We had the good fortune of connecting with Julia Yoon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Julia, what makes you happy? Why?
Being from Seoul, in South Korea, I was raised in a culture of extremely competitive people. The neighborhood where I lived was home to some very affluent families who wished for their sons and daughters to attend the top Universities and to follow very specific career paths; unfortunately this often resulted in these young people not having the freedom to follow their own passions. I think that growing up in this environment, and not being from a similarly wealthy family, I developed a habit of constantly comparing myself to others and pushing myself very hard to keep up. I believe this greatly diminished my own self-esteem and sense of identity. After graduating University, I realized I still felt very unfulfilled. By comparing myself to others I was becoming a very unhappy and pessimistic person, and by trying to match them I was neglecting to do the things that made me feel whole. Refusing to live my life being miserable, I decided to pursue the things I really cared about and so planned to travel to the United States to study illustration, and to begin a career as an illustrator. As I began feeling more liberated and in control of my life, I started to find happiness in the small things. I found it easier to appreciate myself and what I had in the present. I realized how lucky I was in my life compared to so many people and how I never fully appreciated this. My life now is full of happiness. I am happy hearing the birds every morning. I am happy when I chat with my best friends. I am happy I can create art. I am happy I can breathe, and live tomorrow. I learned that changing my attitude was the key to changing my life for the better.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have been creating art for as long as I can remember. When I was younger my artwork was an expression of my own ego, I just loved drawing and coloring anything that came to my mind. When I was in school, I was challenged with many new styles and techniques, but still I had no clients to deal with or anyone giving me directions. I created my art and enjoyed myself. When we become adults and enter the professional world many things change. I think I realized having a career as an artist meant no longer just creating my own art. I am currently working in a textile design company and simultaneously trying to further my career in freelance editorial illustration. I am excited and motivated by all the new challenges I face each new day in my professional journey; however, sometimes I can feel frustrated by the rigid guidelines and control. A difficult part of being a professional artist or illustrator is learning to listen to and understand the client’s wishes. This also involves taking a lot of feedback from clients and accepting criticism with a humble attitude and open mindedness. I had to admit the fact that I am creating their art and design, not my own. It was tough at first, but I have come to enjoy the process of creating the product together with my clients, and I can take great pride in a job well done. Also, by working on new ideas and concepts that come from outside of my own experience and perspective I believe I am better developing my skills and becoming a much more well-rounded creative professional.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
One of the great benefits of living in Atlanta is that, compared to many other large cities, there is an abundance of nature and beautiful outdoor areas. I would bring friends to Stone Mountain Park to walk the trails and show them the amazing views from the top. Atlanta is also a great food city with awesome restaurants representing many different cultures, even the Korean food is not so bad. After exercise, I would go to a nice, laid back restaurant where we could take the time to eat good food, have good conversation, and reconnect. After catching up I would like to hang out with my friends in a bar or somewhere fun for meeting new people. Away from tall buildings and traffic, Atlanta has many culturally vibrant areas. It would be great for my friends to spend time with the local people, experiencing the music and the atmosphere, to really understand where I am living. I would enjoy helping my friends to experience those unique cultural aspects of Atlanta that they would not find anywhere else.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have two great mentors from my time as an illustrator so far. When I first moved to the United States and began to build my career, I needed to be strong. I was unable to speak or write English very fluently. There were many cultural differences and systems that I did not understand. Living independently in a new city with no friends or family was very lonely. At that point I was pushing myself to be tough because I did not want to get hurt emotionally. I was having a hard time reaching out to people even though I needed so much help to plan and develop my career. Luckily, my professors in SCAD understood my perspective. They engaged with me and challenged me to become a great illustrator. Before leaving Korea I never fully realized how important that kind of mentorship can be, and how a great school faculty can make such a positive difference. On the day when Jessica Durrant came to my school to talk about how she became a successful Illustrator, I remember feeling a great sense of relief from her speech. Her presentation addressed many of my fears and doubts and encouraged me to persevere in my goal of becoming an illustrator. After her talk I contacted Jessica in person, I needed some advice and affirmation that I was on the right path. Fortunately for me she was incredibly accommodating, and we spoke for a long time and became friends thereafter. I still remember that day and I am so thankful to her that she gave me her time and understanding, as well as so much great advice on building a career as an illustrator.