Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 8, 2011

Illustrator Saturday – Jinwoo Kim

Jinwoo Kim
born in 1978, Republic of Korea

I first started drawing pictures when I was young, imitating my mother who was a painter.
I enjoyed drawing objects around me even before I entered the elementary school, and I astonished people by bold imagination.

I kept studying design and painting throughout middle and high school years, attending the art institute, and tried to draw pictures different from the exiting frames.

When in college, I majored in Fine Art, and drew pictures with passion, but my passion drifted into a different direction since I got discharged from military service in 1999 I became more interested in teaching than learning, and I spent 8 years with students at a private art institution. At that time, I taught them design, and my techniques of fine art painting combined with a creative, rational, and design-like way of thinking were well received by students. However, the repeated daily life coupled with the college life I quit halfway through visited me again, making me feel frustrated later on.

My life as an illustrator I found as escape out of this routines was a ray of light in the dark tunnel.

My current job, which requires me to think like children think, see what children see, and stimulate children’s imagination, helped me return to the day when I was a boy who held the brush for the first time, following his mother.

I am currently drawing pictures, feeling happier than anybody else.

Here is Jin’s process:

The biggest part of my work process is an imagination. I tend to think on the manuscript for a long time and perhaps because of that, I skip the rough sketch. All parts are set in the sketch and even the direction for a strand of hair, do not change until the last stage.

Among the manual work, it is the genre that uses the wet materials in particular so it may be more so but I think it comes from my personality. I am not quite sure but perhaps because of that, while I sketch, I tend to be quite sensitive. I plan all stages to the finish and paint them. When the sketch process is complete, I get them scanned and revise the detailed parts with Photoshop.
(usually eliminate unnecessary lines )Then the neatly finished sketch is printed onto the watercolor paper and I work on the coloring.

The printer I use is Epson R1900 because I can use the papers over A3 size and the printer uses the pigment inks. I think the pigment ink’s strength is that sketch does not run so when finished, it can be kept neat than the pencil sketches.

Another good thing is that the original sketch can be preserved and quite rare but when the work gets ruined, I can work on it again with it. The bad point is that the size of the painting I can draw can be limited and the paper over 140lb does not get in.

I mainly use watercolors. Ninety percent of the work is done by watercolor and the rest, I add a little of Gouache or acrylic. For the paints, I usually prefer to use Schmincke Horadam products because I like the clear hues of the paints. I use various mediums of watercolor when I work but I normally use Oxgall,Aqua gloss and Blending Medium etc.

Since I enjoy working when things are not dry yet, using mediums have become essential. As for the paper, I use Saunders 140lb(hot press, white) and though not often, I also use 300lb paper as well.
For brush, I usually use Kolinsky but since my work is very detailed, it gets worn a lot.

As for the coloring process, unless it is a special situation, I color things from the distant view to a close-range view. I first complete the background first and when the rough picture appears for the mid-range view, I finish the characters then. When I finish with the detailed parts, I work on adjusting the overall color sense and brightness again and do a finishing touch.

In the painting, I tend to obsess on the texture of hair and the furs on the animals and I try to keep the fairy tale feel to it and not make it too realistic.

So you live in South Korea. Are there book publishers to sell to in your country?

Yes, there are many publishers in South Korea. Of course, compared to U.S.A., the size is smaller and the range of publishing is limited to Korea mostly. Within the market, the size of picture book market is smaller, and the publishing companies are more focusing on the creation of short-term profit such as textbooks. I think that the parts regarding contract conditions and royalties are inadequate to create better profit.

Have you tried to get a children’s publisher interested in doing a picture book?

It’s been four years since I started illustration. Ever since, I’ve published twelve picture book, both small and big. Other than picture books, I am also working on various works such as cover, English teaching aids, textbooks, and advertisement. Recently, I got a contract with Sterling Publishing through Shannon Associates, working on “Snow White.” Afterwards, I am planning to work on Little Match Girl through this publishing company.

Way to go!

How often do you come to the US?

I went to the US for the first time three years ago. And after that, I’ve been visiting the US once a year, staying for two to three months. I first went to the US because of my girlfriend, who is studying in the US (she is in Seattle). But afterwards, I contracted with Shannon Associates for agent, and I got ready to work as an illustrator in the US. As of now, now artist visa was permitted, so I am planning to move my work studio to San Francisco.

How do the opportunities differ in South Korea when compared to the US?

