Would you agree that the characters in your drawing embrace a cute aesthetic? How do you see your characters and drawing style?

Do I agree? Yes & No.

The characters in my drawing are not intentional, but they are cute.

I started working as an illustrator without proper training, I am learning continuously over and over. I still think my style has not been defined yet. At the moment, I love the simplicity of my drawing and the way of using different colours and textures which convey our various feelings, especially hope, sympathy.

  1. How did you develop your style? Was it intuitive or something you worked on step by step throughout the years?

Hopefully, my style is still developing.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been learning a lot to live as ‘The Drawing Hand’.

I’ve been trying different media over the past 9 years and there are many failures and some successful results. The most important thing is that I’ve learnt from those experiences. In that way, I can keep following my dream continually.

A Breezy Day
A Breezy Day
  1. What is the most enjoyable aspect of your work to you?

Visual work cannot be only one answer. There are plenty of possibilities. I like to think and try out the possibilities which I can draw from my imagination. Even though I need to decide only one for the project in the end, I love seeing the other possibilities through the process. I keep the unused possibilities in my collection box. One day I can bring back one of them and make it alive and shine.

  1. Do you ever experience any pressure or frustration when creating your illustrations?

Of course, I often feel pressure and frustration. Luckily the feeling doesn’t take away the joy of creating illustrations though. I think it’s a very natural process, especially when you are working on commissioned projects with others because you have to come to an agreement to get the project going. But also, I sometimes feel frustration and pressure even when I work on my personal work because I want to produce something good and better for me. My satisfaction is as important as the client’s one.

Nevertheless, my drawing book is a great shelter where I can fully enjoy drawing without any difficulties. We all need to find the balance to keep going in this word.

  1. Is there any illustrator or artist you look up to? What kind of illustrations do you like to see?

There are so many talented artists who make me so jealous, so it’s difficult to name one or two. I love seeing many different art styles and I am truly happy when I see the creator’s voice through the images. I admire their confidence and passion for their works. I am also aware of not being too overwhelmed by the other and their works in order to create my own way.

  1. You created London Korean Links’ Christmas Cards for the past few years, including the latest one, for Christmas 2020. It’s a lovely and heartwarming work, perfectly embracing the times we are living. Is there some anecdote or fun fact you would like to share with us about this illustration?

Creating London Korean Links’ Christmas cards is always an enjoyable project. Every year Philp gives me a brief about the theme of Christmas cards. I work from the brief and add my ideas on it more. Thankfully, Philp always trusts me working in my way. It’s a great foundation for all creators to work freely.

For the Christmas card 2020, we had a keyword ‘social distancing’. The main characters, two friends, for LKL Christmas cards used to go out to celebrate Christmas, but they are staying at home this year just like us. Unfortunately, we are unable to meet loved ones easily because of COVID 19. Personally I couldn’t visit Korea, it’s already been more than 1 year since I left Seoul. So, I had to meet my friends and family through the screen like our two friends. The image contains the sadness of not being with your loved ones and the warmth feeling of still missing each other nonetheless.

  1. Are you working on any new art project at the moment? If so, would you share with us something about it?
Let the Heart Show the Way
Let the Heart Show the Way (2019)

Currently I am working on a couple of commissioned projects. One of them is I am creating a wall decorative sticker for a kids’ room. I enjoy drawing many cute animals for the project. Also I’m drawing a series of images for poetry. Drawing for a poem is a new experience to me, so it is really interesting.

Honestly, I haven’t been able to create many works for personal reasons since I moved to Spain. Although I can do my work wherever I am, I have no choice but to take time to adjust to the new environment. I believe that the new environment and new experiences will inspire me more. Now I am very motivated and want to challenge myself with more projects this year.

  1. Is there any advice you would like to give to younger artists who dream to become illustrators?

I am not sure I am the person who can give any advice to others.

I only want to remind myself and the others.
Don’t feel afraid of failure.

Just try it out and move one next trial.
You are only in the middle of your journey.
Yes, it’s YOUR journey.
And remember this journey will be a long one.


The Drawing Hand: studio exhibition

All images courtesy the artist

2 thoughts on “The Drawing Hand: In Conversation With Illustrator Jieun Kim

  1. Jieun es una artista maravillosa, de una simple vista pinta una obra de arte. Mira una casa, un jardín, el mar y lo plasma en una maravillosa postal, llena de vida y colores, gracias Jieun por tu trabajo

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