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3D render of AUB campus halls with a glowing bunny character doing yoga, purple background.

Yena Cho – Growing as an artist and illustrating AUB Campus Halls

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When growing up, my main source of entertainment was reading books, due to the fact I had a grand total of one hour of TV time a day, shared between me and my two sisters (Asian parents – you know the drill). Adventuring with all the exciting characters in their unique, vivid worlds was a big part of my childhood, and was big fuel for my creativity, leading me to express that through my own different character designs and stories from a young age, which continued developing into many different art styles, mediums and pieces, until now.

Having this background, when searching for different career paths at the ripe age of 17, the illustration industry caught my eye while going through many careers websites, and so I decided from then that I wanted to become an illustrator, just like the ones who designed the books I grew up reading and loving.

Coming to AUB was actually quite an unexpected decision. I went to a careers fair with my college, already set on a different university, and accidentally made eye contact with the smiling rep on the AUB stall, who after reeling me in for the promotional spiel, handed me one of the Open Day leaflets. I didn’t think much of it, until I actually went to view the university that was my number one on my list in person and found that, to my disappointment, it didn’t match my hyped-up expectations. That’s when I saw the AUB leaflet I’d left on my desk and I decided to give it a shot, snoozing the entire three-hour drive to the Open Day with zero expectations.

To my surprise, AUB was everything I’d been looking for that the other uni didn’t really offer – the lecturers were all lovely and really engaging (I think the beach was mentioned maybe six times); the campus itself was so colourful and open having that art school vibe, something the other uni was lowkey lacking; the area was so lovely (did I mention there’s a beach here?) and the course itself looked like so much fun. So that's how I ended up coming all the way from the Welsh countryside to the beachside town of Bournemouth (the weather is a big plus).

The BA (Hons) Illustration course itself has been quite a journey. A trait I had in my working process before was that once I had an idea, I just wanted to go for it, without much or any experimenting and changes, because I thought it was already good enough. The many workshops and projects presented in the course, all of which I’ve really enjoyed, really forced me to come out of my box and start getting much more comfortable trying new things and challenging myself more.

The lecturers are all very easy and friendly to talk to, which is good for me because I ask around a million questions. Many of them aren’t afraid to give the feedback you need to improve your work to you straight. At first, a lot of the feedback stung – with the mindset I had then, I didn’t like being told that my work, which, in my eyes, was already perfect, needed more development and currently wasn’t quite good enough. However, I know now that it was with the best of intentions and in hindsight, I’m much more grateful for the lecturers that were honest and straight to the point in their feedback, instead of glossing over my mistakes for the sake of my feelings. In the industry, clients are probably going to be a lot blunter than that.

Due to the extensive feedback, I’ve really been able to grow as an artist, and have been able to try out many new ways of working and getting much more comfortable in experimenting and continuously developing my work to be even better.

The peak of the work during my first year on this course was the designs I created for our final Individual Project on a free 3D design website called Womp (I’m not a Blender level 3D artist yet – the donut tutorial makes my brain melt).

My first-year uni accommodation has been Campus Halls – any future students reading this, I highly recommend it! Due to this, I decided to recreate the rooms in 3D to be used as promotional material for the residence, fully decorated and with a little bunny character living its best life, just like I did in my own room. It took a lot of work, as it was my first time experimenting with 3D design, but with a lot of online tutorials and help from my tutors, I managed to make designs that I’m proud of. It was another box I managed to break out of; with the majority of my work, I’ve been containing myself to the safety of 2D designs on programs such as Procreate, so it was very refreshing trying new things, and seeing it all come together well.

I’m excited to see what we’ll continue exploring throughout the Illustration course, and I'm very glad to have come here and made all the friends I have made so many precious memories with!

Explore more of Yena's work on Instagram.

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