The Block

Art & Culture — 3 years ago

Process: Dohee Kwon

For Dohee Kwon, travel and music are the driving inspirations for all her work. Currently based in Seoul, Korea the up-and-coming illustrator is hyper-fluid in her medium, with her work appearing on zines, mirrors, tour posters, T-shirts, and even Vans shoes. 


Like many of us, the outbreak of Covid-19 meant Dohee’s plans for the year had to be put on hold. Despite having wanted to settle in Thailand’s Chiang Dao area, visa issues meant she ended up being stuck in Korea, where she made do with a more temporary set up. 


Having featured in our Community Broadcast series over on Instagram, here she shares her insights into turning even a temporary working corner into a inspiring space, why travel is such a prevalent theme in her work and how Mid-century modernism influences her. 

Courtesy of Dohee Kwon

Work Space

For a long period I moved around a lot, so I’ve never had the chance to set up a studio. Everything had to be kept as small and as simple as possible, to make packing up and moving easy. My setup was very much premised on the idea of travelling light, so I could work wherever I ended up. 

I’ve never had the chance to set up a studio

Courtesy of Dohee Kwon

This summer I was trying to settle down in Chiang Dao, in northern Thailand, but as I visited Korea for the visa process Covid-19 hit and I got stuck here for almost six months. The small work corner pictured here is what I have built to bridge this time, working where I am now until I can go back to the place I want to be. It’s not the coolest, but I feel pretty motivated and inspired surrounded by my favourite colourful prints. 


Music is always the biggest inspiration for my works. This can be the artist themselves, a place that appears in the lyrics, or even just something that the music reminds me of. There is no limit in music, I think, so it affects me in many ways. I appreciate how music can awaken all manner of different emotions in me.

Courtesy of Dohee Kwon

My very first commissioned illustration work was for the band Khruangbin. I made three different posters for their tours in the States, and this ended up being what started my career as an independent illustrator. I had always been a big fan of their music before working with them, but of course now they mean much, much more to me.

Also I’ve been learning bass guitar (even though I still feel as if my brain and left hand are disconnected when I practice) look how beautiful it is! 

Courtesy of Dohee Kwon

Art Books

The places I’ve travelled are also major influences on my work. Who I meet and talk with, the things that I learn, all those random ‘real experiences’ that I have when I follow the natural pull of my curiosity. But now that all of us must stay home to be safe, I had to find a way to keep me motivated and connected to my inspirations. For me, I discovered that art books are the easiest and coolest way to do this. These are some of my favourite recent purchases.

Music is always the biggest inspiration for my works

Courtesy of Dohee Kwon

Vintage Travel Poster

I found this book when I was browsing in a bookstore, and it didn’t take me long to decide to buy it. Travelling means a lot to me, for years I’ve led a very nomadic life, right up until COVID-19 began and the world started to lock down. 

This book is not just a visual reference tool for me, but I also find that it inspires me by evoking the strong feelings I have about past trips, and travels to come. 

Courtesy of Dohee Kwon

I love how vintage posters capture objects from the world around us in a stylised and simplified, yet very realistic way. The things they depict are always clearly identifiable and recognisable, whereas contemporary posters are often very abstract or geometrical.

Mid-Century Modern Graphic Design

I don’t think my style can be defined as ‘mid-century modern’ (I don’t even know exactly what’s considered to be ‘mid-century modern’!) but the sharp and vivid graphics from the era influence the style of my work a lot. When I start a new artwork, I always begin with sharp and clear shapes; they are fundamental to my artistic process.

Courtesy of Dohee Kwon

Rise with Kimchi Superpower

These pieces of mine featured in Chiang Mai Design Week 2020, under the theme ‘Stay safe, stay alive’. I wanted to make something that reminds people of their beautiful travel memories, while in reality travel is impossible. 

Airplane windows are one of my favourite things to draw

Airplane windows are one of my favourite things to draw (in the past I’ve launched a campaign on Everpress with an airplane window design) and I thought it was the perfect lens for the story I wanted to tell. These three window graphics were displayed at a café in Chiang Mai and visitors could take their pictures through the window shape just as if they were on a flight jetting off to somewhere exotic.

Courtesy of Dohee Kwon

Designed in the USSR

Back in school I was always very interested in geography and history, and Eastern Europe and Russian history held a special attraction for me. I think that the images of the area’s history and climate, often that I created in my own head, were so strange that I fell in love with them. This has carried over into my taste for art too. For me, Soviet art pieces are bold, strong, and cold, even though they’re in warm colours. I love that strange interplay so much.

Courtesy of Dohee Kwon

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