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Meet illustrator and animator from Seoul, Banzisu.


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi. I’m an illustrator and animator currently based in Seoul, South Korea. I do make cartoons or graphic novels and I write essays too. I like to draw ordinary people and the places I see around me with my Ipad and I love to catch how lights and shadows change over time and how much these are beautiful. For example, I paint landscapes such as the back of a book picker in a bookstore at the night, students going to school in the sunshine in the morning, grandmothers under the sun, dogs on a walk, the appearance of a nice restaurant before opening, road cats, and so on. Now I’m running an online class about iPad drawing on the “class101” web site. A lot of people were interested in my class and liked it a lot. Also, I am writing an essay about my story, a book about iPad drawing, and a graphic novel about a white road cat with fantastic abilities these days. I really love to draw and I wanna do this forever in my life.


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

I live in Seoul. Seoul is the capital of South Korea and the biggest city. Actually I was born in a small town with many trees and farms and have lived there until I was 19. I came here because of the university and it’s been 10 years since I moved here. I have so much fun living in this city. 10 million people live in Seoul. I think Seoul is the city of maximum. There are so many huge buildings in the city but if you go into an alley, you’ll find that small houses are packed. This landscape has a colorful and diversiform appearance. I live in Hongdae which is the most popular place for young artists in Seoul. In Hongdae, there are funny vintage and toy stores and nice bookstores for artists. There are also trendy cafes with high-quality coffee & deserts and restaurants with aesthetic interiors, etc. You will also find many people exercising on small streams and trails. I am interested in all of these landscapes of Seoul.


Seoul is a great source of creativity for me.

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

The best thing about Seoul: It is the best place to enjoy culture in Korea. There are so many hot spots with theaters, bookstores, good restaurants, and pretty cafes. Besides, the transportation costs in Seoul are very cheap, so you can easily go anywhere. Also, I like to draw ordinary people, and because there are so many people in this city, Seoul is a great source of creativity for me.


The worst thing about Seoul: The air in Seoul is not good and the house price is very expensive. It takes a lot of money to get a spacious house. Without money, you have to live in a really small house. I was lucky, so I rented a spacious art studio at a low price. But most artists have a hard time finding a good studio. I can’t even imagine living in a house with a garden in Seoul. Many people live in apartments. The buildings are also very dense, so it is sometimes difficult to see the sunset. Sometimes I miss nature and want to go to the countryside.


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

Challenging, Adventurous, Free


How did you start your career in art?

Actually, I majored in Political Science and Diplomacy. I always love drawing and looking at art books from a very young age so I wanted to be a painter but my parents didn’t want me to be an artist. Besides, when I became a middle school student, I also wanted to be a person who influenced the world like a minister, lawyer, diplomat or something. So I didn’t study art until I was 24. I was just always doodling. And then, one day when I was a senior, I discovered that I could focus on design and draw a poster for my club more than anything else. I preferred to make or create something to read or write a report about politics.


I remember I always preferred looking around the art bookshelves in the library. I always doodled in class. I thought that what I focus on is very related to my future. I had to admit that I actually love art the most. Even when I realized it, I was worried if I could start art as a career because I didn’t formally learn art. I started buying books on how to draw and studied alone.


Looking back, I think I was very lucky. When my university friends came to work at a publishing house or company, they started giving me work because the only illustrator they knew was me. So even though I started painting late, I was able to start my career early.


The people who supported me were painters who lived long ago.

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


When I told people I would be an artist, everyone around me thought I was weird. I understood why people acted that way. I was studying Politics and I was even the student council president. Maybe people thought my dream was not realistic. The words I heard the most are: “How about making art a hobby?” I was confused when I heard that. In my memory, there was only one person who said, “Your dream is awesome.” She was a colleague who worked at a cafe with me. Her words gave me tremendous comfort. I needed those words even from only one person. And I had to support myself a lot too. I had to convince me. I was encouraged by looking for books related to painters who started painting as late as I did. The people who supported me were painters who lived long ago. I remember that time was very long and hard but I could endure it because of their stories.


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

I have done a lot of artwork commissioned by others. From now on, I really want to draw pictures from my heart. I want to make a book with stories. The stories I want to make are about my mom’s life, my family’s life, most ordinary people’s lives, my childhood memories, scenes I’ve seen in dreams, ordinary people I met on the road.

And I want to turn those picture books back into short animations. I really like animation movies and I have experience working in animation studios! If I have the chance, I also want to work in a large animation studio abroad.


From now on, I really want to draw pictures from my heart.

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

I want to make a music video of Korean female singers as an animated film. I love IU, Baek Ye-rin, Rimkim, Woohyo, Sunwoojungah, Lee Sora’s song. They put their stories into their songs and make great and beautiful music. I want to make music videos with images that match their strong and beautiful music.


How would you describe the women around you?

All my friends around me have a dream and they are very busy developing their careers. Young women around me can’t survive economically unless we are busy.

Also, on the one hand, they seem to be making the most of their efforts to make their lives more beautiful. They all like reading books, watching movies, talking about life, culture and like learning something and discussing it. I feel like I’m growing when I talk to my friends. They are so smart and brilliant.


All my friends around me have a dream

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

My mom. My mom wasn’t an official painter but she painted well. There were always paintings that my mom drew in the small room of the house where I lived as a child.

I can’t remember other artists except for my mom. When I was young, the whole world I know was only about school and home. Also, because I lived in a very small town, I didn’t have many opportunities to meet other people. Even if I could meet other people, it would have been difficult to meet an artist because during that time, all the women I met were mothers.

Instead, when I was 10, I started using the Internet. I visited the websites of many illustrators. Through this, I learned that many young women in the city are artists.


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

I think it depends on what industry the artist is in. I think it is not that difficult for women in the world of illustration. In the anime world, there are more female directors and staff than men. However, there are few female staff or directors in general because of the difficulties in the film industry. In the webtoon industry, females are paid less for no reason than males. In the case of music, people judge female musicians’ appearances. In the game illustration industry, a female illustrator was fired for tweeting a story about feminism on Twitter. In the illustration industry, I haven’t suffered much damage because of being a woman, but it seems that something ridiculous happens around me.


Don’t be a strict coach to yourself, be a compassionate and wise counselor.

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

Don’t be too impatient. Do as much as you can today. Treat art with joy. Block the sounds of the outside world and listen to your inner voice. Don’t be a strict coach to yourself, be a compassionate and wise counselor.



Photos courtesy of Banzisu.