....이슬아..Seula Yi....

....이슬아..Seula Yi....

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부산 토박이인 이슬아는 현재 전시회가 열리고 있는 광안리 해변의 퍼즈게스트하우스에 오는 길을 자세히 알려주었다.  인터뷰를 진행하는 동안, 슬아는 미소와 당당한 모습을 잃지 않았고, 작가로서의 생활 방식과 전시회 타이틀인  Take a Rest (휴식)을 반복해서 언급했다.

우리는 세 개 층을 차지하고 있는 퍼즈게스트하우스 구석구석을 돌아다니며 전시된 작품을 감상했다. 심지어 빈 객실 문을 열고 들어가 슬아의 활기가 넘치는 수채작품이 전시된 엿보기도 했다. 이번 전시에는 슬아의 2016년 달력에 포함된 작품 중 세 작품의 원본 스케치가 포함되어 있다.

“이 작품이 제가 가장 좋아하는 작품이에요.” 슬아는 침실에서 편안하게 담요를 덮고 빛나는 노트북을 보고 있는 여자의 그림을 가리키면서 나의 이목을 이끌었다.  “잠들기전에 침대에서 영화를 보거나 유투브를 보는 게 제가 가장 좋아하는 휴식이기 때문이죠.”

슬아는 Take a Rest은 도시의 삶과 도시 사람들의 연구에서 나온 것이라고 얘기했다. “저는 사람들을 관찰하는 것을 좋아해요. 저는 호기심이 많아서 사람들이 도시에 살며 무슨 생각을 하는지, 무엇을 하는지, 또 무엇을 먹는지 알고 싶어요. 저는 그들의 이야기를 그리고 싶어요.”

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Busan native Seula Yi was eager to help me find the location of her art exhibition at Pause B&B near Gwangalli Beach. Meeting her, finally, Seula was all smiles and encouragement, echoing her lifestyle and the title of her exhibition, Take a Rest.

We wandered the halls—and peeked in some empty guest rooms temporarily housing Seula’s vibrant watercolor prints—of the three-floored B&B before settling in the lobby area, where most of Seula’s artwork is displayed, including three original sketches from her 2016 calendar.

“This one is my favorite,” Seula Yi quickly pointed out, directing my attention to a sketch of a girl watching her glowing laptop screen comfortably under blankets in her bedroom. “It’s my favorite because it’s my favorite kind of rest: watching movies or YouTube in bed before falling asleep.”

Take a Rest came out of a study of urban life and urban people, Seula said. “I love to watch people; I am so curious to know what they think, what they do, and what they eat as they are going somewhere through the city. I want to paint their story.”

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2016 cal 1 - seula yi.jpg

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이번 전시회에는 약 20여점의 그림들이 전시되어 있는데, 대부분 수채화로 작업 한 사람들의 모습니다. 일과를 끝내고 지하철을 타고 집으로 향하는 사람들, 해변에 앉아 맥주를 마시는 사람들, 석양 아래서 자전거를 타는 사람들, 추운 겨울 아침에 따듯한 차를 마시는 사람들, 오후에 낮잠에 빠진 사람들 등 다양한 사람들의 모습을 담았다.

“이 사람들은 일상에서 휴식을 취하고 있어요. 저는 휴가 때 여행을 떠나는 것과 같이 대단한 방법이 아니라, 사람들이 사소한 방법으로 어떻게 휴식을 취하는지 보여주고 싶어요.”

슬아는 7살 때부터 그림을 그려 왔다. 슬아가 본인을 ’진정한 예술가’라고 여기게 된 시기는 부산 예술 고등학교에 다니고, 부산대학교에서 유화를 전공하고, 고등학생들에게 미술을 가르쳤던 지난 10년 전 부터이다. 슬아는 24살부터 일러스트를 그리기 시작했는데, 친구인 최윤경 작가와 함께 작업하는 연간 달력 프로젝트도 이 때 시작했다.

작가로서의 경력에 대해 얘기할 때, 슬아는 “직장 생활, 강압적인 생활은 나의 길이 아니다”라고 답하며, 프리랜서로 일하며 자유를 누리는 것이 좋다고 밝혔다. 실제로, 대학 졸업 후 직장생활을 하는 ’일반적인' 삶은 슬아를 위한 것이 아니었다. “대학교 2학년에 재학중일 때, 학교를 그만두었어요. 학교를 떠나서 좀 쉬고싶었죠. 교수님께 말씀드린 후 유럽 여행을 떠났고, 많은 도시들을 보고, 그림을 그렸죠.”

