People communicate with others in various ways. For example, a musician delivers their story through the lyrics of a song and a novelist delivers their story through the written word. There are even those that communicate with others through drawings. The drawings of characters and stories deliver something to others and make them sense various emotions. SMT interviewed cartoon artist Lee Dawoon, who bestows a variety of emotions onto people looking at her cartoons that depict daily life and travel stories.
Before we start the interview, please introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Lee Dawoon and I published cartoons for the Naver Best Challenge and the First League of Daum Webtoon. I am currently working under the pseudonym 'Dawoon' on my @0_713 Instagram account. I mainly draw cartoons and create emoticons. And I also try to communicate with my readers through collaborative activities with various companies.
When did you first dream of becoming a cartoon artist and begin working on that dream?
I dreamt about drawing vaguely since early childhood. And as an elementary school student, I materialized my dream as an animation writer or a webtoon writer. When I became 20 years old, I bought a cheap tablet with money that I earned by working part-time at an art academy. However, I didn't know what I should focus my drawing on, and to make matters worse, my undergraduate life was busy. Soon I became a fourth-year student at college, and one day, reality hit me. I sat still in my dormitory worrying about the future. Would my long-cherished dream of drawing cartoons come to end before it had even started? I decided right then and there to challenge myself, so I took out my tablet and drew a cartoon about my daily life. I thought about where to upload my cartoon, but after some thought, I decided to upload it onto Naver's challenge cartoon section. It was my first posting of a cartoon drawing, but it became the most popular cartoon of the day. Thanks to the confidence I gained on this day, I have been drawing ever since.
You graduated from a College of Fine Arts. How has your training at the college helped you as a cartoon artist?
I actually majored in industrial design at a College of Fine Arts, and completed my degree in 2017. The Department of Industrial Design took me beyond product design, I learned about the overall design industry and how to edit designs so that they shine and the product is successful. I believe that what I learned there helped me a lot in the character industry. I learned about the way to deal with some programs and about commercialization which were both definitely helpful.
One of your most renowned drawing series is 'Good Day', which depicts stories of everyday life. What prompted you to use everyday life stories as the basis of your work?
I would love to say I thought it would be meaningful to record and share my daily life, but in all honesty, it was the only thing that came to mind as a fourth-year student worrying about life after school. Now as I look back, I think I made an excellent choice to use daily life as a theme. I'm glad people who look at my work remember my days and share mutual feelings with me about their daily life.
The series 'Good Day' has been operating since January 2016. It currently has 186 episodes on the Naver homepage, and this means the cartoon series has had 186 weeks of publication. How did you keep coming up with great ideas for the cartoon over such a long time?
There are actually about 200 episodes in the series, as some have been deleted over time. And the series is ongoing on Instagram. At first, I created the series because it was something I wanted to do. And as time passed, I felt driven to keep up with my work for those eagerly waiting to read the next cartoon. I'm going to continue to draw episodes for the series with that in mind. And actually, there was a time when I once took a break from cartoon drawing. In my 5-year career as a cartoon artist, for 1.5 years I worked at a company and stopped my cartoons for several months to focus on company work. However, leaving my cartoons made me realize their preciousness, so I returned to the work.
You created the characters Wheen Ddeok, Deokku, and Beige and released them as KakaoTalk emoticons. Can you tell us your own method of creating such characters?
I began by sketching a character that I thought would be loved by many people. I then refined the sketch little by little. I consciously made an effort to create new characters that do not resemble other characters that already exist. Once the character has come somewhat into its final shape, I give it a name and personality that I think suits it, and if necessary, I also think about its gender. I give the characters personality and character traits because I think each character's story is important. Before I commercialize the characters, I piloted my characters' stories to various readers to show worldviews of the characters. My readers and I go through the process together, and through this process, I created the background and personality of each character.
You will have surely experienced a lot of difficulties over the years. What has been the most difficult part of the work?
I suppose the absence of income was the hardest. When I first started, I had to take up extra jobs such as working part-time at a café. I had a hard time earning a decent income just from those part-time jobs and having no sense of belonging, so I often thought about employment. Reflecting on things now, there was no need to be so impatient. I'm not sure why I was so afraid of everything at that time.
Then, how did you overcome your hardship?
I was able to keep on with my dream because there were people and things that supported and comforted me. One of my dearest friends is 'Remy', the mouse in the movie <Ratatouille>. I gained a lot of strength from Remy, an animal considered the garbage of society but tries hard to be recognized as a master chef. Also, the warm words from my readers were a great help. There was a time when I was depressed, wondering if I had made a huge mistake of choice in life. At that time, I saw a person crying on seeing me at an offline event. That person came to speak with me and said, "I gave up my dream because of the struggles in reality, but you are really doing what you want. Thank you for showing me that, and for never giving up on your dream." This comment made me stop seeing myself as poor but as someone who is doing a great job realizing my dream.
Let's talk about some of the good things now. What has been the happiest or most worthwhile moment working as a cartoon artist?
My parents, though they worried about my career choice once, began to cheer me on at some point. I am happy and proud of their confidence in me. In the past, they would have likely worried a lot about me after I quit work at a company to start work as a cartoon artist, but I am sure they are now very much relieved at my work.
Can you tell us about your future that you drew?
I think I will work on a cartoon that has a flow and readers excitedly look forward to each next episode. I have only focused on emotion and daily life, but I would like to expand my repertoire. If I have a chance, one day I would love to get into stories or cartoons on the subject of romance. I am also interested in animation cartoons. And I believe those works will be made in my own place of work. I imagine myself submerged in my work at my own place. Producing film animation is another future goal.
Lastly, would you like to leave any final words for Sookmyungians who support you as readers and follow you as their mentor?
I always regret things I didn't do during my university days because I was always in a hurry. I didn't really take a good look at myself and what I wanted out of life. I will say, do whatever you want to do, as tomorrow will be too late. If there is something you have yet to do and want to do, do it now. This will be a great way for you to find out what you like. If you know what you like, do it and gain great happiness from that. I hope you are always healthy and happy.
- Department of Industrial Design '13
- A writer of the webtoon 'Good Day' and 'Good Day to Travel'
- A member of 15toons Season 1, a project group composed of Instagram-based webtoon writers
- Participated in Seoul Illustration Fair
- Launched Kakaotalk emoticons with characters named Wheen Ddeok, Deokku, and Beige