The unhealthy life of drawing

A South Korea-born illustrator talks about why she enjoys printmaking and art as autobiography

Topics: Imprint,

The unhealthy life of drawing Illustration for The New York Times Book Review (art director: Nicholas Blechman) (Credit: Jungyeon Roh)
This article originally appeared on Imprint. It's part of Print magazine's annual New Visual Artist series that profiles 20 of the most promising rising talents around the world in the fields of graphic design, advertising, illustration, digital media, photography and animation.

ImprintSoon after Jungyeon Roh began working as an illustrator, she had an unpleasant revelation. “I realized that we are just sitting and drawing all the time,” she says. “It’s really not healthy at all!” Movement is essential to Roh. Born in South Korea, she lived in Seoul for 23 years until a study-abroad program in her junior year of college led her to visit nine European countries in a month. Having caught the travel bug, she studied in Chicago before making her way to New York in 2006 to study at SVA.

Age: 29
From: Seoul, South Korea
Lives in: New York City

Her interest in physicality and health eventually led her to printmaking, which requires a constant pushing, pulling and lifting. Roh had found a way out of the illustrator’s chair. That visceral engagement with life is evident in her work too, where Roh often shares embarrassing memories with a tragicomic intimacy. Pieces like “My Second Ex-Boyfriend”―featured in Print’s 2011 Hand Drawn competition―reveal shades of darkness amid manic scenes of junior-high romance. To illustrate a familiar tale of a crush gone awry, she uses a Crumb-esque style that makes commonplace scenes seem almost grotesque.

Buying Lenin book for School of Visual Arts (art director:Viktor Koen), 2009.

Op-ed illustration for The New York Times Townies series (art director: Alexandra Zsigmond), 2010

“There’s a certain sense of intensity to her work that feels surprising,” says the illustrator Josh Cochran, Roh’s thesis advisor at SVA. “I think she gives off a different persona in person, but she is definitely not afraid to get down and up close with a lot of her subjects.”

That is especially apparent in Miss Eggplant’s American Boys, which earned Roh a Gold Award from the Art Directors Club. Set to the lyrics of an Estelle song, the book tells the tale of a free-spirited woman in a giant eggplant costume on her journey to America. It’s weird and fantastical, but also clearly semiautobiographical. Such intimacy doesn’t come easily. “I’m from a conservative culture, so it can feel really embarrassing, but I just keep doing it anyway,” she says. “Drawing pictures is my autobiography.”

Illustration for The New York Times Book Review (art director: Nicholas Blechman), 2011

Miss Eggplant’s American Boys book for School of Visual Arts (art directors: Marshall Arisman, Carl Titolo), 2010


All About the Public Bath book for School of Visual Arts, (art director: David Sandlin), 2008

See the other 2012 New Visual Artists:

Copyright F+W Media Inc. 2012.

Salon is proud to feature content from Imprint, the fastest-growing design community on the web. Brought to you by Print magazine, America’s oldest and most trusted design voice, Imprint features some of the biggest names in the industry covering visual culture from every angle. Imprint advances and expands the design conversation, providing fresh daily content to the community (and now to!), sparking conversation, competition, criticism, and passion among its members.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>