April 23, 2019

Let's Talk Illustrators #106: Soyeon Kim

I got a chance to talk to paper cut extraordinaire Soyeon Kim about her newest book You Are Never Alonewritten by Elin Kelsey. I have admired her illustration style for many years, and it was such a pleasure picking her brain about how she makes each new book with Elin feel unique. Enjoy!!

About the book:
This book draws examples from the clouds and the cosmos, the seafloor and the surface of our skin, to show how we are never alone: we are always surrounded and supported by nature. Whether it's gravity holding us tight; our lungs breathing oxygen synthesized by plants; the countless microorganisms that build our immunity; or the whales whose waste fertilizes the plankton that feed the fish we eat: nature touches every aspect of how we live.

Using lyrical text grounded in current science alongside detailed diorama art, this informational picture book presents the idea that we thrive through connections to the land and sea and sky, and togetherness is key to nature. It encourages inquiry-based learning, inviting readers to wonder, ask questions, observe the natural world, and engage with big ideas.

Let's talk Soyeon Kim!

LTPB: How did you come to be the illustrator of You Are Never Alone?

SK: It actually started with my first book, You Are Stardust. I was participating at Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition as a student, showcasing my first series of dioramas. Mary Beth Leatherdale, who was the editor at Owlkids at the time, came by to see my booth, and later she emailed to see if I would be interested in illustrating You Are Stardust. Ever since the first book, I worked together with Mary Beth and the author, Elin Kelsey, including our second book, Wild Ideas, and the latest book, You Are Never Alone.

LTPB: What kind of research did you do for the illustrations? How did you mix in the realities of your research with your own unique art style?

SK: I referred to the research for science facts that Elin and Mary Beth had already done when they were working on the manuscript. As for visuals, I searched reference images online and from books. Once I had a healthy collection of images, I started to sketch them as part of my practice and warm up.

I mix in the realities of the research and my art style by trying to create a world dedicated for the species and/or characters in dioramas. Using various types of papers like acetate (clear plastic), tissue paper, Japanese/Korean textured papers, I recreate the scene that is carefully arranged but yet playful with full of surprises!

LTPB: How did you create the illustrations in this book? Is cut paper your preferred method of illustration?

SK: The illustration for this book is photographs of the dioramas.

First, I build diorama frames in the woodshop: milling, sawing, and gluing. I stretch fabric on top and bottom (this is for fishing wire so that I can suspend/arrange my pieces inside a diorama). Once all of the frames are built, I work in my art studio where I draw and paint little pieces. Then each piece is cut and assembled inside the diorama.

Diorama is my preferred method of illustration because it allows me to explore and play with different mediums. There are endless possibilities with diorama art for not just creating the inside piece but also during the photoshoot, too! Playing with light and shadow, depth of field (what will be focused and/or blurred), it really sometimes feels like making a movie!

LTPB: What do you do when you’re not illustrating children's books?

SK: When I am not illustrating children’s books, I like to hike in nature with my camera.

LTPB: What are you working on now? Anything you can show us?

SK: Right now, I am working on another children’s picture book with Elin Kelsey. This will be a very special book for me, and I hope it will be same for all of you.

LTPB: If you were to write your picture book autobiography, who (dead or alive!) would you want to illustrate it, and why?

SK: If I were to write a picture book autobiography, I would want to illustrate my mom. She is the most inspiring, beautiful, strong, and warm-hearted individual, who has sacrificed so much for our family. She is also the person who made it possible for me to achieve my dreams. For all these reasons, I would want to illustrate a picture book autobiography dedicated to her.

Thank you so much to Soyeon for talking to me about this book! You Are Never Alone published from Owlkids last week!

Special thanks to Soyeon and Owlids for use of these images!

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1 comment:

  1. I am sitting with the book in my lap. In live with this story. Thinking about how to share it with the world. The story and the art are like the earth giving you a hug. Thank you for the interview. Learning more about Soyeon Kim's artis like icing on a cake.