This week, we get to chat with Arizona local and artist, Yujin Jung. Though you probably know her best as Sangrde on Instagram. She’s an exceptional artist from her fan art in anime and gaming (which you’ll see throughout the interview) to working on concept art for mobile apps. She has also made some artist alley appearances at local conventions as well as Anime Expo this past summer. Check out our in-depth chat with this rising star in the art and geek community!
Emily: So what has been one of your biggest accomplishments so far in your career? Whether it’s something you’ve gotten to do for someone or a company or even just you personally that you think is the best thing you’ve done so far?
Yujin: My personal accomplishment is that I get to go to a lot of conventions. I’ve only been to local ones in Arizona but this year for the first time I went to Anime Expo as my first convention out of state and I did a pretty successful job which I’m really proud of. This gives me more motivation to go to other conventions out of state and maybe overseas.
Emily: I know Anime Expo is really hard to get into for an artist so how do you think that
Yujin: Yeah I believe so because when I was in Arizona, I had a strong fan base like local fans who I’ve known for years. So I kind of got used to my clients. And then when I went to AX for the first time I met a lot of new people and their interests
Emily: What are your biggest inspirations when you’re doing a new art piece? Where do you get your inspiration from?
Yujin: Like fan art or original art?
Emily: Either one!
Yujin: Well I usually go for like pop culture, a popular anime, or video game. I don’t just draw something because it’s popular. If I play a game or watch an anime and if I really enjoy it, that gives me inspiration and motivation to draw something.
Emily: How is your fanbase right now like I know I’ve seen your Instagram page and you have a lot of followers and it just seems to keep growing. How do you think you adapt to all that big change? How is that affecting you?
Yujin: To maintain the fan base, I have to know what they want and their interests change really fast. If there’s have an anime that’s popular, I have to look up and research what’s really going on. What’s really on top right now. I just go to Instagram or Facebook and ask my friends and my fan base, “What do you want me to draw next”.
Emily: So you’re very good at talking to your fans and getting feedback.
Yujin: Yes, I have to keep communicating to know what they want.
Emily: And that’s really awesome cause I know some artists just, you know it’s good to do what you want but I also know that the fans love it when you communicate with them so that’s great. Do you have any artists that you look up to or that you admire?
Yujin: I do get inspirations from a lot of other artists. Let’s say Sakimichan is one of my best
Emily: Yeah that’s good. So you do a lot of art in the pop industry and stuff like that. What is your favorite anime or pop culture thing?
Yujin: I do like video games like Nier Automata.
Emily: I love Nier!
Yujin: Yeah I do a lot of fan art for Nier, Blood Borne, and Dark Souls. The games from From Software, the Japanese video game company. Their aesthetics really matches mine. I always look up their games and get inspiration from them. And I really like Boku no Hero Academia.
Hong: So would you say your art style is more darker?
Yujin: I like drawing dark themes but I can also draw bright themes if I want to. I don’t think it’s a good thing to draw only something I like.
Hong: Kind of going back to a couple questions ago, you don’t want to be compared to
Yujin: If I really like my idols work I might also not like something from them. I try to get inspiration from them but if I don’t like something from them and I think I can improve it, I’ll go get inspiration from other artists too and then try to do even better than them.
Emily: So always striving to be better you know wanting to surpass them. I feel that. So what do you think your next big goal is for your art? Where do you want to go? Where do you want to be in a few years from now with your art?
Yujin: I do want to continue working in the game industry. I currently work for a game company. But I specifically want to work for companies in the U.S.
Hong: Which company are you currently working for?
Yujin: I work for Speedpro Imaging where I’m working on a mobile visual novel/reading app.
Hong: I thought you were working for a Nexon?
Yujin: That’s my freelance work.
Hong: Ah okay.
