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Dani Choi

Dani Choi

Meet South Korean illustrator, Dani Choi.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hello, My name is Dani. I’m an illustrator from Seoul, South Korea, currently based in NY. My work revolves around creating whimsical characters that have fun stories to tell. For me, image-making is about telling a story through my view of the world. Most of my inspiration transpires from memories of people that I’ve met and saw in different cities I’ve lived in. I moved around quite a lot as a teenager, which used to make me feel very vulnerable and confused. Coming from the East to West, it was difficult for me to adjust to a completely different custom. But now that I’m all grown up, I’ve found ways to turn my weakness into strong. All the experiences I’ve had living in different cities have become a bountiful resource to build more interesting stories and characters.

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

I live in New York City, but I also spend some time in Seoul where my family resides. I’ve only lived a little more than a year in New York so I can’t say that I know the city by heart, but so far New York seems very similar to Seoul. Both cities are densely populated with diverse people and offer various cultural experiences. I love spending time going to exhibitions, art fairs, theaters, and independent bookstores where I find gems that inspire me to work.

The great thing about living in such a metropolitan city is that you can choose to be isolated and stay connected to current events at the same time. Creatives can easily fall into seclusion because making art is a solitary activity. I like staying in my studio alone to focus on my work, but it’s also good to know that if I step outside of my studio, I can spend leisure time enjoying my favorite cultural activities. So in a way, living in New York helps me refrain from living in complete isolation.

 

Coming from the East to West, it was difficult for me to adjust to a completely different custom. But now that I’m all grown up, I’ve found ways to turn my weakness into a strength. All the experiences I’ve had living in different cities have become a bountiful resource to build more interesting stories and characters.

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

The best part about living in New York is that I’m constantly exposed to diverse, creative energy. For me, the biggest reason for deciding to move to New York City was to get the full art and culture experience that I’ve always dreamed of. And so far, the city lives up to my expectations. Since New York has such a strong base for the artist community, I’ve had some crazy experiences meeting my artistic heroes that I’ve only read about in books during my college years and coming across amazing artists that I follow on social media. The worst part is seeing insurmountable trash bags in the streets daily.

 

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Motivated, connected, restless

 

How did you start your career in art?

It’s hard to pin down exactly when I started doing art. Like many artists, I picked up doodling as a kid and maintained the habit of drawing. I also had a growing thirst for creative activity so it was natural for me to gravitate towards a career in art. In college, I studied communication design where I learned about illustration and instantly fell in love with it. After graduating from college, I started an illustration job where I was asked to create images according to given topics. It was a good experience for me because I had the freedom to try out different “styles” of drawing, but at the same time felt like an image-making machine since I was creating images without giving much thought. After a while, I felt the need to create images with purpose. So, I quit the job and decided to go back to school where I could experiment and expand my way of visually thinking and telling stories. And since I started grad school, I’ve done some freelance illustration jobs where I get to implement what I learned from school.

 

After a while, I felt the need to create images with purpose. So, I quit the job and decided to go back to school where I could experiment and expand my way of visually thinking and telling stories.

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

Yes, luckily I have very supportive parents who encouraged me to follow my dreams. When I decided to become an illustrator, they respected my decision even though neither of them has artistic backgrounds and the idea of illustration was very foreign to them.

In fact, the book that my father got me as a child kindled my curiosity in art. When I started to show some interest in drawing and painting, he bought me a book about the history of art for children. The book was filled with images of paintings done by famous artists like Botticelli, Bosch, Picasso, Goya, etc. I cherished that book and read it over and over again. And my growing love for those artists evolved into the most recent project that I finished called Night Museum, a silent picture book about a make-believe museum where artworks are done by artists I admire come to life.

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

So far, my work is mainly focused on flat, fixed images and I would like to challenge myself to try a different medium such as 3D sculptures and animation work. I would also love to work on bigger projects and collaborate with artists from different fields (animators, writers, filmmakers, theater production etc.)

 

So far, my work is mainly focused on flat, fixed images and I would like to challenge myself to try a different medium such as 3D sculptures and animation work.

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

I would love to collaborate with WWF (World Wildlife) to find ways to raise awareness of our endangered planet using my work. I find so much beauty in wildlife animals and it breaks my heart to see their natural habitat threatened by human greed. One of the main reasons I do art is to bring joy to life and using my creative talent to a greater cause and help the world become a better place would certainly bring me much pleasure.

 

How would you describe the women around you?

Independent, hardworking, open-minded, and endearing.

 

Independent, hardworking, open-minded, and endearing.

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

I didn’t have any specific local female artists that I admired, probably because of my lack of attention to my surroundings as a teen. All of my grade school art teachers were female and I remember them as being caring, loving, compassionate people. I especially have very fond memories of my high school art teacher. I went to a boarding school where I often felt homesick and she was always very thoughtful, considerate, and willing to talk about issues I struggled with.

 

Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

I haven’t had any personal challenges being a female in my industry, but I’ve seen women voicing their opinions and claiming what’s rightfully theirs. Knowing how much courage it takes to be assertive, I have so much respect for them and hope I can do the same when the opportunity comes because their effort is opening more doors for the future generation of women.

 

I started to look beyond myself and pay more attention to what was going on around me. And for that same reason, it’s important for an artist to be insightful and knowledgeable.

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

While art can be an introspective exploration and expression of oneself, I think an artist’s work can grow substantially by being more observant of the world and surroundings. When I was younger, I was quite self-absorbed and had a tendency to draw something from myself. But a person can only have so much experience in life and my resource quickly depleted. So, I started to look beyond myself and pay more attention to what was going on around me. And for that same reason, it’s important for an artist to be insightful and knowledgeable.

 

 

Photos courtesy of Dani Choi

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