Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Hyewon Yum

h1 February 17th, 2011 by jules


“But we are big girls now. I’m already five. I’m five, too. We’re twin sisters, remember, silly? The blanket has gotten too small for both of us.”
(Click to enlarge spread.)

“Some picture books are written for children; this one gives a sense of what it’s like to be one,” Publishers Weekly wrote about author/illustrator Hyewon Yum’s 2008 debut picture book. Well, now. That’s nothin’ to sneeze at, that’s for sure, for one’s first picture book title.

What’s that? You’re wondering about the picture above, though? It’s a bit early, I know, to be featuring some spreads from a picture book scheduled to be released in August of this year. I know, I know, dear readers. I’m all over the place, seeing as how on Sunday I featured a title from 2009. But, well… What can I say? I follow 7-Imp’s own weird, whacked-out rules. (I just made the blog sound like some kind of imp-like spirit. See what happens when I don’t get enough sleep?) Anywhoozles (7-Imp, the imp-like spirit, also lets me use annoying words like “anywhoozles”), I really like the work of Korea-born-but-now-Brooklyn-dwellling author/illustrator Hyewon Yum, who created the above spread, as well as two previous titles whose artwork rather wows me. I featured Last Night, her 2008 debut title, here in August of that year. And last year, Hyewon received the Founders Award from the Society of Illustrators for There Are No Scary Wolves (in the 2010 category of “Original Art: Celebrating the Fine Art of Children’s Book Illustration”).

Her upcoming 2011 title, The Twins’ Blanket, featured above (and more below)—which addresses the emotional highs and lows (competition, envy, undeniable bond) of twin-dom—goes to show that she’s continuing her streak of creating books that, in the words (again) of Publishers Weekly, offer us insight into the perceptions of small children. Typically using linoleum block prints, her illustrations are fascinating, depicting both the joy and the darker side of those mysterious things that are the inner worlds of children. Booklist also wrote about her debut title that the absence of text gave kids “room to think,” especially considering the “depth and emotion” she conveyed through the art. You see, I LOVE THAT. I want my life’s music, art, and books—all of it, thanks very much—to give me space to breathe and think. And any children’s book that does that for the wee ones, too, is a good one, in my book. And, really, how often do we see that in picture books? Think about it. Talk amongst yourselves. And get back to me, if you’re so inclined, and we’ll discuss.

Hyewon’s here for breakfast. Her only request? A “large cup of black coffee, please.” Why, I can certainly do that. Always. Let’s get right to it, and I thank her for stopping by…

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Hyewon: Author/illustrator.

Jules: Can you list your books-to-date?


Hyewon: Last Night, FSG ’08; There Are No Scary Wolves, FSG ’10. {Ed. Note: As noted at the top of this post, Hyewon’s The Twins’ Blanket will be released this Spring from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Below are a few more spreads from it.}


“I think I should have this blanket.
Because I’m the big sister, and I can’t sleep without it…”


“Then we dry the fabric in the sun. I think yellow is an excellent color for the blanket. Don’t you? No, pink is a much better color for everything!”


“Finally, they’re finished. Mine is so beautiful. Now I have my own blanket
like a big girl. I can’t wait to sleep with it.
Mine is even more beautiful than yours. And it smells like sunshine.”

Jules: What is your usual medium, or––if you use a variety—your preferred one?

Hyewon: Linocut, collage, drawing. I prefer mixed media for my books these days, but I love printmaking.


(Click to enlarge.)

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Hyewon: I live in Brooklyn, New York. I originally came from Korea.

Jules: Can you briefly tell me about your road to publication?

Hyewon: I studied fine art and printmaking in Korea and happened to illustrate picture books and got to know this amazing world of picture books and illustration. That’s how I decided to be an illustrator, and I came to New York and got my MFA from SVA. There I made two picture book dummies. That’s what became Last Night and There Are No Scary Wolves. My fairy godmother, Frances, published both books.

Jules: Can you please point readers to your web site and/or blog?

Hyewon: www.hyewonyum.com.





Spreads from There Are No Scary Wolves, FSG 2010

Jules: Any new titles/projects you might be working on now that you can tell me about?

Hyewon: I just finished Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten. It’s about one very nervous mom and her son’s first day of kindergarten.


Mmm. Coffee.Okay, coffee’s brewed, and let’s keep on keepin’ on with six questions over breakfast (despite this post’s title…it’s lying, I tell ya):

1. Jules: What exactly is your process when you are illustrating a book? You can start wherever you’d like when answering: getting initial ideas, starting to illustrate, or even what it’s like under deadline, etc. Do you outline a great deal of the book before you illustrate or just let your muse lead you on and see where you end up?

