Lee Me Kyeoung is an artist Born in 1970 in Chungbuk, Korea. She sees beauty even in mundane everyday objects. Her sketches of local convenience stores are a charming and skillful take on what other people might miss out.
Lee has been documenting these little corner shops for the past 20 years. “There were not many things to see and play like these days,” says the artist about her youth. “But there was a time when I was happy to have a coin in my hands and run to a shop and hang out with friends gathered in front of it.”
She gently accompanies us with her brushes peeking through peach blossoms or immersed in a snowy landscape, the tiny shops that can be found all over South Korea, from Mokpo to Jeju and Seoul to Gapyeong.
Lee Me Kyeoung spent hours and hours talking to the store owners and weaving their stories and then turning them into color in her delicate paintings. Her most recent works encapsulate the experience of standing in front of the shops capturing every detail: the multicolored merchandise stacked evenly, the advertisements posted in the windows, the bicycles parked in front and the sloping tile roofs.
“When I started to draw small stores back in late 90s, people hated to see outdated and obsolete things,” Lee said during an interview with The Korea Herald.
Lee has produced more than 450 pen drawings on mom-and-pop stores in small villages across the nation in the past two decades since 1998.
“They tend to think of these old corner stores as remnants of poverty from the past, something that should be forgotten. But I didn’t think so.”
After graduating from prestigious art schools — Seoul Arts High School and Hongik University, she felt suffocated because she didn’t know what to draw. “I always got ahead of the rest, paving my own path. One day, I realized that there was no way for me to go.”
“You can make paintings that your professor and audience may praise, or something trendy and hip. But you can’t make yourself keep going in that way without an earnest desire to draw something that constantly inspires you,” she said.