It's universal knowledge that breaking into the industry is a hard one to crack. When Min Heo started out, suffice to say she experienced a few hurdles.
Based in California, Min Heo was born in Seoul and moved to the US after her parents immigrated in the 90s. She's always loved drawing, but it was never a viable career choice – "growing up in an Asian-American immigrant family where practicality was king," she says. "However, it turned out I wasn't very good at anything else, and I decided to go to art school for university." Landing on graphic design, Min was always drawn towards the illustration courses and graduated with an illustration major from the Art Center College of Design.
After which, Min dove head first into the world of freelance editorial illustration and, after a bundle of cold emails and postcards to art directors, was met with a lack of bite. With just a few jobs under her belt as a freelancer, she found herself working as an in-house illustrator at tech companies through a recommendation from a friend. "I learned a lot but burnt out quickly after two years of non-stop revisions and endless edits," she adds. "I decided that I needed a fresh start and moved to New York to tackle freelancing one more time."
A year and a half later, Min discovered the 100-day project – an online community where you create something every day for 100 days. "The consistency of the project helped me realise that I don't need to be concerned about what others thought of me and my work; I just needed to keep creating and putting myself out there." Posting once a week on Instagram, Min found her voice and also started to land more frequent freelance clients.
Since working as a full-time illustrator in California, Min has developed a rich artistic vision involving sweet and funny depictions of daily life – inspired moments from books, films, or things in her dad's flower garden. Everything is crafted first in her sketchbook before being brought onto the iPad. Colour and finishing touches are then drawn in either a ballpoint pen, Blackwing pencil, or dry ink brush on Procreate – but more often than not, she works digitally.
In a recent piece, the illustrator reverted to analogue processes to create a busy, pink-splashed scene involving a bunny character surrounded by shoes. "It was also a piece I completed using a ballpoint pen, which I haven't done in a while," she says. "It was fun to use traditional mediums after working so much digitally." Another project sees Min illustrating a piece for Cards Against Humanity, bringing her ideas to life via bubbly characters. Elsewhere, one particular illustration – and one of her personal favourites – depicts two cats on a date, which she says "evolved unexpectedly". She adds, "I was simply doodling without much thought and then suddenly this image came to me. It's those random moments of inspiration that really hit the sweet spot for me."
Next up, Min is working with some clients, which is, unfortunately for us, under wraps (and an NDA). Yet one thing's for sure: Min is planning to continue her adventures with her personal style, creating pieces that are far more exploratory – oh and an online shop!