Meet Annie Seo, a Los Angeles-based illustrator who is finding her foot in the art industry through worlds of fun, quirky animals and more. Upon discovering her 'zines' at Pasadena's "Tiny Universe," we knew we had to meet the artist. Not confined to any particular direction, Annie offers endless imagination into her creations, which especially makes for additional exciting artwork in our office.
We finally met with Annie at Float Pasadena and then stopped by Tiny Universe to see the beautiful mural she recently finished creating for their shop. Needless to say, Annie is one of the makers to watch.
How did you get into art, and when?
I grew up doing art. My mom put me straight into an art school immediately in kindergarten. I continued up until high school. After high school, I made a portfolio for college. In the beginning of college, I didn’t want to pursue art. I felt like I was forced into it. My mom said, ‘You’re good at drawing. You could do it for money.’ Her assumption was that I could pursue jobs like car designing, for example. In high school, I just wanted to be normal and pursue UC-college life and not be subjected as an artist anymore. But then, I didn’t do well on my SATs and felt like I didn’t have no choice but art college. As I thought of it more, I then thought why not? I went to Parsons and began to see that this was something I wanted to pursue.
But, when I applied to Parsons, I wanted to do fashion. When I got there, I realized I didn’t want to do fashion. You sort of hit a block where you think you love fashion, but you come to recognize that ‘I like fashion, but I don’t want to do it.’ I understood illustration was a world where you can just do whatever you want and there’s no limits to that. You can illustrate on everything for everything. That got me really excited, which is why I chose illustrating as my major. By senior year, I chose a dream for myself—freelance illustrating.
How approving were your family on your decision to become a freelance artist?
My mom has no idea what the heck that is. She assumed I was going to have an office job. But when I tried to explain that I wanted to do freelance, she asked ‘What is that?’ To her, I think she just assumes it isn’t important. Even when I show a paycheck, or the illustration I did for New York Times, she is still wondering when I’m going to look for a job. Every time she sees me working, she’s very confused. When I explain it, she has no idea of what I’m doing. She pretends to know, but she doesn’t understand to my life as a freelancer.
Because she’s a first generation Korean mom, I have to give her a lot of grace that this is a different culture. I have a luxury to pursue my dreams. I don’t think she’s disappointed, but she’s worried. She wants to see me doing something great, especially with the money that she’s paid for my school tuition. I'm trying to show that it’s a very slow process. Even as a freelance illustrator, I’m learning to push myself to the furthest of boundaries. She still supports me, but she’s full of anxiety watching me from the back.
It's very understandable that a mother would be nervous. Surely, that would mean she loves you.
I think my mom will always be someone who supports me. Even though, she might not understand what I do. I’m not worried trying to prove to her. I’m just doing it, because I love it. I think she’s more happy if she can trust that I can get money for what I love to do. It doesn’t need to be a big title or security on it.
So, how would you describe your art?
It’s a really fun, quirky, and youthful world that I like to create. A lot of people ask me why I choose to draw with animals. I never really thought of it that before. They’re like my people now. It’s weird to me that people ask me why I draw with animals, because why not? It would be a very narrow world if I just drew people. If I can make animals into people, I can expand it into more. I would want to live in a world where I could to talk to animals. That’s how I see it. There’s a youthful energy to it.
I’m not intentionally doing it for the younger audience. I’m doing it for me and it's exciting to see audiences respond to it. They've been of all ages!
Have you considered doing series with animals?
For fun, my friend suggested I make rappers into pidgins, because they look so serious all the time. I tried drawing Drake, and it was really hard. So I took a break from that. When I’m human-fy them too much, they don’t look like pidgins anymore. It got to a point if I was thinking too much, I didn't want to do it anymore. I just want to draw for fun!
That's really funny. I wouldn't even know where to begin drawing Drake. What other kinds of products would you want to pursue besides what you already sell?
I really want to start doing ceramics; hand-built objects. I mostly want to make things I want. If I start seeing people buying it, then I can keep making it! I’m taking ceramics classes right now, but I don’t know what will happen with that. Whatever products I can’t do myself, I would hope people contact me about it to make it.
Where do you see your career going in the near future?
This is already new to me. It’s all weird to me that people notice. I like where it is right now. I’m just not suited for an office job. I’ve had internships before, and I just got really bored. If it takes me away from a 9-to-5 job, that’d be great. Even if I’m doing the same things in the next few years, I’d be really happy.