Hyewon: My process is not always the same. Sometimes an idea is there for years, and sometimes I make a quick dummy just in a week. Sometimes the first idea become a book; most times, it’s changed a whole lot. The most painful part is editing. It takes forever. That’s why I like to work under a deadline; without a deadline, I could never finish anything.



Early sketches of Last Night, FSG 2008;
Final illustrations below:




2. Jules: Describe your studio or usual work space.

Hyewon: My workspace is in my basement. I have three desks — one for my drawing, one for printing, one for my computer and stuff. And there are the book shelves filled with picture books.


3. Jules: As a book lover, it interests me: What books or authors and/or illustrators influenced you as an early reader?

Hyewon: I didn’t know much about illustrators, but I loved Jean-Jacques Sempé’s books when I little, and I love all kinds of fairy tales. My mom bought me one hundred books of folk tales from the world. I loved them so much, all the trolls and princes and princesses and dragons.

4. Jules: If you could have three (living) illustrators or writers—whom you have not yet met—over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose?

Hyewon: I’m a shy person. I probably can’t say anything if I meet someone I like so much. But I’d like to meet John Burningham, Tarō Gomi, Sara Fanelli.



5. Jules: What is currently in rotation on your iPod or loaded in your CD player? Do you listen to music while you create books?

Hyewon: Today I listened to Korean pop all day long. I sometimes listen to music {when working}, but it’s not necessary.



6. Jules: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Hyewon: I wanted to marry Murakami Haruki.



* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Hyewon: “Qualified.” My son’s new word today.

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Hyewon: “Disqualified.”

Jules: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Hyewon: Spring. I’m so sick of this long winter.

Jules: What turns you off?

Hyewon: Long winter’s dark clothes.

Jules: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Hyewon: I curse in Korean, very nicely. Here I’m a good lady: No swearing in English yet.

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Hyewon: My kid’s singing.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Hyewon: The neighbor’s loud talking in the middle of night.

Jules: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Hyewon: I’ve never worked in an office. I fancied to be an office worker, who always dresses impeccably.

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Hyewon: Actress. I told you I’m really shy (at first).

Jules: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Hyewon: “You did fine. Relax and drink some wine. Want to share my peach?” (Oh, yes. Please.)

* * * * * * *

All artwork, sketches, and photos used with permission of Hyewon Yum, with the exception of the spread opening the post, provided by Macmillan Books.

THE TWINS’ BLANKET. Copyright 2011 by Hyewon Yum. Published by Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, New York.

The spiffy and slightly sinister gentleman introducing the Pivot Questionnaire is Alfred, © 2009 Matt Phelan. Thanks to Matt, Alfred now lives permanently at 7-Imp and is always waiting to throw the Pivot Questionnaire at folks.

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13 comments to “Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Hyewon Yum”

  1. [...] Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast » Blog Archive » Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Hyew… blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=2080 – view page – cached “But we are big girls now. I’m already five. I’m five, too. We’re twin sisters, remember, silly? The blanket has gotten too small for both of [...]


  2. What beautiful illustrations – I love the concepts, the colors – everything about them! To me the drawings/collages are so different from the prints, and I love them all…

    Can’t wait to see THE TWINS’ BLANKET, and will check out the others in the meantime.

    I love the comment about giving kids room to breathe and think somewhere between the illustrations and the text there is room for that place of mystery and interpretation.

    Thanks so much for sharing this!


  3. Beautiful work, fabulous interview!


  4. Great interview, ladies. I especially loved God’s “Want to share my peach?” offer. And I’d LOVE to learn to curse in Korean. (I can say “you’re driving me crazy” in Korean, so it’s a start!)


  5. I once had a blanket just like that!

    Love her work, prints especially. And I’d love to meet John Burningham, too.

    Thanks for the lovely interview! :)


  6. Wow. I love the colors, texture, composition and feeling in every one of these images. What an amazing artist and storyteller!


  7. Absolutely gorgeous work, each a piece of art on its own. SO refreshing to see. I am totally inspired!


  8. thanks for sharing this peach of an interview Jules… I quite like the anywhoozles of your organically woven world!


  9. Aw, thanks, Anne. And everyone…


  10. Loved reading this interview! I am a big Hyewon Yum fan : )


  11. I love Hyewon’s printmaking. Now I’m also a fan of her mixed media creations – thank you for sharing her amazing talent. I can’t wait to see the new book.


  12. [...] an interview on 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast, she says this about her creative process: My process is not always the same. Sometimes an idea is [...]


  13. [...] over there, I’ll be featuring the latest picture book from Hyewon Yum, which is called, Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten! That link will be here in the [...]


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