‘Annyeong haseyo!’ (‘Hello’ in Korean) I was recently commissioned to create a large 3d street painting for the renowned Shinsegae Department Store in Seoul, South Korea. I had never traveled to Korea and was very excited about the opportunity to go there and share my work with the citizens of Seoul.
When I arrived the temperatures were between 38 F/ 3 C and 48 F/ 8 C, which is definitely on the chilly side for a street painting event! Not only that, rain and snow were in the forecast for the week. This was going to be interesting! Fortunately I had recommended a tent with heaters to work under for the duration of the extreme weather, which worked out fairly well, sans a minor water leakage problem on the second day. (Nothing a few towels and buckets couldn’t correct.) An added benefit was that the subway ran under the area where I was working so my tent turned into a kind of oncheon (Korean bath house) with steam rising off the surface and keeping the working environment nice and toasty. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions considering the circumstances!
While I was there I met some local university art students who had created their own 3d anamorphic street paintings the week before I arrived. They had created 2 large permanent pieces on a street outside of the Performing Arts Center. That’s right, permanent! They worked in teams and used oil house paint to make the art work; they did a great job, especially for their first time out! I think Seoul will be seeing more work from these young talents. Congrats to Il-ho, Jong-Hun and your entire teams!
During the work week I was treated to local Korean culture by my gracious and generous hosts. Soo Choi and Susanna Choi were my interpreters and Joowon Park was my client liaison. I owe them my gratitude for taking me under their wings and showing me Seoul from the local point of view. Thanks girls!
My favorite part of Seoul has got to be the food – I love Korean food and had a chance to try all sorts of amazing dishes. Every place we ate at was scrumptuous – fresh, delicious and surprisingly light. I tried dok galbi, bibimbap and traditional Korean BBQ; exotic teas, rice sweets, noodles, dumplings and bean pastes. All amazing. And you gotta love the kimchi!
Besides the food the shopping was hands down one of the most interesting things to experience in Seoul. Everybody shops! It’s a shopper’s heaven – from the open air markets of Dongdaemun and Namdaemun to hip department stores like Shinsegae, which caters to the designer clientele. There just so happened to be sales going on while I was there, which makes it really hard to resist! They even have Duty Free shopping floors with discounted merchandise – did I mention it was heaven?
I did manage to squeeze in a day of site seeing which included the Gyeongbokgung Palace, which also includes the Korean National Folk Museum and the National Palace Museum. They also have a very colorful Royal Guard performance throughout the day for Palace visitors, re-enacting the ritual changing of the guard ceremony. I also had a chance to see Nanta, a fun and energetic dance/acrobatic performance conceptualized around a Korean kitchen that plays to sell out crowds every night.
Seoul offers many interesting places to check out, like Changdeokgung Palace, which is a World Heritage site, known for its spectacular gardens. (Spring or summer would be the ideal time to see this.) There is also the War Memorial, Olympic Park, Namsan Tower and many other points of interest. Too much to see and do in a few days, which means I must return.
So I finished my painting on Friday morning, the tent was removed and the painting unveiled to the public. I took off for the above site seeing and came back on my last day to touch up the painting for the press photo shoot. We had a blast with that – the photographers really got into having some viewer participation with customers interacting with the painting. The children they used were really interested in what I was doing – kids and chalk, it’s a natural! Susanna and I got into the act later and had some fun leaping off of the Shinsegae building in the painting. We had to drag ourselves away from it or they would have gone on all day taking photos, and I had to catch a plane. All in all a successful result. The clients loved it and my hat is off to them for using the street painting experience as a unique and novel way to say thanks to their customers.
Special thanks to Kyunghee Lee, Julia Lee and everyone at Shinsegae for their project facilitation!