Known for his striking yet simple comics, artist Anton Gudim has released a new book. The book, published by The Mansion Press, compiles several of his iconic Yes, But drawings, which have gained widespread popularity on Instagram and other corners of the web. The Yes, But project highlights the amusing, absurd, happy, sad, or unfair contradictions that we might find in our everyday lives. Today, we speak with him about the release of this book, his creative processes, and the varying responses to his drawings.
Congratulations on the release of your new book, Yes, But. How has the reception been so far?
The release of a book is always a special feeling; it is a moment when you can look back and take stock of your work. This is an important stage, because a book is a transition from the virtual world to the real one.
This is your first book, so everything must’ve felt very new to you. What was the process of putting it together like? Any special challenges or successes you’d like to share?
This is the first book for the Yes, But project, but not the first book for me: I already had comic books in Russia, China and the USA. The preparation work was quick and comfortable (I have something to compare it with, so I can say this). With some publishers I had different ideas about what the book should look like, with others the release of the book was greatly delayed. This time everything was great: the book was released at the right time in the form in which I imagined it!
Where do you get the inspiration for your artwork? Are the scenarios depicted in Yes, But often situations you’ve encountered in real life? After all, they’re certainly relatable to people on the Internet that love your work.
The Yes, But drawings are a symbiosis of everything that I see: these are situations that I personally encounter (I think these are the majority), and what I see in social networks or, for example, films. Do not forget that subscribers daily send new Yes, But, which they encountered personally, some of them also become drawings later. Initially, when I first came up with this format, I could barely come up with 5 to 10 ideas, it seemed to me that this was a very niche thing. Now, after a while, my brain has trained itself to see stories literally everywhere!
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What’s your creative process like? Do you start with an outline or idea of what you want to say before you actually start drawing?
I keep notes: sometimes there are several stories a day, sometimes nothing appears, but when it comes time to draw, I always have ideas to choose from. Due to the fact that the Yes, But visually simpler format of the comics that I draw for the Gudim project often does not contain backgrounds, I can draw ideas quite often, and this is good for the creative process - creating something regularly.
Your art is subtle yet sharp, and sometimes it serves a comment on current issues. In what ways does it reflect your personal views on the world and society, if at all?
Many people mistakenly believe (and are very offended) that my drawings are a way to reproach someone for shortcomings or stupidity, that I am an ideal person who does not make mistakes and tells people how to live. Needless to say, this is not the case, and the purpose of the drawings is to show contrasts in the world around us, not to judge, not to say what should or should not be said, but simply to show.
When you start a drawing, do you try to weave deeper meaning into it? For example, your recent comic that depicts ants working. While humorous, it appears to be a social commentary on working society. Or are people looking too seriously at it?
I believe that any work of art can be interpreted both in a frivolous and in the most serious form. Due to the fact that my drawings often do not contain dialogue or direct indications of what is happening, this gives a greater range of interpretations. And I think that's great. As for specific drawings, the truth is somewhere in the middle, just like in life, which is full of serious, sad and unfair moments, but at the same time funny, absurd and cheerful at times.
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You’ve said before that you want people to look at your work and engage in conversations on the social issues addressed in it. Do you ever draw with a specific message or idea in mind that you want to communicate to others?
This happens extremely rarely. Much more often I draw to spark a discussion between people on a given topic. The most interesting thing is to watch the dialogue between the two sides than to take sides.
How do you think your art style lends itself to the different interpretations of your artwork? Its simplicity and lack of text could certainly allow people to see the same images in different ways.
Yes, I hadn't seen this question yet, but I already answered it earlier. The most important thing that I noted for myself is that my drawings are not an uncontrolled stream of consciousness and have the form of a specific idea, so at least one interpretation is initially included in them. You can find others, of course.
It seems people love arguing in your comments on Instagram. Is that the kind of response you expect from some of your work? It’s almost ironic how the point of some of your pieces, which are often meant to be satirical in the first place, go over some people’s heads. Do you find the critiques of your art, especially the Yes, But series, amusing?
(Laughs) I didn't see this question either, but I already answered it. I believe that often the comments are even more important than the drawing itself. I'm glad that some topics resonate on the one hand, on the other hand it shows us why our world is the way it is. Often people are offended by their own interpretation of my drawing, and, as they say, “this says a lot about our society.”
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Are there any specific arguments or comments you remember from your posts that stuck with you? Have you ever considered turning one of those arguments into a Yes, But scenario? I’m sure there’s plenty of perfect material.
I don't keep these comments in my head all the time, but sometimes I'm really surprised by people's wit. When comments are constructive or funny and not just insulting, I'm glad that world still has a chance.
While they disagree with a lot of your interpretations of social issues, do you think Internet trolls have some sort of power that helps boost engagement of your artwork? They can often bring an issue to the forefront by accidentally trending it on social media.
I don't believe that there are people whose main occupation in life is to be a professional troll on the Internet. I think that many things on the Internet happen by chance and cannot be predicted. Some drawings are accepted calmly, while others cause a storm!
You’re also a software engineer, in addition to being an artist; two professions some don’t think mix. Is it amusing how your own life might be like some of the contradictions you draw about in your work?
I don’t consider this a contradiction, because both of these professions complement each other, but do not contrast. One of them satisfies the needs of my rational part, the other - my creative one. It is worth admitting that I devote more time to the creative part: in addition to being an engineer and an artist, I like to play music and play guitar in an amateur band.
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Most of your art is in comic form. Are there any other kinds of art you’re interested in trying?
Yes, I really like the form of music. Video formats still seem very difficult to implement, but I see them as the greatest power in terms of influencing people. In general, I am open to many forms of art: my exhibitions included multimedia and sculptures, I hope that this is not the limit. Publishing a book, by the way, can also be considered a separate form of art!
What’s next for you? Aside from your book, any new plans or projects you can tell us about?
I am moving progressively, and my creativity is often work day after day, because of the situation in the world it is extremely difficult to make long-term forecasts, but I would be glad to see the release of several more of my books and the holding of several more of my exhibitions!
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