Subin Yang’s Recipe For Success


Subin Yang is an up-and-coming freelance illustrator from Seoul, South Korea. Her joyful illustrations depict scenes inspired by everyday life using flat shapes, vibrant colours, and loose line details. Her love for food shines through, and is one of the ways she communicates themes of home, nostalgia, and culture.

Keep reading to learn more about her process in our full interview. We’ll be mailing a surprise art print by Subin Yang to our subscribers in March so be sure to subscribe by February 29th!

Interview with Artist Subin Yang

What’s a typical day look like?

I would love to have more structure but the reality of working at home is that it’s always quite flexible. I like to start the day out by checking my emails, and making a list of things I’d like to finish today. I try to do most of my work like invoicing, contracting, and writing emails before the afternoon. After a break and doing chores during the afternoon, I then get back to drawing. 

I think I’m only a night owl because I tend to procrastinate. Really, I’m most efficient as an early bird. Creative spirit seems to strike me at the weirdest times, but when I feel a strong thought about something I often want to draw about it right then. Other times, it’s the deadlines that really push me to draw.

Digital illustration by artist Subin Yang of a girl carrying lots of dogs in her dress pockets.

What is your creative process?

My creative process starts with jotting down words about ideas I have onto my phone or my sketchbook. Just a couple of words are enough for me to remember these ideas and usually I have them popping up in public when I’m in the subway or when I’m walking around! 

When I have access to my tablet and my computer, I go straight into making sketches in Photoshop. I make color palettes and create a rough but full drawing of the idea. Going all the way through and making a whole piece helps me realize what I’d love to change or do differently if I were to draw the same idea again. 

Then I draw again from there. Usually, although the first drawing is rougher. It takes longer because I’m trying to figure out the composition as I go. However, once the rough drawings are done, the finished illustration is done much more quickly and with more precision.

How do you get into your creative zone? 

Because I work at home, I need all of my surroundings to be organized and cleaned up before I work! It takes me some time to calm down and sit at my desk to concentrate on getting work done. I like to do small chores or some exercise (like a short jog around the neighborhood or yoga) so that it doesn’t make me itch to go outside when I’m working all day indoors.

Freelance illustrator Subin Yang at work in her home studio in Seoul, South Korea.

What’s your studio like? 

My studio is in my home and I get most of my work done on my IKEA table. Sometimes I wish I had a studio so that I could separate my home from my work to focus but I’ve been getting adjusted to working alongside my bed.

What is most important in your studio?

My most important tools are my MacBook Pro and my Wacom tablet (which broke last week!). While the digital tools are important for client work, traditional mediums are also very important! Especially doing collages using various kinds of colored papers, color pencils, oil pastels, and gel pens. While digital drawings help me get rid of an itch for drawing an idea very fast, using traditional mediums is more fun! I can experiment and play with unexpected results which in turn rejuvenates my creativity and inspirations.

What inspires you to create? 

I find inspiration by experiencing things first-hand! I think that’s why the more I feel stuck under a creative block, I stop drawing altogether and go outside, visit shows and art museums, explore new places, and meet with people. While I need to spend time alone to process my thoughts and ideas, it’s also important that I find the balance between being holed up in my world and going out.

Illustration of a produce market by artist Subin Yang.

Did you go to school for art? 

I got my BFA in illustration at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, OR. However, I’ve been drawing and making illustrations all my life. My family has been supportive of my creative endeavours ever since I was small, which made my transition into pursuing art as a career as a very natural step in life. I went to art school with the goal of challenging myself and learning how to draw digitally – and now I draw all my work digitally. I’m super happy to have met so many friends, mentors, and artists who cared about my craft and influenced me because the older I get, the more I realize it’s hard finding a community of creatives for good feedback.

How do you make a living?

Currently, I’m a full-time illustrator. It’s only been two years or so since I’ve been freelancing and to be honest, I’ve only started getting regular work the past couple of months! Before I had any work, I wished I’d get any work at all to earn enough make a living but once I started getting jobs, I took in all the jobs and drowned myself in work. Due to my inexperience in balancing my workflow, there wasn’t much distinction between work and life – especially since I work at home. I’m still trying to figure it out.

How do you promote your work?

I promote my work on Instagram and other social media accounts and I’ve also sent out so many emails to cool clients I wanted to work with! I think going to conventions or art fairs and making small designed goodies are also a good way to promote yourself and meet people in person.

"Suncheon Bay Reeds" illustration by artist Subin Yang showing the wildlife of Suncheon Bay.

Any advice for your younger self?

Nothing in life is constant or set. Adulthood is all just lots of loose ends, no conclusions, lots of multitasking, and nothing is organized. Try to learn how to let go of control a little and not be lazy.

What do you love and hate about the creative life?

I love that my job is about making something. Something beautiful, somewhat new, interesting, and fun. I hate that so much of my work is so personal to me and I don’t always like the work I make. But when you make art your job, it’s more about getting work done than just your personal satisfaction.

Favorite Artist?

Louise Bourgeois

Favorite Film?

Whisper of the Heart

Favorite Book?


Favorite Musician/Album?

Baek Yerin / Taeko Ohnuki

Favorite City to Visit?

Portland (I miss it!)

Favorite Meal to Cook?


Subin Yang is our March 2020 artist. Sign up for a Papirmass Art Print Subscription today so you don’t miss her print!

Check out more of Subin’s artwork in our online gallery and follow us @papirmass for more news about our March issue.