..

The exhibition holds about 20 pieces, most of which are watercolor prints of people—people simply riding the subway home at the end of the day, sitting on the beach with a beer, riding a bicycle in the sunset, drinking tea on a chilly winter morning, falling into a much-needed, mid-afternoon nap, and more.

“These people are taking a rest in everyday life. I want to show how people can take a rest in small ways, not just big ways, like traveling on vacation.”

Seula Yi has been illustrating since she was seven years old, though she considers herself an “artist in earnest” for only the last ten years, attending Busan Art High School, majoring in oil painting at Busan National University, and teaching art classes to children and high school students. She only began illustrating at twenty-four and a half, which includes the inception of her yearly calendar project with friend Yoon Kyong Choi.

“In fact, the work life, the pressured life, is not my life,” Seula said when discussing her career. “I like the freedom of freelance.” In fact, a ‘normal’ path of university-graduation-career is not for Seula at all. “When I was in the second year of university,” she said, “I quit. I wanted to take a rest, so I talked to my professor. I travelled to Europe, I saw many cities, and then I painted.”

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”유럽을 처음 여행했을 때 유럽인들이 주말에 쉬는 것을 보고 정말 놀랐죠. 런던에서 한 가족을 보았는데, 아빠가 딸에게 스케이트 보드 타는 법을 가르쳐 주고 있었어요. 그 때 정말 정신이 멍해졌죠.”
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When I first traveled to Europe, I was shocked to see they have the weekend! And one weekend in London, I saw a family; the father was teaching the daughter to ride a skateboard, and I was stunned!”
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슬아와 나는 그녀와 스티브 잡스의 공통점에 대해 이야기 하면서 웃었다. 학교를 그만두고 하고싶은 일을 추구하는 일처럼 한국에서 하기는 힘든 것들에 대해서 말이다. “부모님의 지원이 있었기에 결심할 수 있었어요.  저희 아빠는 스티브 잡스 열렬한 팬이거든요. 그래서 항상 저에게 ’하고싶은 것을 해라’고 말씀하세요. 그래서 그렇게 하고 있어요.”

“항상 ‘휴식’이 주제인가요?” 내가 물었다.

“그런 것 같아요. 사람들은 낮 동안 쉬지를 않아요. 그리고 그들이 좋아하는 것도 하지 않죠. 그러나 저는 한국에서 흔한 사람은 아니에요. 심지어 제가 예술 고등학교에서 가르칠 때, 제가 느낀 압박은 일해라, 일해라, 일해라가 아니라, 제가 원하는 것을 찾는 것이었어요.”

슬아는 유럽과 미국을 여행한 적이 있지만, 스스로를 여행자 보다는 여행자, 특히 서양 여행자를 관찰하는 관찰자로 생각하고자 한다. “서양의 생활 방식은 동양의 생활 방식과 많이 달라요. 제 생각에 동양인들은 일에 너무 몰두해서 취미 생활이라는 게 전혀 없는 것 같아요. 유럽을 처음 여행했을 때 유럽인들이 주말에 쉬는 것을 보고 정말 놀랐죠. 런던에서 한 가족을 보았는데, 아빠가 딸에게 스케이트 보드 타는 법을 가르쳐 주고 있었어요. 그 때 정말 정신이 멍해졌죠.” 슬아는 두 발과 발목이 갈색 스케이트 보드를 타고 있고, 오후의 그림자가 그 뒤로 펼쳐져 있는 수채화 작품을 가리키며 작가의 경험을 말해주었다.

서양인들이 더 나은 휴식을 취하냐고 묻자, 슬아는 본인의 작품에 더 이상적인 대상인 서양인의 얼굴을 더 자주 그리는 이유를 서양인과 동양인을 비교하며 설명해주었다.

..

Seula and I laughed about her shared path with Steve Jobs, to quit university and pursue an interest, something very difficult to do in Korea.  “I made this decision,” she said, “because my parents support me. My father, a huge fan of Steve Jobs, always said to me, ‘Do what you love.’ So I do.”

