Illustrating Excellence by Jasiminne Yip
We love to feature as many talented artists on the Cass Art as we can, filling the digital space with creative insight to inspire our followers. Jasiminne Yip is most certainly no exception. Her illustrations tell tales of political dispute, emotional frankness and social critique with effortless humour. Working in a range of mixed media for editorial, exhibitions and interactive projects we were lucky enough to pick Jasiminne's brain about her practice.
Can you tell us a little about how you came into your creative practice? When and where was the passion ignited?
As a child my parents showered me with illustrated books, so from a very young age I was always exposed to art and design. I have always been captured by the evocative and emotive quality of visuals, how a few strokes of the brush, lines of the pen, and blots of colour can paint vivid landscapes, and bring characters, stories, and worlds to life. When you are constantly exposed to such beauty as I was, you gain an insatiable appetite for more. So I taught myself to draw and tell stories to try and recreate the magic I loved.
Even at a young age I knew that my career path was unusual for the norm in Malaysia (where I was born and raised) at the time. Illustration was simply not a viable career and people laughed at a child's dream of being a comic artist. I pushed on and taught myself how to draw, involving myself with the Malaysia comic arts scene. I did a diploma in Advertising Design at The One Academy for a year before moving to London at 19 study at Central St Martins College of Art and Design.
Post-graduation, I exhibited and sold my work in London on The Underground, art fairs, and galleries. I did a short stint with Harpers Bazaar Malaysia as a graphic designer and I've taught two accelerated design workshops with Malaysian charity StART Society.
Now I freelance as an illustrator. I'm based mostly in London although I do travel to Kuala Lumpur for work.
How do you begin a piece? Can you take us through your working method?
Do you mean a piece from the Watercolour Challenge? Each of them start with an image I already have in my mind; be it from a photo I've taken, or something I've been trying to translate from idea to reality (ie. My dwarf hamster wearing a crown and holding a sceptre which is exactly how he's been taxidermied when he passes on), or a recurring idea that's captured my imagination and formed an image in my head (ie. The story of Herbert the Tree, a very dark and vulgar children's story that my friend invented).
I sketch in pencil, trying out proportions, perspective, and angles until I am more or less satisfied. It can be a real nightmare especially when drawing round boxes, I am convinced that the lapis lazuli box I painted looks like a blob of blue tack.
Then using the pencil outlines as a guide I paint in layers, starting with wet on wet method for the bulk of the watercolours, and wet on dry for finer details. Sometimes for a bit of added depth I use a fine black pen to darken the outlines or cross hatch.
For my other works, the beginning process is similar. It starts with an idea or concept, and sometimes comes to me in dreams. (I love being stuck for ideas, going to bed, and waking up with the draft already written for me by my subconscious). I research for related or similar things, usually photography on Tumblr or Pinterest, going on article trails on Wikipedia, looking up other artists who've explored similar themes. I always save these articles and images to make a mood board; usually digital. But if I have the luxury of time I might just make a physical one, or even a sketchbook devoted to research.
When I have a clearer idea of what I want to create I begin with sketches. Once the sketches are done it's all a chaotic from thereon; I experiment along the way, make up a lot of things as I go along, might change concepts, adding and subtracting details, messing about with different colours and materials.
I can never be absolutely sure when something is worthy of being deemed complete. The piece will tell me when it is, it's not something you can look for and it’s a feeling that has to come to you. I usually call in all my creative and artist friends to judge my piece for it. It's difficult to step back from something you've worked on, so outside opinions are integral.
When it's all finished I photograph, scan, and record it for posterity before publishing it on my website, sharing it on my blog and social media, and then taking a well-deserved nap before it starts all over again.
I work from home and had a studio for a brief amount of time. I tend to work better with people around, so I'm definitely looking into a finding another shared studio space.
What are your favourite materials to use? What would you recommend to a budding illustrator?
First and foremost, paper is of the utmost importance. For sketching and drafting I use the Cass Art Layout Pad. Because I like to mix my media when illustrating, I invest in different types of paper even if I don't know if I will use the relevant medium. My kit contains a Layout pad, Daler-Rowney System 3 Acrylic Pad, Jumbo Watercolour Gummed Pad, and my favourite Cass Art heavyweight cartridge pad. All my papers are in A4 and A3 sizes, and occasionally an A2 sized version lurking about for the more ambitious projects.
I regret leaving my giant drawing board behind in the last apartment I rented. The Blundell Harling Challenge Lightboard Drawing Board is a worthy investment for any illustrator who doesn't want crippling back pain. The Artograph Lightpad is another luxury.
My staples are a Faber Castell mechanical pencil, a set of colour pencils, fineliner pens, Sharpies, and a Pentel water brush.
My use and knowledge of watercolours, acrylics, and pastels are quite simple, so the beginner's painting sets are enough for me. I buy extra tubes of the colours I use more often like whites, blacks, and reds. I plan to upgrade my watercolours to the Cotman Water Colour Half Pan Studio Set and
give acrylics a go with the Liquitex BASICS 48.
You are currently taking part in the Cass Art Watercolour Challenge - how is it going so far?
It is quite the challenge (haha I'm so funny) as watercolour is not my forte, even more so watercolour tablets (is that what they're called?) in palettes. In the rare instances that I use watercolours I use tubes, which is easier as the colours are more vivid and the textures denser. The palette I was given is more delicate and calls for hands more skilled than mine. I have a lot of failed attempts at watercolours that will never see the light of day. Finding time to do the challenge has also been difficult with my schedule. But now that I'm almost halfway through the challenge (I do an average of 2-3 a day) I'm beginning to get the hang of it. I'm off to Cuba for ten days so I daresay it will step up my watercolour game just a notch!
What would your advice be for harnessing and sustaining creativity?
Always attend related events; gallery openings, creative talks, launches. I make it a point to network and make new contacts every week.
I keep my finger on the pulse by reading publications, both print and digital, such as illustration journals, design blogs, websites, and keeping an eye on social media.
Even when work is slow I hone my visual-making and creative skills by constantly sketching, painting, and taking photographs. The Cass Art Watercolour Challenge is a great daily exercise for any artist and a perfect example of how to maintain 'my game'.
What's coming up in the future for Jasiminne Yip lllustration? Where can we see your work?
I'm looking for a publisher to pick up my topical comic series Audaciously Yours which ran in Malaysian newspaper The Heat for five issues.
I'm also working on my first solo exhibition in London, which involves creating a huge body of new work. It's very daunting especially since I'm deviating a little from illustration and more into the realm of fine art. I'm looking to break away from my usual drawings and explore painting; watercolours, oils, and mixed media.
Feeling inspired? You're only a click away from owning your own toolkit for successful illustrations - try a new set of pencils to begin, then Promakers and Sharpies to fill your illustrations with colour.