Artist in Residence: YouBeen Kim at HI San Francisco City Center Hostel

youbeen kim artist san francisco

From National Park land to downtown streetscapes, hillside perches to coastal lighthouses, HI USA hostels are located in some of the most beautiful settings Northern California has to offer. So perhaps it’s not surprising that so many staff members across our hostel network are talented (and prolific) artists: they’ve got a lot of inspiration to work with! These creatives share the ideas behind the art with our interview series, “Artist in Residence.” In this edition, we talk to HI San Francisco City Center’s YouBeen Kim about her beautiful portraits and abstract creations. 

What is the first thing you remember drawing?

I think it was people. I have always liked drawing people since I was little. I would draw with colored pencils and crayons to make people colorful and pretty, and I loved coloring my princess coloring book!

How would you describe your style?

My painting is a depiction of energy. I mainly use black and white acrylic paint to express raw emotion. I like to feel the energy from the subjects I reference. I mix a realistic figure and expressive energy with how I feel about that person into the painting.

Previously I have painted dancers in abstract forms, as I would listen to different types of music and spontaneously create the feeling of its music into a piece. Now I am into painting strong women in music such as Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Solange. 

michelle obama by youbeen kim artist san francisco  beyonce by youbeen kim san francisco artist

What subjects do you like painting the most or about? 

I’ve been painting successful, empowering, female artists from the music industry because they advocate breaking down gender stereotypes and fighting for women’s rights in mainstream culture. I’m drawn to their passionate energy for being a voice for many women to be independent, set goals, and to work hard to achieve their dreams no matter what people say. They are my role models.

Tell me more about growing up in Seoul and how you think that influences your work. 

I was born in Seoul, South Korea and lived in the capital of South Korea for 16 year before I moved to the U.S. People in Korea are very hard working. I’ve grown up seeing my parents go to work early in the morning and come back home late. Even young people are really into getting a higher education, putting time and effort to be successful. So I learned that you have to learn quick and work hard to be diligent at an early age. 

Are there any cities in the world where you’ve been that you think give you the most inspiration?

I’ve got to pick New York! There’s always so many things happening, and I love the energy of the people. The city’s gothic and art deco styles of architecture give me good inspiration! I visited New York again pretty recently. I felt like I was in an old movie walking through Central Park, seeing yellow cabs, hot dog stands, and people walking everywhere. The fast pace of the city and tall buildings remind me of my hometown in South Korea. 

Frida Kahlo by YouBeen kim san francsico artist

You recently did a Frida Kahlo painting for HI SF City Center – why Frida?

HI San Francisco City Center commissioned me to paint Frida Kahlo for their Day of the Dead event because they like my work! I’m very thankful that our staff is very supportive of my art career. The ceremony was held in Ivy’s Café in the hostel where we dedicated the space for our loved ones who passed away. We have an altar on one sidewall where the Frida Kahlo painting is now located. I’m much honored to have my painting in the hostel because I get to use my talents to contribute to the hostel community and help connect people.

What are you working on next?

I am working on a painting on a vinyl record that will be exhibited in a group show in Wonderland SF gallery on Dec 9th 2017, which will show for 2 months. There will be about 200 artworks created by local artists in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m pretty stoked about the show! I will have another group show in January 2018 and many more shows to come!

Where can people see or follow your work?

You can follow me and my artwork on Instagram @Kyoubeen, where I post my most recent work online. Also you can check out my art website:


HI USA Tip: Check out one of our other favorite HI SF City Center artists in residence, Valin Mattheis, and while you’re in town, find out how you can explore and be inspired in San Francisco without spending more than $20 a day.