“Has ‘take a rest’ always been your theme?” I asked.

“I think so. So many people don’t rest during the day and don’t do what they love. But I am not a common person in Korea. Even when I was teaching at the art high school, the pressure I felt was not to work, work, work, but instead, I felt the pressure to find the thing that I love.”

Seula Yi has been to Europe and to America, but she doesn’t consider herself a traveler, and she loves to observe the traveler’s life, especially the Western traveler’s life. “The Western lifestyle is so different from the Asian lifestyle. I think the Asian people have too much work and don’t really have a hobby. When I first traveled to Europe, I was shocked to see they have the weekend! And one weekend in London, I saw a family; the father was teaching the daughter to ride a skateboard,”  here, Seula pointed to a watercolor close-up of two feet and ankles on a small brown board, casting an afternoon shadow, “and I was stunned!”

When asked if Western people are better at resting, perhaps making them more ideal subjects for her paintings, Seula compared Western and Asian people at some length, outlining some of the reasons that she tends to paint more Western faces.

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“제 생각에 서양인들은 그들의 삶과 취미를 위해 유식을 취하는 것 같아요. 서양인들의 독립적인 성향이 휴식을 취할 때에도 드러나는 거죠. 반면 동양인들은 그들이 속한 회사나 다른 사람을 위해 휴식을 취해요. 사실 동양인 서양인 구분하지 않고 사람들이 어떻게 휴식을 취하는지 관찰하고 이를 작품에 담아내고 싶어요.

개인적으로 서양인들을 그리는 것을 더 즐기는데, 한 사람 한 사람의 얼굴에 개성이 너무 다양하기 때문이에요. 동양인들은 비슷한 머리색에 눈동자색을 가지고 있고, 또 성형수술때문에 얼굴이 다 비슷비슷해요. 서양인들의 얼굴은 제 얼굴과 다르고 너무 개성적인데, 심지어 주근깨도 있잖아요! 그래서 더 재미있는 것 같아요.

언젠가는 동양인들을 많이 그릴 것 같아요. 한국은 글로벌한 나라이고 많은 서양인들이 한국을 찾고 있어요. 제 작품을 감상하는 관객들이 어쩌면 유럽이나 북미를 방문할 기회가 없을 수 도 있지만, 제 작품을 통해서 우리와 너무 다른 사람들이 사실은 비슷한 방식으로 휴식을 취하고, 또 사실 공통점이 많다는 것을 알려주고 싶어요.”

“어떤 사람들이 작가의 작품을 감상하길 원하나요? 관람객들이 작가의 작품에서 무엇을 느꼈으면 좋겠다 하고 바라는 것이 있나요?” 내가 물었다.

“저는 평범한 일상 속의 사람들을 그리려고 해요. 그러면 제 작품에 공감하기도 쉽죠. 이번 작품은 휴식에 관한 것이니까 관람객들이 편안함과 휴식을 느꼈으면 좋겠어요. 관람객이 슬픔을 느끼길 바란다면 저는 슬픈 그림을 그릴 거예요. 그렇지만 이번 전시회에서 관람객들이 가벼움과 편안함을 느꼈으면 좋겠어요.”

슬아의 수채화는 자연스러운 묘사로 인해 관객들이 빨리 지나치기 쉬우며, 어쩌면 복잡하거나 많은 노력이 들어간 작품과는 거리가 있다고 느낄 수 있다. 그러나 슬아의 작품은 오랜 연구와 연습, 모방, 그리고 영감에 의한 완성품이다.

..

“I think that Western people use their rest for their life or their hobby. Their independence is even in their rest. I think the Asian people use rest for company or somebody else. But I love watching them all, painting them all.

I do enjoy painting Western people, because their faces are so different. Asian people usually have the same colored eyes, same colored hair, and with plastic surgery, many Asians’ faces are the same, but Western people are so different from me. They have freckles! It’s so interesting.

One day, I will draw Asian people, but today, Korea is very globalized and many Westerners are coming here. Maybe my audience isn’t able to travel to Europe or America, but with my art, they can see people who are so different from them, but are resting in a similar way. I can show that we actually have a lot in common.”

“Who would be your ideal audience? What would you want your ideal onlooker to take away from your paintings?” I asked.

