If you're bored of all those images of women enjoying perfect lives, the illustrations of Hellen Jo will be a breath of fresh air.
Now more than ever we need characters in every medium we can relate to. It’s true that nowadays things have changed a lot, but still, I think we keep falling for very common gender stereotypes that end up getting engraved in our minds since we’re young. I remember loving all those classic children films but getting exasperated at princesses and other female characters for being quite passive in their stories. So when I discovered Daria, I was shocked at seeing a female character who didn’t really give a f**k about anything and still being super awesome. Although I didn’t get that much of the important matters of the movie at that age, I’ve always thought it was really amazing of them showing a strong female character that was entitled to feel that apathy for those things media tells us, women, we should be. Daria was one of the first characters that represented what many of us think and feel towards that image of femininity we’re supposed to follow.
Yes, Daria was really a mouthful of fresh air during the back nineties and, in a way, many artistic platforms and media have slowly changed and started depicting stronger and more relatable characters against established stereotypes. However, I still believe that even at a time when we have access to so many products and realities, there’s still so much to do. I see it quite clearly in the digital art world that somehow has advanced so much compared to other media. We see every day tons of new artists, new approaches, and styles that we could assume it’s as diverse as it could get.
That’s the reason why any time I see that one out of five artist that’s actually doing things differently I have to show them to the world, although their work speaks for itself. Not only because it’s refreshing to see something different, but also because I believe, as I mentioned at the beginning, that we really need relatable characters and stories that talk to us in a more honest way. The works I'm bringing today and that you’ve been seeing, belong to the Korean-American artist Hellen Jo and her amazing dark female characters that are everything but cute and nice.
In an interview she gave to Giant Robot, she explains that these characters are a reflexion of her careless attitude and personal perspectives towards the world. It’s that kind of obscure but honest portrayal of womanhood what probably has attracted the attention of her 36k followers. It isn’t just portraying cynical and bitter characters just because, it’s a way of reflecting a general feeling most of us have towards that perfect life we all try to achieve at least at one point of our lives but that it’s evident it’s really nonsensical.
Even the life of a successful artist isn’t as pretty and awesome as one would think. As she explains in that interview, not because you’re doing what you love doing means that your life is going to be a bliss. On the contrary, just as she does with words, her illustrations depict the darkness of a consuming passion that most of the time ends up paying near to nothing in material terms, and little in personal satisfaction that pushes you to carry on.
Still, although it gives the impression of being a pessimistic person creating equally pessimistic illustrations and characters, at the end of the day, these end up being empowering female characters showing us that womanhood isn’t about how feminine or soft we are, but about being truthful to who we are. These characters do inspire us, not to attempt achieving unattainable goals or lifestyles, but to embrace who we are even our cynicism, and use it as a tool to follow what we want in life for ourselves and the path we really want, rather than the one we’re told is the goal.
One of the things I really liked about this artist’s work and her perspective is that, as she says, she creates these “drawings as an extension of my own brand of femininity: rough, vulgar, ugly, tough, mean, bratty, bored.” As she continues, she likes portraying what she really feels most of the time, and that’s basically what people, in general, identify with. It’s that roughness, that vulgarity, that boredom portrayed in her illustrations, what makes her work so relatable and even inspiring.
If you want to see more of her work, take a look at her Instagram page: @helllllenjjjjjo
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