When it comes to incredible artists on Instagram, it’s impossible to ignore Wanjin, or as many of you might know him, @willeys_art.
Having garnered nearly 100k followers on his page, Wanjin is also featured on nearly every art curator Instagram account you can find. We were lucky enough to get the chance to chat with him about how exactly he manages to create such intricate pieces, as well as what first inspired him to become an artist.
Check out our complete interview down below where Wanjin shares with us the importance of remembering to stay true to who you are in your work, as well as why he’s not worried about plagiarism online.
What first inspired you to start doing art?
Whenever my uncle came to my house, he used to draw cartoon characters that were popular. I was very young at that time and I also drew the characters and enjoyed it. I drew a lot of paintings in my childhood and school days and I majored in animation at University, but was not interested in it. I didn’t know what to do for a while after graduation. At that time, I first saw Lucian Freud’s paintings and I was captivated by the shock and excitement of them. I often downloaded his paintings from the Internet and looked at them. After spending time looking at his art, I started painting again, which I had not been doing for a long time. Perhaps that was when I started my work wholeheartedly.
Piggybacking off of that, what inspires your creative process now? You do a lot of body drawings, is this your greatest inspiration?
At first I got a lot of inspiration from the body itself. If I sense the basic curve of the human body or the delicate change of skin color, I am captivated by the desire to express it. But after having my own experiences, I started to have some contextual change in my work. Transcendent viewpoint to see the world was formed in me. The human body was a good subject to express such a world. I am also doing some works resulting from inspiration received by the body itself. I’m interested in expressing body temperature and skin smell and am studying the relationship between color and energy (Qi) for my work.
What piece of advice would you give an artist who is struggling with shading?
I am not sure if I am in the position to give advice to them, because I am doing other jobs in Korea while doing my work. I have worked alone for a long time without people know who I was, and I only started to share my works at social media one and a half years ago. I was surprised to receive a lot of good feedback, but I still don’t know how to make money with my work, so I am focusing on my art and sharing it. If I were to give them advice, I would want to say to them to have the mind of making ‘a gift that only I can give to this world’ no matter what they make.
What is your favorite art medium to work with?
It depends on the situation. In the beginning, I preferred acrylic. Arylic dries fast. It was attractive as it gave me some special tension and was easy to use with water. When I used oil paints, I enjoyed carefully producing a color that I wanted. Currently I usually use oil pastel and colored pencils. They both have limited colors, so I need to overlap them to produce a color that I like. Even if I can’t express the color that I intend to make, I am satisfied with the exceptional effect coming from the imperfectness.
What area in art are you still not satisfied with your ability? What do you do to try and get better at it?
I have focused on description. So I think I lack in brave and tough painterly expression. I don’t think I need that in my work, but if it goes well with the description that I express, I think it could be far more affluent work. So recently, I’ve tried that in my work. When I start working, I use watercolor to paint the background roughly. I place description-centered drawings on the effect of the background coloring and I’m going to continue working on these..
How has putting your art on social media affected your creative process?
I hadn’t opened my work [up to the public] for a long time. I worked alone. But I started to share it on Instagram last year and the difference was big. Having people see my work was a great motivator for me. It affected my work process and working mind greatly. The response from people has also influenced my work because It helped me a lot to understand what the world wanted from me. I upload my work on Instagram periodically if possible. It is like planting seeds in an online soil one by one.
Do you find that the online art community is more supportive or competitive?
I’ve never thought about it, but currently I find it accepting. The distance between the work and the people has became small. As my work is exposed to more people, it has the potential to expand to offline activity. If they share the work continuously, many artists including me will have good achievements.
Do you worry about plagiarism online? If so, how do you combat it?
I am not worried about it. We share our inspiration as well as the work in an online space. Even if they are not conscious of it, artists are influenced by one another. There could be plagiarism disputes, but as the uploading dates are clearly shown, they wouldn’t fight one another and waste their energy. I am optimistic about it. Some people contact me saying that they want to copy my work and they want to reflect the concept of my work into their work. I always say, “That is ok.”
Have you ever noticed specific differences between those who are self taught in art, and those who have gone to school for it?
In my personal opinion, the people who had education at school would be relatively stronger in philosophy, thought, historical and contextual aspects, as well as technical skills. But I think it is important for everyone to accept their own situation whether they got education at school, or studied by themselves. There is something to absorb from the environment and the people you meet, and there is also something that you should study yourself. Those somethings finally establish the unique works of an artist.
Who is your favorite artist?
There are many artists whom I like, but if I had to choose one of them, I would choose Lucian Freud. When he was young, he didn’t submit to the trend of the artistic world at that time. He was faithful to what he wanted. He imprinted on me that he used the art by not being subordinate to it, but by becoming the master of it. When I majored in animation at University, I felt my realistic description was not welcomed by the people in my department. They might have thought that my work was not creative, but even after graduation, it was my complex for a long time. I was able to release my worries thanks to the paintings of Lucian Freud. His paintings were telling me, “Just do what you want. That is ok.”