Monday, November 14, 2016

Interview with 2016 LA Mentee, Sungyeon "Sansu" Joh

Sungyeon "Sansu" Joh was the recipient of the SCBWI Mentorship Award at the 2016 Summer Conference. Kidlit Artists would like to officially welcome Sungyeon to the blog, and ask her a few questions about the Mentorship experience, and about what she is up to these days.

Did the feedback you received during the mentorship critiques either change or confirm the direction of your illustration?

I gained a lot of confidence from mentors' kind words. It is hard for me to make a room for myself from my full time job and two year old son. I try to simplify my life and I tend to make simple images too. And they make me peaceful as well as excited. However, I sometimes doubt myself and worry if my art style is too boring. Cecilia Yung told me that she likes my simple images. Peter Brown and Priscilla Burris told me that I can just keep going what I am doing. 

It was just cool to talk to my picture book heroes and hear that they like my work. I joined a couple of groups of mentees and they have been really helpful sharing resources and tips. I think we really need to help each other, and we need colleagues and mentors. I feel very lucky. 

Neal Porter told me that he likes to make picture books because he enjoys collaborating with people. I tend to work by myself in an isolated environment and his words will stay in my mind for long time.

What kind of projects are you working on now?

I am working on a dummy book about a skunk who has a farting problem at his new school. I am working on another couple of dummy books about monsters and birthday parties. I have many story ideas and it is time to put them together.

Is there any type of illustration (or other work) that you’re hoping for in the near future?

I have been reading picture books to my son many times, and I feel bad for adults who have to read the same books over and over to kids. I would love to make adult picture books that kids may enjoy too. Beside picture books, I would love to do puppetry and personal animation. I miss my old school years when I spent days and days working on my independent animation.

Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?  Any one piece of bad advice?

Rules exist to break. The artists that change perception, or break the conformity that are remembered. Artists that challenged the “standard,” setting themselves apart as not just artists, but visionaries. I am trying to find my own voice and remind myself what Billie Holiday said, “If I am going to sing like someone else, then I don't need to sing at all.”

What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference?

"I only wanted to draw rocks and chairs" --Jon Klassen. I think that the children's book world is all about character-driven stories these days. Jon is not afraid to say what he doesn't like to draw. And his limitation is truly a unique gift to us. I love that his characters are stiff like rocks and chairs, and still tell wonderful fun stories without big actions and extreme facial expressions. Jon said that Maurice Sendak's dummy for WHERE THE WILD HORSES ARE had tons of horse drawings in it, but Maurice hated drawing horses and created WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE instead. I like to work within my limitations and turn them into something unique. I am so happy that Jon's work is appreciate and loved by the world.

What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?

I love the stories written by Danish fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen. I loved The Little Mermaid, The Fir Tree and Happy Prince even though my heart ached from the sad endings. I used to imagine my own version of happy endings and changed the stories.


See more of Sungyeon's work on her website, Facebook, Instagram, Etsy, Pinterest, Twitter, or Amazon author page.

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