Portfolio: http://www.sunmininn.com (I sincerely recommend checking out her portfolio site: not only is it beautifully formatted, but you can also see larger and higher-quality versions of her work.)
Hey guys! Sorry for the delay in our Artist of the Week posts; I know not very many people read these, but that’s no excuse to be untimely. This week we have Sunmin Inn, who graduated from Art Center College of Design in 2014 as an Illustration major, and now works in visual development at Warner Bros. Animation. Compared to the other artists I plan to write about, Sunmin is a recent find, but I adore her, and for her lovely personality as well as her wild, fresh art. One of my favorite pieces of hers is the first one here; the scene is suffused with warmth, even as it depicts a melancholy subject. She uses complementary colors with great subtlety, her surfaces are pleasantly textured, and the detail is enchanting– especially the shining threads woven into the blanket.
I first came across Sunmin’s art when her graduation portfolio was making the rounds on Tumblr. What struck me was her liberal use of color, and her skillful, explicit lighting schemes. As for the former, she didn’t seem afraid to mix and match colors that seemed totally incompatible– except that they totally worked. As for the latter, by “explicit” lighting schemes I only mean she lights her paintings in a way that makes it incredibly easy for the viewer to understand the emotional narratives behind them. The atmosphere, settings, and focal points are always clear and read instantaneously. When I asked her about how she dealt with such crazy colors, she said that she did have difficulties unifying her paintings early on, but realized that when you get the values right in a painting, it’s okay to choose “ugly” colors because the lighting holds the piece together.
I was actually so impressed by her painting that I asked her for tips; she replied with great advice, but also said that she personally considered herself more of a draftsman. I can see why: her drawing skills are, to put it lightly, insanely good. Not only does she have impeccable control over line weight, but her understanding of form language and anatomy is so intrinsic that she has the freedom to stylize as she wills. On her Tumblr, she’s mentioned that she’s been rejected from hundreds of studios because her style was “too wacky”. Despite this, think it’s the most singular and compelling quality of her art. I have a lot of respect for people who can draw and paint realistically, but those artists who can convey greater emotion and character by changing up proportions and by bending and stretching their subjects: I love them just as much, if not more.
In the end, what I admire most about Sunmin is less tangible than a confident line, or a beautifully rendered figure. I admire the fact that she feels insecure and doubtful about her own art, and that she can be honest about it. I admire the fact that she’s admitted to trying to change her personal style to fit what’s “mainstream” and “commercial”, and found that in the end it was easier to be faithful to herself. I admire the fact that, like me, she avoided anything to do with color or light until she had no choice; and then forced herself to do studies to improve. That avoidance was borne of fear, but her willingness to learn was borne of courage, which is at the heart of every person. Sunmin has said she’s always looking for the emotion in a piece, not accurate lighting or evocative color. I think she gets it: art is a vehicle for emotion, a vehicle for communicating to others ideas that you can’t express otherwise. In this way, her art speaks to me about great freedom, and great joy.