Yujin: That’s the Japanese company that’s commissioning me. Right now my work is really great and they treat me very well as an illustrator. I’m playing a major role in this project because I’m doing all the 2D effects for our mobile visual novel/reading app. But it’s not quite like video games so I kinda want to do different things in the future.
Hong: Can you speak to leadership? How do you feel as an artist, for someone that has a following now especially in the geek community, to be a leader amongst your peers?
Yujin: Well I’ll say in my company, I’m the only 2D artist amongst my co-workers. I mean we do have some other 3D artists and animators but I’m doing all the 2D effects. So my input is really important. Although I have my boss who’s giving me instructions on what to draw, I still have to lead the direction of the art style and then the final product. So it’s not like I get commissioned by someone and do what they want or do what they want me to draw.
Hong: So it’s kind of on you to get things done.
Yujin: Yeah. So I have to be confident in what I’m doing and show my leadership even to my boss.
Hong: Do you have people that you
Yujin: I just have my one boss and he’s the president of the company I’m working for. He gives me some simple description or shows me a sketch of what he wants me to draw and then I’ll see it and I show him my better idea of what I’m thinking and I convince him, “How about this?”. And then he’ll say, “Okay, that looks nicer than what I was thinking.”.
Emily: And I know that’s huge having such a big role like that especially in the geek community as a young woman it is very hard to sometimes put your mark in the world and in that industry. It’s great that you have such a strong sense of confidence in your work. What can you say as far as other young women and being a role model to them because it is hard being in this community sometimes as a young woman
Yujin: I mean I think it’s hard to find a woman concept artist in this industry. I don’t know why but people usually think a woman can only draw cute things like you know simple things. I don’t think that’s true. Because, as a woman, I have a really great eye for details. My advice to people my age is to just do what they want to do and have a specific goal and just go for it.
Hong: What would you say is your favorite piece that you worked on?
Yujin: Personally, I like the fan art I did for Nier Automata. When I gave it to one of my friends birthday, he thought it was the official artwork for the game. So yeah that makes me really proud of what I do. Because my friends really enjoy and support my artwork.
Hong: Yeah! Thank you for the Saber artwork. I haven’t got the chance to frame it yet. I’ll need you to sign it though, just in case you become famous (just kidding). Other than dream jobs like working for Riot or what not, is there something that has been on your mind that you want to draw but you haven’t had a chance yet and it’s something that you want to do at some point?
Yujin: Personally, I want to do more original artwork because all of the time for my company I mostly work on the company projects. But other than that, I do mostly fan art because I go to conventions and that’s what my fans want to see.
Hong: That’s what sells.
Yujin: Yeah that’s what’s popular and it’s what gets a lot of popularity. If I have more free time I want to do more original series and make an original art book. I don’t know if this will be more popular or get more attention than the fan art but I do but I do want to try.
Hong: Maybe you can create original artwork that becomes
Emily: Yeah I know a lot of people who buy artists original work. They create mini-comic series and stuff and you just fall in love with those original characters. It’d be great to see you make an art book or a little longer series or something that’s more towards what you want to do as an artist.
Hong: Is there anything other than art that you want to do? Other passions that you have in life? Other than karaoke. (laughs)
Yujin: Well I do like cooking and cooking for my friends. So when we have a party I would always cook something.
Hong: When are we having this after AX party that you keep talking about?
Yujin: It’s gonna happen next month for sure! (laughs)
Hong: That’s good.
Yujin: Other than that, I love music, singing, and playing the
Hong: Do you have any words of wisdom for other upcoming artists like yourself so that they can get past the struggles that you’ve been through?
Yujin: For me, it was kind of hard to be an artist because my family didn’t really want me to be an artist. So I started my first year in college as an accountancy major. And then I switched later to fine arts. But before that I couldn’t get any education in art. I feel like a lot of people say it’s kind of hard to be accepted as an artist. You can find a lot
Emily: So basically just don’t be afraid to put yourself out there to study and work for it.
Hong: Where can we see you next?
