I’m so excited to show you the first Food Feelings illustration. THANK YOU to sweet Katie for allowing me to use her story as a guinea pig and helping me along to make sure I didn’t look a fool.
Here’s Katie’s memory in her words:
“I’m a Korean American adoptee and I had very little exposure to Korean culture before arriving in Seoul for the first time as a college exchange student. Due to a schedule mishap, I was unexpectedly on my own for the first week. I could barely read or understand Korean. Intimidated by the food and culture, I mostly ate Burger King or ramen before finally mustering the courage to try rice cake dumpling soup (떡만두국.) It was good! Comfortable with that, I had it about 15 times that first week. Any time I see that soup I’m brought back and reminded of where I started and how much I’ve grown as an Asian American and a Korean.”
When I first read Katie’s story, I got an extra boost of confidence in this little project. This project was initiated as a way for me to practice some illustration journalism, paint somethings I never have and never would have thought of, and read, learn, research, and think about food. It checks all boxes. I also loved learning about such a meaningful moment in Katie’s life which likely shaped the kind of person she is today.
Research & Sketching
I thought I’d share some of the process behind the illustration. Here we go…
I looked up a lot of images of Seoul, especially spending a lot of time on Yelp looking at interior images of restaurants. Katie sent me some helpful ones too. Takeaway: I must go to Seoul.
While researching, I’m basically taking notes in words and pictures.
Sometimes I make a list of the emotions I want the scene to evoke, then I can direct my imaginary and layout choices to reflect those.
Thumbnail sketches of layout options: The first version that came to mind was a close up of a girl eating soup alone at a bar which evokes loneliness to me. Or maybe she’s at a table facing out a window. But after looking at pictures of Seoul restaurants, I didn’t see those set-ups and I wanted to be accurate. Pulling back to show more of the scene gave me the opportunity to show more imagery, and made her seem small, alone and uncomfortable amidst the hustle and bustle. At this point I knew I wanted a lot of Korean text in the scene too, to add to her sense of isolation (she didn’t speak the language yet). I settled on the last thumbnail because I liked the composite scene, all the action, and the high angle. It’s more fantastical and has the feeling of chaos and memories hitting her all at once.
Once I chose a thumbnail layout I freehand sketched the scene in Procreate on my iPad. That’s my choice for portable digital drawing. I also use my iPad as a tablet connected to Photoshop via the Astropad app.
The process of drawing and redrawing the outlines, and moving pieces around, takes the most time. It’s all about getting the layout to harmonize (ugh, I can’t believe I said that. Leaving it in).
Color also takes me a long time. I started out coloring this one very precisely the way I do my other work, but I really needed to speed up the process. So instead of being precious about it and dividing the colors onto different layers, I moved to roughly coloring everything in one layer. I’m really happy with how that went. It helped me let go of precision and settle on colors a lot faster. Plus I like the looser look.
One of the very hardest parts of this was working the copy into the illustration. It’s hard for me to edit someone else’s story, but there’s really a limit to the number of words that can be on a page and still feel like an illustration (at least for this project). I thought about giving up and including the copy on another page, but one of my goals with this project was to get practice incorporating text into an image. So in the future, I’ll be keeping copy to the fewest number of words I can get away with while still telling the essentials of the story in the writer’s voice.
Below is a 5 minute time lapse video of the digital process. I’ve edited out most of the writing bits because, as I said, it took up a lot of time.
Thanks for reading about my process! Do you have a technique you like to use for incorporating text into a comic? Any other tips you want to share? Hit me up!