Reimena Ashel Yee

Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I was born and raised in the dusty grey city of Kuala Lumpur – a chaotic, muddy confluence, literally and culturally. I have been drawing since I was a young kid, but I didn't really get into it until I was 7 and started doing my own stories and comics. Even then I didn't think of pursuing art as a skill seriously until I was 13.

What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
It was mostly comics. When I was a kid the school I went to gave us magazines every month, and the magazines had cute characters who explained photosynthesis or fractions in the context of a very loose plot. It was nearly the same thing in textbooks (only the textbooks weren't comics in the conventional sense). I liked casual and newspaper comics too; Garfield (yes...), Archies, Peanuts, W.I.T.C.H, that sort of stuff. When I got into my teens I started paying attention to illustration and animation, and engaging with the media I consume, rather than passively absorbing the influence. What gets me is highly artistic and stylistic media, like The Prince of Egypt for example, or The Arrival by Shaun Tan and many European comics. Tickles the brain...trying to piece together how they all came together. Anyway, I guess in general it's a whole melange of interesting things throughout my artistic development. It's hard to pinpoint really now, but the common thread is it's either super artsy or character-oriented.

Did you have a favourite subject to draw when you were a child and do you still have one today? If you do, what makes it so special?
It's much less about the drawing, and more like creating the situation in which I could draw for. I love character interaction, I love characters by themselves – I enjoy making up personalities and then putting them into situations and seeing how they would react to said situations and with each other. I love to design them based on backstory information and quirks too. Character before plot, basically. It's self-indulgent, let's be real. But I'm hoping that I am able to engage people with the characters I make, whether by design or story. 

What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
Character development and world-building and planning out the story (or concept) and thumbnailing are the most fun bits. Colouring the work (which is the last step of my creative stage) is fun too. The hardest is actually doing the work.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work/collaborate with?
I simultaneously handle freelance, my personal work, my internship, and university (previously: college and high school) daily. I don't study art at all, so the academic work I deal with is totally in contrast to my art life; things like astrophysics and neuroscience and biology and all that. It also means a lot of homework, studying and attending many classes too. Internship is at the interfaith centre (religion and spirituality as a research scope has been a long-time interest now, and I wanted to channel it into something productive). So much of my day is occupied by this, and when I am free, I work with my clients and talk to my artist friends.

Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
There is! I'm super proud of Detective Alcott Grimsley – his design is simple, fun, versatile and extremely iconic.

What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?
The second most important lesson is to enjoy yourself and spend some time to draw and work on the things you like – even if you don't get as much engagement as you would like, as long as you're happy with what you've drawn, and if you continue to be excited to work on it, you're doing well. The most important lesson though is you MUST take care of yourself – physically, mentally, emotionally, everything. Learn to understand your limits and when you need to rest, to recharge, and to stop. Eat consistent meals at consistent times. Sleep when you're tired, but if you can, go to bed at a regular schedule. Avoid injuring yourself unnecessarily (carpal tunnel, back issues, a broken metabolism/biological clock, the list goes on..). A lot of the artists I follow tend to practice unhealthy habits REGULARLY, and as a result they are suffering from a myriad of undesirable health issues which could have been avoided had they prioritised self-care over work.

What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
I was attached as main cover artist for BOOM! Studios' Marceline Gone Adrift – that's my first (notable) professional work and I am grateful for my editor Whitney Leopard for giving me that opportunity. Right now I'm trying to focus into editorial and kids lit illustration as a professional focus. For my personal work I'm dealing with comics. I'm currently working on my long-time, long-form comic The World in Deeper Inspection ( alcottgrimsley.com ), which is mainly about a Jersey Devil detective who helps bring peace to the recently-dead. And it's also where I channel my love for stories and artistic experimentation at; so you'll see me play with different sorts of stories in various styles. I'm also developing another comic which is less of a nebulous mass, but we will see how that plays out.

What advice would you give to an artist who is dealing with an art-block? How do you boost your imagination and keep yourself creative?
The advice I would give to someone with an art block is this: just chill, man. Having an art block either means 1) you're tired and need a break 2) you're in a transition stage when you're receptive to new ideas and new ways to approach your work. So I would encourage the art-blocked to go out and consume new media – go to a play, a musical, watch a movie, read a book, eat a new kind of food, learn something new. Pursue your other hobbies. Pay more attention to the world around you – the little bits of design and creativity, whether in the pattern of a tree bark or the design of a chair in a cafe, become delightful once you know where to find them. And if you're up for drawing despite the block, pick up a tutorial, or set up an improvement challenge for yourself (I want to draw better hands...) and get to it. The ugliness of the drawings won't seem so unacceptable when you're learning.

What’s your point of view about the industry today: what are the expectation for someone who wants to make a living with an artistic career?
I think the industry's really getting its game on now; there's never been a time when there's so much diversity (in characters, stories and creators), when it's so easy for someone to put their works up online and try. That said; the industry still isn't completely egalitarian, particularly in regards to geography. I know the Internet has torn down much of the geographical gatekeeping, but it doesn't mean that the industry in Australia is suddenly just as great as the industry in North America. In fact I don't think the industry in most places is the same as North America (or Europe or Japan). There are a lot of things, like art school connections to big industry players (Pixar, DreamWorks, DC, etc;), conventions like TCAF and SDCC, publishing choices, etc ,that many people take for granted. There's a lot of advice out there that assumes someone already has these opportunities easily, but I think it's important to have advice for those who may find getting those things difficult, especially when you're separated by timezones and nautical miles. Additionally if someone wants to make a living, they better understand their worth! Your hard work and your skill are worth your time. And you get to set the prices, prices that work best for you and your client but also sustainable. Establish a contract. Demand for better pay (for everyone). Since the industry isn't ideal for full-time there's no shame either in learning another skill that increases employability in other fields (if you can), or working part-time/full-time at another job. For those who are completely relying in the industry to support them, find a niche. Find what you do best and offer that to potential clients. Even if it isn't big companies knocking at your door, drawing for smaller personal clients is just as good.

Finally, Where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
You can check out my portfolio at ( reimenayee.com ). I post quite often on my art blog ( blog.reimenayee.com ) and my webcomic ''The World in Deeper Inspection'' is available to read for free at  ( alcottgrimsley.com ). My Twitter is ( @reimenayee ) and my email is ( reimenayee@gmail.com ) :)

Thank you Reimena :)