[Skip Town in Seoul] An illustrator and a cafe
The airy interior of cafe/gallery Take Out Drawing was the perfect resting place after an energetic first morning in Seoul. After arriving at our hotel in Itaewon the night before, we briefly wandered the busy Saturday night streets before settling on the simple but satisfying combination of Korean bbq, beer and bed. Determined to get to the bottom of our new neighbourhood (which we’d heard described as a “recovering ex-pat ghetto”) the morning saw us walking the streets and taking in an eclectic mix of international embassies, upmarket florist-come-cafes, suspect back alleys, art galleries, backpackers and french bakeries.
Take Out Drawing was a recommendation from our first interview subject, Illustrator Jung Park (pictured above), and in a happy coincidence, located just across the street from our hotel! We had already noticed that a lot of cafes in Seoul are also something else (a florist, gallery, shop) but at Take Out Drawing every detail is carefully considered and integrated into the whole. Tables are arranged around displays of art books, designer wares and installations by the latest artist-in-residence, and the menu doubles as a beautifully designed newsletter, detailing the latest events around Seoul. We settled in with iced coffees and chatted to Jung.
Quickly gaining a reputation for her off-kilter portraits and editorial illustrations, Jung’s clients include Dazed & Confused, Harper’s Bazaar and Levis. She works with pen and paper, later adding bright blocks of colour in Photoshop. She has a way with proportions – they don’t quite make sense, they’re almost naive, but somehow they work. Her next step, she says, is to get an agent in London and work for more international clients.
Jung has experienced a city in rapid transition, the change made all the clearer after a long stint studying in London. She says she had to leave because she wasn’t feeling inspired by Seoul at that time. Now, however, things are changing. In a sentiment we’re to hear many times over the following days, she describes Koreans as being very on-trend and fast adaptors. She says this also applies to the way she’s expected to work – ‘bang bang bang!’ she gestures.
We get off track, talking about the amazing recent history of this city with a very turbulent past. The apartment blocks we see on the hill below us are the result of hasty post-war redevelopment in the 1970′s, and many are now being torn down to make way for the new. Seoul was ‘World Design Capital’ in 2010, and much more attention is now being paid to city planning and architecture. Hopefully this time things will be built to last.
All illustrations by Jung