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Meet Sun-Mo Koo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sun-Mo Koo.

Sun-Mo, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have always done some kind of art for as long as I can remember. I loved using all sorts of mediums and being hands on with everything I did. Being an active kid helped with my creativity and I often took inspiration from my hobbies, which at the time were horseback riding, ballet and swimming. Art has always been a part of my life and my passion for it never faded; however, the priority it had varied from time to time.

I played tennis at the age of 11 and at some point that had become more of a priority than art. I played on a high school team and participated in outside tournaments within Southern California. I worked hard for many years to get to the top 50 in Southern California and top 100 nationally, but it was not enough for the universities I wanted to go to. I got recruited by Allegheny College and also received scholarship to attend there. It was difficult to juggle all of my academics, art shows, tennis training and tournaments all at the same time; however, learning how to do that may have been the best thing for me and the life I am currently living.

After attending Allegheny College for three years, I had accomplished becoming #1 on the team while receiving awards from the school and the tennis association. Although I had done great work, I was still unsatisfied. I knew I was not happy and I knew I was not going to continue tennis after college. So, it came down to the decision of leaving the school. It was tough saying goodbye to a life I had known for three years. I had to leave all of my friends, teachers, coaches and teammates. It was not easy to end my tennis career, but it was something I needed to do.

I proceeded to make an art portfolio to attend ArtCenter College of Design. I got accepted into the Illustration program and attended the school in Fall 2016. The experiences I had from the previous school really helped me survive the first several terms at ArtCenter. I think knowing how to schedule and organize the amount of work I had to do while working three jobs really helped me. Although there were many tough days at school, I felt like I finally found where I needed to be. Going to school at ArtCenter may have been the hardest, but most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life. I am still currently a student, but I will be graduating in the Spring of 2020. After I graduate, I hope to get into more children’s book publishing as well as doing some gallery work on the side.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It’s been a tough journey to get to where I am right now. I have been down different paths before going to art school, but the most difficult one was when I was still an active tennis player. I often felt pressure from my parents because of the expectation that I needed to be one of the best to play and attend a reputable university. Which meant spending most of my weekends traveling and playing at tournaments. I also felt like I lost a lot of friends because I was never able to make time for them. It was definitely a huge mental battle for me as I was growing up. These were challenges I struggled with all the time, but they were all valuable learning experiences.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
A lot of the illustrations I create are done with pen and ink first and then colored using a digital program. Recently, I have gotten into more sculptural work in ceramics. I love working with all of these mediums, but I think the challenge now is to find a happy medium to marry the 2-dimensional and sculptural work that I do. I think I am most proud about how much I have learned and grown as an artist since starting art school. There is still much more to learn and the future couldn’t be more exciting!

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
There are too many to name. I would credit my family, teachers, coaches and friends because they all played a role in my life which helped me become who I am today. They were huge influences to the work I make and there are no words to describe how thankful I am for having these people in my life.

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