Il Sung Na's THE DREAMER

I am a fan of Il Sung Na's work and had him visit to celebrate his book THE OPPOSITE ZOO. Well, I'm thrilled to have him back to visit with his newest book, the lovely THE DREAMER. Read on!
e: Il Sung, what is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
Il Sung:
My work process is not different from others. Once I have an idea that I am excited about, take it into further development. Write a short synopsis or make a few sentences that tell a story. Sometimes writing and drawing comes together, sometimes it comes separately. Writing and thumbnail sketching involve many revisions. Sometimes I have an “AHA” moment that I solve all problems I have in writing and sketching. It takes a long time to get that moment though. The coloring is the part that I enjoy most. I don’t have to worry about composition, layout, pacing anymore! Just enjoy and let colors work out themselves. These days, I have been trying to come out of my comfort zone and away from my typical materials. That’s why I used different materials on my three recent picture books.

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 don’t have a brilliant answer for this but I think Illustration is magical because it triggers our imagination and leads us to the other side of the world. Illustrators build their own imaginary worlds and invite readers.

e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
Il Sung:
It’s not a funny story but my first dummy for this book was an alphabet book format. At the time I wanted to create an alphabet book, not just simple ones, but have a story to tell with words in alphabetical order. I thought it was a brilliant idea because I did not see many alphabet books have stories and I came up with ‘Pig can fly’ story. It was a real challenge to list down all possible words in order and make a story. It was like solving a puzzle.
      I am so happy how the final book turns out. But maybe I will try another alphabet storybook format again in the future.

Early idea sketches with words, figuring out a story.

Early thumbnail sketches as an alphabet book format.
e: How do you advertise yourself?
Il Sung:
I am not very good at advertising myself. I use Instagram occasionally. After I work with an Agency, I don’t advertise or promote my works quite often. But I still show drawings, illustrations and work progress on my Instagram.

e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
Il Sung Na:
The most favorite part of the process is color. This is the stage that I explore all colors and enjoy it.
      Writing a story and thumbnail sketch is equally challenging for me. If I have to choose one, the writing part is the most difficult stage and often I struggle a lot.

e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
Il Sung:

There is a reason behind why the story begins and ends with the same text, ‘Once there was a pig who admired birds’. Some people think our pig achieved his dream in the end. Some people get confused or don’t understand the ending. Some might think if he was in his daydreaming.
      There are two possible endings. Our pig had his dream, tried hard, achieved his dream and even inspired other animals. You need to try and have the courage to keep going, then you will get what you want eventually. People who made a success often come back to the first place where they started. This is the first reason to have the beginning and ending scene is happening in the same place.
      The second possible ending is not positive. Our pig was there and dreaming about flying. But he was only dreaming. So nothing quite happened. He was in his daydream. If you have a dream, then got to do something. Not just dreaming. This is another reason that the beginning and ending scene is the same but with a different time frame of the day.
      I gave this book to my neighbor for her grandson. She got back to me a couple of days after and saying that her grandson loves it, and he said to his dad ‘So this is a circle book’. I did not catch it immediately but soon I understood what he meant. Because the beginning and ending have the same text, the story circulates. I think he got the point of the story.
      Hopefully, people will also notice the different shape of trees on the beginning and the ending pages. Trees are more abstract shapes on the first spread and it means he is in his imaginary world. They became natural shapes on the last spread which means he’s back to his real world.
      Still, it will give a room to the readers to think if his dreams come true or if he is still dreaming. I will leave it to the reader to figure it out.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
Il Sung:
I am working on a story about two rabbits who love carrots and they are expert at growing them. But something strange is going on in their garden. One day, they discover something in their garden and the story actually begin from that point. It has been a while that I developed this story and revised many times with my editor over a year. But the good thing is that finally I have got approved all sketches. So only the color part left. Let’s fun begins.
Sketches & color




I have moved to a new home recently and set up my studio space. It’s still very white but I am planning to add more colors soon. I like my dog sleeps when I am working. It makes me sleepy a bit though.
Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share my thoughts on this book! I am so happy to make this book because it represents my journey as well.

e: Can't wait to see what you create next and have you back on, Il Sung!
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