We had the good fortune of connecting with Erin Kim and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Erin, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
I have always had a hard time understanding balance in general. Fortunately, I started to appreciate the work-life balance and its importance. I’m currently a storyboard artist at Netflix Animation Studio on a preschool show. I got the job at the beginning of the pandemic, around April of 2020. It was a very stressful time for me, as it was for everyone. I was experiencing frustration from extreme burnout. Also, I got pretty bad inflammation in my stomach and esophagus during that time. I couldn’t eat or drink normally for a while. Physically and mentally, I was really bad at managing myself. I hated the fact that I didn’t have the energy to do anything after work. Before the pandemic, I always had a day job and personal project going on at the same time. After work, I created short comic strips, illustrations, short clips, or worked on animated short films usually after my day job ended. But I wasn’t able to do any of that during the lockdown. I knew my obsession with productivity was always a problem, but this time it hit harder. I was making myself anxious whenever I wasn’t utilizing the little spare time I have for art-making. When really, taking a break is necessary. After getting physically sick, I was able to look back at my unhealthy relationship with “creating art”. My Korean background that glorified hard-working played a huge role in my view towards work ethic. I think “working hard” came from a place of passion in the beginning, but I slowly got used to that destructive lifestyle to the point where I didn’t see anything wrong with it. The lifestyle of constantly pushing myself, even though I was feeling horrible. I was ignoring other important things in life. So much of my life was just about drawing and achieving creative goals. And to be honest, with all the demanding schedule I was keeping up with, I didn’t enjoy drawing anymore. I am slowly learning how not to overwork myself. I recently started having a strict schedule of not opening my computer after 6 pm. I started learning the piano by myself, so I practice at least 15 minutes a day. I find playing an instrument very relaxing, and I wish I had started sooner. I haven’t worked on any personal project for about a year but I eventually want to get back to doodling. But I want to do it not because I’m worried about losing my audience or I’m not being productive enough. I want to draw silly things without feeling the pressure of “this has to be something great.”
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
In the past, I was making short films, but now I focus more on short comics about mental health and my emotional struggles. My work has always been about the internal dialogue I have with myself, which’s usually turbulent and full of drama. My style is cute and simple, but sometimes I love drawing facial expressions that are gross and ugly on purpose for laughs. I make comics about something that bothers me in real life, but I add humor to the story. Then I could laugh about it later and I find that process quite therapeutic for myself. What I also like about putting my thoughts out to the world is that I get messages from other people who feel the same way, or who have experienced similar things as me. I got to where I am by putting the hours in. I think it was difficult in the beginning because I didn’t know what my strengths were or what I specifically wanted to do within the animation/illustration industry. But I slowly figured it out by creating an art Instagram account and experimented with different projects. I realized that I wasn’t interested in creating beautiful images, but rather telling a story, and creating drama with characters I created. Something I learned from building my own “style” is that, there’s always an audience for what you want to make. The internet is amazing because they will find you. No matter how absurd your idea is, someone will dig it. For a long time, I thought I had to create certain things to be successful, sacrificing my true vision because not many people understand my voice. But I realized that it’s a matter of fine-tuning and coming up with better communication skills to present the ideas. And if my audience can have a little laugh at my comics and send it to their friends, or they start a discussion about the theme, that’s a big success for me.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oh wow, this question is really difficult because I don’t explore the city much! I would take my friend to Echo Park and chill. I would take them to Topanga State Park, many many mountains in Burbank, where I live. I love hiking in LA. For food, any place around Los Feliz would be good. I also like going to comedy/improv shows.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would love to thank my high school art teacher Nancy Crawford. She passed away a few years ago and I didn’t message her when I had the chance to. She encouraged so many students to think for themselves and create art with a unique perspective. She taught me the importance of thinking over and over about an idea, making sure that it works, and doing lots of research before executing. Her lessons were so valuable to me I feel so lucky to have such a quality lesson at a young age. She was an intelligent and strong woman who shaped me as an artist.
Photo by Maxwell Miranda