Interview: Professional Illustrator Yue

Yue Interview

Yue is a New Zealand-based freelance artist known for her love of drawing pretty girls and soft things.

While at SMASH! 2022 in Sydney, Australia, we had the chance to speak with Yue about her art beginnings and her biggest influences at SMASH! 2022. This interview was held alongside fellow artist Raiko.

How did you get into art? How did that desire to make art begin?

From the very beginning, I always had an interest in art. You know — like when you’re a kid you just draw for fun — that just never stopped for me, especially as I started becoming active in online communities. Then, throughout highschool, it was a lot of gaming like League of Legends and later anime. These two things really inspired me.

When did you start becoming active in online communities? How early did you discover art on the internet?

Oh, I was way too young. I think I was around seven years old when I found DeviantArt. I got banned a few times for putting up my age — displaying my [then] current age publicly — but eventually I got the hint and stopped putting it up. I got into DeviantArt super young, so being around other artists made me think. “Wow, these people are so cool, they make such cool things. I want to draw like them.” So that was great. An inspiring environment!

How much did that influence your pursuit of art?

I think it did really grow my interest in art. The only thing was that, since I had Asian parents, they weren’t too interested in me pursuing art as a career. So for quite a number of years I didn’t think art would ever be what I did full time. Only after I graduated high school was when I thought, “Yeah, I really want to do art.” And then I started taking it more seriously. 

You won an art contest while in high school which granted a one year scholarship to an art school. How did that help you as an artist?

Yeah, a one year scholarship. It was nice because it let me have a year when I wasn’t as bothered by my parents, because after high school they just kind of expect you to go and study one of the stereotypical courses like medicine, law, or accounting. So having this scholarship kind of gave me the space to go pursue art. It’s still like a year of free education, so it was easier to convince them to allow me to do that. 

After that, you went to a different art school. When did the transition between loving art to pursuing it as a career happen?

I think the biggest decision happened after the second year of university when attending the second school. I was like, “All right, I have to decide. Do I jump off the deep end and go for freelancing or do I go study something more acceptable for my parents, like engineering?” These were the things I was weighing-up between. 

I kept thinking about it until one night I thought, “Even if I went into engineering, I would still really like to pursue art. No matter what I’d like to be able to put my all into it and be really good at whatever I’m going for. But if I went with engineering, I don’t think I could put all my effort into it because I would be balancing it with art. But if I went with art I could just do my best and put everything towards it. 

The main thing I took into consideration was that I already had some freelance work coming in. People expressed interest in personal commissions, and I had some convention income. When I calculated it, it turned out to be enough to sustain myself. So I guess I was hopeful and optimistic. 

At the time, how did you feel about what you were drawing? Is it different from the art you are making now?

It was similar in subject matter and style, still anime-inspired. I guess it’s kind of an airy, soft feeling that I’ve tried to capture. Skill-wise I was still figuring out what direction I wanted to take my art style and how to improve.

In your early phases, what really inspired you? What were the big things that blew your mind and made you think, “I want to do that?”

I think it was just other artists. I get very inspired by other people’s artwork. I just see something super amazing and be like, “Wow, I really want to be able to do that.” Give other people the feeling that these artworks gave to me. 

Having access to the internet at an early age, you must have been exposed to a lot of fantastic artists. Did you interact with many artists online? If so, did it have an influence on the path you took?

I was super active on DeviantArt and other websites. I’ve always been social online but I was pretty shy when it came to artists I really looked up to. I definitely one sidedly looked up and down their social media posts, gallery uploads and listened to their interviews though!  I think the main influence this had on my path was in exposing me to so many artists that seemingly successfully made a living off their work. Without these artists that came before me, I’m not sure if I would have believed that making a living off my art would even be possible. 

Did any of the established artists reach back to you?

Here and there! I was always so shocked when any of the artists I admired noticed my work that I would screenshot it to save the moment.

How much of an encouragement was that to you as a developing artist?

I think it helped with my confidence because I would think, “Oh these really amazing people like my artwork. There must be something good about it right?”

It helps in that aspect and I think in general, if you have more confidence in your work or you’re praised a lot, you end up wanting to do it more. I think this helps people improve. 

Despite going to two art schools, you have said to consider yourself self-taught. Is that correct?

I wouldn’t attribute my illustration skills to the art schools. They helped with other things, but not so much for illustrations. 