Yujin: I’ll see if I can do the next AX event. Some other cons out of state are what I’m going for.
Hong: You want to branch outside of Arizona?
Yujin: Yeah. Before that I had a chance to go to other conventions outside of Arizona. But I was too afraid that I w
Hong: For sure. So how long have you been in America?
Yujin: About 8-9 years now.
Hong: Oh wow that’s awhile! I could see why you don’t want to leave. What do you like about living here in America versus back home?
Yujin: So the reason why I prefer to stay in America is that the art industry in South Korea is really bad compared to here because there are more artists than there are jobs. So even though
Hong: It’s over saturated?
Yujin: Yeah, they don’t get paid well. So even though there are a lot of good artists they just cannot pick their career as an
Hong: Because everyone is doing the same thing. Their art looks pretty much the same right?
Yujin: Yeah. It’s the same for game companies too. There are like no video games or PC games at all in South Korea because everything failed pretty much.
Yujin: Do you know of any South Korean video games?
Hong: Maybe one or two. I don’t think there are many of them. Mostly Japanese.
Yujin: Maybe something like Blade & Soul but that’s not a thing in South Korea.
Hong: They don’t focus on games don’t they? They have good gamers though!
Emily: Yeah that’s so funny! I know that the Esports gaming community in South Korea is out of this world.
Yujin: Yeah but it’s mostly League of Legends or Overwatch you know? Now it’s mostly mobile games and trading card games. I feel like every single game company
Hong: So that’s the main reason why? Not the food right? (laughs)
Yujin: I also have a lot of friends here too!
Emily: Well I mean after being here for like nine years this is basically your home now.
Yujin: Yes exactly.
Hong: Have you lived in Arizona all nine years?
Yujin: Oh yes.
Hong: Wow! So why Arizona of all places in the United States?
Yujin: At first, I used to live with my family. When we first moved here, my sister and I studied at ASU together. After graduation
Hong: So you don’t have any other family in America?
Emily: Self-sustaining! You’re doing well for yourself being here on your own.
Yujin: Yeah, I’m pretty independent.
Hong: That’s awesome. So how does your family feel about you being here all this time? Do they want you to come back?
Yujin: They support what I want to do.
Hong: That’s good.
Yujin: So for me, work and my passion are more important than my family. (laughs)
Hong: Okay! So work is more important.
Emily: Nothing wrong with being a driven woman focusing on work. That’s good.
Hong: What’s your favorite experience being in America?
Yujin: America has a lot of good opportunities to interact with my friends. Because compared to South Korea the conventions there are much bigger. In Korea, there are only a few conventions every year. Here, there are so many conventions throughout the states so I get to see a lot of people from other states and from other countries too. So I can meet them in person. Not only online but also offline.
Hong: So you’ve met your fans in person then?
Yujin: Yeah! When I went to AX, they were like, “Oh, I know this art! I’m like your biggest fan!”. When I hear that, I get so much more motivation to be an artist.
Hong: That’s awesome. What’s your favorite anime?
Yujin: I like Boku no Hero Academia these days, but other than that I like kinda dark anime like Fullmetal Alchemist, Tokyo Ghoul, and Code Geass. Something like that.
Hong: Good stuff!
Emily: What is one of your favorite things about American culture while being here? Whether it’s like food, music or the way that people dress.
Yujin: It’s more open-minded here than Asian culture. When I talk with Korean people, I have to be very formal. Even to people that are just a little older than me. Like if they’re a year older, I’ll be formal with them until they say it’s okay. Other than that it’s much easier to meet new people here because they’re more willing to be friends.
Hong: It’s more friendly over here… to some degree. (laughs). Do you have anything to say to your fans that’s going to read this?
Yujin: I really appreciate all the support from my fans. Because that’s what gives me
Hong: Awesome! Thanks Yujin!
You can follow Yujin and her work here:
Deviant Art: https://www.deviantart.com/sangrde