Q & A : You Byun : Illustrator : New York

When we visited the Pick Me Up Festival in April, we were spell bound and enchanted by the really fantastic illustrations we saw by the artist You Byun.

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We kept her name in our pocket, because after seeing some of her pictures a soft elf-like voice was telling us that we were going to be invited on a fairy-tale adventure, if we found out a little more about the magic surrounding the work.

The first chapter of our fairy-tale goes a little like this…

Once upon a time there was a grand, magical building that the late Duke of Somerset built in 1547 for a grand total of £10,000 called Somerset House. In 1552 the proud owner (lets call him Dukey) was executed in Tower Hill (something to do with treason and a Nandos piri piri family bucket). The newly orphaned mansion house was to proudly sit on the River Thames waiting for its new owner Queen Elizabeth I.

Some months past, followed by a couple of dodgy years with a plague in 1665, and then a rather large fire nearby in 1666 (started by a burnt pudding or croissant depending on who you talk to) left our magical building clear of the plague, and just about ready to welcome the fine and influential bunch of designers and artists into it’s heart in the Spring of 2013 for the annual Pick Me Up Festival.

One of the distinguished guests invited to show their work at the Festival was the artist You Byun, who when running to catch the last night bus to her hotel in Porthcawl dropped her business card, and although it had been stepped on (and was a little crumpled) by a flamenco dancer leaving the restaurant Fernandez & Wells, it read like this …

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YOU BYUN “She is an award-winning illustrator and an author, who was born in Queens, New York. She grew up in America, Korea and Japan, and after getting a BFA from Hongik University in Korea she returned to New York. She also has a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York.

Her illustrations capture the magic of lush environments and a variety of memorable characters. She draws influences from the various cultures she has lived amongst. Her illustrative storytelling is achieved through delicate details woven with rich colors, patterns and decorative ornaments. The works invite you into my fanciful realm that is playful yet sometimes tinged with a somber autumnal hint of transformation.”

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After reading the card, we found out all about the blossoming talents of You, and asked her to do a Q+A for the bus stop. Just incase you thought this artist might just be good a drawing, then take a look around her website, where you will see delightful work from her picture book, brilliant murals, exhibitions, nail art, clock projects, line drawing, stationary, comic strip and (draw breath) long list of commissioned works. See, I told you there was an adventure to be had.

Why & how did you choose your career in design, or how did you launch as a business?

I chose my career in design because I wanted to be an artist and my parents wanted me to have a real job that can be accommodated with my art skill. Graphic Design seemed like a perfect option for me when I was 18.

Very easy. I launched my ‘business’ one day, after setting up my portfolio website, by ordering my business cards written with ‘illustrator’ on them. Then I tried to get commissions from various sources, and luckily I got one. After getting my picture book DREAM FRIENDS published from Penguin USA, I’ve added ‘author’ to my business card.

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Did you enjoy art at school, and who (which adults) and what inspired you to follow your dreams when you were younger?

Yes I did. I love almost everything about ‘school’. I had many good teachers around me growing up, always encouraging what I wanted to do.

What were your favourite books as a kid ?

 When I was 5-6 grade in elementary school, I liked classics such as Treasure Island, Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, The Little Prince, My Sweet Orange Tree, and more – sometimes I understood the meaning beneath the stories, sometimes I didn’t. I think My Sweet Orange Tree was the first book made me cry. It was important to me as a kid I experienced all different levels of emotions, as it sure helped me to have sympathy for others and to become who I am now as an adult and as an artist.

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Who are your top 3 artists/ designers, and why ?

Tomi Ungerer, Jean-Jacques Sempé , Hayao Miyazaki. They are all great story tellers, great in drawings, have long careers, have warm views to lives, and established their own unique worlds everyone can recognize.

What is your favourite place for a weekend day out/ long lunch, or for a treat?

When it’s picnic weather, any park with place to sit is good, but I often go to East River State Park in Williamsburg, NYC because it’s near where I live. My ultimate favorite park is Central Park in Manhattan, but it’s just 30 minutes too far. My treat is buying a good pastries from local bakeries and a good cup of latte. My recent go-to place is a place called Bakeri near the East River State Park, or Donuts from Doughnut Plant. I like to go to MoMA too.

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Where would you love to spend a free afternoon, and why?

Only if I had a garden I would be there drinking tea under the tree, and daydreaming. But I don’t, so I’d go to bookstores or libraries. They often have the perfect temperature like garden would have, and have so many books to make you daydream.

Which art books, websites, or magazines to you love, and recommend to our budding creative youngsters ?

Any books made by Bruno Munari. I only found it out in my adulthood, but wish I did in my childhood. I think I would have been a better artist.

What do you use for inspiration with your work ?

I go back to what I loved. My vague memories as a child, or a book I liked when I was in elementary school, books I read, and so on. Perhaps I like the sentiment of being a child. I like looking at other artists’ works too but sometimes I think it blocks me from making my original things.

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What creative tools, can you not live without ?

At this moment, a brush pen and photoshop, because this is what I am good at. I would like to say someday, papers and watercolor paints.

Can you leave us one creative secret to share please ?

I nap sometimes and want to believe it increases my creativity. Please don’t tell anyone.

What success, exhibition or just plain fantasy would you like to have achieved in 5 years time ?

Total 5 books which I wrote and illustrated. (Starred reviews for all of them please!) I would love to teach in a college level as well. I want to create something distinctive world of mine. I want to draw the cover of New Yorker Magazine.

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Any secrets and advice to share with our pixie artists, who might just want to be like you when they grow up ?

Carry around sketch books always. And write down and draw anything that fascinates you.

If you are really really stuck with drawing something, sometimes trying a new materiel you haven’t tried before helps too — Just have fun with it.

Thanks so much.

Thank you too!

Dont forget my new book DREAM FRIENDS, you can buy it here on Amazon.


Website http://youbyun.com

Art prints http://society6.com/YouByun

Twitter https://twitter.com/youbyun

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/youbyunart