“Audition,” “DVD,” “Girl in Heels,” and “Dress Code” are some of Chon Kye-young’s (’93, Law) representative pieces, widely known for their uniqueness in characters and stories. “Audition,” the most famous work of Chon, recently received the spotlight once more as it was featured in the scenes of “Reply 1997,” a Korean drama produced by channel tvN that made a hit last year.
Rising as a new star after her theoretical debut in 1996, Chon started off her career as a cartoonist by winning the grand prize in a contest for rookie cartoonists with her creation, “Talent.”
Practicing and learning on her own, Chon challenged herself to draw cartoons in a three-dimentional (3D) method using Photoshop, ironically to improve her drawing capacity by drawing less. Such idiosyncratic attempts stunned the cartoon industry where no one had thought of drawing cartoons with a computer at that time.
“When comparing myself with other cartoonists, I could plainly see how much my drawing skills fell behind,” Chon said. “To match the free flowing lines and high-quality works of others, I had to pour in more than 10 times the amount of time and effort. Thus, I needed a way to express the images in my head without the whole effort of drawing them all, which eventually led me to use the 3D method.”
Many cartoonists commonly utilize the 3D method now, after it was introduced by Chon. By using this method, the cartoons become more realistic and alive unlike the former cartoons that were only drawn on a sheet of paper.
However, becoming a cartoonist was not what Chon pictured herself to be doing for a living. Applying for the Department of Law was also not a part of her life plan.
“I originally planned to apply for the Department of Clothing & Textiles, but I had to give up my dream regardless of my will,” Chon said. “In order to strip away from the future veiled desires of my parents, I had to agree to attend the Department of Law at Ewha.”
Deep inside herself, Chon continuously sought to become a dress designer but could not bear to even look at the career owing to the resentment it brought her.
“I could not focus or catch up with the schoolwork of my major that I had no interest in, so I would always go to the library to read books on film and movies,” Chon said. “But I knew that one day if I had the opportunity to do work regarding design, I would take that job right away.”
After graduating Ewha, Chon worked at an advertisement production company trying hard to satisfy her clients’ needs.
As time went by however, she became skeptical of her job as she longed to be a creator, not a producer.
“I longed for a job that would allow me to draw upon my imagination and create without limitation,” she said. “At that point, a dream that I had kept inside me when I was young popped into my mind: a cartoonist.”
Throughout the years, Chon engaged herself in creating numerous cartoons producing her most representative work, “Audition,” in 1998.
“Most people would guess my most joyful years as a cartoonist to be the time when I was serializing ‘Audition,’ but for me it was the hardest moment of my career,” Chon said. “I started out thinking drawing cartoons would be fun, however, fame strangled me from freedom which later led me to squirm in distress.”
In the process of overcoming her hardships, Chon realized that the only way for her to live was to draw.
“I darted away to the States with the thought of quitting my job as a cartoonist, but after a while I just could not stand the boredom of not creating anything,” Chon said. “Instinctively, I opened my notebook and wrote my only novel, ‘The Club’ with a bit of difficulty. Since I was not an educated writer, expressions seemed awkward, swerving from its original meanings, and took much time to explain.”
Chon realized that being a cartoonist was a career she was meant to have, and as she accepted her job, an opportunity to fulfill her lost dream soon approached.
“When the publishing company recommended I do a cartoon on fashion, I was thrilled by the thought of being able to work on my once lost dream of becoming a designer,” she said.
“Dress Code” is a serialized webtoon, which differentiates itself from other media in that it attempts to represent an individual’s heart.
“Everyone has a favoring style that is somewhat distinctive from others,” Chon said. “Through this cartoon, I believe people can convey and express their styles to others better.”
Chon portrayed herself as the main character of “Dress Code,” allowing readers to visualize the cartoonist while enjoying it at the same time. The storyline of “Dress Code” mainly goes by the themes that people who wish to dress better want to know.
“I have always had faith in the sincerity of people,” she said. “This cartoon will not be just about introducing a ‘hot’ fashion item, but also act as a small trigger that can help change not only my style but also other people’s lives.”
As a cartoonist, Chon has a modest dream to style every character to be unique without any overlaps with her previous characters.
“Although I may not be a cartoonist with masterly drawing skills, I view myself as one who can bring out unconventional plots and offbeat characters,” Chon said.
“No one is born perfect. People strive to reach a level of perfection in their own ways. Thus, I highly urge students to open their eyes in diverse fields and to trust such efforts will pay off one day with the spotlight shining upon those who deserve it.”