Sun Young Park, a freelance illustrator living in New York, is an integral part of the Alabama Chanin team. If you own Alabama Studio Sewing + Design or have ever browsed our Studio Style DIY Custom DIY Guide, then you’ve seen the beautiful sketches of our garments, illustrated by Sun. I met Sun several years ago by accident through a mutual friend, which resulted in an impromptu breakfast at The Breslin, April Bloomfield’s restaurant at the ACE Hotel in New York City. I was immediately taken by her enthusiasm and had been looking for a new illustrator for my books. Our chance meeting was good fortune.
Sun creates illustrations for a variety of projects, including April Bloomfield’s new book, A Girl and Her Pig: Recipes and Stories, and Gertie’s Book for Better Sewing. We love Sun’s illustrations, doodles, and drawings and recently were able to chat with her about her beginnings in illustration, inspirations, artistic process, and desire to create.
AC: How old were you when you began to express yourself artistically?
SYP: I was 2 years old when I first colored all the walls in the house. My earliest memory is drawing on the insides of cabinet doors, so that I wouldn’t get caught. What a sneak!
But my first artistic, albeit slightly odd, obsession as a child came with rocks. If I could carry it, I brought it home. I had so many that they filled cabinets and buckets, and were scattered in my backpack and pockets. I organized them by color, transparency, texture, and shine. I soaked them in water to see them change colors and shine. I created stories around the more unique ones. It was a fine collection.
AC: Were there important moments in your youth or young adulthood that impacted your desire to create?
SYP: I remember was when I was 8 or so, I had an obsession with painting a lonely daisy in a vase. I would paint this same image over and over again trying to get every stroke just right. The glass had to look like glass, the water had to look like water, and the daisy had to look really sad. I titled it ‘The Weeping Daisy.’ It was silly, I guess, but it was the first time that I cared so much about a painting. I see it as a marker in my childhood where I really began to push myself as an artist.
AC: Have you always focused on illustration or do you have other outlets that you enjoy artistically?
SYP: A few years back, I took a break from illustrating and worked in construction for about a year. I wanted to learn about art in structure and form, how and what materials are used for its most basic and life-sustaining functions. It was a great learning experience and has helped me as an illustrator to strive for more purpose and functionality in my own two-dimensional art, as well.
AC: Was there a moment when you knew that you wanted to become a professional illustrator?
SYP: I was always drawing and painting throughout my life, so it seemed like the most natural thing to do.
AC: How did you come into contact with Alabama Chanin and is there a part of your work with our company that you enjoyed specifically?
SYP: I met Natalie through a mutual friend. My friend Amy and I were having Sunday brunch and Natalie happened to walk right in. She joined us at our table and Amy introduced us to each other’s work. It was the first time I learned of Alabama Chanin and I was taken aback at what a beautiful concept it was. I could only hope to achieve the same success by offering a gorgeous product to the public—all the while remaining environmentally conscious, using fair trade practices, sustaining a craft, and holding firmly to my own beliefs as a designer. What an art. What integrity.
AC: Are you particularly inspired by any element, person, time of year, time of day, philosophy? In other words, do you have a muse, a guiding principle, anything that drives you as an artist?
SYP: My answer is a little off topic but I’m inspired by maps, topography, and the natural landscape: our interaction with it and what it looks like from above. NASA satellite images are stunning to look at. The art we create as humanity lives and expands, and destroys and rebuilds in time and space.
As far as finding inspiration for my work…
I’m always looking for inspiration, as most artists do. You can’t have too many ideas. And often when it’s time to have them—they don’t come. So like most artists, you keep your eyes open at all times and you collect them before a particular project even begins. I’ll go foraging through a catalogue of my sketches and photos to bring back to life something that fits perfectly for the job.
AC: What is most fulfilling to you as an artist?
SYP: I’m a harsh critic of my own work, so the process can make me lose sight of the end result. There comes a point, though, where everything starts to fall in place. The vision of the author, the designer, and my illustrations come together and that is very satisfying. And then, months after a project has been done and over with, to receive a box of freshly printed books is such a good feeling.
You can purchase some of Sun’s illustrations via her Etsy shop, and see more of her work on her website. We are looking forward to working with her again on our upcoming books… look for more about these projects in the coming months.
All illustrations courtesy of Sun Young Park.