Why do people travel? Is it for the pure enjoyment of seeing new things? To explore other cultures? To expand their knowledge of the world? Korean artist Youngsook Park travels for all these reasons and more. Along the way, she snaps photographs of the people and places she encounters, then chronicles her journeys on canvas.

Park, who moved to Greenville with her husband a year ago, grew up in Seoul, South Korea, engulfed by the sights and sounds of a buzzing metropolis. “Every city has its own beauty,” says the soft-spoken artist who nurtures a love of painting cityscapes. She eschews a brush in favor of the freedom of a palette knife, a tool she wields with strong, textured strokes of vibrant oil colors that portray the impressionistic movement of cars passing, water flowing, people walking.

As a child, Park was always drawing. When she was six years old, her mother enrolled her in her first art lessons, and she went on to receive a BFA from Sangmyung University in Seoul and an MFA from the University of New Mexico.

Photo by Eli Warren

Park appreciates straight, vertical lines and contrasting colors, often using a particular building as a starting point in both her large and small compositions. “My pieces are strong, but I want the viewer to find warmth—a feeling of coziness—in the cityscapes that capture my heart.”

Her current work, the Hope Series, depicts downtrodden places, such as the favela (ghetto) in Rio de Janeiro that fills the four canvases that compose Hope II. Though Park colors the buildings in shades of deep blue and silver to show the hard side of the neglected neighborhood at night, she intersperses glimmers of soft yellow light emanating from some of the windows. This is her way of infusing the bleak scene with sparks of warmth—including her own hope that it will become a better place. “The Hope Series includes places that touch my heart,” Park shares. “This series is not decorative; it is meaningful. It is important to tell a story and bring attention to these sad places.”

Blessed with the ability to find beauty in any environment, Park expresses light through color, be it in her urban night scenes or the bold paintings of Native Americans that reflect the nine years she lived in New Mexico, where she maintains a gallery. Capturing her travel memories on canvas is the life’s work of this global citizen, for whom art is its own journey.

For more of Youngsook Park’s work, visit youngsookpark.com.