April Art Challenge Title card


During the month of April I participated in Faunwood’s April Art Challenge – a 30-day art challenge created by artist Miranda Zimmerman. Before you get too excited for me, just know that this was an informal art challenge that anyone could join. No awards or anything like that!

Zimmerman chose 30 prompts with the intent of practicing color. To use color was the only guideline, other than that, the prompts were up for your interpretation. Although we’re talking about artists here, so I wasn’t surprised to see a few black and white pieces throughout the month.

April Art Challenge - AprilColorsChallenge prompts


I took a look, decided the prompts seemed fun, and grabbed my pencils. Colors are an area of weakness for me too, so this challenge seemed perfect.

At this point, I should mention that Miranda Zimmerman does absolutely lovely black-and-white illustrations with a sort of dark, fantasy + nature theme. I definitely recommend checking her work out.


April Art Challenge…Start!


“I’ll do this but I won’t be too hardcore” was the theme of this challenge. After finishing Inktober last year, I knew I wasn’t ready for that level of commitment.

I started the challenge on time and made it about halfway through the month, and produced 16 pieces of art. I confess without shame that this number includes days when I combined multiple prompts to catch up. Whoops!

Overall the challenge was fun and I came out of it with a nice series of Ghibli patterns. For your viewing pleasure, here are my pieces from Faunwood’s April art challenge:


Day 1: A Dang Bunny, Obviously

The first day of the month was both Easter and April Fool’s Day.

I sketched out some stylized rabbits and then attempted to use this cool notebook made with Lokta plant leaves. Apparently it was handcrafted by a Fair Trade Women’s Co-op in Nepal and uses eco-friendly paper making methods. I also used this notebook for Inktober. Sadly, it didn’t take color very well.

The paper is super absorbent and has a delicate textured surface. Colored pencil (the body of the bunny) didn’t work because I couldn’t put much pressure on the paper without scratching away the surface of the paper. So I tried working with markers. They bled. Then I think I then added water to spread the color more evenly?

I finished the rabbit. That’s what matters.

Day 2-3: Analogous Color Palette/Pink as Shadows

Fortunately I was delayed but not deterred by the first day. After watching the first episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10, I had to do Miss Vanessa Vanjie Mateo‘s now iconic look.

April Art Challenge - 2 Miss Vanjie in progress
Miss Vanjie…

I chose two somewhat tricky prompts to combine, but the challenge (plus the indignity of Miss Vanjie going home first) fired me up.

…Miss Vanjie…

For my analogous color scheme (where you use only colors that are next to each other on the color wheel), I chose purple, pink/red, and a little bit of peach/orange. To stay within this color scheme, I took a few liberties with Miss Mateo’s look and used purple instead of blue for makeup and made her hair pink instead of blonde.


I don’t know how she went home first, with those fun but slightly creepy mermaid Barbies scattered throughout her outfit. We better get more Vanjie in the future.


Day 4: Spores

By comparison, day four was rather dull for me. I added some of my little figures to give the piece a little more life. They’re a father and his two kids in the mushroom spore rain.

Day 5: Parasite

Here’s where I decided to draw what I wanted but try to tie it into the prompt. Studio Ghibli pins were (are still are) exploding in the enamel pin community and I caught the bug too. Hence this page of the tiniest Totoros from My Neighbor Totoro. These fit the prompt because…they would be super adorable as parasites and could easily take over the world.

Day 6: Gold/Silver

I was still in a Ghibli mood, so No Face (Spirited Away) with his fake gold came next.

Day 7/8/9: Gouache/Split-Complementary Color Palette/Mixed Media Insects

Ghibli again, but this time I combined three prompts! These are Ohmu or giant fantasy bugs from Nausicaa: Vally of the Wind. This movie was all about climate change before the general public even thought it would be an issue. It’s lovely, but then again, all Studio Ghibli films are.

The Ohmu are painted with gouache – a paint that’s very similar to watercolor, but a bit more opaque and easier to mess with on paper. I hadn’t used gouache since an intro art class in college, but still had a few tubes lying around. I ended up loving gouache. You’ll definitely see more gouache from me…once I find where I put those paint tubes again.

A split complementary color scheme involves choosing one color (i.e. orange), then taking its complement (directly across the color wheel from orange is blue – think Denver Broncos), and instead of using the complement, you take the two colors next to it (blue-green and blue-violet, or if you prefer just green and purple). So my color scheme was roughly orange, blue-green, and blue-violet. You can see that I didn’t stick too closely to these colors, but they’re in the ballpark.

Finally, to fulfill the “Mixed Media Insects” part of the prompt, I added pen outlines. Partly because I felt guilty about combining so many prompts, and partly because I enjoyed using gouache, I did three more mini paintings.

Two of the three mini paintings and some sketches

Day 10: Brambles

Then for the next four prompts, I got really lazy. These were all quick digital sketches done on my phone, all in the same day. Although I didn’t spend much time on each, just the act of sitting down and taking the time to make art felt so good this day.

I went literal with “brambles.” This was my warmup.

Day 11: Mineral/Crystal

Literal once again. An amethyst was the first crystal I thought of. An in-depth study of crystals would be really great for practicing  both color and light though.

Day 12: Earth Tones

I immediately went to the mountain landscape I draw often, inspired of course, by my everyday view of Pikes Peak.

