Welcome to the debut installment of our interview series—a new and regular editorial feature that promises to provide exclusive interviews with writers, graphic designers, photographers, illustrators, musicians, activists, and just about anyone else we can get our hands on. For our inaugural interview we decided to chat with Yok, a wheat paste, sticker, and gallery artist from Perth, Australia. So, without further adieu, let's get started.
Q: Let's start off with the usual line of questioning, as a primer of sorts for the folks at home. Who are you and what do you do?
I’m a bogan who likes to draw characters and stick them on walls.
Q: Wait, what's a bogan?
A bogan is someone who wears black jeans everyday, smokes weed, and listens to metal music in a large car. That was me in high school.
Q: Oh, okay. We used to call them "burnouts" where I come from. Bogan sounds better.
Q: What's the story behind your art? Or better yet, when and why did you get started?
The characters are loosely based on gargoyles. In medieval times, gargoyles were placed on buildings to ward off evil spirits. Borrowing from this thought I put my posters on city walls to ward off evil suits—picking rooftops visible from the streets below to display the paper gargoyles. This all started in Kenya where I spent 10 months working and going to an art commune that my Girlfriend joined; hanging out and eating big mumma's cooking.
Q: You come from a land down under [Australia], how does environment influence your work?
I come from Perth, which is a very isolated city. I think that has influenced the volume of work I do, as it is a little quiet around Perth.
Q: Do people there still like the band Men At Work?
Q: How about Midnight Oil?
Definitely, even Cold Chisel.
Q: Let's talk about Mel Gibson, the bigshot actor. Do middle-aged Australian women still swoon over him like middle-aged American women do?
Not sure, probably. I don't really know that many middle aged women. I think my Mum likes him.
Q: Okay, enough with the Australian references, I don't mean to get sidetracked. Where does your name come from?
I like the sound of the word YOK, and I'm into giving meaning to words that previously [had] no meaning. So now it's starting to mean "gargoyles" or "goofy posters" anyway.
Q: I know that you've done work for a magazine called Lucky. Could you tell me a little bit about that?
[I] just art [directed] a few issues on that one, and did a few covers. The guys that run it are crazy friends of mine. I love ‘em.
Q: Street art has really exploded on a global scale in the past 10 years. What's the scene like in Australia?
In Perth, it's okay, [there’s] alot of very talented local people: The Ayem Crew, (watarush.com); Melbourne Stencils are going nuts; Sydney is also good. Melbourne [though] would have to be the best place to see peoples’ art on other peoples’ walls.
Q: The characters that you illustrate are quite a motley crew. Do they each have names and stories? Or are they just anonymous city dwellers?
I guess they are loosely based on friends and past bosses and girlfriends, but they are all gargoyles.
Q: Wheat-pasting and stickering can be quite adventurous I'd imagine. What's the most incredible bombing tale you can tell?
Not really… just good times sitting on roofs drinking beer, except for that time when I was arrested ‘cuz they thought I was breaking into the building.
Q: Could you discuss your creative process?
I use pens mostly—pencils and markers to do the original designs—then use the computer to refine them. For canvases I paint with brushes and acrylic paints. For bigger works ill use spray paint.
Q: Describe your typical day.
Eat muesli. Go to work. Go out for some dinner. Come home, draw something or paint something or go skating or visiting. Go to bed.
Q: I've seen your work pop up in magazines and even on album covers. Has your street work helped attract clients? And do you dabble much in freelance design and illustration work?
A little bit here and there. Royal Elastics was kind enough to take me to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan this year to do exhibitions. I love those guys as well.
Q: What projects are you currently working on?
www.kingbrownmag.com and www.theyok.com
Q: Do you have any exclusive Yok news you'd like to share with us? If not, how about some celebrity gossip or a recipe or something?
No news yet, it's all still in development. As for recipes, I can't cook very well so I eat out a lot.
Q: Any closing words for the people?
Turn off the TV.