By Young Jeohn
There was trouble in Artists Alley. Over the whole three day period, there was a never-ending crowd of fans surrounding Yuumei's booth. While I was happy for her every time I stopped by, I was, regrettably, unhappy for me. The impossibility of starting a conversation made it unlikely for us to have a proper chat. But someone up there must've heard my thoughts because -by pure chance- I bumped into her as she was heading towards the restrooms - and was willing to talk along the way.
YJ: Young Jeohn
Yuumei: It's a nice convention even if it's their first time. I talked to some of my friends and they're all having a good time.
Yuumei: I'm Yuumei, I'm a digital artist and I post my artwork on the internet. Some people might know me from my web comics such as Knite and Fisheye Placebo. Others might know me as the creator of the Axent Wear Cat Ear headphones. I've been on the internet with my art for over a decade, and I do lots of anime style artwork but I also like to focus on art that has some environmental messages in it. I'm based in the San Francisco Bay area - I went to college at UC Berkeley and I kind of just stayed there ever since.
Yuumei: Oh, there's a pair of my headphones right now... (she says pointing to a pair of gals wearing her headphones). So I licensed my headphones to Brookstone to reproduce and...
Two cosplayers wearing her headphones approach to ask her to autograph them. They hunt around for a pen and YuuMei signs it for them.
YJ: So I was talking to John at your booth, and he's based out in the east coast and you're on the west coast, is that right?
Yuumei: Yeah, he's my east coast assistant, I have more assistants on the west coast.
YJ: You're that busy? Well, that's awesome in its own way because you need time to do your art, right?
Yuumei: Yeah, I want to focus more on making my comics, which are about issues that I find very important. One is about internet freedom and net neutrality and other is about pollution in China. And the comics need a lot of research and preparation - and just drawing each panel takes a very long time, so having assistants are very much necessary.
Yuumei: I also have a team of 3D artists who help me build the assets for the comics such as the backgrounds and the character base models. In the past, I did everything myself, and for the past few years, I had to go on hiatus for my comics because I hurt my hand from over-working. But I was finally able to get everything organized and get back into [comics]. I also started doing therapeutic hand exercises to heal my hand, so I'm very excited to dig into making more comics again.
YJ: She's back! All that carpal tunnel stuff is affecting the work, really.
We arrive at the restrooms - and resume our conversation on the way back to her booth.
YJ: Actually, I'd like to take a picture of you here without all the crowds.
Yuumei: Oh, oh... ok.
YJ: I guess you don't take many pictures.
Yuumei: No, I'm pretty camera-shy actually.
YJ: Really? No wonder nobody knows what you look like.
Yuumei: (Laughing) Yeah, I try not to post pictures of myself. But I feel bad when fans want to get a photo of me, so I've been practicing the courage to not be so camera shy.
YJ: It's a privacy thing too, because I'm a computer science guy by trade [YM: oh, cool] and privacy is a big thing with me - I don't turn on the location on my phone, I try not to do social media... but these days you're kind of forced to do it if you're running a business or something like that.
Yuumei: I'm also very into the whole concept of online privacy but I literally make a living by posting my art on social media... (we laugh) I can't not have a facebook so it's quite hard.
YJ: And there's cloud services; everything is cloud now. But [the cloud] belongs to somebody, a company. I don't want my information on there. Well... unless you do business on the web and the cloud.
Yuumei: Besides, the cloud is just somebody else's computer.
YJ: Only computer scientists think like this. Are you a computer scientist?
Yuumei: No, but I did a lot of research for my comic Fisheye Placebo which is about hackers. I don't program, [but] I guess I know more than average about these things. I think people who read my hacker comics can get all the little jokes I put in there.
YJ: How long have you been at this? The business side of things?
Yuumei: Business... I think I started doing commissions when I was in college...
YJ: How long has that been?
Yuumei: [It's been] almost ten years since I started taking commissions in college. And a few years after that, I started going to conventions and just been doing that ever since.
YJ: I used to draw too - I was asked to pencil Street Fighter II comics, but the parents put a stop to that...
Yuumei: Yeah, a lot of parents, especially Asian parents - they're not very supportive of the creative careers. They're all very into pre-med or lawyer, just gotta make that money for their retirement.
YJ: But you're drawing... how?
Yuumei: I really liked science, so I went to UC Berkeley with the intention of going into environmental science. But it was really hard to double major because classes were competitive and [too] many people were trying to get into the same classes.
Yuumei: So I switched my major to art because I felt like I could make a bigger impact about the environment as an artist than as an environmental scientist. When I first got into Berkeley, I took a lot of environmental science classes and the professor basically talked about how we already have all the data to prove that there was climate change, but the biggest challenge was getting the public to believe it.
Yuumei: I thought using my art to spread messages of caring about our planet was a better thing to do than adding more data that people don't listen to (laughing).
YJ: And don't care about - because they're only numbers, and numbers don't mean anything to people. Actually, people want to be entertained and you're entertaining them with that data somehow.
Yuumei: That's actually why I switched my major to art and did it full time. I thought it was a better way to use my skill set.
You can view Yuumei's illustrations, tutorials and read her comics Knite and Fisheye Placebo for free on her website. She also has posters, bags and other goodies available for sale on her site.