Day 13/14: Color Matching from Life/Digital

And in case you were wondering what that everyday view looks like, I chose Pikes Peak once again for the color matching prompt. The colors were much darker than what I would usually choose when painting Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods, but the end result looked richer too.

Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods phone speedpaint

Here was the reference photo I used for color matching.


Day 16: Floral/Plant Study

I skipped Day 15 (Iridescence) and went straight for plant study. By the time I started this prompt, I’d already decided it would be my last. I took three succulents I’d recently beheaded and used them for my color study.

Unfortunately, I did these color studies at night in my dimly lit room. When I saw them in natural light the next day, the colors looked pretty different!


While I didn’t complete any more prompts, I went on to do two more Ghibli pages in the same style as the first three.


Soot sprites from Spirited Away


Ponyo sisters with jellyfish (Ponyo)

Keep an eye out – you may see these designs again in the future!

How I Discovered Korean Artist Mokwon Hur Whie (and Wish I Knew of Him Sooner)

I knew nothing about Korean art before going to Korea. At one point, I was well-versed in some areas of Japanese art, familiar with masters like Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige, and even contemporary artists like Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara, and Chiho Aoshima.

But I don’t think I knew even a single Korean artist.

Japanese Art in Korea

Yoshitomo Nara in the Gwangbok Lotte Department store

Seeking Out Art in South Korea

Once I got to Korea, I didn’t start seeking out art until one semester had passed. I visited the Busan Museum of Art (BMA) with high hopes and was disappointed.

None of the art stood out to me, although I saved the museum brochures in the hopes that I might get inspired by them later. Fortunately, the next set of exhibits at the BMA renewed my hope with some really beautiful artwork.

Madame Curie, a video installation by Jennifer Steinkamp stood out as the clear favorite on my second visit, but I also marveled over the precision of Lee Jean Ey/이진이 (Age-7624, oil on canvas, 2013) and the severity of Hwa Jai-Hyoung/황재형 (below).

(The romanization of these names might feel awkward to those who can read Korean. It feels awkward to me. But I stuck with the spellings given by the museum, hoping that these are the spellings the artists prefer.)

Hwa Jai-Hyoung 길고 긴 잠 / A Long- lasting Sleep, 80.3x116cm, Oil on Canvas, 1999~2007

I learned peripherally about Korean art movements, through whatever information was available through the museum’s English brochures.


Art in Surprising Places

It turns out Korea has art in a lot of places. Murals on restaurants and small businesses seem to be popular. Whenever there is major construction going on, the temporary walls built around the site are often decorated with public art.

I ran into the art of Mokwon Hur Whie when trying out a new cafe.


Exploring Korea, One Cafe at a Time

Living in a foreign country, I was always exploring new places. That month, I had been working on Nanowrimo – National Novel Writing Month – during which people take on the challenge of writing 50,000 words in one month. So I wasn’t doing as much sightseeing last November, but I was discovering cafes like nobody’s business.

That weekend’s new cafe was called Cafe Claire, a large well-lit space in Seomyeon, one of Busan’s popular hubs that has downtown-like feel.

Cafe Claire not only had your standard cafe fare but also made their own baked goods. And better yet, I was surprised to find that they had a third floor called the Somin Art Center. After finishing up my 1,667 words for the day, I made my way upstairs with carefully concealed excitement.


An Accidental Encounter with Mokwon Hur Whie

There was a cute patio outside and steep steps leading up to a barren looking space. A locked door to my right was supposed to be a theater space, and to the left, a gallery! I was there on the last day of this exhibit:


I stepped inside cautiously, where there was an older man and middle aged woman who welcomed me. One serious visitor stood observing a painting.


The walls were surprisingly colorful, some of them with multiple pieces of art stacked above and beside each other – a massive grid of lines and color. Upon examining a few pieces I quickly realized that all of the art here featured scenes of Busan, many of them places I visited regularly.


Bosu Book Alley;  Gukje (International) Market



Jagalchi Fish Market; Songdo Beach


To be honest, this was exactly the type of art that I’d been wanting to do while I was there: artwork capturing and memorializing scenes from my everyday life in Busan, Korea, scenes that to me, as a foreigner who has familial ties to this country, were made all the more exciting.

If I’m completely honest, I did have a moment of creative jealousy. Darn! My idea’s already been done!

But they were done so beautifully. I passed through the space, recalling memories of visiting my grandparents near Gamcheon culture village, delighting in the scenes of Yeongdo, where I commuted to work every day, and smiled at recollections of gathering with friends at Haeundae and Gwangalli beach.

Gamcheon Cultural Village



It turned out the old man manning the gallery was Mokwon Hur Whie himself! We chatted in my limited Korean and his limited English about his work. I only got that it was “Korean painting,” and being woefully ignorant about Korean art, didn’t really know what that entailed.

I received his business card, learning that he had a gallery in Gukje Market. He was selling books of his work, and I bought two, thinking that the scenes here would be as meaningful to my Korean mom as they were to me.

mokwon art book

It was quite the creatively satisfying day. I never did track down his gallery, located somewhere around Gukje Market, but I’m glad I brought of memento of his work home with me.

All of the images of Mokwon’s artwork were taken from his book, with the exception of one I took directly during this exhibit.

You can see more of his work on his Naver or Daum blogs, or even on his Facebook.