Jaehoon Kim
Jaehoon Kim

Interview with Jaehoon Kim

Jaehoon Kim has been working in the game and movie industry for approximately 6 years and is currently working as a character artist at Naughty Dog. . We’ve the pleasure to interview him about his work and passion.

IT’S ART : Where does your passion for art comes from?

Jaehoon Kim : My passion for art began when I was in middle school, when I first started using my pencil to draw comics Not only did I really enjoy, but my friends liked them as well, which encouraged me to keep at it. It was in high school that I started actually studying drawing, and it was then that I saw the Final Fantasy VIII cinematic trailer. Seeing it left me breathless. That’s what first inspired me to want to create characters that move in three-dimesional space.

I.A. – You’ve made artworks for the game industry and for personal projects. Can you speak about the difference ( if any ) in the creative process ? 

J.K. – The biggest difference is the conception process. For personal projects, it is about what inspires me and my own original ideas. As such, I like to take my time to build upon my ideas. I like to begin with a big overall idea and story in which I then fill in the details. It is while creating such a story that I am able to begin visualizing the character.

On the other hand, for game industry projects it is about listening to and understanding the director’s vision and expressing my talent within that vision. Following trends may be satisfactory, but our team strives to stay ahead of it in order to ensure the highest degree of quality. For that purpose, we gather and share references and give each other contructive criticism so that we can make the best character possible. For instance, when I was working on the Infected, we shared references such as photos of dead bodies and spoiled and moldy food. Of course, we waited until after we ate to see them.

I.A. – Can you give us an overview of your role and work made for The Last of Us ?

My role was that of a character artist. I worked on the cannibal leader David along with other cannibals, as well as fireflies and other characters. In the middle of the project, I began focusing on the infecteds. 


I.A. – What seems the most important when working on a game like the Last of Us ? 

J.K. -What I felt the most strongly while working on The Last of Us is how important it is to be able to understand the director’s vision. As this is an original IP, we wanted the infected to be different from all the creatures that came before them. We were able to accomplish this through back and forth communication between the director, the concept artist, and the team.

I.A. –  At what part(s) do you spend the most of time ? Why ?

J.K. -For me, concept and modeling take the most time. That is because there needs to be a good model in order for there to be good results. The model has to be good enough to generate normal, cavity, and occlusion maps. A house cannot be built upon sand.

I.A. – How do you think your style has evolved to today’s ? why ?

J.K. -In the past, I prefered to sculpt human and animal anatomy. Back then, Renaissance sculptures provided great references. I was particularly inspired by their poses and gestures. These days, I like to make creatures and sci-fi robots. The reason for that is because they allow for greater design freedom and imagination. Of course, the anatomy that I studied in the past has been of great help to me by providing a firm base.


I.A. –  What are your influences ?

J.K. – Many excellent artists and photographers these days post their work on websites such as flickr, cghub, and 3dtotal, and I often find their work inspirational. There are also greats artists on the concept and character teams, and we influence each other by working together.

I.A. –  How would you qualify the importance of an artist identity and how to find its way in this business ?

 J.K. -An artist’s identity is very important. I remember once having this exact conversation with our art director. He mentioned the iconic design of the TIE fighter from Star Wars–people recognize even if they just see the sillhouette. It was a great point. Based on my experience, although realism is important, an iconic design, which comes from the artist’s imagination, has far greater longevity in the public’s eye. Works that are too similar to one another are usually soon forgotten.

I.A. What would be your advices for a new comer artist ?

 J.K. -Although this is typical, I would advise that the basics are very important. These days, because of new techniques such as photo bashing and 3D scanning, people are able to work faster but they also skip over some of the basics. However, if an artist has a strong grasp of the basics, he is ultimately more flexible and isn’t limited by the techniques.   

I.A. –  Anything else ?

J.K. – Thank you for the interview. I have a lot of admiration for this website for posting the work of and interviewing so many artists.

Jaehoon Kim’s Official Website

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