Fresh off her recent trip to San Diego Comic-Con where her webcomic was nominated for an Eisner Award (think the Oscars for the comic book industry!), Malaysian comic illustrator Reimena Yee brings us into her world of storytelling.
Co-founder of Unnamed, assistant editor and admin assistant for Hiveworks Comics, and a freelance artist who describes her style as ‘strange yet fancy’ – this talented illustrator/artist/writer might only be 23 years old but she’s got a LOT to be proud of.
As a self-proclaimed book nerd and pure science student with a BSc from The University of Melbourne, it’s no surprise why Reimena credits her training in science, literature and research when asked about how she approaches her creative work.
FEMALE: Tell us more about Unnamed.
Reimena: “Unnamed is a collective for comic professionals across Southeast Asia. It’s created to provide support and opportunities for Southeast Asian comics and our main goal is to make ourselves known in the US, Europe and Japan, all of which have very rich, established cultures for comics as literature.
— Reimena Yee 👻☕️ (@reimenayee) September 18, 2018
Unnamed was founded by cartoonist and illustrator, Sarah Joan Mokhtar who’s a well-respected and experienced figure in the Malaysian comic scene, and myself. The main objective of Unnamed is to address the lack of communication and information-sharing in comics. Even when I first started looking at comics at 14, I had no idea where to begin and most of the advice only applied to the American context, so Unnamed is meant to fill that gap.”
F: How did you feel when you found out that you were nominated for the Eisner Award?
R: “Pretty cool! It’s a big deal especially as a creator in the Malaysian comic scene to be recognised in the dominant American comic industry. I just use this as an opportunity to highlight Malaysian comics to the Americans.”
F: Though you didn’t win, what was it like being at the ceremony?
R: “It was fancy, which was expected since this is the most prestigious award in comics! We had a small buffet dinner at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel and the emcee was Phil LaMarr, who is the voice actor of countless cartoons. Many of the winners (and nominees) were women and persons of colour, which was really nice to see.”
F: Which is your proudest illustration that you’ve worked on and why?
R: “The Carpet Merchant of Konstantiniyya – the graphic novel that was nominated under the Best Digital Comic category at the Eisner Awards and the larger story where this came from, which is The World in Deeper Inspection. These two works are what I feel reflect my voice the most as an artist and a person. They’re also the pieces where I put in a lot of appreciation for the culture of humanity as these are stories I’ve wanted to tell from the very start.”
F: Which project helped to develop your personal style the most?
R: “My webcomic, The World in Deeper Inspection. I created it when I was 15 and I’ve been drawing/writing it ever since. The comic reflected a lot of changes in my style and my life but everything that it represents remained constant.”
F: What’s the one creative resource you can’t live without?
R: “The internet, because it has everything!”
F: Share with us the process of creating an illustration or digital comic.
R: “For an illustration, it’s simple. I think of a concept, do some thumbnails if it’s a complex one and work through it using Photoshop. For comics, it’s more complicated as I need to have confidence in the concept first before writing the script. Once that’s done, I work on the thumbnails and that’s when I find out how many pages I’d need to draw out to tell the story. Then it’s all sketches, inks and colours. There’s a lot of labour that goes into illustrations and comics, and both require different sets of skills.”
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F: Picture your favourite drawing space. What are the five objects we’d be able to find there?
R: “It’d be a room with bookcases on three walls filled with fiction and non-fiction books. There’ll also be a big window overlooking a garden and nearby, there would be an interesting set-up of a chaise lounge and a table where I can work from.”
F: What would your advice to young aspiring illustrators be?
R: “Make sure you’re able to do something else besides drawing. It can be some other creative pursuit like furniture building or dancing or even something that’s not creative, like sports. You shouldn’t let art be the one and only thing that defines your identity.”
Reimena’s Eisner-nominated work, The Carpet Merchant of Konstantiniyya can be read for free online, but she is also crowd-funding a project to have the book published physically! If you’d like to support Reimena or get a copy of the comic yourself, check out the funding page here.
From the print edition. Original text by Tammy Chan. Illustration by Reimena Yee.