What kind of resources did you tap into when teaching yourself? Did you have access to online tutorials, and did you seek feedback from peers or mentor figures?

The second part, not so much. I never actually tried reaching out to more experienced artists to have them critique my work. 

I guess early on, I learned a lot from what is available online. I didn’t go out of my way to contact people for one-on-one mentoring. It was some Patreon stuff, some Gumroad stuff, and YouTube. 

I watched a lot of YouTube tutorials and learned from experimentation. I wouldn’t say I’m self taught, but rather taught by all the resources out there on the internet. I don’t attribute my illustration level to any of the courses I took as that’s not what they focused on.

Have there been any artists you have looked up to and assimilated parts of them into your repertoire?

I think for a long time my biggest influences were Krenz Cushart and ASK. Early on, I was more influenced by Western and Japanese artwork. Japanese artists often draw very “cute.” while Western art styles lean towards “cool” so it was a little hard to balance these influences that pulled me in different directions.. 

Then I discovered more Chinese artists and now I feel like my tastes are heavily leaning towards them. As for people in particular, lately I really like this artist called Redum. Oh, and this other artist called Sheya, I really like their colors — I’ve been very focused on making my colors pretty recently. 

There was a time I did some iPad artwork where the line art is pencil textured . That was quite inspired by Akihito Yoshida (Final Fantasy). There is also Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. I really like his artwork, his proportions and color and poses are all so nice to look at. He did the character designs for Evangelion.

You balance out your personal work with fanart. How does that balance work for you?

It works pretty well. I think I just really enjoyed drawing fanart which is why that’s been the main thing I’ve come to do throughout the years. It has only been recently that I’ve felt like I should branch out more into original work because I would like to show a bit more of what I’m about. 

How has your audience been receptive to that?

I think it’s really good. I’m actually so shocked sometimes. One of the reasons I continued doing fanart is because it helps with social media and it sells well at conventions. If you want to survive as an artist, it’s a decent way to start. When I tried out doing originals, sometimes they sell just as well as fanart. I would always be shocked and want to draw more!

What do you enjoy about going to conventions?

There are a lot of things. One main one [thing] is that you can meet a lot of really cool artists. The first time I went to Anime Expo, I was so happy because so many of my art idols were attending. I can run around and look at their tables, support them in person, maybe even take a picture with them if they’re free. 

There is also getting to meet people who like your art. When you’re posting online, the numbers you see don’t feel like actual people. . Sometimes you can get crazy numbers on a post, but its hard to imagine  a field of people standing in front of you, looking at your artwork. But at conventions, fans come up and share how long they have been following you, or that they recognise your artworks from online. It feels surreal and it’s really nice to be able to meet them. 

You have occasionally been streaming on the side [currently on hiatus]. How did that go and how did that mesh with the rest of what you do?

It was good, it was really fun. I haven’t streamed for a year now, but I did stream for quite a few years before that on and off. It’s fun because art is quite a solitary activity, so it’s nice to have other people with you. Sometimes, They don’t feel real because they don’t always say anything, but then they come by at conventions and say “I watch your stream,” and I’m likeOh no, they know too much, hahaha

I like it a lot. I miss it — it has just been hard to balance with traveling. I spend a lot of time traveling with conventions happening again. Every flight to the US is a minimum of 14 hours.

Are there any anime or manga that you’re into at the moment?

Oh, I just read part 2 of Chainsaw Man that came out. I saw some fanart on twitter  and thought “Damn she looks so cool, I need to read that” 

I used to read a lot more manga,but these days I’m very behind.  Besides that, I’m planning to watch Belle, the Mamoru Hosoda movie. 

Do you have any favorites of all time?

One of my favorites — it’s sort of the main anime that got me in anime. Before that, I would  just read manga, I wouldn’t watch anime because it’s too slow. I also really enjoy taking in the original artwork the way the mangaka intended.

The anime I really like is Kill La Kill. It’s by Studio Trigger and I just really love their animation and their art style and storytelling.

My favorite manga? Oh that’s so hard, there are so many good ones. Fullmetal Alchemist is one of my favorites. One of the earliest ones I read. I feel like all my favorites are quite old. 

I really like this one author called Rumiko Takahashi. She did Ranma ½ and Inuyasha. I also really like Oyasumi Pun Pun


Yue can be found on Twitter, ArtStation, Pixiv, and through her official website.

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