Seymour Yang: Artist of the Month - January 2015

Every month we ask a different artist to design a banner for our newsletter - Penorama. If you don't already receive Penorama, you can subscribe here.

This month's artist is Seymour Yang, known as Meerkatsu, who draws people and animals in a cartoon-like style, with influences from Chinese and Japanese art as well as his sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Here's the banner Seymour designed for us:

Cult Pens: Tell us a bit more about yourself?

Seymour: I am a 44 year old family man living in London. By day I work for a photo agency editing pictures and sourcing news stories, in the evenings and weekends I train in the martial art sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Although rather a niche sport, it is an incredibly vibrant community of practitioners and clothing companies that I create a lot of artwork for.

Cult Pens: How would you describe your work?

Seymour: My artwork is definitely very cartoony. I draw highly stylised human or animal characters. I like using thick pen strokes to outline subjects with lots of cross hatching, saw-tooth shading and stippling for textures. If I use colour, I tend to be very, um, crazy with it.

Cult Pens: What got you into drawing/illustration?

Seymour: I distinctly recall being a small annoying child constantly showing my doodles to my teacher or parents who seemed to react neutrally. Rather than be put off, I have continued to be annoying and love showing off my doodles.

Cult Pens: If you weren't an illustrator, what was the back-up plan?

Seymour: Although I have always freelanced I was never interested in it as a ‘career’. I studied botany for a degree (I got to draw lots of plants at least) and thought I would be a scientist instead. Fast forward several decades and I’m still not a scientist but I do at least get to draw stuff.

Cult Pens: What are your favourite subjects/topics to draw?

Seymour: Cartoony animals mainly - usually doing martial arty things. I quite like fusing two random creatures together to invent new forms – like my dragonfly design, which is a dragon and a dragonfly as one. I guess that’s the twisted scientist in me :/ I also like drawing Japanese or Chinese style demons and monsters.

Cult Pens: Where do you get your ideas or inspiration from?

Seymour: As an animal documentary addict, the natural world is full of crazy and weird stuff all the time so I have no shortage of reference material. Since nearly all my work is done for the grappling and martial arts community, those sports also inspire me to create concepts. Oh and I love following the work of really amazing tattoo artists.

Cult Pens: What are you currently working on?

Seymour: I’m focusing a lot recently on my own brand – Meerkatsu.com. The past 3 or 4 years were spent mainly working freelance for other companies but I realised now was as good a time as any to develop my own line of leisure and sports clothing.

Cult Pens: How long does it normally take to complete a project?

Seymour: I’ll usually spend a few days sketching out roughs in pencil. In between I will be thinking up scenarios in my head too. Once I’m happy, I’ll spend one or two evenings inking up the art which once complete, is scanned into computer for colouring and compositing. I like to use both analogue and digital tools to complete my works.

Cult Pens: What are you top five pens or pencils?

Seymour: Fineliners – (I actually wrote a cool review of several brands) – I am love with the Copic fineliners. They offer the perfect blend of tip hard/softness, pigment richness and handling. They’re pricey compared to other fineliners, I think however if you use black pens a lot, they are worth the money.

Sakura Microns would be my very close second choice pens. I find the barrel a little harder on my hands compared to the Copics however, so for prolonged inking work, I prefer the Copics.

For large expanses of black, a Sharpie does the job excellently. I use two nib sizes, the fineliner version is good for stippling but the ink does spread a bit depending on the paper absorbancy.

For colour, the POSCA marker pens are genius. Seriously amazing. I wish they did more colours or mid tones. Mind you, being colour blind, I like using their kid-friendly palette as it is. Painting on the snapback was fun using the Poscas.

I’m pretty surprised the humble pencil can vary so much in quality. One HB is most certainly NOT like another! I’m liking the Stabilo pencils at the moment. They’re very soft but the graphite cleaves off leaving a rich layer of grey onto the paper giving my pencil lines a really nice almost finished quality.

Cult Pens: Do you prefer black & white or full colour?

Seymour: I have this debate whenever I start a new project. Some works lend themselves better in b/w, others can only work in colour. It helps that most of my work is t-shirt related and the cost effectiveness of a low number of screens is important. Hence I usually choose around four colours to work with.

Cult Pens: What pen or pencil couldn't you live without?

Seymour: For roughs and ideas work, I’m happy grabbing any old thing. My best initial concepts were done with my kids crayons and literally the back of an old envelope. But if I had to choose, my moleskin plain book and a set of Copic fineliners.

Cult Pens: Do you know when a work is finished or are you constantly tweaking?

Seymour: Most clients have a deadline so the job is finished when I can’t tweak any further without risking the clients’ wrath! To be honest, I’m not really much of a tweaker. Once I get started, I work fast and then move onto the next job. If there is subsequent work needed, it’s usually concerning other aspects eg font choice or placement.

Cult Pens: What work are you most proud of?

Seymour: My series of geisha ladies fighting Japanese demons I am very fond if. I’m not a great figure artist, in fact I suck badly, so to draw humans in mid-battle using specific jiu jitsu techniques is quite a challenge. Get it wrong, and my audience would berate me for not depicting the technique properly. The trick also is not to allow my characters to do just any ole grappling technique. A lot of them involve awkward body positioning that would look weird or impossible to enact coming from someone wearing a tightly wrapped kimono. So knowledge of both the sport and the costumes is necessary. It’s incredibly fun and rewarding however so I’m very happy with how the series is developing.

Cult Pens: What tips do you have for aspiring artists/illustrators?

Seymour: Keep drawing and draw every day. Hustle, a lot. I work with a lot of talented photographers in my day job. Some of them hate the social media / hustling for business side of things. But it is essential in order to build up a rep and to get business. The most successful artisans are not necessarily the best at what they do (I’m certainly very low down the illustrator’s pecking order) but they are the best at hustling for business. That’s my opinion anyway.

You can see more of Seymour's work, and buy his designs in many forms, on his website: Meerkatsu

13 January 2015

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