Since painting landscapes of Jeju Island and noticing that I was always drawn towards buildings more than "just" scenery, my fingers were itching to paint parts of Seoul!
A short trip to Seoul during November was the perfect starting point.
For once, the weather was on our side and Korea presented itself in bright fall colors. Perfect for traveling, and even better for sketching in my journal.
Visiting friends and having meetings to go to in the area of Hongdae led me down side roads I'd previously never set foot on. Those made for the perfect art journal inspiration and reference material with their mixture of old and new, traditional and modern.
Like with my previous trips to Seoul, I created a travel spread in my bullet journal to capture moments.
Going to Seoul is mostly a flurry of family events and work, with the occasional city excursions thrown in - but really, since it's my fourth year living in South Korea, I'm not particularly into tourist attractions anymore. I prefer to just visit my favorite regions, wander around, discover hidden places that had previously escaped my notice, and find inspiration for art and sketches.
So, since there isn't anything that screams "This is a VACATION" happening whenever we go to Seoul, these travel journal diaries make the whole trip more memorable and focus on the vacation aspect.
Seoul Travel Journal: Doodle Diary
I really like how this small page turned out. My bullet journal for most of 2017 is tiny, with pages smaller than A5, so it's hard to fit proper drawings in there. I went with a simple timeline for the three days and used the bottom of the page to draw a continuous city sketch showing the different locations we visited - from Incheon to Gangnam, Gangnam to Hongdae. And of course small doodle representations of the restaurants, cafes, and art shops that belong there.
It's a really simple way of "urban sketching" when you don't have time to, well, actually do urban sketching.
Hongdae Street Impressions - Quiet Autumn Morning
As you can see, I'm still in love with dark floral patterns.
After a sleep-over in Hongdae, the morning hours (ok, let's be honest: Midday) was very quiet. Hongdae is a part of Seoul that really only wakes up in the afternoon. Even most cafes and bakeries are closed until then, which still feels foreign to my European sensibilities.
Things to do in Hongdae: Take lots of Pictures
The quiet and emptiness of Hongdae's streets were perfect for taking long walks and taking pictures. I'm really self-conscious when it comes to getting my pictures taken in public, so not having people around is perfect for me. But even if you take your pictures on the main street during the busy afternoon, you won't attract attention: There are professional and amateur shootings happening at random corners all through-out Hongdae, so you won't stand out.
Those back streets of Hongdae (and Seoul in general) show that fascinating dichotomy of old and new, traditional and modern, and everything in between. Even just during one walk, you can discover small shops and restaurants, art galleries and parks, that combine decor and trinkets from all around the globe and all through Korea's history and culture. The colors are bright, vibrant, the architecture haphazard and adventurous, and nothing ever quite fits with what's next to it - I love the creative chaos that results.
The Gingko trees, too, were such a bright spot of color on this beautiful autumn day. While Seoul is a chilly nightmare during winter (as I write this, the temperatures creeped around -12 Celcius) but during November, it still graced us with mild weather and sunshine.
Things to do in Hongdae: Shopping
While Hongdae is a very touristy, shopping-friendly part of Seoul, I prefer the atmosphere of its hidden corners, back-streets, thrift-stores, art galleries and little shops over Gangnam's more polished look or the shopping maze of Myeongdeong.
Arts & Crafts in Seoul: Homi Art Shop in Hongdae
Being in Hongdae always results in a trip to the Homi art supplies store. You can find this treasure throve hidden between restaurants and clothing shops in Hapjeong. They have an extensive selection of both high-end professional art materials and creative craft supplies. Even if you aren't an artist, this is a great place to get stationery, pens, notebooks...
I stocked up on packaging material for my Etsy shop (Christmas season is coming up!), art tape, brushes of various Korean brands that I wanted to compare, new watercolor paper and a single pan of Winsor & Newton watercolor.
You can find my full art haul here!
Things to do in Hongdae: Cafe & Restaurant Hopping
Art supply cravings sated, an other appetite reared its head and I finally got to check out Cook And Book, a vegan cafe & restaurant hidden away close-by in Hapjeong that had been recommended to me by several fellow Vegans here in Korea. I'll post a separate review later on, but really wanted to share this picture of the building facade. The slightly off-kilter old building combined with the modern and simple signage and renovated elements is such a nice example of what I like about Korean restaurants and shops in general!
- Lazy Day on Jeju Island: Hidden Places
- Vegan Bakery in Seoul: The Bread Blue
- Arts & Crafts Markets on Jeju Island - A Photo Diary
- Travel to Jeju as a Vegan: Traditional Korean Restaurant
Things to do in Hongdae: Meet-Ups and Events
Seoul, and especially the area around Hongik University (which gives Hongdae its name), offers a wide variety of meet-ups and classes for every creative endeavor you might have, so definitely check out event schedules for the area online, or visit temporary exhibitions at galleries and museums.
NaNoWriMo: Writer Meet-Up in Seoul
Being in the area of Seoul during November meant I was able to, for the first time in now four years of participating in NaNoWriMo, join a write-in. This meet-up of like-minded writers at a cafe helped me catch up after a cold (and too many deadlines) before the trip to Seoul.
On all other days we spent in Seoul and Incheon, most of my writing got done on my phone, though, during long bus and metro rides.
The bullet journal travel layout I went with has those three columns for the three different days, so it left enough space for tiny notes and doodles. Above you can see my quick NaNoWriMo Write-In doodle memory, but I actually created a more elaborate watercolor illustration that you can now find as a printable sticker in my Freebie section. Perfect for decorating your writing notebooks or journals!
I try being more consistent with not only sketching but other creative habits like writing while I travel, which so often get lost when faced with daily schedules. It feels great to get inspired while on vacation and combine relaxation and socializing with creative work!
What to do in Hongdae: Concerts and Nightlife
I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of the Korean clubbing scene. But concerts? Jazz bars? Drinking wine for hours in some obscure corner? That's my thing.
There are both large and small concert venues, as well as a variety of cafes and bars that host events, in Hongdae, so pick and choose! Like I mentioned, Hongdae mostly comes alive in the late afternoon and evening.
Korean Singer & Songwriter Concert "Richard Parkers"
In the evening, we were invited to the concert of Richard Parkers. If you remember my post full of album cover illustrations, she's the wonderful singer I got to create the white tiger drawing for.
The concert was held at the "Whatever" concert location in Hongdae. Isn't that a great name? I'd have preferred "Wherever", but okay...
It was Richard Parkers' first complete solo concert and she rocked it with her powerful and vulnerable singing and her endearing MCing.
One thing I really enjoy at Korean concerts is the focus on communication between the artist and the viewers. Especially in smaller venues, having time between songs to talk about a certain memory that served as inspiration, or to share funny anecdotes, makes the concert feel more intimate and personal.
I got to talk to her again at a company dinner later that night and she's absolutely lovely - go check out her music! It's the perfect soundtrack for those melancholic but beautiful fall evenings. I'm a fan!
Awkward (but cute) picture at the company dinner after the concert.
Little Korean culture side note:
When speaking Korean (or really just living in Korea in general) age becomes this huge thing since all your social interactions and the way of speaking adjust for age differences. With her being born in the same year as I, we were automatically "same-age friends" and able to drop some of the formality that would otherwise be expected. Yay!
If you've got a day to spend freely while traveling to Seoul, take a stroll through Hongdae.
While the main streets are kind of overpriced and over-crowded, you can find a lot of hidden places, cafes, bakeries, art shops, and just fun street art and architecture once you wander off the most beaten paths.