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Helen Eunhwa Oh

Helen Eunhwa Oh

Meet New York-based illustrator, Helen Eunhwa Oh.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi, I am Helen Oh. I was born in South Korea and had experience living in Laos. Now I am living in Sunnyside, New York. 

My recent hobby is cooking and drawing daily life. As the pandemic at this time, I can’t go and chill outside with friends, so I cook a lot and draw every day to spend my whole day fruitfully. 

 

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

New York is the most expressive, dynamic and contemporary city in the world. I like to live here because I can meet so many artists who are musicians, illustrators, painters, performers and many more. There are so many good artists in the city, so it is easy to hang out with these people and share our thoughts about the art industry together. Also, what I like in New York is seeing diverse people with unique outfits and expressions of their feelings in different ways (performing, yelling, sometimes picking a fight and etc). And these are all good inspirations for my creative activity. 

 

What I like in New York is seeing diverse people with unique outfits and expressions of their feelings in different ways (performing, yelling, sometimes picking a fight and etc). And these are all good inspirations for my creative activity. 

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

The best thing in New York is ‘Park’ culture. There are so many parks in the city, so people can relax, meditate, chill and enjoy life there by reading, walking, listening to music, drawing, etc. 

The worst thing in the city is the ‘Millions of Pigeons’. Because I have pigeon phobia. Whenever I walk on the street, there are a bunch of pigeons, and they are eating, flying and sometimes crash to me. It makes me feel so scared…

 

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

Trend 

History

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How did you start your career in art?

I started art from my high school year. At that time, I had to decide which university I want to apply to. Actually, I had no college list because I didn’t want to go to school again. But as you know, there are steps every kid has to follow (kindergarten, elementary, middle, high school, and college), and my parents wanted me to go to university as well.

So I was thinking about what I really like and am good at. One day, I visited the ‘Hong Art’ which is a private art class and learned watercolor from the teacher ‘Hong’. When I was doing watercolor, my teacher just joked and asked me- ‘Hey, Helen why don’t you try to apply for art university? Your watercolor is pretty good’, and this was definitely the turning point of my life. After the class, I kept thinking and thinking and decided to apply for an art university. It was the first time getting praise for my hobby (art was one of my hobbies at that time) so I thought art is one of the things I am good at. And that was the starting point of my art life.

 

When I was doing watercolor, my teacher just joked and asked me- ‘Hey, Helen why don’t you try to apply for art university? Your watercolor is pretty good’, and this was definitely the turning point of my life.

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

For the first time when I decided to apply for art college, most of the people around me were not very supportive except for my parents (actually parents’ support is the most important). I think that people were unsupportive because they thought it’s too late to prepare for a portfolio for applying for art university and art is not a good field to get good jobs. But I just continued to prepare to apply for university so hard (I think I used all of my energy at that time) until finally, I got into the university. During my college year and after that, I kept showing my art and career to the people who were unsupportive in the beginning and eventually, they supported me and my art so much more than what I expected.

 

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

Our life of ease and pursuit of comfort makes us overlook everyday social problems happening around the world. My recent work visually communicates various situations that humans encounter in an approachable way, helping people accessibly acknowledge these situations, hoping that individuals start to all take responsibility in being a part of these circumstances. And of course, people enjoying my art and feeling refreshed themselves with seeing my art is one of the goals of my future work.

 

My recent work visually communicates various situations that humans encounter in an approachable way, helping people accessibly acknowledge these situations, hoping that individuals start to all take responsibility in being a part of these circumstances.

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

There are a bunch of people I want to collaborate with, but hmm… if I have to say just one person, it would be Grant Cornett. He is a very good and talented photographer. I love his works so much, very powerful, fun, unique and chic. And I love the way he uses the edge, line, texture and color of things, they are all kept in the pictures so beautifully. If there is an opportunity to collaborate with him, I’d like to do a project about nature because my illustration style goal is also keeping the original mood of things in a chic way. 

 

How would you describe the women around you?

Women around me are people who can feel and think about the same things. They understand me so well, as much as my parents. We are the best supporters and friends for each other.

 

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

Ruth Marten. She was my professor at the School of Visual Arts, New York. She was an important figure in tattoo underground in the 1980s and also made a great art career for herself. I took her watercolor class, and I loved her way of teaching. The class was not just about teaching skills, I learned how to express my soul and story in the art. You can see how she is a knowledgeable and amazing artist by seeing her beautiful works. 

 

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

Up to now, I haven’t experienced any challenging aspects of being a female in my industry.  

 

Take your time and create your own deep and rich art

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

If you are chasing this for fame and money, I honestly want to say that it will be hard to survive in this field. Of course fame is important for the artist, and I also have a desire to be more famous. But this is a big trap which will block you to become a good artist. Please do not think about how many likes you’ve got, just keep doing your art. And do not stay at the same stage in your art forever. If you are a good artist, you will have more desire to have more depth in your art. To do this, never stop learning art, you can learn and get inspired by seeing many of other’s works and masterpieces in the galleries or museums. If you are staying at the same level, drawing the same things every day, please stop doing that, instant art is not good art. Take your time and create your own deep and rich art then you’ll be satisfied with it and people will recognize your efforts and love your art much more.

 

 

Photos courtesy of Helen Eunhwa Oh.

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