Meet Grace Kim, a South Korea-born, Canada-raised illustrator, comic artist, and animator currently working in the world of childrens' animation. "Growing up, I’ve always liked to draw, but when I moved to Canada, drawing intensified because I couldn’t speak any English. Looking back on it, I think I used drawing as a way to cope with adjusting to a different culture." After attending Sheridan College in the Canadian city of Oakville, Grace lived and worked in Ottawa and Toronto before moving to Vancouver, where she is currently working as a Special Pose Artist at DHX Media. Read more about Grace Kim's work, interests, and her piece in the upcoming show, SWARM, below!
What does your workspace look like? What creates the perfect creative space for you and your practice? Do you have any collections or things that help you get inspired?
No matter where I work, I always seem to create clutter. I cleaned up a bunch of stuff for the photo, but usually there is quite a bit of books and mugs and toys scattered about my desk space.
I love to have the things that inspire me in close reach of me at all times, because I feel like they give me a creative boost. Really clean, minimized spaces give me a bit of anxiety and the blank canvas syndrome (the one where you can’t think of what to do).
Usually I have a lot of books on my desk; art books, novels, encyclopedias... Just whatever holds my interest! I also love having a cup of coffee right by me all the time!
You seem to be experienced with a variety of media, what is your favorite to work with? And what is your usual process when approaching a piece? Does it change depending on the medium you’re working with?
My all-time favourite art tools are pen, ink and markers! I love them because the result is immediate and there is less colour mixing involved.
When working on a piece, I usually do a very rough thumbnail, then dive straight into the final product. I'm not very good at restarting or fixing a piece, so If I make mistakes, I usually call them happy mistakes and live with them. It’s part of the beauty of inking! Although if the mistakes are BAD, I will redo a piece, but differently than the one I had been working on before.
You mentioned that you’re an animator for childrens’ television shows, is this something you’ve always been interested in pursuing? Are there things you’ve learned by working in the industry that have influenced your personal work?
I think I’ve wanted to be an animator since grade 4. Though the work is rather different than what I imagined it to be when I was a kid (no more 2D traditional animation! I didn’t even know what a cintiq [tablet] was), I love working in the animation industry. I do wonder sometimes what it would be like to do on-paper animation as my job.
Every show I’ve worked on has definitely influenced my drawings to some degree or another. Especially working as a special pose artist, I’ve learned to be more economic and effective with my linework. However, the themes in my personal work have always been mine, unaffected by the work created at my job.
Your work always seems to tell a strong story, whether you’re making a comic, a sketch, or a complete illustration. How do you go about crafting these stories, worlds, and characters?
A few years back, I went through a very long art block. I never knew what to draw, and my sketchbook was full of headshots. So one day, I promised myself to do more drawings that told a story. Even if it was just a sketch, I spent more time on the emotion I’m trying to convey. Now it’s almost become a habit for me to try and draw “stories” instead of drawing mindlessly.
These stories or ideas don’t always come to me immediately. I’ll usually draw a character or a surrounding based on something I was inspired by, then I start to build the world based on those drawings. If I draw a character I like, I want to build a world for it to live in. If I draw a surrounding I like, I want to inhabit that world with creatures!
Can you tell us about the piece you've created for Swarm? Was there anything new that you wanted to try with this piece, or anything you discovered while working on it?
The piece I did for Swarm is actually kind of interesting, because it is kind of an extension of a story I’m working on slowly. It works as a single piece, but I would love to finish building the story around it.
What are your favorite creatures of the dark? Are there any that you think get an unfair rap?
I love, but am also terrified of insects. I love watching them in HD documentaries, but when I see them in real life, I freeze like a rock! So I understand when people are scared of bugs, but at the same time I think they’re the amazing.
What inspires you? Favorite films, music, other pieces of media? And who are some of your favorite artists right now?
A lot of things inspire me... Movies, music, books… Since moving to Vancouver, nature has been a big inspiration. I love looking at different types of moss and foliage in the forests. There is something about small intricate vegetation in a vast forest that just draws me in.
I am a big fan of horror movies. I love Darren Aronofsky and Guillermo Del Toro very much. Their films are amazing because they don’t just focus on horrific images... They explore the beauty within those disturbing moments.
In terms of music, it seems like there are two people living inside me… I love bands like Joy Division, but at the same time I’m a big fan of k-pop. They’re polar opposites of each other!
Right now, I am really enjoying the art book for Nier:Automata. So far it's my favourite game this year!
Do you have any other hobbies that you enjoy? Is there anything you've always wanted to get into but haven't yet (art-wise or just in life)?
During the colder seasons, I love knitting/ crocheting. I like making little dolls and giving them to my friends. I also love playing video games; as an adult, it’s really hard to find the time to binge playing through a game, but I try to free up some weekends so I can just stay home and play all day.
What would be an absolute dream project for you? This can be personal or commercial!
I would love to make my own show or publish a collection of comics some day! I think it would be really cool to have a brand where my personal works can be kept.
Can you talk about any of your upcoming projects? Anything you’re working on that you’re really excited about?
I am planning on making some t-shirts this year. I’ve never done it, and I’m not sure who’d want them, but I want to make them so I can at least wear them with my friends!
I’m also working on a collection of comics this year. One is a slice of life sort of comic featuring one of my characters Worryball, and the other is a comic about a cult!
Anything else you’d like to add? Where can people find your work?
This was fun to write! Thanks for the opportunity.
If people want to see more of my work, it can be found at: