In Woonyoung Jung’s charming illustrative world, women hike mountains with cheetahs, surf with dinosaurs and ride on helicopter wings. In fact, the mid-action snapshots of Woon’s characters makes my life seem very mundane.
Woon, who now works as a visual development artist at Dreamworks Animations, depicts athletic female characters exploring alongside friends, playing sport and also carrying out everyday activities, like going to the gym or a yoga class. The action is the focus, rather than the women’s bodies – a refreshing reflection of femininity as it is today.
But although it’s safe to say Woon’s characters are relatable to many young women – wearing familiar streetwear brands like New Balance, Nike Supreme, and using familiar technology (smartphones and DSLR cameras) – there are a few strange additions to what would be otherwise realistic scenes. Like the giant dinosaurs. Or the cats that seem to pop up in non-domestic locations, or the fact that characters wear witch hats.
We love the comical blend of the real and surreal, and how Woon visualises a fantastical world that fuses his interest in both Disney animation and Japanese manga and anime. And the best part is, there are loads and loads of these delightful illustrations on Woon’s Tumblr to make you smile. You can also check out his work on Instagram and his website.
Woon tells us about the inspiration and creative process behind crafting a relatable world.
Miriam Harris: Tell me a bit about yourself.
Woonyoung Jung: "I came to America to study concept design in 2005. I studied Entertainment design at Art Center College of Design and graduated in 2010 April. I was very fortunate enough to get hired by Dreamworks Animation during my final term. Since then I currently work full time as a visual development artist."
MH: How would you describe your overall aesthetic style?
WJ: "I went to design school but my biggest influence has been Disney animations. I was blown away by Lion King. Also in Korea Japanese manga and anime is huge. I read manga with my friends and draw the manga characters all the time. So I have to say my style and my goal is to try and find a unique mixture of both."
MH: Where do you draw inspiration from?
WJ: "From daily lives, because I like to set up a special world and share the world with the people as much as possible. I believe the best way to communicate with people is creating empathy, and I think this empathy comes from daily lives."
MH: You often illustrate active female characters with friends – is there a message there?
WJ: "I like to create a fun twist for my projects, I have noticed many people think witches and dinosaurs are belong to same universe but those are two separate projects.
"For witches, it was completely accidental. I was drawing two ladies enjoying coffee but it was very plain and ordinary. So as an artist I try to find the way to twist this image.
"So put the colourful witch hats on and all over sudden they became magical characters. I really love that transformation and it gave me an idea about entire world. They were totally relatable but very special at the same time."
MH: We love your illustrations with dinosaurs. Tell me a bit about the idea behind this.
WJ: "For Dinosports, I did this drawing about a ninja (male) riding a dinosaur when I was in high school. For some reason, I wanted to recreate the drawing. I wanted to make the character still agile, like a ninja, but modern. So I choose a female athletics. I thought about male athletics but it wasn’t enough contrast. Female athletics were so much more charming and nevertheless created a nice contrast with the huge dinosaurs."
MH: Do you want your illustrations to be relatable to young women?
WJ: "It would be lovely if young women could relate to my drawing but I hope everyone can relate to the worlds and characters that I come up with. That gives me the biggest motivation and that is the reason why I became a visual development artist."
MH: Talk us through your creative process.
WJ: "When I get an idea, I usually start with thumb nailing the idea by using pen and paper. Once I find the composition I bring the drawing into Photoshop and finish the drawing up."
MH: What’s the next step for you?
WJ: "I hope to make an illustration book out of the two projects and write little stories as well."