“I want to paint the everyday person, so that it’s easy to relate to my work. These are about rest, so I want my audience to feel peace and rest also. It’d be the same if I painted a sad thing, I’d want my audience to feel that sadness. But I’d like my audience to feel light and rested when they see this exhibition.”

Seula’s watercolors may seem non-complex and undemanding of its viewers - its candid depictions so common that one may quickly pass them by - but Seula’s work culminates from years of study, practice, imitation, and inspiration.

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“제 작품을 심플하게 표현하려고 노력하는데, 이와 동시에 제 작품이 이야기를 전달했으면 좋겠어요.”
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“I try to be simple, but at the same time, I want my work to tell a story.”
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“데이비드 호크니를 아세요? 그는 영국인이지만, 캘리포니아에서 작품활동을 하고 있어요. 천재적인 색채 배합과 구성 능력을 가지고 있는 작가이죠. 그의 작품에는 항상 이야기가 있어요. 피터 도이그도 좋아해요. 그는 이 벽만큼이나 큰 작품을 그렸죠.” 슬아는 내 뒤를 가리켰다. “비가 내리는 들판을 가로질러 달리는 작고 빨간 트럭이 하나있어요. 심플한 작품이지만 이 그림이 정말 마음에 들어요.”

슬아의 작품에는 한 사람이나 그림자처럼 관람객들의 눈길을 끄는 강렬한 하나의 초점이 있다. 이는 작가의 작품에서 단순함을 강조하려는 의도일까?

“제 작품을 심플하게 표현하려고 노력하는데, 이와 동시에 제 작품이 이야기를 전달했으면 좋겠어요.”

“그래서 이 작품은 어떤 이야기가 숨어있나요?” 나는 슬아의 6월달 달력에 모래 위에서 서핑하는 세 명의 여자들을 가리켰다.

“이 그림은 제가 서핑하러가고 싶어 그린 거에요. 저는 물을 무서워하기 때문에 저에게 서핑은 너무 힘들어요. 매년 서핑하는 것을 꿈꾸지만, 매년 실패해요. 그 대신에 이 작품을 그렸죠.”

슬아가 제작한 달력의 각 달은 슬아와 그녀의 동료의 삶을 보여준다. 2월은 조용한 버스에 앉아 도시의 불빛을 지나쳐 집으로 돌아가는 장면이다. 또 8월은 한 밤의 공연이다.

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“Do you know David Hockney? He is from England, but he is usually painting in California. He has a really genius color scheme and composition. His work always tells a story.  I love Peter Doig, too. He made a really big painting, as big as this wall.” Seula pointed behind me. “In the center, is a small red truck driving through the field and rain. It’s so simple, but I love this painting.”

Much of Seula’s work draws the eye with one sharp focal point, be that one person to contemplate or one shadow to follow, so is she emphasizing simplicity in her work?

“I try to be simple, but at the same time, I want my work to tell a story.”

“So what’s the story here?” I indicated to the picture of three girls strolling on the sand with surfboards on the July page of Seula’s calendar.

“This painting is just me wanting to go surfing. Surfing is so hard for me because I’m really scared of the water. I just dream every year that I will surf, but I can’t every year. So I draw them instead.”

Each month of the calendar depicts some snapshot of Seula’s—or her friends’—life. February is the quiet bus ride home, while the city lights pass by. August is a night concert.

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surfing - Seula Yi.jpg

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슬아는 대게 작품에 수채화 물감을 사용한다. 그녀는 수채화 물감이 그녀의 성격, 미술 그리고 생활 방식에 가장 잘 맞는다고 이야기한다. “전공이 유화임에도 불구하고, 수채화 물감이 유순해서 좋아해요. 이 작품들을 작업했을 때, 창문과 하늘을 표현하기 위해 물을 많이 사용해서 색상을 연하게 만들었어요. 수채화는 다양한 레벨의 음영을 표현할 수 있어요.”

“아크릴의 색은 너무 강하지만, 이것이 마르면, 고무나 껌으로 바껴요. 질감은 달라요. 수채화와 구야슈는 부드럽게 마르는 동아느 강한 색을 유지할 수 있이요.”

