We had the good fortune of connecting with Hannah Kim and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Hannah, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
When I was in high school, my mentor told me that “I’m not inspired” is not an excuse I get to make as an artist. Inspiration is a thing you can control and create. He said so many artists wait for inspiration to hit them and will only work when that inspiration hits. But he told me that there will be so many times when I don’t feel inspired but have to work, and that’s when I have to inspire myself. I use music, movies, TV, or even snacks and matcha lattes to bribe myself into working. They get me to sit down in front of my iPad and start making art. When I first came to art school, I used to hear my mentor’s voice in my head all the time telling me to inspire myself. And now it’s just become a habit of how I work. But I think that ability, to inspire myself and work when I don’t want to, is a major thing that has helped me be successful.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My art is an energetic combination of digital and traditional work. I like to thumbnail on my iPad and then trace my sketches onto paper so I can traditionally render them. I grew up doodling in a sketchbook with a yellow Ticonderoga pencil, so that’s still what I use today! When I’m done, I take a picture of my drawings and color them digitally in my iPad. I love using color, lighting, and texture in my work and I want there to always be a sense of movement that makes the characters and their world come to life.
I’ve realized that I actually think more like a musician than a visual artist. When musicians write a song, they try to capture one thought or feeling and use words and instruments to make you feel that specific way. They are meticulous about timing and how they tell you their story. When I draw, I think exactly like that. Most of my work is sequential, so there are multiple images telling one story. I think a lot about how to use all of those images to capture one feeling and tell you a moving story.
In terms of the actual stories I draw, the heart of them comes from my family. I grew up in a family of storytellers. We’re always telling each other stories about what happened to us during the day, especially the funny or meaningful parts. We love to make each other laugh and tell stories about the joy of life. The kinds of stories I tell my family are now the kind of stories I draw. Even if I’m using my imagination to come up with fantastical characters or ideas, I always am trying to tell stories with the everyday humor and joy that my family has.
Along my artistic journey, I’ve learned to just keep creating. I tend to overthink everything, and I used to think that if I watched enough tutorials or thought really hard about my art I would magically get better. But there is no substitute for just sitting down and making art. Even if you know a ton of artistic stuff in your head, that doesn’t mean you can actual do any of it. Practice is the only way you get better!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If my best friend came to visit me in Chicago, I would take her downtown. We’d take the train and walk around the city, stopping in coffee shops and eating lots of snacks. I personally love the Lincoln Park area and walking along Lake Michigan near the beaches and museums. In the suburbs, where I live, we’d have to get bubble tea (can you tell I like snacks?) and visit Half Price Books and any library book sales happening that week!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Oh there are so many people I could shout out! My mentor that I mentioned earlier, Ben Olson, definitely gets a shout out for all of the advice and encouragement he’s given me. But most of all, I want to shout out my family. They always inspire me and have picked me up and helped me keep going so many times artistically. A big thank you to my sisters who let me flop on their beds and listen to all my complaints about how my storyboards aren’t working or how my hand is tired from drawing. And a huge thank you to my parents who have encouraged me to pursue my dream and have always believed in me and my sisters in whatever goal we set for ourselves.