Korean Folk Art – Crane Inspiration

Jean began painting cranes in South Korea. She was inspired by these birds featured in Korean folk art, which were colourful, full of character and often humorous.

Here’s a detail of a painting by Jean from 1978, “The Emperor’s Nightingale”.

Detail from The Emperor's Nightingale by Jean Tori 1978




The humorous depiction of cranes in Korean folk art added to its distinct style. Here the cranes seem to be debating with a curious tiger.


(Cranes and Tiger – Korean folk art painting from 1800s.)

Tiger and Crane Korean Folk Art painting
Red crowned crane detail from Volcanos & Islands by Jean Tori 2020


Inspired by the colour, humour, and unconventional designs, Jean created cranes in her own unique artistic style with bold colours, patterned details and graphic design elements.

Here is Jean’s red-crowned crane from her painting, “Volcano and Islands” from 2018.

Also appealing to Jean are the many meanings that cranes have in Korean culture. Considered as holy and spiritual, they also signify peace, happiness and purity.

The crane and the pine tree, often painted together in Korean folk art (see below), both symbolise longevity and represent the connection between birds and their environment, further signifying the profound relationship between humans and nature.

Korean Folk Art Cranes

Here is an illustration displaying Jean’s very stylized cranes from our children’s book “The Wizards and the Whale”. These are more whimsical cranes, channelling the humour and character originally inspired by those in Korean folk art, yet still created with her distinctive style.

You can always recognize Jean's cranes. These happen to be very excited and intrigued, busy preparing for their journey with the Winged Wizard to meet Willow the Whale.

Cranes of Winged Wizard in The Wizards and the Whale by Jean Tori