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Illustrator Spotlight with Griko Jiin

Process, style, color and influences: Get to know the talent behind the illustrations we love

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you found your way to a creative career.

I am an illustrator based in Seoul. I started making illustrations in earnest last year, creating stories about dreams and life. I lived in the United States and Korea, back and forth as I grew up. The ever-changing environment gave me a curious and receptive personality that thrives on discovering novel cultures and acquiring fresh knowledge. The two different cultures blended naturally into me, and I always knew I was artistically inclined. However, after graduating with a fine arts major, I hopped into a different industry. I was drawn into the Big4 consulting biz and worked as a business consultant for four years, a rare career for an art major. My curiosity led me there, but at some point, I knew it was time to jump back into the field I had admired for years and become an illustrator. After many years of a career unrelated to art, I was ready to deliver stories about dreams, hope, love, and life. Even when I was not in the art scene, I made drawings and artwork under the name of GRIKO JiiN, the name I got myself as a creator. I combined 'GRIKO' from a Korean word meaning drawing and 'JiiN' from part of my real name. It's only been a year since I’ve actively created images, so I have much to learn and more to go.

How did you find your medium and style, and who and what influenced you?

I am experimenting with the elements from graphic novels, such as fraction division and continuity of images, because I want to express a relatively specific story rather than an implicit expression. I love playing around with little frames and am figuring out which layout delivers a story most effectively.

Visually, I aim for a style that's 'poetic yet geometrically bold' while still maintaining the use of frames. Andrew Wyeth and David Hockney are my biggest inspirations. Although their paintings are very different, they both have drastic compositions with a poetic sensibility. Utagawa Hiroshige, the ukiyo-e artist, also greatly influenced me in the same sense. They're masters at expressing a visual language in this manner, which I highly admire.

Kitsch, or pop-like mood, is another that I want to embody as well. To add a sense of rhythm to my imagery stories, I simplified human figures into characters and shaped their postures as juicy as possible. I hope my images speak to everyone regardless of race, gender, and cultural boundaries, like Keith Haring and Jean Jullien's. Humor has yet to be implemented, but I would like to develop the ability to do so one day.

What subjects are you most fascinated with?

I'm particularly interested in various emotions that arise while pursuing big dreams and tiny wishes. So, most of my stories revolve around dreams, hopes, expectations, and aspirations. Could something seemingly insignificant spark excitement in those who feel uninspired? What if confidence in his/her vision of dreams suddenly vanishes? What reaction would one show when opportunities present themselves without a notice? And so on. These musings inspire me to create vivid depictions of such moments.

What illustration trend are you either loving or hating at the moment?

In recent years, many illustrators have been creating and selling illustrated merchandise, such as phone cases, t-shirts, memo pads, keychains, and more. The growth in the market shows that people's desire to incorporate art into their daily lives has increased, and I love this movement. However, many illustrated merchandises are often consumed as a trend-following, decorative commodity. Most have short life cycles. Only a few successfully offer real value to consumers with good usability and durability. While I appreciate the growing popularity of illustrated merchandise, I think this trend should also be reconsidered from an ecological perspective.

How do you create characters, what inspires them, how do you use color?

About ten years ago, I started doodling a small human figure and named it Yohoo-yarr to represent the various emotions we experience in life - ‘Yoohoo!’ for excitement and ‘Yarr~’ for a touch of sarcasm. The characters gradually evolved in time. I excluded facial features and fashion items to avoid any association with a specific gender or race; and as a result, I had to focus on conveying emotions through a bit of exaggerated poses. I envision a particular story, contemplate the emotions the characters would experience in that scenario, and determine which pose would best suit them. And I strive to use bright, vivid colors to convey positive vibes, whether it's a delightful or disappointing situation.

If you had to pick a favorite project, which one are you most proud of and why?

‘A Basket Full of Tiny Stars’ is the one. It is a single page illustration, and I had a lot of fun creating this image, using a dramatic composition and contrasting solid colors of yellow and purple/blue. This one was selected to be displayed in 'The Nice Gallery', which was organized by It's Nice That. It was a major accomplishment for me, as it was my first time being introduced to a large audience.

Describe your dream project.

There are so many, from small ones to big ones:

  • I want to work with clients such as magazines, publishers, brands, etc.

  • For personal projects, I want to make at least ten graphic novels entirely written and directed by me.

  • For collaborative projects, I hope to work with some musicians and create artistic videos or direct an interactive space with other designers and artists.

  • After all, I would say one of my ultimate dream projects is to organize a community where people of all ages gather and share their visions and dreams. I hope to attract a large audience that engages with my stories and helps build a community..

What’s next for you?

I am planning to publish a short graphic novel this year. It is my first attempt at writing a story longer than a single page. Please stay tuned and watch me open a new chapter!

Rapid Fire Round!

Morning person or night owl?

Night owl trying to become a morning person

Favorite word


Lunch or dinner?

Dinner vibes~

If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?


Sweet or savory?


Are you a thinker or doer?

Thinker and a doer

Go-to karaoke song

촛불하나 (A Candle) by god

City break or beach holiday?

City break!

What superpower would you like to have?

Biotherapeutic Manipulation

Thank you Griko!



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