Mike Stewart is a foreigner who has lived in Korea for over four years and has been teaching art in Seoul for around the same amount of time. He is now working on opening the first foreign-owned art academy in Korea, to be named Jankura Artspace. The classes being taught at present are popular with both foreigners and Koreans. They operate at The Big Green Artspace in Myeongdong and Cheongnyangni.

Art is everywhere you go in Seoul; the city lives, breathes and oozes art. From the streets of Hongdae to the galleries of Myeongdong to the independent film screenings in Kyunghidan. However, for those of us who don’t naturally have an artistic bone in our bodies, or didn’t realise until we moved to Seoul that we wanted to be involved in the arts scene, there is a significant lack of places to go to have help kickstarting our newly founded creativity.

Fanfare please.

Enter, Jankura Artspace. Chincha asked Mike Stewart some questions to find out more.

Why do you want to set up Jankura?

I want to provide a place where anyone with an interest in making or learning to make art can come together, communicate and create friendships. There are already lots of art academies in Korea, but language barriers and lack of information tend to leave expats in the dark or unable to find and attend such places. The classes and workshops at Jankura will be held in English for both expats and Koreans to enjoy.

Have your existing classes been as popular with Koreans as with Westerners?

Originally the classes were designed for Koreans who wanted to practice both English and art together, but most of the current students are actually from abroad. I’ve got students from all over the world, many of them are exchange students and English teachers. It’s been a bit difficult getting Koreans to join the structured lesson classes. They do come to the life drawing sessions though. I’m hoping to find the right places to market and promote our classes to the Korean community, but haven’t had much luck yet.

What inspires you most to teach art?

This is what I’ve always wanted to do. I love seeing improvement in a student’s drawing or painting ability after they’ve taken a few classes. It’s a really cool feeling. As a naturally artistic person, a lot of things I take for granted, come hard to others. It’s nice to see that just about everybody can learn to draw or at least improve with practice.

What is your main driving force for starting up a new art space?

As I said before, I want to bring something new to Seoul. This is something that’s missing here, and I can be the one to bring it, I’ll try like hell to get it going.
Also, I want to make my time here worthwhile for one. I came to Korea to pay off student loans, but I want to be here with a greater purpose than pulling in a paycheck. Teaching art doesn’t pay as well as English in Korea, but it’s far more rewarding for me to be doing what I love.

What is the most rewarding thing about teaching art?

When it reaches around the 8 week mark. That’s usually when I see the “ahah moment” in my students. Something just clicks and they start to put all the little tricks I’ve taught them into play and we can see honest improvement in their drawings.

What is your favourite kind of art, both in general and to create yourself?

I’m a printmaker, so I lean toward that medium most of the time, but since starting up life drawing sessions over a year ago, I’ve gotten really interested in working from the live model. It’s the ultimate challenge for me.

What types of classes do you provide, and where can people find more information and sign up?

Currently I teach:

1. Drawing for all levels. We start with the basics for beginners (perspective, proportions, shading…) using pencil and then move on to other media, styles and techniques.

2. Watercolor and acrylic painting, focusing more on how to handle the materials and creating finished paintings.

3. Life drawing sessions with nude and costumed models.

4. Printmaking workshops about once a month where people can learn to make monotypes, relief prints and even printed t-shirts.

5. I also take people outside to paint around the city.

For info on classes times and prices, people can visit my website where I have a page set up for Jankura Artspace. Usually people contact me via email and we go over what kind of classes and schedule they’d like.


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