Leo’s Art Adventure to the United Kingdom
The Boy who Draws the World
Leo, a 13-year-old genius, meets the world through his drawings!
Using the architectural buildings and urban views he saw whilst traveling through the United Kingdom and other European countries three years ago as his theme, this Korean artist consistently uploads his colored drawings on Instagram, along with accompanying descriptions in English. Leo Park, or Sohoon Park, communicates with his 30,000 followers from around the world just through his drawings.
The reason his followers are so interested in him and his works is because he is just a “13-year-old boy.” He is still very young. His works, which are so incredible it’s hard to believe they were drawn by a young boy, are already attracting attention from painters, authors, publishers, and architects from all around the world.
Now, going ahead of South Korea, his drawings have already been recognized overseas, with his works having been showcased at famous tourist attractions, such as The Royal Exchange, Liberty, Fortnum & Mason, and Rochester Cathedral in the U.K., as well as the Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg in Germany and the Flagler Museum in Florida, the United States.
This book consists of 90 works, the results from the inspiration the U.K. gave him. It portrays famous British architectural buildings and urban views, including pictures he drew after reading books written by British authors, and his imaginary buildings and ships set against the background of the U.K – all in his own style.
Due to his own efforts, Leo lives his dream of becoming an artist
Leo, who embodies what we would consider an “artistic genius,” is a 13-year-old boy who just loves drawing pictures. He spends his school days as a normal first-year middle schooler in Korea, living with his office-worker father and housewife mother.
Going beyond the pride and joy Leo feels for himself, it is important to note that his drawing skills, which also now give joy and wonder to the many people who view his works, are mostly attributed to his own efforts. As a hobby, he used to attend an art academy as a child, but the solid foundation he has now comes from travel sketching. He travelled with his parents to European and other English-speaking countries to sketch the constructions that he wanted to see in person.
Leo could experience such wonderful trips thanks to his parents’ educational philosophy. They believe that education is for letting children enjoy what they want to do now, not for preparing them for a distant future. This educational philosophy still continues at present. His parents credit Leo for their frequent holidays. Unlike other Korean middle schoolers who usually attend private academies for core subjects like English and math, Leo does not attend any private academies. This allows his parents to save on private education expenses, which they can use to go traveling and sketching every vacation.
Leo, who had carried a sketchbook with him to draw things he liked ever since he was barely old enough to hold a pencil, is now equipped with the amazing ability to fill empty spaces without having to do a pencil sketch. All he needs to do is draw one center line, and go from there. It’s the same for when he’s drawing an imaginary city that comes from his own head, rather than a photo – he begins with a center line and draws unhesitatingly from there, eventually completing a phenomenal piece of work.
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out three years ago, Leo could spend more time drawing pictures at home, which gave him an opportunity to further improve his skills. At a time when everyone else stopped their daily lives, Leo continued to draw, taking a step closer to his dream of becoming an artist.
A language genius who can communicate with authors and painters abroad in English
Those who see Leo’s Instagram posts are surprised, not only by his drawing skills, but also by his English skills. People who have read his posts and replies, which are written in English, or seen videos of him explaining his drawings in English, are curious about whether or not he was really born and raised in South Korea. Perhaps because of this, most of his followers are from English-speaking countries.
Leo has neither lived abroad nor attended a private academy to improve his English since he graduated from elementary school. He attends a perfectly normal middle school. So how can he use English more comfortably than Korean?
His English ability has been built up by his daily routine of reading numerous books written in English – a routine he started since he was in kindergarten. His language ability now serves as a window for him to communicate with people, and as a bridge for him to move forward into a wider world.
Leo would send his pictures to the authors of the books that inspired him to draw the pictures, which allowed him to easily communicate with them. In addition, when travelling abroad for sketching, he met up with the authors and painters whom he had kept in touch with on Instagram. They would draw pictures together and talk about their books. He participated in a book club with The Rabbit Hole, a bookstore in the U.K., via Zoom. The bookstore people introduced him to several British authors, and as a result, he was given an opportunity to draw the illustrations for a new book by Catherine Wynne, a professor at the University of Hull.
To satisfy the readers abroad who want to see Leo’s drawings, The Boy who Draws the World book series will also have an English version, written by Leo himself. The English version will be published simultaneously with the Korean version.
Prologue Welcome to Leo’s Art Adventure to the United Kingdom! 10
St Paul’s Cathedral 14
The National Gallery 20
Palace of Westminster 22
Westminster Abbey 24
Regent Street 25
Old Admiralty Building 26
Liberty London 28
Fortnum & Mason 31
London Graphic Centre 33
The Royal Exchange 35
Victoria & Albert Museum 37
London Natural History Museum 39
His Majesty’s Theatre 40
Royal Albert Hall 41
Tower of London 42
Gloucester Road 45
HMS Belfast 46
Tower Bridge 49
Royal Courts of Justice 50
Buckingham Palace 52
Palace Theatre 54
The Wallace Collection 55
St Pancras Station 60
Cutty Sark 62
Notting Hill 64
North London 66
Huntsman & Sons 68
George Cleverley & Co. 70
18th Century London 72
Victorian London 74
Looking Glass Street 76
Hall of Ink 79
Oxford University 84
Cambridge University 86
Rochester Cathedral 93
Arundel Castle 96
The Rabbit Hole 100
Paradise Hotel 102
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry 106
Diagon Alley 108
The British Ministry of Magic 110
The Christmas Pig 112
The Impossible Postal Express 114
Mortal Engines 118
Minas Tirith 122
Epilogue Friends, My Bridge Across the Pacific 124
Questions & Answers with Leo 130
About the Artist 132
Prologue | Welcome to Leo’s Art Adventure to the United Kingdom!
