Pow! The Vibrant Illustrations of Uijung Kim

illustration of asian people in a boat

The first time you experience the work of South Korean alumna Uijung Kim ‘13, Illustration, you’re struck by how vibrant and joyful it is. Her playful figures and bold color schemes are inspired by Japanese characters, including “Kogepan” — literally “Burnt Bread” — and they’re pretty addictive. Here’s what she had to say about her style, what it takes to maintain a freelance illustration career, and why she wouldn’t want to do anything else.

How did you get started in illustration?

I tried many things before illustration. But what I wanted most was to tell stories that were personal to me. I recommend doing what you love, and good things will happen as long as you don’t quit.

Faculty at CCS who were particularly helpful?  

Don Kilpatrick, Chair of Illustration, encouraged me to pursue illustration and taught me about fashion illustration as well. Lora Parlove prepared me for the real world. I still have her paper in front of my desk. She is great. Stephanie Henderson helped teach me basic oil painting. I learned about and fell in love with color. And Frank Zerilli ’12, Illustration, taught me Adobe Illustrator®, showed me American culture and exposed me to many new things. He was my classmate, and now he’s my husband!

Influences? Inspiration?

I am influenced by many cute Japanese characters. I had a notebook when I was little, and it had an illustration of this burnt bread man character, Kogepan. I love how simple it is. Also watching Dragonball and playing the game Animal Crossing. I want to make art like that someday!

What’s it like to freelance? 

It’s a really challenging job. You can’t predict the next project. Just have patience. It makes me happy that I can make illustrations that make other people happy. Where can we find your illustrations?

I pitched an idea for a book to Cicada, and they liked my idea. I just finished! It’s about subway systems around the world — I even designed the book’s layout. It has been the best experience in my career so far. I had work selected for American Illustration 38.  I also got to do the cover of PLANADVISER, a sticker set, Box Girl, for Facebook, and I’ve had work in The New York Times.

Advice on becoming an illustrator? 

Be patient, and do personal work when you don’t have a job. If your work is good, clients will connect with you. I always want my work to be better, and I am still learning every day. Also, save money and learn how to invest it. The more you can save, the more options you will have open to you.

Advice from the Future

Eat your vegetables. Get some sleep.  No, more than that. Be kind. Work at something you’re passionate about. Learn from the folks who came before you — they know stuff.