So I’m not in Korea, but I was still able to see BTS perform on day 2 from the United States. It was exhilarating to pull up to the movie theater to watch. As I stood waiting in line, I remembered when I first found BTS. It wasn’t actually that long ago. It was literally fall-winter of 2021. I had started using TikTok in 2021 in an attempt to market my art and I ended up finding a lot of interesting and fun content creators. One day while scrolling, I came across a compilation to the tune of Justin Bieber’s “Lolly.” The creator had zoomed into a shelf of photos of memorabilia of a group of guys on a beach. For all I knew, they were guy friends that the creator knew at the beach. (I know I was a naive, sweet summer child.) Then, jumpcut to this obviously buff guy in an all-white ensemble with short hair, buzzed at the sides holding a turquoise microphone. I had no idea who he was. I assumed he was an entertainer of some sort and the creator was paying homage with a thirst trap. I just thought that he was cute, so I left a like and moved on.
However, I didn’t realize that TikTok thought that I knew this was Namjoon. So thanks to the algorithm, as I kept scrolling, I kept seeing this same guy and sometimes he’d be with six other guys. They’d get into different shenanigans on what looked like a Youtube channel, so I decided to actually look at the hashtags and search Run BTS and I’ve been sucked into the fandom ever since. The funny thing is that I looked at their game/variety show content first and then got into their music. The chemistry among the members seemed cool and they all seemed really funny. Then, I messed around and heard their music. So, you’re telling me that Run BTS is just the side bit and they’re a band?! One obsession with Epiphany and Dimple later, and I’ve got a Love Yourself t-shirt.
Going into the theater was exhilarating and all the Armys were so obvious, sporting purple masks and eyes sparkling with excitement. The concert was fantastic and in the midst of the pandemic, it felt great to be surrounded by people who loved something as much as I did and were shouting and singing along. Not only was their dancing and singing electric, but almost like a cliche drama, it started to rain so they were constantly slicking their hair back. I love listening to BTS’s music because not only do they cover typical pop group topics like crushes and love, but they also talk about a lot of inward-directed narratives, like loving yourself, not loving yourself, being depressed, feeling stagnated, even navigating what it means to pretend to be someone for the sake of someone else. Essentially, I love their feel-good dance tunes, but I really appreciate the self-love journey that they take in their songs. It shows how getting to know yourself and being okay with yourself can be messy, filled with highs and lows, and how that’s completely okay.
This appreciation is why I was so hyped to see them perform Black Swan and Fake Love. Black Swan was stunningly elegant and I love how the choreography used all sides of the stage. I was actually so inspired that I decided to paint the final pose for Fake Love. Creating this piece was a challenge because it was one of the most complex compositions I’ve drawn since I took drawing classes in college. Back then, I had to copy a master’s work. My choice was Manet’s Spanish Ballet. It took a lot of work, but at least all the subjects were spaced out. With the Fake Love ending pose, bodies were overlapping, so it took some work to make sure their forms were correct and proportional.
As I was working on the drawing, it actually gave me vibes of Matisse’s Dance (I). Matisse observed that photography was becoming popular at the time he was commissioned to make the painting, so he decided that capturing (hyper)realistic detail wasn’t so important, but capturing the emotion and movement of the piece was. While I wasn’t exactly following Fauvism in its entirety, I did focus on capturing the impression and feel of the pose. As opposed to my usual heavy detailed sketching and several layers in Photoshop, I started by blocking in the forms of the members almost like I was back in college starting an oil painting. I began with purple as it was only appropriate to represent being part of BTS’ fanbase. I also saw (@galaxyspeaking) Marion Bordeyne’s fanart of Jimin from the concert and I really liked how her style gave impressionist descriptions of details without getting hyperrealistic, while at the same time having a fun, flat graphic style. This led to me constantly referencing her Instagram account to understand how she builds form, lights, and shadows with big blocks of color as opposed to all the blending that I would usually be doing. This led to a lot more of adding colors in order to change shapes as opposed to using the eraser to change shapes. This also led to me only having three layers, which is much different from my usual ten plus layers. One for Jhope at the back so it would be easier to situate him, one for the cluster of the other members, and one for their shoes since I only gave Jimin feet in the beginning. Even though making the composition almost broke my brain, it was rewarding because it helped me see another way that I could build and change forms. There was a lot of liquify tool involved and custom purple gradients. I tried to make the black suits more of a dark purple to reference army and it led to a really fun color range when I was building shadows and highlights for hair, skin, and clothes.
I suspected that watching them perform would make me want to draw and pull me out of the art block that I denied was there. I’m glad that I took the step to go see them so that I could have fun with everybody else while clapping and singing along and so that I could reignite my spark. Their music and performance made me feel encouraged to continue to pursue more of my original ideas, like writing book 2 of Guardians of Masks and Memory, creating other art series (including more music fanart), as well as some bigger ideas that I’m cooking up. You can subscribe to my blog and Youtube channel to follow my journey and you can stream BTS’ top tracks on Spotify.