Queens, New York
From Haleigh's sketchbook
I had first known Haleigh’s works through reading The New Yorker when I came across her illustration of a woman walking a dog. I had looked up the artist, and to my surprise, came across her website filled with these colorful and attractive illustrations.
Pink, was the color Haleigh wore when she and I agreed to meet at a coffee shop where she usually goes to create works. Pink, like red, is not a quiet color, it has a loud and precenseful existence. It seemed like a contrast to Haleigh’s quiet demeanor, but a direct relation to her illustrations that are loud, colorful, and playful.
At first glance, Haleigh’s illustrations may seem childlike, but in slowing down, focusing on the details, you will discover her acute observation of perspective and surroundings, as well as subjects in her works. They exude confidence, in her strokes and decisive placement of each line and color. There was really nothing like seeing Haleigh work in real life, as close as they seem online, the act of creating, and adding bit by bit to the work, was really a pleasurable experience. The grains of the paper, and tactility of the materials, and even smell was highlighted in person.
A third language is what I think Haleigh’s works convey, her third language that only she can use to express her thoughts. Replacing words with images, expression on paper. It wasn’t that Haleigh didn’t know how to speak about her work, but her images seemed to replace words, and tell her story.
When did you start making works, drawing?
When I first moved to Boston in high school from Korea, and language became a difficult part of the process, it was hard for me to communicate with native speakers, so I began to draw, it felt like I could communicate through my works. And then people came and talked to me, asking me about what I had drawn. And then for college, I decided to come to New York, and to be 100% honest, I wanted more diversity, and choices in the city.
What is your process like?
If it is for personal works, I draw really intuitively, and it is really different each time, sometimes I ask my Instagram followers to give me a topic. Someone had asked me to draw “strawberries reading books”.
If it is for editorial work, I would make rough sketches, and then decide on which elements I would use. Then after completing it on paper, I would edit them with my IPad.
I love how they look in real life! I think that they still have a classical observation element to your pieces, but a twist on how you portray them. The pieces playing with perspective are my favorite, it's is like an entry to a space.
Sometimes, the colors are more saturated when I scan them, and it really hard to make them look completely accurate digitally.
What do you want to convey in your works?
My works are driven by my own impulses, my topics are all happy subjects, because I feel like I am not a very “serious” person, I’m light, I’m thinking of things really positively. I want my works to bring my viewers to their happy moments.
Do you ever broach darker subjects in your works?
I have done that in the past, but it wasn’t something that I felt really comfortable with. In a recent editorial work, I had to draw about parents using weed, which was an interesting subject for me. I enjoyed working with different types of subject matters.
I think that you really have a way of creating works that are approachable, even if the subject is not.
My works are driven by my own impulses
I’m doing what makes me happy
Where do you draw, do you venture out of your way?
I do, I like to explore new places, I draw anywhere I go, I don’t just sit in my bedroom and draw. Sometimes I go outside with the intention to create, but other times, I go to places to have fun, and then I draw afterwards. I try everything, I don’t want to get bored. But honestly, sometimes I stay at home, I know I'm full of irony!
I know! Aren’t we all full of ironies.
Can you explain more on “listening to yourself”?
Since I’m doing what makes me happy, I want to be in a comfortable state when I make works. At times I want to go far, but sometimes I just want to be home.
How do your subjects play a role in your work? What is the relationship between observer and subject?
As I mentioned, I mostly draw what makes me happy for my personal works. To expand that answer, everything that I draw plays a small or big role in my work to make me happy and they are all crucial to me. When I do location drawing, I try my best to make the scene special for me. I freely skip the huge element even if I can see it, and I add my imaginary animal friend instead without feeling guilty of not drawing the same perfect view I was looking. (But before doing that, I need to observe the scene enough to tell myself to choose if that subject will make me happy or not.)
How did you start to promote your works after graduation? What was that like?
I learned about self promoting as an illustrator in college, but it never really occurred to me that I had to really promote myself. I thought that people would just come and find me. But I realized soon enough that I had to reach out to people and send my work to different people. It was hard at first, I was not really confident, I thought that companies like The New Yorker, and or The New York Times would never hire me.
Do you ever feel like you are not doing enough?
I always feel like I’m not doing enough, because I know that when I do more, it comes as a result.
I think its hard because you have to push past so many comfort zones.
I know that when I do more, it comes as a result
I know that you have a clear style, would you ever want to experiment with other materials, styles, techniques?
Yes, it is something that I struggle with, I’m afraid that if I venture out, people won’t be able to recognize my work, but I do try and use different materials, testing out different techniques. In a recent project, I had to draw at Union Square Park on a large canvas using markers. And to my surprise, there were people who came up to me and asked if I was the illustrator Haleigh because they have seen my works online or in different places. Even when I was using a different material.
Don’t be afraid to branch out, I always feel like the people that genuinely like your work will also like your evolution, And if they don’t, they don’t.
During our conversation, I remember asking Haleigh what would be three words she would use to describe her work. She said she had a hard time coming up with three, but for me, I would say that her works are genuine, expressive and joyful. Incredibly humble about her works, and honest about who she was, even when I asked her how it was like to be interviewed in person. She had said that “Some people make me feel like I am a person they admire, someone they look up to, but really, I’m not, I’m just starting out”. I think that her honesty towards herself is really what makes her works stand out.
Since you are an observational drawer, have you noticed any changes in different neighborhoods are places you go to draw?
New York is constantly changing, it depends on different people, who're there for that moment, the vibe, different areas, or even in the same place.
Haleigh's collection of pink color pencils
Has there been a person that has really influenced your work?
Josh Cochran, who is a mentor, a teacher, a good friend. I talk about him all the time, but he was the one who made me start keeping a sketchbook, two drawings a week. I learned so much from him, and he really is the kindest person.
So how important is keeping a sketchbook for you?
For me, the sketchbook is where you can be you, it's not something you have to show anyone. I like to show my sketchbook, but it also took me a while to do so. I think that art comes when you are truly yourself, you don’t have to lie, and you don’t have to be perfect in your sketchbook.
Art comes when you are truly yourself
Photos taken by Cookin' Up Magazine, July 2019
Artwork images courtesy of the artist