American Illustrator in Korea ~ HELP

  • Hello everyone,

    I've put myself in a pickle...well, not literally but I hope you had a visual.
    Getting to the point, I'm an American in Korea who wants to be a professional illustrator and I've heard by a few professionals that a group of fellow artists to communicate with and critique each other's work is very helpful if not completely necessary. I agree and I LONG FOR that type of artistic camaraderie...BUT living in Korea it's hard to do that since I still can't speak the language well and neither have I found many artists here who speak English AND have a similar artistic outlook or style. I've even contacted a large illustration rep agency and they don't speak English to represent me. I've sent work to other international reps multiple times but haven't had responses, not even "No". I don't know what I'm doing wrong. It's terribly disheartening but I don't quit.

    Here's some background of myself. I'll try to keep it short, but in a nutshell, I wanted to be an illustrator since high school but got into graphic design as a fall back cuz I knew it'd be easier to get jobs, blah blah blah. Found that I hated it after working at a graphic design studio for a couple years. Moved to Korea to escape life for a while and teach ESL, but kept working on illustration stuff but never got real work. It's just been, annoyingly, a hobby all this time. I've been in Korea for nearly 10 years cuz I married a Korean girl and the economy and making money as an ESL teacher is pretty easy, even though I hate that too.

    SO, I'm basically desperate for artist buddies, preferably those I can physically meet with from time to time but that's hard to come by in my situation. I also don't live in Seoul where it'd be a little easier to do. Korean artists aren't very diverse to put it plainly. A lot of them often do similar work so it's pretty discouraging not finding like-minded people in general. My wife and I, despite my predicament, are doing well financially running our own private English school and have no desire to move to the US due to various reasons despite me needing social connections with like-minded artists. I'm not saying I want to meet artists that do the same art I do, but are open to talking and even collaborating possibly.

    Perhaps I just need to keep searching but I definitely at least need an online community where I can connect with people internationally. That said,...PLEASE critique my work! LOL. Seriously, I desperately need people like all you guys. I don't have a specific piece at the moment for you to critique, but you can view most of my work at:

    As far as what I want to do and what my portfolio looks like now doesn't match at the moment...I think. Thing is, I'm in the middle between comic art and fine art. Honestly, I hate the classic marker style of comics, but my style is very similar to what they do. I love drawing human figures in action, but I'm not necessarily psyched about doing inner pages of comics, but I am definitely interested in doing cover art – comic covers, other book covers, magazine covers and spot illustrations, and movie poster art. Those are the areas I love most, although I'm pretty flexible and open to just about anything cuz I'm 35 damn years old and still haven't had real illustration jobs.

    Alright, I'm sorry for rambling and venting like that. I know my situation is a bit unique but not that much because though I'm a foreigner artist I'm still dealing with the same obstacles as any of you may be.

    Thank you all so much for any constructive feedback you could give.

    Brandon Inman

  • Welcome Brandon! You're work is beautiful and I hope you're able to find what you need.

    I hope this doesn't sound too critical, and I don't know your entire situation, but have you thought of putting more effort into learning Korean? That being said, I can sympathize with you somewhat in that I've lived in rural areas most of my art life, so it's trickier meeting with people in person. I've typically looked for critique online.

    As far as critique goes, I'll start with one small offering. While I think that your anatomy is generally convincing overall, your wonder woman piece is a little problematic where the pectoral, bicep, and deltoid interact with each other. It looks like the deltoid and pectoral muscles are not inserting in the correct place on the arm and it makes that area look a little off. Did you use reference for this area?

    That's all I've got at the moment. It was a pleasure looking through your website. Best of luck to you.

