Meet Jason and Ymei, the Malaysian duo who are also known as The Potato Couple. The Potato Couple goes way back when art was used by Jason to profess his love for Ymei but it has gone beyond that since. In today’s Featured Interview, Jason talks about his craft and big plans for The Potato Couple, as well as J&Y Production. Enjoy!
1. Hi Jason & Ymei! Can you please tell us more about yourself?
Jason: I am an engineer, working in an engineering firm at Perai Industrial Park in Penang. We have our day jobs, and J&Y Productions and The Potato Couple are my part-time projects, where I do not only write my books, I also create contents everyday for my FB and Instagram page. We also endorse and collaborate with brands to help them build brand awareness on social media with our characters and comics.
2. How did you both meet each other?
Jason: I started drawing since I was 4. We knew each other in art class when we were in elementary school, but we didn’t really know each other until we meet again in high school. We started our relationship in my first year in university, and she was still in Form 5 (we were separated into two locations on the 2nd day of our relationship). She is quite an emotional girl, to make her laugh, I draw cute stuffs to annoy her. I don’t usually sweet talk because I am not good with words.
3. Where does The Potato Couple name come from?
a. A potato has a mild and slightly sweet taste. Hence, it symbolizes love which is supposed to be innocent and slightly sweet (not too much sweetness as that would cause diabetes)
b. A potato is a good source of carbohydrates, which could mean that love is always full of energy. So innocent, slightly sweet and err.. Full of energy. I bet you get the drift.
4. Favorite comic strip that you’ve done so far?
Jason: I love all of them as I sacrificed blood, sweat and tears to produce them. But if I have to choose, then it would be the “chou chou/ bantal busuk” and those lovely relationship comics.
5. What inspired you to keep drawing?
Passion, readers (local & international readers), and Ymei.
6. How do you maintain your relationship, work life, and drawing comics at the same time?
It is always very challenging to take up so many roles at a time, even though I have been doing it for 5 years (thank god I’m not drowned yet). I think I managed to prioritise things the FIFO method (first in first out), and also based on urgency. But these methods aren’t applicable to our relationship, which we need to maintain it 24/7.
7. How long does it take for you to finish one comic strip?
It depends on the complexity. A simple 2-3 box comic and Phoodle (Photo + Doodle) may take any time from 30 mins to 3 hours. It takes even longer time to make our animated videos and Wechat stickers. One animated sticker takes me one whole night! I make animation using the conventional way, drawing frame by frame, which is a very tedious process. I will take some time to learn another software to make these.
*Talking about Phoodle, it means Photo+Doodle. It means drawing my characters on top of photos, interacting with the objects inside. I will send some samples of these to you.
8. Can you guide us on the process involved in coming out with a finished comic strip?
Comic drawing can be split into a few stages.
i. Conceptualization – getting ideas from other sources, news, daily life, etc
ii. Draft and layout – we do the blue line sketch to layout the comic to make sure it is presentable and visually effective. I will keep adjusting until I am satisfied with the outcome.
iii. Inking – This is creating the outline of the comic
iv. Coloring and finishing – When the outline is done, I will fill in the colors and logos
v. Copywriting and captioning – Brainstorm for the right words to be placed in captions to increase effectiveness of the comic on social media.
9. Pros and cons of drawing comics?
It is quite hard to list out the pros and cons for drawing comics alone. Unless if we compare it to some other things, for instance comics vs painting/other mediums (on art), or comics vs video (on marketing and branding), or comics vs words (on printed media).
Let’s talk about the few examples that I mentioned earlier.
i. Comics vs painting/other mediums: Comic is easier and cheaper to complete compared to painting because it can be done with much lesser materials, like paints. We can express a message or a story effectively just by showing some characters in a few panels. Some comics do not even need dialogs. On the other hand, comics are not as visually attractive as a painting, it is less likely to be hung on walls as a deco.
ii. Comics vs videos: Comics are definitely easier and cheaper to produce compared to producing a video for branding/marketing purpose. However, the reach on social media will tend to favor videos, whereby videos will get higher reach compared to static images. But the good thing is as more and more youtubers and marketing gurus make a large amount of videos on social media to attract views, I realise that the reach between the two is starting to balance up. Today is all about the content, not so much about the format anymore. Another benefit of using video for marketing is that marketers can indirectly products into the videos very easily compared to a comic. Comic has its limitations when it comes to brand awareness.
iii. Comics vs words: A picture speaks a thousand words. Comic is definitely very suitable for readers who are very visual, as the author can easily express a joke or a message easily. While for writings, it is definitely best for technical writings and non-fictional materials. Some topics cannot be presented in the form of comics and hence require words to record data and for technical explanations. Both drawings and words have their significance, which is why my 2nd book has both words and graphics.
10. What are your goals for J&Y and The Potato Couple in the year 2018?
Jason: I hope I can write more books, comprising of different genres, and I am now trying to write stories. Story writing is hard, especially for someone who doesn’t like to watch movies or read novels like me. I got to learn it the hard way; take up story writing courses, trial and error with my shitty stories, tell people these shitty stories and get feedback, then pray that I can finally be a good story writer.
I also plan to have merchandise, but so far we need to build a bigger fan base in order to make it a profitable line. Producing merchandise is costly, we will be at risk if the sales volume is low. We see that there is a demand, but not big enough.
Besides that, I also wish to have an exhibition with photographers to showcase our Phoodles, I think Phoodle is a very beautiful way to express emotions, messages or memories.
Another wish is to continue to grow the J&Y and Potato Couple comics locally and internationally, I want it to go further, like Old Master Q and Crayon Shin-Chan. Before I can do all of these, I need to make more contents that are relatable to everyone from all around the world. As the facebook algorithm changes with time, it becomes harder for the comics to reach out to more people. I wish to leverage on big platforms for the comics to be visible to more people. I am thankful that we were featured on 9gag, Bright Side, SGAG, Says.com and Vulcan Post, which helps a lot in bringing in readers.
11. Any tips for the future young artist out there who wants to publish their own work?
ii. Do market research: know what the market wants to see and create contents for them, and then build a network of readers. Remember ‘content is king’.
iii. Create and improvise your own drawing style that will distinguish you from others.
iv. Set goals and execute towards them