Art

LAEM Sessions: Aussie artist Chris Yee talks about his creative process and inspirations

Chris Yee is a Sydney-based creative whose works you can see in comic books, wall murals, EDM covert art, and rap concert posters. In short, his art is everywhere.

The Australian-born artist specialises in traditional pen and paper, with a heavy focus on heavy line work. He merges this graphic style with various influences – such as punk aesthetics, rap, ‘90s references, and Asian culture.

The result is a body of work that’s hard to pin down, yet at the same time, beautiful and intriguing. In an interview with The Hundreds, Yee explained the rationale behind his art:

“When I do personal work,” he said, “I like to do it in bundles or capsules, so everything is tied thematically together and tells a collective story. No matter what the imagery is—whether a kid, a tiger, or a block of text—as long as it tells a story, I think people will relate.”

>>Also watch: The full length interview and drawing session with Chris Yee

Yee has worked with a wide range of clients, ranging from EDM artists like Diplo and Zeds Dead, to corporate brands such as Red Bull, Sony Pictures, and Harley Davidson.

We caught up with him recently to find out more about his art, as well as the inspiration and creativity that helps shape it.

What were the comic books you read when you were growing up? What about now?

“Growing up in Sydney comics we’re pretty hard to come by as kids. As Andrew (Chris’ twin brother and co-artist) said, we got random singles and parts of story arcs wherever we could find them. Usually, Phantom Zone in Chatswood/Mandarin Centre, or Kings Comics when it was in Wynyard.

“We read a lot of Spider-man and Spawn, especially that weird Ben Riley Spider-man clone saga really stuck in my mind. He fought a guy named Kane who also *spoiler alert* turned out to be a clone of Peter Parker.

“There were also a ton of ‘what if?’ and else world storylines which aren’t traditionally part of canon. As a kid, I was wildly confused but it’s all good now.

“These days, I read pretty much anything from Image. It’s been a while since I bought singles or haven’t had to play catch up but the usuals like Saga is still great. Also, anything Fantagraphics publishes is a good time.”

>>Also watch: Stunning time-lapse of Chris Yee drawing

What were the other pop culture influences you took, and continue to take, inspiration from for your work?

“Recently I’ve been inspired by matadors and the concept, look, and feel of the sport and culture. From the costumes, the decor, the animal and the matador himself everything plays a part like a strange stage show/musical.

“I’m also finding musicals and K-pop really inspiring. There’s something about exaggerated colours and design mixed with perfectly choreographed singing and dancing that I find wildly impressive.”

Tell us about three music acts that totally rock your world.

“Wednesday Campanella. To me, she’s one of the best musical units worldwide right now. From the art direction, original production, the singer’s personality, and stage presence to the amazing music videos. Always taking chances, all done in-house by the band themselves from the top down.

“Hyukoh. Korea’s really cool right now and this is the band to prove it on a worldwide level.

“Toro Y Moi. After all these years he’s still got it in my books. Even besides the new album I really like what he’s doing with his record label and the artwork he’s producing.

“Special mention goes to ANDYSFRNDS. Rumors floating around the new tape is fire, you’ll float too, you’ll float too.”

Who are the artists these days that continue to excite/inspire you?

“Since my career’s taken a swerve this year and allowed me to somewhat transition into a semi-pro animator, I’m actually excited by a lot of smaller animator’s works form Korea and Japan.

“I feel a lot of smaller to mid-tier artists that side of the pond are wildly underrated, especially on the financial and work side of things. Although as a direct reaction, I feel they’re more creatively open and willing to experiment and I find that super engaging.”

If you’d like to discover more about Chris Yee and his work, check out his Instagram here.