The Up and Coming | Interview | Yunroo Tan

Yunroo caught my eye at Free Range this year, exhibiting along with the rest of Middlesex University – I was impressed by her playful designs and diverse portfolio. From informative design to quirky patches Yunroo considers all of her work very carefully and although she comes across as a modest lady I think she’s got something quite special going on. I really like some of the tips Yunroo has given below so have a little read and take her advice on board.

Firstly, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your degree background?

I grew up in a small dreamy town in Malaysia, which surprisingly is the same size as London although it never felt that way. I received my first proper training in art when I went to Singapore after high school and that’s where I did a diploma in Visual Communication. Three years later, I’m here in London to pursue my passion in Illustration. 

I’m sure you find plenty of inspiration living in London but what do you find inspires your work the most?

There are so many things that are interesting and inspiring when you live in London; the people, the busy streets, the bustle of life, and the history. However, the most inspiring thing in my opinion is the fact that you’re actually living in London and you’re part of the ever-growing art scene. For me, it feels very empowering to know that you’re part of this strong knitted community that’s growing and evolving – you can see yourself in other’s footsteps and everyone is always willing to help one another. I think that inspires me to make more work and to always challenge myself to be better. 

Illustration is a competitive field right now, what makes you different?

I don’t think I can really answer this because I have never thought of myself of being different; neither do I want to be different. It’s a funny thing to say, but I really think that one is giving themselves too much pressure when actively trying to be different. I also believe that a person’s work is an extension of themselves – so just stick to yourself and you’ll slowly become different in your own way. 

I’ve said before that I’m a big fan of your quirky patches, how did they come about and any plans for further production?

I came across some patches in a flea market and thought that it would be fun to create some silly patches for clubs that should exist but currently don’t. Club patches have always been boring and they all have a standard aesthetic so I was looking to revamp the typical club patch. As for the production, I’m in the midst of liaising with some embroidery companies so hopefully they should be ready for sale soon.

Middlesex University exhibited during Design Week at Free Range – How did you find that experience? 

I think it was great! It was something new to me as I have never exhibited in such a massive place, but I’m very happy with the response I received. The footfall was great; so many people attended and I think we gained more audience by being part of Free Range. I think it is important to meet people and get feedback from the public because at the end of the day art should be relatable to everyone – also it’s always nice when someone tells you that they like your work! 

Can you give any advice for anyone thinking about going into a creative degree?

First of all, I would say that there’s definitely a lot of hard work involved. Some people have a false impression that creative degrees are easy because they think all we do is sit and paint whatever we want all day. Or they think that the design industry is all about being stylish and glamorous. This is not the case. Of course, if you’ve already made up your mind and braced yourself, I would like to share this quote by Ira Glass to whoever may be stepping into the creative world. 

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. 

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. 

It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” 

Long story short, do heaps of good work, and be brave. 

What’s next on the agenda for you? Internships, freelance or perhaps a well-deserved rest?

I’m working on a children’s book at the moment, which will hopefully be published next year. I’m also creating a window display for Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October. I’ve always liked the idea of having my illustrations on different medium and as you can see that there’s a range of different works in my portfolio so I’m currently trying my luck on getting some mural commissions. If anyone’s interested – let’s have a chat!

Finally, any other illustrators that have influenced you or you would recommend people checking out? 

My all-time favourite would be Taiwanese illustrator Jimmy Liao. I started following his work when I was twelve and I would say that he was the person who opened the door of illustration to me. His works are highly- imaginative, sometimes melancholic, and I like the fact that he pays extra attention to detail. Other than that, Jean Jullien and Andy Rementer are some of my more recent favourites. 

Check out more of Yunroo’s work via her website:

Her social media channels are constanly being updated with creative content so give her a follow or send her a message for collaborations and commissions. (Get creating and be bold!) 

Instagram | Twitter | @yunroo_tan

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