Q&A Interview With South Korean Illustrator Mr.Misang

Mr Misang’s vibrant and detailed work is a commentary on the world today. We sat down with Mr.Misang to talk about his series ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’ and what he’s working on now.

Mr.Misang Interview

Please could you tell us about your background, and how you entered the world of illustration.

I majored in comics at art high school, and majored in communication design at university. I tried very hard to make comics, motion graphics and music or illustrations.

You’re a Capsules Ambassador for Drawn Volume.3, what about the project appealed to you?

I thought it will be helpful to promote myself and my work and as a project it’s helpful to other artists and ultimately result in making a bigger art scene.

You live and work in Seoul, South Korea, could you tell us about your local creative community?

Actually I don't know much about offline local community. I just make illustrations, alone in the house, and I don't have interest at any offline art communities. But there are many online communities that I have been part of including' Notefolio', 'Grafolio' and Facebook groups such as ‘[Korean illustrators]’.'Notefolio' was especially helpful during my early career.

'Welcome to The Sexpo' ©Mr.Misang

'Welcome to The Sexpo' ©Mr.Misang

Seoul is a unique city, with many juxtapositions between old and ultra modern. It preserves the culture of it’s past, for instance Bukchon Village, a 600 year old urban environment which juxtaposed with the ultra modern skyline of Seoul. Does this juxtaposition and unique visual language of old and new feed into your work?

Yes. Seoul has varied faces. But I don't think those things affect my work too much, maybe sometimes I get inspired with that culture, but I also get inspired by so many other things too. For example: news, music, conversation with friends (with beer!) and products.

Your series of work ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’ is beautifully detailed and vibrant look at the 24/7 working culture of modern life. What messages would you like to convey with your work?

I wanted to show modern life though the work and life aspect. People work too much, especially in Korea. (That's why now people are talking about having a 'balanced life')

I want to talk about 'crowd'. It's difficult to explain with English, but I can reference some key words.

'Misang(미상)' means 'anonymous’ (unknown=noname)' in Korean.

That's general noun, so I added 'Mr' at the front, of course 'Mr Misang' is name of my character (the yellow hat and red face guy) but in fact he is a kind of McGuffin to make this series consistent. The real protagonist of this series is the anonymous crowd and big the situation or the big space itself.

You are working on a new project, temporarily titled ’Modern Life is a Theme Park’, and we noticed a few current topics are referenced in your work, such as ‘Fake News’. Can you tell us more about this new series?

Following on from the previous question, 'Modern Life is Rubbish' are illustrations about work and life and the anonymous crowd. It’s also a kind of a myth about the 'birth of Mr Misang'.

I want to expand that subject and expression in my new series 'Modern Life is Theme Park'. It's about work, politics, distorted ego, sex industry, and so on. It's an ongoing project so I don't know the whole subject yet. And those places and themes are a part of one huge theme park.

I’ve included some examples of my new work, for example, 'Untitled' sketch is the entrance of this Theme park. 'Mirror Room' is mirror room in theme park (this was inspired by Kusama Yayoi) and the 'Souvenir Store' is also the souvenir store in the main theme park.

I used blue tones for 'Modern Life is Rubbish', but I'm using more colors like you’d see in a theme park for this new project.

'Fake News Idol' © Mr.Misang

'Fake News Idol' © Mr.Misang

Some illustrations (‘Welcome to the SEXPO’, ‘Fake News Idol’) are still about big spaces and crowds, but other illustrations (‘Mirror Room’ and ‘Alter Ego’) are about small spaces and individuals and feelings. I want to zoom in and zoom out like a camera to express this world

You are very active on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/mrmisang/ and we enjoy taking a look behind the scenes and seeing your work in progress. Could you tell us about how you create your illustrations?

I just draw with a Wacom Cintique and use Adobe Photoshop. In the old days, I liked to draw pen on paper and colour digitally, but now I draw 100% digitally because it's comfortable and good quality. Sometimes when I’m outside I will still draw with pen on paper.

'Untitled'- sketch © Mr.Misang 

'Untitled'- sketch © Mr.Misang 

What other artists work are you enjoying right now?

The list of 'The best artist in my mind' is always changing. Ironically, I can't see many illustrations or graphic arts after I started working on my long series because I have to stare at 'my illustrations' all day. So I listen music all day. Sure there are so many great graphic artists but I can't remember names... I just remember images. So I'll just write down the musician names I’m enjoying at the moment.

SUCHMOS, NAFLA, Legit Goons, City pops(Tatsuro Yamashita, Mariya Tacheuchi), MGMT, Cero, Ryo Fukui...

What would you describe as your career highlights so far?

I’ve mainly done commercial illustration works, recent works for example includes tobacco illustration for KT&G, album covers for musicians and illustration for YouTube videos. Sure, every work is important, it’s my job and I earn money with these commissions, but I think my best work is my 'Modern Life ...' series. I hope 'Modern Life is Theme Park' will be my best work.

'Souvenir Store' © Mr.Misang

'Souvenir Store' © Mr.Misang

What is the best piece of advice you have received as an illustrator?

Self-objectify your illustration, and keep going. My short term purpose is always the same: to make a better illustration that the last. :)

Thank you very much for your time today Mr Misang, and for sharing pieces from ‘Modern Life Is Theme Park’ we are very much looking forward to seeing the final piece!

Follow Mr Misang on Instagram to get his latest updates: See more here.