An Interview: Ileana Soon



Ileana Soon

What's your name and what do you do? 

Hello! My name is Ileana and I am an illustrator/designer currently living and working in LA. Though the first thing that comes to mind with an illustrator is the conception of someone who paints/draws, I see the bulk of my work as visual problem-solving, beyond just painting pretty pictures (though sometimes that sells the idea!)


How long have you been creating art? 

As children, I believe we all create art, but I did not get to it seriously until I was in my early 20s, when I started drawing and then subsequently when I enrolled at the Art Center College of Design.


What was one of the most challenging pieces you've created? 

Every piece is a challenge! For me, it is my deepest intent for each of my paintings to evoke an emotional response from the viewer (in whatever form that comes in).

Professionally speaking, one of my first editorial assignments out of school was for the Wall Street Journal. It was a real challenge in the sense that I did not want to let my art director down, and wanted to do a really amazing job for him. It became challenging as almost every decision I made visually was questioned by myself again and again. Constant doubt can be hard to fight against in the pursuit of good work. I really have to give all the praise in the world to my art director Keith Webb, for taking a chance on me.

The Benefits of a Little Small Talk Ileana Soon - Seen on Wall Street Journal


What's one of your favorite pieces? 

Hmmm, it is very difficult to choose because it may be the artistic equivalent of asking: 

Who is your favorite child?

So perhaps diplomatically I would have to concur that my favorite piece is the next one!

Unrelated to my work I just love looking at all of M Sasek's work. I cannot narrow it down to a favorite piece, but if I had to pick a favorite book, it would have to be: This is London.

NYC! - Ileana Soon


Do any of the pieces you've created have a personal story behind it? 

Yes! Most of my personal pieces (almost all travel related) have stories behind them. I made a painting/poster for St Michael's Mount, a place I was so lucky to have been able to travel to a few years ago in Cornwall, England (there is also one in France - but this is not the one in France just to clear things up!).

St Michael's Mount - Ileana Soon

My friend and I took a train all the way from Brighton to see it, as I had read about how beautiful it was in a Lonely Planet guide. Unfortunately, we arrived too late in the evening to watch the sunset as we had originally planned, and thus promised ourselves that we would wake up earlier the next day to watch the sunrise. I am glad we did because what you see in the poster best captures my experience of this. The man you see in the image is also a man we met who woke up even earlier than we did to photograph this. It was also great, because as the morning tide came in low enough to have its walkway appear, which was good because later on, we would've had to use the boat to get to the castle.  

What are your favorite color schemes to work with? 

For me, I use the color schemes that best communicate the emotions I am trying to evoke, so it can be anything, really. However I must admit that I am mostly drawn to more calmer scenarios in my personal work, thus perhaps one might notice that I tend to use blue and green a lot!


What inspired the design for The Piano? 

The Piano is one of the most emotionally haunting movies I have ever watched. I just love the work of Jane Campion. The movie felt like an oil painting brought to life. The presence of the sea within its context, the forest, and the time period reminded me a lot of painters like John Singer Sargent. It also reminded me of one of my favorite oil paintings by Winslow Homer called The Fog Warning. 

In trying to come up with a visual way of trying to deliver a design that would best evoke the same emotional response I felt whilst watching this movie, I had to ask myself: what other visual equivalents have I experienced that are similar to the same emotions I experienced whilst watching this movie? The answer was very clear to me. Nothing truly rivals the experience of seeing an oil painting in person. Standing in front of a Homer painting of the sea one can almost hear its waves as one studies the brushstrokes. I thought: how wonderful it must be if the end credit sequence for The Piano could feel the same way? Almost like an oil painting brought to life.


Fun Questions

If you were stranded on an island what 5 items would you have with you? 

  • Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
  • A radio to get myself out of there
  • mosquito repellent
  • nice, sturdy, reliable tent
  • Bear Gryll's Survival Guide for Life

If you could meet any artist who would you meet? 

I absolutely love Degas' work. If I ever had an opportunity I would have loved to have seen his process for the creation of his beautiful sculptures, paintings, and drawings.


What's your favorite genre to create motion/illustration in? 

I absolutely love romcoms! There is soooo much potential I think that could be capitalized in title sequences and posters, and there are some amazing ones, but I would absolutely jump on a project like that if ever there was an opportunity. I also think that it is very obvious that I love all things travel, so anything to do with that would make me a very happy duck.


What's your favorite medium to work in? 

I love digital because it is so fast, but traditionally it would have to be gouache.


If you could have a super power what would it be? 

I would love to be physically indestructible - like Wolverine, but maybe without the claws (laughs).