“The reason I’m an artist is because I can’t kick a ball and run at the same time.”
For the Southern Californian based second generation Korean-American painter and animator Seonna Hong being bad at sports encouraged her interest in art during her formative years at school.
As she wrote in her 2014 essay Late Bloomer on the Dirty laundry website “I moved around a lot but I made friends by drawing Garfield, Hello Kitty and Strawberry Shortcake characters in grade school. In high school, it was photo-realistic drawings of Danzig for the football players that wouldn’t have otherwise talked to me. I remember how hard it was to fit in during high school, and when I accepted that I never really would, I felt like I was is a holding pattern until I could get out.”
Although supported by her parents, as Hong told webesteem magazine’s Adam Szrotek “My father is an architect and my grandfather a calligrapher and so growing up I was told that I took after them. My mother encouraged me by paying attention to my interest in art… birthday gifts were often some sort of art supply… she signed me up for art classes… let me draw all the time (waiting for my sister at the orthodontist… so I would stop fidgeting in church…)”
It was her Canyon High School art teacher, Ray Leal, who recognized her talent and encouraged Hong to pursue her artistic interest.
“I lucked upon an art teacher in high school who took me under his wing, supported me and gave me the confidence to pursue art in college. He entered me into art contests that helped pay for my first year’s tuition and that was the start of me taking art more seriously. When I found the art department in college, I remember the distinct feeling that I finally belonged somewhere. It finally made sense,” Hong recalls.
After gaining a B.A. in Art from Cal State University Long Beach, Hong started out teaching art to children from whom she claims to have learned more than she taught. This was followed by becoming an animation production artist for which she won a 2004 Emmy for Individual Achievement in Production Design for her work on the animated series My Life as a Teenage Robot.
Simultaneously Hong worked on her own paintings which have been exhibited in New York, Tokyo as well as her native California.
About her work Hong told arrestedmotion “I’ve definitely been influenced by years of teaching kids, my work in animation and of course being a mother. The little girl who is the protagonist in my paintings represents a side of me… the instinctual unedited side… sort of like ‘id’ I suppose… Because my paintings represent what is going on for me personally, my visual vocabulary reflects that… the symbolism of the animals, the landscapes and the framework, and the children that represent a version of ourselves. In my recent paintings the vocabulary is still there, I’m just constructing the sentences a little differently. And then with the text, I’m being more literal (literally) (ha) with my narrative. While they are things that have been said to me, the sentiment is not exclusive to me.”
Hong’s current exhibition If You Lived Here I'd Be Home By Now is on show at New York’s Jonathan LeVine Gallery until the 14th of November.