슬아는 서울에 있는 GS 건물과 도쿄에서 전시회들을 가졌다. 또한, 슬아는 인스타그램 상에서 26,000명이 넘는 팔로워를 가지고 있다. 어떻게 성공할 수 있는지 묻자, 슬아는 이렇게 대답했다. “매일매일 그림을 그렸어요. 아티스트가 되고자 하는 사람이 있다면 매일매일 무엇인가를 하라고 말해주고 싶어요. 연습을 많이 해야해요. 매일매일이 대단하지 않을 수 있지만, 결국 시간이 지나면 실력이 늘거에요.” 

성공하기 위해서 정기적인 목표나 성장할 수 있는 도전의식을 가는 것이 큰 도움이 된다고 슬아는 이야기한다. 그리고 주위에 동기를 부여받는 친구를 가지는 것도 중요하다고 한다. 내년에 슬아와 그의 동료 최윤경은 그들의 네 번재 달력을 만들 예정이다. “우리의 첫 번째 달력은 너무나 큰 실패작이었어요.” 슬아는 웃으면서 이야기했다. 슬아는 또한 처음에 성공하지 못하더라도 지속적으로 노력하는 것이 중요함을 되풀이했다. 슬아는 10월달에 샌프란시스코로 여행을 다녀온 후, 2017년 달력의 작업을 시작할 예정이다.

한국에서 아티스트로 활동하는 것은 수없이 도전하고 또 실패를 겪어야 함을 뜻한다. 예를 들어, 인스타그램은 접근성 때문에 많은 작가들에게 자신의 작품을 홍보할 중요한 도구로 사용되지만, 또한 표절을 무척 쉽게 만들기도 한다. “몇 번 다른 작가들이 제 작품을 베낀 적이 있어요. 유감스럽게도 한국에서는 저작권법의 개념이 무척 약하죠. 한번 소송을 했었지만 제 작품을 표절한 작가에게서 돈을 받진 못했어요. 그냥 사과만 받았죠. 그리고 두 달전에, 인스타그램에서 어떤 사람이 제 작품사진을 찍고,  ‘그림그리는 게 너무 힘들다.’라는 글과 함께 재게시 했어요.”

지역의 표절 사례와 싸우기 위해서, 슬아와 친구들은  슬아의 작품 Southern Gaze (남부 시선)을 슬아의 사인과 함께 무료로 배포하고 있다.

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Seula uses mostly watercolor for her work, and, when pressed, she said watercolors suit her personality, art, and lifestyle best. “Even though my major in university was Oil Painting, I like watercolor because it is so flexible. For the windows and sky in these pieces, I use a lot of water, so the color is more faint—there are a lot of possibilities for shades of color with watercolor.

“Acrylic is such a strong color, but when it dries, it changes to rubber or gum. The texture is different. Watercolor and gouache can keep a strong color while drying smooth”.

Seula Yi has had exhibitions in Seoul at the GS corporate building—of GS Mart—and an exhibition in Tokyo. Also, she has a substantial following on Instagram with over 26,000 followers. When asked to reveal her secret of success, she replied, “I’m just drawing every day. And that’s my advice to any hopeful artist: do something every day. Just practice. And maybe it’s not amazing every day, but just do it. You’ll get better.”

It helps to have a regular goal, a regular challenge to improve, in order to be successful, Seula said. That, and having friends around who are similarly motivated; next year, Seula Yi and her friend Choi Yoon Kyong will again produce a calendar, their fourth. “Our first calendar was so, so terrible,” Seula said, laughing, but she reiterated how important it is to continue working and improving regularly,  even if you’re not successful at first. Seula will begin working on the 2017 calendar after her trip to San Francisco in October.

Being an artist in Korea is not without its challenges and setbacks; the accessibility of Instagram, for example, is both an incredible tool for promotion and an all-too-easy means to plagiarism. “Other people have copied my paintings a couple times,” Seula said. “And, unfortunately, there aren’t strict copyright laws in Korea, so after one lawsuit, I didn’t get any money back from the artist who stole my work, just an apology. And two months ago, someone else on Instagram took a photo of my painting and reposted it with the caption, ‘It is so hard working on my art.’”

To combat local cases of plagiarism, Seula and her friends are giving away free posters of her work Southern Gaze with her signature at the bottom.

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2016 cal 2 - seula yi.jpg

 

Follow Seula Yi Here:

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Translation: Kim Harin

 

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