Jaenam Yoo's synthetic, dream-like drawings focus on the beauty in the mundane

Los Angeles-based artist Jaenam Yoo blends the natural and the artificial to create otherworldly illustrations of inflated flowers and plump, floral humanoids.

As an art and design graduate of New York's renowned School of Visual Arts, illustrator Jaenam Yoo has got his career off to a flying start by landing an internship at Mother New York, as well as going on to work with Pentagram, Hugo&Marie, and Apple Music. And when he's not working on client briefs, Jaenam likes to create personal works that allow him to explore his interests.

This sounds like a dream setup, and it's a work/ life balance partly inspired by his creative family and friends. "Among all the people who influenced me, my uncle was the one who particularly impacted me the most, as he introduced me to the creative and artistic world," Jaenam tells Creative Boom.

Jaenam adds: "He was an illustrator and a designer who participated in Korea and Japan's art and design scenes. His drive for art and design inspired me to move to New York in 2015 to pursue a degree in art and design."

Jaenam describes this move as a pivotal moment in his life, as it allowed him to hone his skills and directly led to him becoming a full-time graphic designer. But during the hustle and bustle of his daily routine, he often finds himself contemplating the true essence of his artistic voice.

"In my spare time, I try to convey my unique perspective through the images I create," he explains. "It's during these moments of introspection that I delve deep into my creative psyche, exploring the nuances of my visual language and seeking new ways to express myself."

The result of these explorations is the dreamy, chrome-like illustrations of dew-flecked flowers and strange figures sprouting giant petals. With an almost metallic finish and swelling, inflated mass, these unusual images are simultaneously mysterious, captivating, and uniquely Jaenam.

Speaking of where these images come from, Jaenam says: "I've always been struck by the beauty that we sometimes miss in the mundane, such as the iridescent shimmer of dew on a daffodil's petal in the bustling thoroughfare or the resplendent hues of a bird of paradise on a sun-kissed afternoon."

These split-second moments of fleeting beauty inspired Jaenam to explore similarly ephemeral snapshots by playing with various shapes and vibrant colours derived from nature. To add tension to these images, Jaenam incorporated "inflated synthetic aesthetics" as they provide a striking contrast to the organic forms and content. "This juxtaposition evolved into a simple yet surreal dream-like world, where objects are displaced and mixed intuitively."

To make these images, Jaenam starts by drawing some 2D sketches. These are then translated into 3D, which Jaenam says gives birth to "many happy accidents" that evolve into intriguing textures, lighting effects, shapes and angles he had not originally considered when planning the 2D drawings. "During the final phase, I fine-tune the colour and texture using 2D editing programs."

As for the decision to combine the human form with floral shapes, Jaenam says this came out of experimenting with various ideas and subject matters. "I have always been drawn to the beauty of lines and curves which naturally occur in the human body," he explains. "I have found these lines and curves have a certain aesthetic quality that embodies emotions. These are further accentuated by the addition of floral shapes in a familiar and visually engaging manner."

All of these observations come together to create a series of images that are both still and dynamic, mysterious yet familiar. Everyone can relate to the imagery of dew forming on a flower petal, but when depicted in Jaenam's signature style, this common human experience is warped into something new, something that causes the viewer to pause for a moment.

"The moment of introspection is a space of quiet contemplation where I can retreat into my creative psyche and find solace amidst the loudness of life," adds Jaenam. "Through my illustration series, I aim to capture the essence of this moment and distil it into images that offer solace, as well as positivity both for myself and hopefully the viewer alike."

He concludes: "This journey of creating my own imaginative world has deepened and amplified the depths of my own world, and I've found solace in the cathartic release that comes through rigorously pushing myself."


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