Story of becoming an independent Artist
Written by Rowon, translated by SOONNESS / October 12, 2023 / Photo: Rowon's Illustration
Since we have started collaborating with artist Rowon in June of 2022, Rowon's puzzles have been one of the best sellers at SOONNESS. Today, we want to share her story of becoming an independent artist with raving fans and over 300K followers on instagram. We asked her to write a little story like a diary, so she would be speaking to you directly. Here is her story.
I have always loved comics and drawings since I was very young. I would turn on the TV all day, watch cartoons, and draw my own versions with paper and pencil. There are as many as 6 volumes of comic books I drew at that time.
I especially loved animations with cute girl characters who had magic powers. After watching the opening scene of my favorite cartoon episode, I was really inspired and drew my own illustration using watercolor and colored pencils like the picture below.
Since then, I dreamed of becoming a famous artist.
But when I got into middle school, my parents were not pleased with me watching cartoons and drawing long hours every single day, when they expected me to be more academic. In the end, they stopped me from doing my favorite activity when I turned 15. Since my dream was inspired by watching cartoons on TV, I slowly lost my joy, and spent less time drawing.
When I got older, I was fortunate enough to get into an art school using the drawing skills I had developed as a child. However, the standardized skill-based entrance exams for an art school was not the same as drawing pictures with pure joy from my childhood. After graduating from college, I worked at a game company as a character designer, but I couldn't fit in to the corporate culture and left the company in a few months.
After quitting my corporate job, I fell into despair that I would never be able to draw again, so I tried to do things that were not related to art as much as I can. This is because the closer I got to drawing and painting, the more depressed I felt. I think I was a little lost at that time, and couldn't figure my way of doing what I love to do. It seemed like my dream of becoming an artist was being forgotten.
Coming back to my roots
After living a life away from drawing for nearly 3 years, I got in touch with a friend I met in high school. That friend had become an independent artist although she was a normal student like me in high school. I figured that she did not give up on her dream despite any challenges she faced, and she continued to work on her art with so much joy. Meeting my artist friend, I was inspired and I really missed drawing again. I missed that little Rowon, full of passion. I couldn't believe how I could have forgotten something so precious. I wanted to regain the joy of drawing like that friend. So soon after deciding to give my dream a try, I worked at a hot dog shop every day and used my time after work to pick up a pencil and draw my favorite things.
I created artworks recalling my childhood memories. I drew a lot of K-pop singer fan art, and I also drew pictures remembering the cartoons I liked as a child.
As I was able to draw the things I liked to my heart's content, a synergy effect emerged and my skills improved.
When I started drawing many fan art like this, I developed a unique style of work and shared it on social media. Many people loved my work and I was happy to talk to my fans around the world using internet.
Doing all of these things on top of my job as a hot dog store employee was physically difficult at times, but I persevered to fulfill my dream.
I've always had a dream of publishing a coloring book.
I knew that in order to publish a coloring book, I couldn't just draw fan art. I thought I needed to develop my own creative style. So, rather than fan art, I started drawing creative works that reflected the identity of the artist "Rowon", which is the art that represents my style now.
It was not easy to develop my own style and to spend hours on paintings full of details, but I was so passionate that I completed 10 creative works in a short amount of time. Perhaps people who saw my work recognized my efforts, my popularity on social media grew rapidly. In addition to posting completed images of my artwork, I posted videos/reels of the entire process, and the response was explosive.
Photo above: Supermarket Artwork- “It is no exaggeration to say that this work in particular changed my life" - Rowon
The most energizing and happiest time of my life
Just a year after posting on social media, I received an offer from a publisher for a coloring book. I felt excited and scared at the same time, thinking whether the book would be successful, but I didn't want to miss the opportunity to make my dream come true. So, I accepted the offer and published the coloring book containing series of my illustrations. The coloring book was loved by many readers, and I was able to proudly debut as an author.
Then, I received an offer from a Canadian puzzle brand SOONNESS to create a puzzle together.
Wow, my art will turn into a puzzle! I was so excited just thinking about it, but at the same time I was worried whether the puzzle would meet the funding goal or not as it would only be produced when the goal was met. However, despite the time spent worrying, 4 puzzles have already been released into the world- Supermarket, Girl's Room, Electronic Fantasy, and Candy Factory. Through this experience, my art expanded its presence outside of social media and received so much love and support from fans around the world.
Meeting my Fans
Starting this year, I have continued my journey as an independent artist and participated in offline events such as K-Illustration Fair and Seoul Illustration Fair, meeting and communicating with my fans in person, offering my illustrated goods. At last, I have achieved my childhood dream of becoming an artist.
All of this was possible because I believed in myself again, and I consistently posted my work on social media to expose my work.
Although I delayed my dream for 8 years following the standards, I found my lost self remembering joy from my childhood. Now I am in the process of moving towards a bigger dream. Based on this experience, I hope to give everyone who has forgotten their childhood joy & dreams the courage to find their true self again. Even if you take a wrong turn along the way, you can come back again.
All Photos in the article are from artist Rowon