david park pen and paper illustration digital artwork drawings
Pen & Paper: David Park
Streetwear and pop culture illustrations made using only an iPad.

New York City-based creative David Park has amassed quite a following on Instagram (120,000 and counting) — despite the fact that he describes his digital illustrations spotlighting the latest streetwear items, celebrities, and luxury cars as a “hobby.” Depending on the subject, it normally takes 30 minutes for David Park to create an artwork on his iPad. But for any piece, Park emphasizes that the objects or people he spotlights have to be “relevant and easy for anyone to relate to,” as he tells HYPEBEAST.

The self-taught artist has collaborated on numerous projects with sneaker and clothing brands such as adidas Originals and Billionaire Boys Club. One of his more standout partnerships is with Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City’s Lower East Side, where he designed a series of T-shirts featuring his original illustrations. “I was so proud that I got to work on such a project that I took my parents there multiple times,” he says.

Read our Pen & Paper interview below to learn about Park’s creative process, commissioned projects and biggest inspirations. You can find more of his work by visiting his online portfolio.

“I keep drawing things I like until I own them!”When did you first start drawing? How did you develop your style?

I started drawing back in elementary school. Back then, there was a kid in my class who was really good at drawing and I wanted to be like him so I started copying him. I was never as good as he was, but since then drawing became my hobby.Growing up, I also read a lot of comic books (Dragon Ball, Slam Dunk, Dr. Slump, etc). I picked up certain cartoon languages here and there on how to draw things and express emotions. My style is pretty much a collection of all of that.

Did you study art in school?

My whole family is full of scholars and my parents didn’t want me to pursue art so I had to learn it by myself. They thought becoming an artist meant living poor.

Do you consider your illustrations a hobby or a full-time job?

It’s a hobby, but something I’m really passionate about. It’s therapy for me. I usually draw in my spare time when I’m taking a break from work so they usually take about 30 minutes to an hour.

From Kanye West to Air Jordan 1s, your works are heavily influenced by pop culture and streetwear. Why are you fascinated by these subjects? 

I guess because I was so broke growing up? LOL. As a kid I wasn’t able to afford the cool sneakers and my parents didn’t like me participating in anything related to hip hop, rap music, baggy clothes, etc. So, I’ve always wanted to be a part of street culture because of its diversity, colorfulness, style, attitude, and way of expression. Now, I keep drawing things I like until I own them!

“I like to find the latest, hottest topics and illustrate them in my style.”Who are your biggest inspirations?

Alphonse Mucha, Norman Rockwell, Takashi Murakami, Kim Jung Gi, Akira Toriyama, OSGEMEOS, Hajime Sorayama, etc. I really love how these artists give life to their characters and how animated they are. The line weight, colors, expressions, body language, angles… there’s so much to learn.


How long does it take you to create these digital illustrations? Which one was the most difficult to create?

I usually finish my illustrations in 30 minutes. I like to find the latest, hottest topics and illustrate them in my style. It’s very important for them to be relevant and easy for anyone to relate to.

I also like the unpolished, unfinished nature of my drawings. They take away all the stress, there’s no pressure and I feel free. However, once I start working on a paid commission I start feeling super nervous and pressured. All my tiny mistakes seem amplified and I have to redo my pen strokes over and over again.

From start to finish, walk us through your creative process.

First, I try to find something online that inspires me. I usually know right away because they challenge me like, “How can I reinterpret this where the motion and message are exaggerated and viewers will find it funny?” I then try to tie it with any related pop culture references and jokes. Once I know what I want to draw I do a quick sketch with a pencil — very loose, fluid, rough, and messy. When I have the basics down I bring that image onto my iPad and start drawing it digitally. This last part takes the least amount of time.

“It’s amazing to see how people draw the same topic differently.”What are some of the most challenging commissions that you’ve been requested to create?

I had a chance to design characters for the legendary Katz’s Deli. They made T-shirts out of my illustrations and had the whole storefront decorated in my characters. It was an incredible experience. I was so proud that I got to work on such a project that I took my parents there multiple times. As for the most challenging, a lot of parents want me to illustrate their babies. But their babies are so cute and pretty! There’s no way that my drawing will look better than them. I’m always scared that they’d look at the final result and ask for a refund!

Describe the community of illustrators on Instagram. Are there any groups you’re involved with or artists that you’ve done collaborations with? 

There are a lot of illustrators on Instagram that I follow and respect whether they are fashion illustrators, sneaker illustrators, sneaker sculptors, etc. I constantly chat with them and get inspired by the way they develop their craft and present them.

What outlets do you recommend for budding illustrators to learn more about the craft?

For anyone starting I would like to tell them to take in and learn from as many styles as possible. I love diversity. It’s amazing to see how people draw the same topic differently. I believe your unique style is what separates you from others and being unique is as important as being good. Searching globally and trying out many different mediums would definitely help you develop your own unique style.

Any upcoming projects you are currently working on?

I started brainstorming on my next illustrated book. Also, my friends and I are planning on doing an international sneaker art project this year. It should be fun. Other than that, I’ll keep drawing daily until somebody wants to work with me!


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David Park
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