Art Abroad: The Year of the Art Drought

Okay, so my “I’m back” post was a little premature. I was in still in Korea at the time and once I returned to the US I took my sweet time adjusting. Aka being overwhelmed by grocery store trips, having a crisis about being unemployed, and rereading the Harry Potter series – actually I’m still doing the last two things.

But I’m happy to start blogging regularly again too. Before we delve into my art-during-unemployment adventures, we have a lot of ground to cover. Ground that’s more than 6,000 miles away from here. Ground known as my grant years in SOUTH KOREA!


Reflecting on the start of my grant gets me all excited and smiley again, because that’s exactly how I felt. I woke up every morning hardly able to believe I was living in South Korea, thrilled and more than ready to go to my job each day.

Ahh, the early stages of culture shock.

But as for my art life, well, my thoughts about it could be summed up as:

Artless in Korea


Well, not really. But my first year abroad did feel like an art drought. For the first time, I was teaching my own English classes, living in a new country, trying to navigate daily life in a foreign language, and living with a homestay (and trying to get them to like me). (Don’t worry, later on there was mutual liking.) But I really didn’t touch my sketchbook for the first few months.

My artless months came in part from my stubbornness.


I Don’t Want to Draw Landscapes!

I’d taken a figure drawing class shortly before graduating college and fallen in love with it. So in Korea I really wanted to find figure drawing classes. Preferably using nude models. But how in the world would I find such a class, let alone ask around in a non-creepy way? A coteacher at my school shared my reservations and recommended I paint Korea’s beautiful landscapes instead. My response was “Oh yeah, maybe!” (Nah.) So for a while the only art I did were lesson-relevant doodles on the board to amuse my students.

But then there were two ways I ended my art drought, one intentional, the other set off by current events.


Angry Art


I am no stranger to angry art. Just take a look at some of my pieces. In times of great distress and helplessness, I turn to express my emotions through art. This time what spurred my bout of angry art was the non-indictment in the case of Michael Brown.

While I knew of the case, I’d hadn’t been following closely until a few days before the trial. Keeping up on social media, I was tense on the edge of my seat…and felt my stomach drop as the decision came out, while I was in the office, just before the school day ended. But I’ve written a whole piece just on that decision and my response – no doubt another form of catharsis for me.

Before the writing, however, came the drawing. Given that I’d been following the case on social media, I sought out a medium suitable to post – memes. I grabbed my favorite pen and produced some blatantly angry pieces.



Start-Art Strategy


The other strategy I use to get myself to do art is by seeking out deadlines to impose upon myself. While in college – before I added my art major –  I jumped at opportunities like residence hall art contests and exhibits put on for a cause. In Korea, I found opportunities in the form of Infusion.

Infusion is Fulbright Korea’s literary magazine, where my Michael Brown article was published. If you follow my Korea blog, you’ve probably heard a lot about Infusion, since I wrote about it quite a bit. The magazine also features photos and – somewhat rarely – artwork. So I quenched my art drought by doing art that I hoped to get published. Having a deadline was good for me, but I wasn’t satisfied with most of what I’d done, and it wasn’t accepted either.

But the Gamcheon village drawing to the left was later featured in a “Patterns of Korea” collection online.


To finish the year, I imposed another project on myself, which was accepted and published in the spring issue. But let’s be real, it would’ve been pretty sad to go through the effort of drawing 117 faces and not have it be published.

Next time I’ll write about year two in Korea, with an all-new living situation, lots of public transit wait time, using technology wisely, and more art! Read it here!