As Coronavirus took hold of Korea in February, I started seeing a LOT more cardboard boxes put out for recycling on the street. Social distancing had people, including myself, ordering more online instead of going to the store. All the piles of boxes reminded me of an artist I met at the Seoul Art Book Fair last year, Tsukue Akimoto.
He is a cartoonist and collage artist who, among other mediums, draws and collages on cardboard. He explained he got his interesting boxes from the supermarket, as a lot of produce is imported from other countries. My heart leaped in delight at his at his quirky, upcycling work, and I have been wanting to try something similar ever since.
It only took a pandemic and a nation changing its spending habits to finally get my butt into gear. I kept my eyes open for any interesting-looking boxes, but none really inspired me. That is, until I got pizza to go one day. (If you’re ever in Seoul, Monster Pizza near Hongdae station has pretty good pizza by the slice.) Pizza, you are delicious and also my muse.
I shared this little dude on Instagram, and my IG friend Dominque at 3Cstyle suggested to make it into a series about what was happening in people’s lives because of the virus. It just so happened I had started jotting down some of the nice, inspiring stories coming out of the outbreak, so the idea seed was planted.
A few weeks later, I started painting.
A Piggy Bank of Love
The six o’clock news (covering regional stories) reported on a beautiful act of kindness from one youth center. The children of the youth center, elementary-school aged, had been saving their money since January for their first overseas trip. But when the Coronavirus super cluster blew up in Daegu, the children decided they wanted to donate their piggy banks to help the people fighting the outbreak. So they wrote letters of encouragement and donated 11 piggy banks amounting to over 200,000 KRW (~200 USD) to Daegu. It just doesn’t get any sweeter than that. My heart warms every time I think of those little baby angels.
Daejeo Green Tomatoes
The Daejeo area (now part of Busan) is famous for its green tomatoes, and the area has a big tomato festival every year. Of course, this year it was cancelled because of Coronavirus. This was a big blow to the Daejeo tomato farmers, but they made the best of a difficult situation and donated a mountain of boxes of tomatoes to the Daegu region. (I wrote down a lot of these stories when Daegu was really suffering.) This was another inspiring act of selflessness and giving in times of hardship that really moved me. My heart goes out to all the agricultural and fishery communities who are suffering right now.
Fellow collage artist Anne Heffernen shared news on one of her IG posts of another great story. The delivery staff of An Post, the postal service in Ireland, will begin “checking in” on older and vulnerable people along their route at least once a week. An Post also delivered 5 million postage-paid postcards to homes around the country, including prisons, nursing homes and homeless facilities, for people to write notes to loved ones. As a postcard and snail mail lover, this news really warmed my heart. I hope people take advantage of this service to send more mail! You can read the details here.
There’s a lot I want to critique about this last piece, but I’ll resist. The point of this series is to commemorate inspiration and hope through the meditative act of painting, so in that respect I’ll say I succeeded. As for the letters of love coming out of the exhaust pipe, I didn’t really have an explanation until my mom observed, “well the more miles those trucks travel, the more letters get sent. So it makes sense.” Thanks, mom.
Finally, here are two more stories in the same vein that I did earlier in painted paper collage:
If you’d like to see (and hear) behind the scenes, I’ve been sharing the process videos on my YouTube channel.
I sincerely hope you all are staying healthy, safe and well. If you have seen or heard of any positive or inspiring stories, please share! I’d love to hear (and maybe paint them!)