Leo is a young and incredibly talented South Korean artist. Born on July 8th, 2009, Leo is a 7th-grade student studying in his hometown of Dongtan, South Korea. Leo began drawing as a hobby when he took an after-school art class. Leo did not stay in this class long, but his time there inspired him to pursue art seriously. The rest of Leo’s abilities he taught himself through hard work and the desire to improve.
When Leo is not in school, he travels the world with his parents, drawing buildings, places, and landscapes he finds special. Leo uploads his drawings to Instagram, where he has over 800 posts. Leo’s work has gained international praise and recognition, with his pieces displayed at Fortnum & Mason, the Royal Exchange, London Graphic Centre, Liberty London, and Rochester Cathedral. Most recently, in August 2022, Leo was featured in Bild, a major German newspaper, for his drawing of the Hamburg International Maritime Museum.
For Leo, art brings people together, opens doors, and builds bridges to otherwise distant places. While art started as a hobby for Leo, it has turned into something much, much more. Leo’s artistic journey has led him to accomplish incredible things and meet incredible people along the way.
With Leo’s journey only just beginning, a world of beauty and adventure awaits.
It is very easy, as a viewer, to marvel at the extraordinary draftsmanship, command of materials, and confidence of line in this body of work. Yet, I ask every person who hold this book in their hand to look beyond his dazzling virtuosity and to experience what I am so moved by in these drawings; Through his eyes, his hand, and his vision, Leo Park is asking us to open our eyes and to marvel at the beauty, right here, right now, right in front of us.
-David Ouimet, author of 『I Go Quiet』
Leo Park’s work is wonderful: not just for an artist who is still so young, but for an artist of any age. His drawings have such energy and life to them, and they capture a delight for the places pictured. They feel as though the person who made them understood about love for buildings, and love for art.
-Katherine Rundell, author of 『The Wolf Wilder』
To see a fictional world you have created in your head, interpreted by someone with such an incredible talent, is such an honour. I know that my fellow authors feel the same when he has drawn images from their books too. It’s a huge accolade to have your very own ‘Leo Artwork’!
Leo – you are an incredible artist and human being. I know I’m not the only one to say that I can’t wait to see what masterpieces you will create next!
-Lisa Thompson, author of 『The Graveyard Riddle』
Leo’s illustrations have made him friends around the world and have even been displayed in the very buildings he’s drawn. As this talented young man releases his own book now with the illustrations of his life so far, I’m pleased and proud to have known him and seen his journey. Congratulations Leo, and may your journey continue to amaze and delight.
-Nizrana Farook, author of 『The Girl who stole an Elephant』
This young aspiring architect and visionary’s name was Leo Park, and since that message in 2020, he has continued to surprise, astound and astonish me with the breadth of his imagination and the depth of his commitment to drawing and transforming some of the world’s most iconic buildings – both real and fictional.
How luck we each are, to get to gaze upon, marvel at, and share in the joy of such immense works already forged, and the many yet to come.
-Onjali Q Raúf MBE, author of 『The Lion Above the Door』
Watching his drawings materialise on the page was almost magical, and you can see some of the results in this book. They’re only the tip of the iceberg though, and I can guarantee that we’ll be seeing lots more from Leo in the years ahead.
I, for one, can’t wait.
-P. G. Bell, author of 『The Train to Impossible Places』
Drawing is when I feel the best. It just feels right for me to be holding a pen and drawing. All I need is a piece of paper and a pen, and I can create a whole world out of nothing. My favourite part of drawing is how I can mix reality with imagination. I will always push myself to work harder and learn new types of art, so that one day I can be the artist I dream to be.
At the heart of London, the dome of St Paul’s rises into the sky. It is this dome that makes St Paul’s Cathedral my favourite building in the world.
After the Great Fire of London in 1666, St Paul’s was rebuilt by the English architect Sir Christopher Wren. Since then, the dome of St Paul’s has been a symbol of London for over three centuries. From the phrase Resurgam
(Latin for ‘I shall rise again’) carved over the south door, to the famous photograph of St Paul’s dome protruding from rubble and smoke, the cathedral is an icon of London’s resiliency.
I have drawn this special cathedral more often than I can remember.
I doodle it in the corners of notebooks, and if there is ever any space left in a drawing, I put St Paul’s in it. It is even possible to trace the development of my artistic skills through my drawings of St Paul’s. Every time I return to London, the first place I always return to is St Paul’s Cathedral.
– St Paul’s Cathedral
Q : How much do you draw every day?
A : I try to draw for five hours a day on school days. However, this varies depending on how much schoolwork I have.
Q : Usually, artists outline their pieces with pencil before colouring them in. Since you don’t do this, what is your method?
A : I usually draw a major detail and create the rest around it.
– Questions & Answers with Leo
Art is the one thing that for me, has no downsides. Art makes me happy, it’s what feels right for me. And it is perhaps because of that that I continue to draw, never stop doing so. But my trip to London gave me something more. Art is not only one of my greatest treasures because it feels like my element, it’s also how I got to know so many people.