  • @tessaw Thanks so much! I welcome any critiques. Honestly, no I didn't use much reference for Wonder Woman and I know I should've. I've actually been kicking myself lately into practicing more anatomical drawings, cuz I've realized that, as you said my figures are convincing humans but they're still pretty off. As for Korean, yeah I know I need to study but the place I usually take classes often don't have my level anymore. I try to study by myself but I'm just not good at keeping myself accountable with learning a language on top of improving my illustration business (or lack thereof) and being an attentive husband. But I also know that's all just excuse. I need to kick my butt and get it in gear to make a schedule for myself to balance all these things. I've been doing better at making time to draw in the mornings, and I guess I gotta baby step into working exercise, my wife, and studying Korean into a consistent schedule.

    Thanks a ton for your critique!


  • Where do you see my art working best? What's my niche?? I mean, I know I need some tweaking and new pieces to match the markets, but I can't decide which direction I should go. Book covers? Comics (though I'm not big on them)? Magazines? Poster art? Concept art? I dunno... I'm generally interested in all those things but I feel I have to choose one for now and stick with it. I dunno...ugh..

  • @binman8 Looking at your work I would say Posters best (that nice graphic hard edge, minimal colour selection and how you present your subject (portrait and action poses)) or Comic covers if that's an viable option for the same reasons.

    🙂 Heather B.

  • I'd look into JAW Cooper as a case study of where your work could fit in and see if you can find any of her interviews.

    JAW Cooper's website:
    Possibly helpful interviews would be her Bobby Chiu and One Fantastic Week interviews on youtube where she talks about her art and career.

    Some of your work seems to run in a similar vein as hers, so she might be a good role model.

  • @binman8 Hullo! Your work gives me a really strong James Jean vibe. He is known for commercial art, comic covers, and fine art. Yes, comic covers or anything of the kind could definitely work in your style. I think your work would have a ton of versatility with your quality of draftsmanship!

    The work I create is quite different than what you do, but I do very much like and appreciate all sorts of styles. Your work feels to me in the same realm as Yuko Shimizu, Victo Ngai, Marcos Chin, James Jean, Sachin Teng, and as @TessaW mentioned, JAW Cooper. I know these artists do a wide variety: editorial work, comic covers, book illustration, etc. They seem to straddle the commercial/fine art line pretty well.

    After scrolling through your site a couple times, one thing that sticks out to me is voice. It's a rather elusive thing isn't it? And I certainly haven't found mine at all, but your drawing ability is pretty great but a few works don't feel like they have the same voice as the others. But it mostly holds together so I am at as much of a loss as you. Maybe it's about finding the right audience for your work? I don't think it's so much about limiting yourself to just one thing like book covers, comics, or posters, but focussing on your style and voice, because that is what really makes the artists I mentioned desirable. I think you'd fit along in the same realm as them. From what I can see, you've got the skills. Now, it's probably about screaming from the hills, banging on pans, pestering everybody, and making yourself known to the right people who can give you work 🙂

  • SVS OG

    @binman8 I understand your frustration, Brandon. Living in another country and not knowing the language creates a feeling of isolation, even when you're married. Besides the language barrier, cultural barriers need to be overcome. But the beauty of art is that you can communicate visually when words fail.

    Are there any Meetups for artists where it's mainly about getting together to make art? Or can you initiate a drawing Meetup at a coffee shop and see if anyone might be interested? When I was living as an expat in Singapore for a year, I made connections through teaching art at an art school, as well as joining a monthly Meetup where the artists drew portraits of visitors at a design museum for money (but it was mostly an excuse to be with other artists).

    I think your work is really exciting. I like your use of different media, your unexpected concepts, and your dynamic compositions. I can see your work fitting well in the graphic novel genre, and if you just want to do cover art, maybe do some personal projects that look like cover art, complete with the title and verbiage, and query publishers that publish that kind of work. Or show more poster work. But I also see your work fitting well in the fine art genre. Have you tried submitting your work to galleries in Korea? Or internationally? For example, there's a gallery in Portland that takes submissions and I think your work would be a great fit:

    As for working professionally, figure out a marketing plan. Who are your dream clients? What work would interest them? Show that work on your website. Send out queries and postcards. Let folks know that you're available to work.

    This forum is a good way to connect with other artists while you find your people in Korea. I look forward to seeing how you progress in achieving your goals.

