In the year 2017, I received an invitation from Andre to attend THU, a gathering of artists from different parts of the globe. It was there that I had the pleasure of meeting the incredible artist Kim Jung Gi. Witnessing his artwork firsthand left a strong impression on me, and I was deeply moved by his dedication to his artwork and his skills. It was a pleasure to watch Kim Jung Gi in action as he returned to THU, each time delivering a performance that surpassed the previous one. It was amazing to see this creation brought to life with every stroke of his pen. We met at every THU and each time our path crossed we greeted each other a bow. We shared some of our artworks together, it was an honor to have made a connection with such a talented artist.
Being a portrait artist, I am always looking for a subject, and admiring his work I thought it would be amazing to be able to create a portrait of him. I always want to have a personal connection with the people I do portraits of and seeing him at THU each year and being moved by his talents and kindness I wanted to ask him if he would like to be a subject for one of my portraits. In 2022 I talked to Andre the leader of THU and my friend Chris about doing his portrait, they thought Kim would be an awesome and interesting person to do a portrait of, and they encouraged me to ask him. I went to watch Kim’s live drawing session with 500 attendees, I found myself in the front row, and as Kim was finishing his drawing session and about to leave the stage. With my chance to ask him slipping away, I sprinted up to him and made my request, aware of how outlandish it might sound. As I stood there, I watched as Kim turned to his translator to convey my message. His eyes locked with mine, and with a smile that illuminated his face, he nodded in excitement. In that moment, I realized I was to have the opportunity to immortalize this master in a portrait.
The next day, we organized a photo reference session, we only had a short time before he had to catch his flight to Paris for another event. Despite him having a tight schedule he made sure the experience was fun and enjoyable. He was eager and excited for the portrait, he wanted to see it right away but was a little disheartened when I told him it takes me a month or two. I remember telling Kim that a lot of my subjects feel vulnerable getting their portrait done, I create them to be as honest as possible but sometimes it can feel quite exposing. He told me the portrait is mine and I should feel free to do what I want and that he believes in me. As we started to take some photos, he pointed his finger towards the camera. While I initially found it odd, I thought it was an engaging pose and so I went along with it.
However, just a few days later when I got home, I received the heartbreaking news of Kim Jung Gi's passing. I questioned whether I should continue with the portrait. The portrait has much more importance to it now, this quite possibly would be Kim Jung Gi’s official last portrait. Could I take that responsibility? Or should I?
I contemplated the underlying motivation behind my art and my preference for portraiture. My works are personal, featuring portraits of individuals close to me, conveying their unique beauty and strength to the world. These portraits go far beyond their physical appearance, they aim to reveal the essence of their beings. My art has always been about sharing how I see these people and give insights into their extraordinary stories.
Upon revisiting the photo reference of Kim Jung Gi, I was reminded of his finger pointing to the camera. It hit me hard, it had so much more meaning to it now. He was pointing at me; he was pointing at all of us. Kim Jung Gi didn’t want his portrait to be about him, he wanted it to be about us. It was an invitation to look within, believe in ourselves, and step into our potential. It is our turn to pick up the brush and show the world what we are capable of. This insight left an incredible mark on me, and I felt compelled to complete the portrait as a tribute to this inspiring message.
Creating this portrait was a profound experience for me, it was one of the most challenging portraits I have created and one that I am most proud of. I am honored to have been given the opportunity to do so by Kim Jung Gi. My hope is that it accurately reflects his intended message and that he would be proud of the final result.