Intro by Shanon Weltman / Interview by Ray Jones
Happy Valentine’s Day readers, we hope you fall in love with this week’s artist like we did. The artwork of Brooklyn Illustrator Dadu Shin is quiet and powerful, like the quote by Teddy Roosevelt “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” His color palette tends to be subdued and earthy with a few intentional bold choices that evoke a retro feeling. He perfectly blends geometric shapes with a pencil line quality that looks like it was drawn by a pleasant summer breeze. There always seems to be a hidden storyline or concept occurring in Dadu’s drawings, even in his fashion illustrations on idontlikeclothes.tumblr.com. Keep reading to see what Ray Jones had to ask this RISD graduate.
RAY JONES: What stylistic or environmental inspirations have influenced your work the most? Do you carry a lot from RISD?
DADU SHIN: When I was in school I was definitely influenced by a lot of things. I went through my James Jean phase, of course. Then I went through a phase where I was a little Sam Weber-y. I struggled to find a style for a long, long time. It was a really big worry I had when I was graduating. When you’re graduating a lot of people try to tell you, ‘You’ve got to look like you have a concrete way of doing things. Your portfolio has to be cohesive.’ So I would focus a lot on making my things look like they came from the same person. But I think that was detrimental to my work in the end.
RJ: Why do you say that?
DS: Because I think was focusing too much on what things look like, instead of on my ideas, concepts… I was concentrating too much on surface stuff.
RJ: What has changed since then?
DS: [Laughs] I just don’t worry about it as much anymore, y’know? I just don’t think about it as often. I’ve kind of just accepted that the work I do is me, inherently. Once I realized that, it was just like ‘I’m going to draw the way I’m going to draw right now and that’s the way it’s going to look.’ I stopped thinking about what other people thought my work looked like. That helped a lot.
RJ: Yeah, that’s a major hurdle [laughs].
DS: Everyone goes through that right? It’s really a relief when you stop stressing yourself about style stuff.
RJ: Yeah you get to imitate less, your own language starts to come out.
RJ: How do you normally go about generating ideas for your work? What is your basic process? How do you connect it back to yourself when you make these pieces?
DS: It’s funny because it’s not very flashy at all. I kind of just get a sketchbook or drawing pad and go to a cafe or usually go to Barnes and Nobles. I can’t do it at home, my computer is really distracting. I’m addicted to the internet, I need to get away from it to work. I’ll just sit down and just thumbnail until I’ve come up with something that’s good enough. I wish I had a more structured process, I have friends that talk about how they make word lists and word associations. I don’t do any of that. I just sit down and I just draw until something comes out that I feel works.
RJ: You said something pretty key to that. Making sure to leave where you are always working is a good jumping off point.
DS: Yeah, at least my mind is focused on the task at hand. If I’m working at home I’ll look up at my computer and I’ll get distracted immediately.
RJ: Yeah, I totally understand, I have about 20 tabs open right now.
DS: I’m the same way! I feel like my attention span is really small now, I’m constantly seeing stuff and consuming things. It helps to get out of the house and go somewhere, forced to draw.
RJ: The piece you had in our show was pretty awesome. At times, your work seems to carry secret messages or cryptic meanings, can you talk about the undertone of your drawings?
DS: That’s an interesting question. That’s funny because I feel like a lot of the stuff I do commercially doesn’t have that kind of undertone. You’re trying to present an idea, you want it to be clear. But lately, my personal work has sort of a message. The piece I did for you guys, of the wavy face, that was a simple ‘I feel really fucking out of it right now, that’s how I feel.’ I just felt… hazy. That’s why I did that piece, but lately the personal stuff I’ve been doing is just really simple, a pure representation of what is happening in my life that I’m thinking about personally. I did a piece, an image of a guy in his bed and he’s staring at the ceiling. He can’t sleep and during that period I was having trouble falling asleep. It’s been kind of therapeutic to make work that means something to me. I can see myself in it. I don’t know if I’m consciously trying to say a message or anything, I’m just trying to do work that I feel like represents me, or shit that I’m going through.
RJ: There’s a lot of dark, fantasy and psychedelic sort of styled work in your portfolio, yet you primarily work in the editorial field. Have you worked on any comics or concept art of your own? Do you plan to do anything like that in the future?
DS: You know I’d love to do comics, I love comics. I have so much respect for all my friends and artists doing comics. It’s such a time consuming and difficult thing it seems like. From the outside looking in, I feel like comics are a lot more genuine than the editorial field is, just because people who do comics tend to do work that is very personal. I’ve tried! It’s just hard. It’s way harder than I thought it was going to be. To compose an entire page and panels. I mean, I’d like to do that kind of work in the future. I just haven’t yet. For concept art, do you mean video games and animation?
RJ: Yeah, anything really. When I look at your work, there’s dragons and stuff — my mind automatically goes there. Wow this would be… a great background in “Adventure Time”, or this would be… etc.
DS: Yeah, a lot of that work, especially the dragon stuff was when I was making my portfolio for my children’s book rep. That’s where that work is coming from. It was meant for picture books, which is also something I want to do as well.
RJ: What can you tell us about your ‘I don’t like clothes’ series?
DS: That was something I just started because I needed to force myself to draw. When I wasn’t working on commercial stuff I wasn’t really drawing. I wasn’t really experimenting. Which is something I did a lot during school, I was like ‘Wow, I’m not doing that anymore. I should find a way to do that.’ So, I came up with that series. It’s kind of died down a bit, but I still have a lot of them I just haven’t posted yet.
RJ: They’re really great, you should definitely keep going. Have you submitted them to any fashion magazines or anything?
DS: No I haven’t, although I got my first actual job from that blog recently, which is cool. I got to do something for the French edition of Harper’s Bazaar. They asked me to do a bunch of illustrations for them, including a couple fashion illustrations.
RJ: Can you name a few of your favorite artists, inspirations, or ideas at the moment?
DS: I feel like that changes all the time. Right now I’ve been thinking a lot about… It sounds really cheesy, but I’ve been thinking a lot about my own life. Kind of being introspective, writing a lot. I feel like that’s where a lot of my work is coming from right now. I actually haven’t been influenced by outside stuff right now, I’m focusing on my own shit. Usually though, I would say film. I love film and how cinematography is like composing an image as well. That’s why I love Matt Rota‘s work, his stuff is so cinematic. Other than that, nothing right now.
RJ: Alright, so, here is the last question. What was your most recently binge watched series or binge read book?
DS: [Laughs] Actually, I just started watching “The X-Files”. I’ve never seen it before and it’s all on Netflix. I’m halfway through the third season… there’s like a lot of it, [laughs] but I’ve been getting into that actually. I’m going to binge read the Dune series. I just bought the first book yesterday, it’s really thick. So, this is going to take a lot of time up in the next couple of weeks. I also just finished binge catching up on “Girls”, the HBO TV show. You guys watching that?
RJ: Yeah, we’re watching that. [Laughs]
DS: It’s so good!
RJ: Yeah! So good and there’s a lot of ‘Oh god…’ moments.
DS: Right, it throws real things in your face. Lena Dunham is a great writer, she’s really good. I enjoy watching that show.