Even in South Korea, I receive many illustration requests every year. For me, I receive diverse works, but most of them are picture books, and then English teaching aids or textbooks, history, picture book for science, product advertisement, and calendar. Every year, I work on over ten works, but as the Korean market is known for “hurry, hurry,” it is hard for me to get working time over two months for picture book, and I need to finish my other work in a very short period of time. Compared to the US, the payment is about one third. Of course, it may differ according to some situations…

What was the first piece of art that you sold?

It was the front cover and spread for “Your Children” from Wisdomhouse publishing company. It was the guidance book for childbirth and infant care. I remember that I was very flabbergasted because I was doing it for the first time. When I see them now, I am embarrassed to the extent that I want to recall all of them. I think I received $1200 for the payment.

I picked up your postcard at the SCBWI conference held last January. Do you also mail them out?

Thank you for choosing my postcard at the conference. In fact, that postcard was the first one that I made, and after that, I haven’t made one. I’ve been hoping to make more brochure or postcards for publicity, but I haven’t made any yet.

Other than postcards, what do you do to promote yourself and get illustration work?

For now, I am not doing anything other than at Shannon Associates for publicity. Besides this, I am promoting myself through a UK website called, Hire an Illustrator, but I haven’t got any good jobs so far perhaps because I am not promoting myself hard enough. In Korea, I am connected with several publishing companies through a website called, “San.Grim.”

Are you active where you live in an association like the SCBWI?

In Korea, there aren’t any ones like SCBWI that holds conference and do active activities, though there are several associations. The conference that was held at New York early this year was quite impressive. There are over 3000 illustrators in Korea as well, but there is no organization that can connect all of them. Currently, illustrator are attempting to build an organization for protecting the rights of illustrators, but they are experiencing many difficulties due to different ideals from each other’s.

Have you ever tried placing your illustrations in something like Picture Book or the Directory of Illustration? If so, did you feel it was worth the money?

The website, “San.Grim” (, does that kind of work in Korea. At this website, people can promote themselves with very cheap price and get connected to many jobs. In my opinion, it is worth the price of publicity to some extent. Through “Hire an Illustrator,” I received many inquiries, but none of them was the right kind of job.

Have you ever thought of writing you own story and illustrating it?

Yes! But I’m just thinking about it because I haven’t got an ounce of leisure time because of busy schedule. Currently, I work 16 hours per day. Of course, there is no weekend or holiday. When I go to America, I want to have more time to relax, draw, and write.

Do you own a graphic tablet? Which one?

It is Wacom intuos4 6*9. This size is enough because I don’t do any digital work.

Do you have an agent or artist rep.?

Yes, I am with Shannon Associates. “Snow White,” which I did with them, is almost done.

What direction do you see your career going? Children’s Books? Advertising art? Animation? Something else?

The basic direction is picture book. But I think I can have fun working for whichever the place that needs my drawing. Recently, I am interested in electronic books as well. When I look at the brilliant outcomes on iPad, I can’t help myself but admire them. If my drawings also come out as animation, that would be awesome. But I think I would like it the best if my name gets known as an illustrator for children’s book.

Don’t you just love the mermaid? And the illustration below makes me wonder what Winter has in store for us this year.

Love the sketch below, but I guess it is a work in progress because Jin did not send the final art.

Love the perspective and all the detail in the room below.

I couldn’t end without putting in this one – love the colors!

Thank you Jin for sharing your talent with us. I know we will see more of your artwork. Can you believe he still has more to show off on:  Stop by! And here’s his blog.  The lettering is cool, even though I can’t read it.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. OK—how glorious is this work?! This is absolutely breathtaking! I wish I could print out ALL the illustrations from ALL the Illustrator Saturdays and cover my walls! Kathy, I’m so glad you picked up Jin’s card! 🙂 And I have to say—I am blown away with the quality of work he is capable of considering his enormous workload!

    One of my favorite things about Illustrator Saturday is seeing the artist’s work area. I barely have one myself, though I make it work, and it’s such a pleasure to see how others make it work. Of course, each artist’s process is SUCH a treat of a learning experience. I wish EVERY picture book included that info, but often they don’t 😦

    Jin, THANK you for sharing your amazing work, and Kathy, I can’t say it enough—I know this is a lot of work for you each week, but it is SOOOooooooooooooo appreciated, and not just by me 😀


  2. This work it’s incredible, i love it a lot.


    • Mika,

      I agree, it is. Thanks fr leaving a comment for Jin.



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