Interview with Il Sung Na
e: What is your creative process, can you walk us through it?
Il Sung: Ideas come first. I have sketchbooks and files on my computer where I keep all my ideas. An “Opposites’ concept was one of them and been in my folder for a long time. So, I made quick drawings of opposite animals. When I have a strong idea, which I think I want to do, then write a story down quickly. This is a hardest part for me. I spend quite amount of time to write it and revise it several times. Once I have a good shape of story, then it’s all about compositions and drawings. It’s included thumbnail sketches, study characters (or animals) and more drawings. I do some drawings before I have a finished story, but I normally wait until I write a full story (or at least 80% finished story) to play with. Then I make full sketches and colors. Coloring process is most fun part to me with less stress. Maybe I am more visual person than using text.
e: What is your medium?
Il Sung: I used to use acrylic paint, soft pastel, oil pastel and color pencils a lot. But I wanted to illustrate ‘The Opposite Zoo’ in different way, not in the same way I have done so far. The risk I had was how to approach this story in a fresh manner. I tried mono-print, watercolor, ink and color pencils. I wanted more free-form lines and shapes in contrast to my previous illustrations. So using ink-my long time favorite materials- was a risk: the effects had the potential to go astray with this new method.
color sample_ mono print
color sample_ ink and color pencils
e: * What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
Il Sung: I think that’s a power of illustration. When I was a college student, I always wanted to make illustrations that people look and look again. And I thought it has to be beautiful or artistically finished to achieve it. After I spent some good years, I have changed my mind. It doesn’t need to be beautiful or artistic, but good illustrations are that inspire readers’ imaginations. That way, reader want to come back to look again and again. So I would say ‘imaginative power’ or ‘spark imagination’.
e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
Il Sung: Well, unfortunately, there isn’t. But the process of making ‘The Opposite Zoo’ was a little different than my previous books.
I normally spend a lot of time to write a story (or narrative), struggle to get it right. But I only spent three weeks from getting ideas to making a dummy book. When I figured how to start and end the story, that was the moment that my brain clicked. The middle parts followed naturally. I am not saying it was an easy one, but it was also a very unique experience to me.
Il Sung: My all time favorite part is coloring. Of course I make a lot of failures before I get a right one. But it’s all part of fun. However writing is my most challenging part. I am still learning from reading other good books. I haven’t properly trained or learned how to write a story, but I believe it’s ideas that count. It’s not about writing skills, but it’s what strong idea you have and how you tell it in your own way.
Il Sung: I recently have finished my new title ‘Bird, Balloon, Bear’ (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017), which is about a friendship between Bird and Bear. This book has more storytelling than my other books, so I am excited about it.
Currently I am discussing ideas with my editor. I have two or three ideas that I want to do, but let’s see how it goes.
e: Thanks for dropping by!