• UO Culture: Annie Seo's Black + White

    The illustrations of LA artist Annie Seo have us thinking in black and white: sometimes the best sentiments are ones that are simply conveyed. Annie's art is fun, funny, and a little weird in the best way—as she says, "I like to think that my work doesn't have to be super serious." We collaborated with Annie on some exclusive illustrations and visited her studio to look at her process and talk about about drawing rappers as pigeons, sneaking her friends into her art, and how to make creative work by simply observing what's around you. 
    Photos by Chris Hahn

    What are some of your favorite things to draw?
    I always enjoy drawing buildings and environments. Funky looking people and animals as people. Random cool objects around myself. Hand lettering is always fun to draw too!

    Are there “characters” you repeatedly find yourself drawing or that you’ve drawn over the years? Who are they?
    I do have a handful of characters that are my comfortable go-tos that I've been drawing for the past two years. Usually they're animals, like cats, dogs, foxes, bears, pigeons but I like to stylize them a lot so they're my own little people. One of my characters I created two ears ago is a cat who wears a top hat and a polka dot vest. I named him Top-Cat, which isn't a very clever name. Sometimes I like to sneak my friends in my drawings, just to make my artwork feel more personal to me.

    A lot of the work you do is list-based — do you have ongoing lists that you continually add to?
    I try to stay committed to doing series, which I like to revisit and keep making more when I feel like it. One that I started two years ago is drawing all historic famous paintings and substituting the people in it for pigeons. From that I also drew rappers as pigeons, that's something else I would like to contribute more later on. Another series I started at the same time is called Street Style Kitties, fashionable lady cats. With these two series I've turned into zines.

    Are you loyal to specific art supplies? If so, what are your favorites?
    I don't need too many supplies in order to do my work. I always use two pens, Hi-Tec-C 04 and Hybrid Technica 04, and have a sketchbook. I just stick with Moleskins because they're easy to obtain and come in three-packs, but my favorite sketchbook to use is some nameless brand made by some bookbinder in Brooklyn.

    Tell us something we don’t know about being an illustrator.
    To sound really "artsy," I guess people just assume that illustration is only drawing. Or they only think of comic books, manga, and children books, which they are as well, but there's a whole world of illustration in style, context, and how it's translated onto mediums. Drawing is completely different from illustrating. Illustration is bringing a sense of narrative and life to the drawing. There's a commitment when you're drawing in how you want to tell your story; it doesn't have to be a literal, sequential story, but rather a story through your style and how you see it.

    You also make zines and do your own projects — can you tell us about those? What are some common themes or ideas that unite them?
    I don't have a usual theme I intentionally stick to, but I guess subconsciously it's always themes that I would like to see for myself come to life or just to enjoy doing. Some personal projects of mine include embroidery and the occasional product I think of making. My ceramics have been taking up most of my personal project time lately because there's still so much I want to do and make.

    Can you walk us though a day in the life for you?
    It usually depends what kind of work I'm doing. As of right now, my day to day usually starts with me checking and writing emails. I then start working immediately on my projects, and basically sit at my desk for the whole day. It's not very glamorous! If I want to take a break, I sometimes work a little on my ceramics. If there isn't a lot of work for me to do, I can break away from my desk and drive out to work on the mural I was commissioned for at Cafe Dulce.

    You do a lot of larger-scale illustrated murals and pieces on walls. Can you walk us through one of those projects? What are some of the challenges that come from making larger-scale pieces?
    It wasn't until almost four months ago I started doing large-scale murals. It all started with the three walls to draw on for Cafe Dulce in downtown LA, which I'm actually still doing. When I was asked to do it, I was so anxious because I always just draw in my sketchbook and the drawings themselves are super tiny. It was totally out of my comfort zone! 

    The challenges I had to face were how to start sketching it on the wall and visualizing my artwork at large. Before I couldn't afford buying those Tracer art projectors so I had to transfer everything with tracing paper...it was a pain. But from those experiences, I've really learned how important is it to challenge yourself. I guess I've gotten more confident from drawing large-scale, it makes me think that now there's nothing I can't do.

    What other projects are you working on right now?
    I'm illustrating a children's book, and I also have a few smaller projects to finish soon, like a personal commission, drawing a sleeve for a coffee shop, and soon I'll illustrate a friend's album cover. For a few months now, I've been working on my ceramics, making bowls and pots, and painting and glazing over them.

    What’s a dream project for you?
    I don't have a specific dream project that I can think of, but it always feels like a dream when I have people or companies that I've grown up with and admired reaching out to me asking to work with me. 

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