Spotlight on Artist Chris 'Royal Dog' Shim

By Avery Souders

Art builds bridges between different ideas and cultures. They help create understanding and appreciation for what the focus of the artwork may be. Nowadays, the world is more interconnected than it has ever been and in turn, has become a smaller place because of the ease of communication. Artists’ work takes on many forms in a variety of mediums. From coffee used to paint to acrylics and tin foil to marble, almost anything can be used to make art. Graffiti is not often mentioned when listing off artists mediums. While spray paint is used in many cases to tag walls with names, one artist is changing the game for murals and graffiti. 

Chris Chanyang Shim, also known as the graffiti artist Royal Dog is an LA-based painter from South Korea. Shim was inspired to become a full-time graffiti writer because of a Korean anime called Hip Hop, by Kim Soo-Young, he used to read when he was younger that had a focus on the hip-hop scene. With the use of flashy writing and the hip-hop stylization, he began to spray paint.

Sometimes, when you think about spray paint, the idea of various tags of names scrawled throughout cities comes to mind, however, Shim is vastly different. His style is focused on the photo-realism of what is depicted in his drawings. He has completed some works portraying famous rap icon, but most of his pieces show a model in a hanbok. The models he uses are not famous, but people he may know or have seen. 

As referenced in the article Korean Graffiti Artist Chris Shim Paints the Ideal of Multiculturalism by Heewon Kim, Shim’s interpretation of multiculturalism as it is put simply “these two elements will go beautifully and uniquely with each other.” Many of the models are black women and children; understanding that he is not appropriating the Korean traditional clothes for mainstream use, but enhancing both the beauty of the women and the hanbok. The Korean calligraphy and addition of flowers also add the impression of traditional painting. 

His most recent piece is located in Chicago. This work features former first lady Michelle Obama dressed in a deep red hanbok with the moon behind her. “I usually try to not paint somebody famous because I always say ‘It’s nobody and everybody,’ when people came to ask me who I’m painting. I asked people why I would paint her. I didn’t know much about her but after all, I would say I painted her because she’s everybody. She was born South Side Chicago, as a black woman…And she became a lawyer, writer, and first lady” (Facebook). The way he phrases this statement captures exactly what he wants his art to represent.

Shim realized the beauty of both his models and Korean culture. Two differing images that are not often seen together, yet bring to life a beauty and appreciation for all.

If you liked the artwork, follow Chris on Instagram @royyaldog!

What are some of his pieces that you liked? Do you think his art, or art in general, helps create a bridge between cultures? Or even any type of art? Let us know in the comments!

Written by Avery Souders

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