PROFILE: ROB YEE – ILLUSTRATOR

INTRODUCING ROB YEE:

I was outside in the smoking area of a little bar in Sydney one night chatting with a grand old mate of mine about this here blog and all the things I was hoping to do with it. Like interview artists I like, musicians I thought really brought out something new and all those unknowns out there doing great things. That’s when my friend started to squirm and insisted that I interview his buddy Rob, he quickly got out his iPhone and showed me a blog. This blog contained illustrations that blew my mind.

Here is a little of what I saw at THE AVOCADO MOSHPIT:

So it is no surprise that I then insisted on getting in touch with this guy and picking his brain about what made him create these fascinating works.
So after a swing of emails, and one re-scheduled meeting due to a nasty stomach bug, I was finally headed over to Darlington to meet the talent behind the blog. I should also add I was of course running very late.

I entered the little coffee shop and paused, I didn’t actually know what this guy looked like. A quick message, and over to the outside courtyard I strolled. We introduced ourselves and I quickly went off to grab a tea, realised I had no cash and came back empty handed, only to have him pay for it for me. This was going to be fun.

I sat back down and a lovely little kettle of earl grey was set down on the table, the sun was wonderfully warm, I turned over and asked “ok Rob how did it all begin?”

So here it is straight from the illustrator’s mouth.
Rob Yee, young guy, lives in Sydney, went to Enmore Tafe and studied a Graphic Design degree. The degree made him realise that what he really wanted to get into was illustrating children’s books. This work however he found out was not only really difficult to get into, being as there are only about a dozen working successfully in Australia, but also very hard to live off.

It was this love of book illustration however that got him into watercolours and making sketches of whatever took his fancy. Something in them reminded me somewhat of a young Tim Burton, which he then informed was inspired by Edward Gorey. Gorey is a highly talented gothic children’s book illustrator and truly worth looking into if you have a spare moment {HERE}. Gorey also helped push this young illustrator into what I think is a very unique way of looking at the world.

I mentioned how on looking through his blog I came across a wonderful watercolour of a giant owl sitting on an ice cream truck and thought it was absolutely inspired. He told me how the illustration was biased on a Polaroid taken on a hot summer’s day when he and his friends having heard the ice cream truck ran outside, paused for a photo, only to have a barn owl at that moment land on the top.

I asked what made him tick, was it seeing his work in a gallery or in a book? “I definitely lean more towards book illustration… Something about being in a book rather than a gallery wall makes it more personal I guess”. Not that Rob hasn’t had his share of wall space, when I was flipping through his blog I came across a humble exhibition held in a little Space in Paddington. Rob informed that very close to the date he had yet to create anything new, so he pulled together all his sketch books and ripped out works he liked, and put them up on the walls to show. For anyone else that would be saying I made a half assed job of it, but his sketch books are enviable at the least.

Rob then pulled out a sketch book he was currently working on for The Sketch Book Project. This is a wonderful art idea by The Brooklyn Art Library in New York City, where people from all over the world are asked to follow a theme and create a sketch book that is then sent to the library where the best are selected to be shown at The Sketchbook Project Exhibition.
As I flipped through the first few pages of the sketchbook titled ‘Night time Stories’, I uncovered the most elaborate and rich illustrations of nightmares come to life. I asked Rob what made drawing in a sketchbook so appealing “well it has its upsides and downsides, they are really hard to let go of because you put so much time and energy into them, and scanning them is never the same…but on the upside stuff in sketchbooks are better than anything else because you can’t fix it or change it”.

Having barely any talent for drawing I asked what made it possible for him to create work that purely his own without adhering to what is going on today in illustrated works. “Well I find that it is an interesting balancing act, between getting more exposure to new work and keeping one’s personal integrity and originality… not playing into something cool right now, but making it for you own self and making it fun and silly”.
“It’s nice to have influences, but it can be crippling, you start to second guess yourself and say things like “oh I’ll never be as good as this”, you need to isolate yourself or you’ll become a carbon copy or contrived”.

Personally I cannot wait to see what else comes up in the future for this talented young illustrator.

–          Mac

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