'I want my audience to feel something': Dohee Kwon on her colourful and vibrant illustrations

The Thailand-based illustrator talks us through her inspirations and the process behind her eye-catching pieces.

There are myriad ways for creatives to gain inspiration, from a walk, chat with a friend or a picture online. Dohee Kwon, an illustrator from South Korea and now based in Thailand, used to find inspiration outdoors, "like things I see and hear," she tells Creative Boom. As time went on, though, she started taking her focus indoors, and now she looks at the colours and aspects of an interior instead. "It's easier to get inspired and motivated, but also it's genuine and honest."

This new influence becomes prevalent throughout her whole portfolio, where she employs a vivid and graphic illustration style to depict familiar elements like hands, faces and flowers. But, nothing in Dohee's world is real, and everything she draws is a little off-kilter – what might first look recognisable is then paired with something random, like a giant drinks glass clinking a tower building.

Of how she got to where she is today, Dohee graduated from design college and then worked as a graphic designer at several companies across Seoul and Bangkok for five years. "However, working for big corporate clients never fulfilled my creative desire," she adds, "and I needed to find an outlet for my artistic interests." This was when she started toying around with an iPad, and, slowly, a career in illustration emerged. She's been a full-time illustrator and artist since early 2019.

When commencing work on a brief, she kicks off the process with some loose sketching. "So I usually develop rough sketches that I make when things pop up in my head or even start from the black-white artboard," she explains. "Then I place big geometric shapes first and try to balance them on the artboard so that I can play with smaller and decorative details on the bigger pieces." Additionally, she always begins on simple colour shapes rather than anything too complicated. Once the outcome has been finalised, she'll decorate the piece with textures and focus from the bigger to the smaller ones.

Speaking of a few recent pieces, Dohee points us in the direction of the album artwork she made for Telemakus – or what she refers to as the "most-beloved work" she did in 2021. The eye-catching work portraits a pair of eyes wide open, looking up at the garden filled with primary rainbows, flowers, bushes and some slightly scarier looking eyes that resemble apples.

In another piece entitled Endless Resonance – an illustration for TGTS – Dohee recalls rushing mid-last year to finish a few projects at once, meaning she lacked time to work on anything personal. "Then I was asked to make one artwork by them without any request," she says. "So I could be entirely myself while drawing the piece, and it felt like fresh air coming into a stuffed room, and I loved that feeling so much. It was a reminder that told me to be present with the awareness that I had forgotten with a busy schedule for a while."

Dohee's work is just a pleasurable for the viewer as it is for her to make them. They're happy, colourful and almost a little trippy (take the human hugging a large mushroom as an example). "Although I always set different intentions for every work, I want my audience to feel something when they view my work, rather than observe or find meanings. We all have different life experiences making such different responses to one piece. I'd love to hear what my work brings to people and how that makes them feel."


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