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Painting in North Korea
During my trip to North Korea in March, I brought along a sketchbook and tried to draw what I saw.

Aboard the Air Koryo flight from Beijing to Pyongyang: Contrary to what many other travellers report about flying on rickety soviet-era jets, our plane was a newer generation Russian plane. The in-flight sound system managed to blast bombastic propaganda music at the passengers the entire flight, while still rendering the pilot’s announcements so quiet as to be unintelligible.

Left: The Ryugyong Hotel, all new and shiny in its glass facade, but still a bare concrete skeleton on the inside. Right: The enormous Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang.

Citizens on the streets of Pyongyang:

An electric locomotive in the railway museum in Pyongyang:

A scenic view of old Kaesong City in the morning. The large castle-like building on the left is the ‘Kaesong Schoolchildren’s Palace’:

Left: An apartment complex in the countryside with a concrete billboard out front that says “Long Live the people of a reunified Korea!”
Right: An outcropping near Sariwon (사리원), on the Kaesong/Pyongyang Highway.

On the bus between Pyongyang and Kaesong, we passed into a large depression ringed by cliffs:

A farmer’s tractor:

A sentry building on the shores of the Taeryong River:

A road over a canal, north of Pyongyang.

A community nestled in the foothills of North Pyongan Province:

I visited the DPRK in mid-March; the land was still shaking off the long, dry cold of winter, but green was already beginning to peek through here and there:

An agrarian commune encircles a rocky cone. Enormous glacial boulders pepper the mountain slope, and some of the larger ones above the village were carved with slogans:

A farmer on the road to his commune. Red clays dominate the soil south of Pyongyang, with undulating rusty farmland punctuated by low grey mountains:

Crossing the Chongchon River. 2014 has been a dry year so far in North Korea, and the spring runoff hasn’t started yet, so the water was quite low, and labourers trod well-worn paths across the sandy bed. The overpass in the distance is the Pyongyang/Sinuiju highway, and the crumbling concrete pillars are reminders of the American bombs that levelled the old pre-war railway.

The farmland south of Pyongyang is crimson red with clay and salted with stony deposits of glacial till:

On the train into Sinuiju: an apartment building in limbo. It appeared as if construction had been halted midway through the sixth floor, and the building had simply been painted and occupied below that point:

Returning to Beijing for a couple of days before returning to Vancouver, I took some time to work on my unfinished drawings from North Korea, as well as sketching the neighbourhood around my hotel in the Dongcheng District.

I also made it to Tiananmen Square to do some people-watching:

The main gate at the Forbidden City:

People on the street in Beijing:

But my favourite part of Beijing by far was the 798 Art District, an enormous neighbourhood of factories and warehouses converted into art spaces:

Comments (10)

Thank you so much for these amazing glimpses. They’re haunting and rare, and the fact they’re drawn/painted makes them somehow more real than a photograph. Not that your photographs aren’t also fascinating.

Beautiful, Lucas. I can’t believe you captured so much in a week of VACATION. Hats off.

These are so good Lucas! You are so talented.

Thank you, sir!

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