  • @heather-boyd Thanks so much for the feedback! I love posters. Currently working on a commission for a friend – a made-up movie he thought up. "Electric Samurai vs Neon Ninja" based on cheesy 80s action films and cyberpunk. Lol

  • @tessaw Yes! I follow her on instagram. Very inspiring. I love how she exaggerates her figures without morphing them into unsightly beasts like I do sometimes. Excellent stuff.

    @Teju-Abiola I'm flattered you think my style has a James Jean, Yuko Shimizu, Victo Ngai, Sachin Teng vibe. Sorry, dunno Marcos Chin, but now I do! I look up to all of those guys.

    I agree that my work isn't consistent as it ought to be. I'm working on that. Trying to nail down which direction I want to go and apply a distinct style to it and keep it for the long run. Then, I plan to send out postcards to various companies in the next few months. Thank you for your feedback!

    @Johanna-Kim I started a sketch group a couple years back. It went on for a year. I met some good people through it, but no serious artists. It was all a hobby to them and I started getting a few annoying ladies who just wanted us to teach them English. No thanks. So I stopped it.

    Thank you for the feedback and tips. I'll definitely look into 'antler'. As I mentioned above, I'm trying to nail down a direction and style. I just get confused about my dream clients because I want to do so much. I just need to stick to one direction for now I guess, not the band, but...nm. The plan is to send out postcards in the next couple months.

    THANK YOU ALL for your insight. I desperately needed it. I cannot be more appreciative. I was feeling a bit down and exhausted today but you guys lifted my spirits again. Have a wonderful weekend guys!

  • @binman8 The colours would definitely be fun to play around with "electric and neon".


  • @binman8
    You said you want to get better at speaking Korean, and you are married to a Korean woman, so maybe you could ask your wife to help you get better at it.

    Maybe you already do this, but you could watch Korean movies together (without English subtitles). Ask her to only speak to you in Korean one day each week (or however often works for you). Listen to an audiobook together. Pick out a book to read to her in Korean. If you're not ready for that yet, just start with picture books. There are a lot of great stories in children's literature. You could read the kids' books to her, and/or read to kids & let them read to you.

    This way, you will be spending time together and get practice in at the same time.

  • @binman8 you're answering yourself in every section!
    I understand you feel stuck. I'll keep it as simple as possible.
    ask yourself what your art should look like for you to be happy with it?
    find several people who work in the styles you prefer. copy them.
    then create a mash up of everything you love. CREATE 10 of those!
    if you want them to be on book covers then PRESENT them as book covers. (this is what i'm going to do next too). People don't know what you can offer them until they see it. I whipped this up just to show you how to present your art. 0_1534644341649_08b6ff59-2524-4b15-8a65-f60ea0a57907-image.png
    this may take you several months to a year to do. depends on how motivated you are.

    are there any local events you can attend? have you tried Facebook groups? you can ALWAYS collaborate online.

  • @Miriam We used to try to study together but we got in arguments often. Not bad, but it was funny actually. Our other mixed couple friends did the same thing! I don't know why couples can't study well together. I'm sure it's not true for everybody. Still pretty funny though to hear my friends having the same issues studying with their spouse. LOL. Anyway, she and I are way too busy running a business together and just want to relax together rather than study together. I need classes preferably but a private teacher may have to do for now. Thanks!

    @Heidi-Ahmad Wow, thanks for going through all that trouble. You didn't have to, but thanks! Yeah I should consider doing more type design over my illustrations as book covers or whatever it might be. I'm working on a mock 80s Japanese action movie poster and got a friend's Japanese wife to translate the title for me so I'm pumped to play around with the type more after I finish the illustration. Just spoke with my former illustration professor and he's mentoring me personally now, so he's giving me plenty of motivation to find what I want to do and do it well. Thank again^^

    Thanks again to all of you. So helpful! Sorry I don't get on the forum much. I've become quite busy and scatter-brained as of late. I'll try better to comment on your posts as well.

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