Members are the very backbone of this organisation and we are always looking to showcase and share illustrators more. We are delighted to showcase Robert Sae-Heng’s beautiful work online in this monthly feature. Robert has given us a detailed insight into his working process and explains some of the new and meaningful projects in his Illustrator’s portfolio.
Read the interview in full below…
We love your colourful Illustration and enjoy following your dedicated online presence. Can you introduce yourself to all those who may not yet follow Robert Sae-Heng?
I am a freelance illustrator based in London with Mexican and Thai origins who has worked with clients from across the world such as Honda, Bloomsbury Publishing, Taqado Mexican Kitchen, Boots and the AOI.
I would like to think my upbringing and growing up in a number of countries (coming from a mixed background has its advantages) as well as a childhood of being audibly impaired has shaped the work I do today. I spent most my childhood in Mexico in a small village in the state of Oaxaca chasing chickens, playing with pigs and my grandfather’s donkey ‘Jesus’ at the family home and running across the hills with my mother and sister for fun.
We never had many books or toys when I was very young, so I feel these different experiences fuelled and opened up my imagination and in turn gave my work that sense of playful narrative and mystery, which is often based on real-life observations. Thankfully, at age 9, I regained my hearing. Drawing had always been my form of communication and something to come back to as a form of escape.
Please can you describe a little bit about the creative process behind your work?
I always start with my sketchbooks or scribbling on large sheets of paper. Most of my ideas are developed in this way. For example in the illustration She Loves Him (seen below), I started doodling its elements and developed them from there, not really knowing how it would turn out. I upload the sketch to Photoshop and summon colour and textures. The sorcery of my work is from my sketchbooks. I have always been a big fan of Bjork and She Loves Him was inspired by her powerful yet exquisite singing in Pagan Poetry.
What do you draw inspiration from? What drives you?
I have been fortunate to have travelled a lot alone since my early teens, and experienced so many things. I truly believe traveling broadens the mind. On my travels I filled up sketchbooks with location drawings, thoughts at the time and documented stories from other people I’ve met along the way. Something like a diary.
It’s important to see how other people live and a lot of my inspiration and ideas come from conversations or responses to my own thoughts/ feelings at the time.
What drives me is that I have so much I want to say through my work, and want to reinvent its context again and again.
Can you tell us a story about one (or a series) of your illustrations?
I went to Finland two summers ago and absolutely loved everything about it. I ran, cycled, hiked its national parks, foraged for wild mushrooms, explored its islands and gobbled everything that was scrumptious! And ever since then I have been daydreaming of returning. So in the mean time, I wanted to pay homage to that trip and create a large zine in response.
I cycled 40k in one day around Helsinki, and during that time I came across Nordic walkers in a forest. I instantly jumped off my bike to ditch it behind a tree and ran after them through the long grass hiding behind trees while at the same time taking my sketchbook and materials out my backpack to draw them. Than I waited and scribbled as they walked past me and documented the location. I know it comes across as a little extreme to have done this, or climbed up a tree for a better view (of course without being seen), but I have always praised myself for being resourceful and adventurous.
I did this a few times on my trip and was so fascinated with how popular Nordic Walking is across the country and in its capital city Helsinki! I imagine it’s a part of life and heard it’s pretty common for most households to have the walking sticks. It’s something you don’t see in London or much in the UK. So I wanted to capture the experience and document it.
Where do you see the future of your illustration?
Since graduating from UCA BA Illustration nine years ago, I’ve always wanted to create a kids book but never got round to developing it further than the story board drafts due to commercial jobs, smaller projects, traveling and life getting in the way. I would like to return to that personal goal again and fulfil it. Besides that I have started doing prints of my work and producing products to sell. I think it’s important to be able to engage with your audience and build a strong brand.
If you ever have an urge in life to do something, you owe it to yourself to fulfil it.
Summer Finland zine will be out in the Summer 2018 and available in Robert’s online shop on his Website.
Robert’s social media: Twitter and Instagram.
Interview by Georgia Luckman