A spoonful of Yogurt

YogurtMedia is a new manga-inspired graphic project founded and developed by local Edmontonian, Lee Cheong Loong, also known as “YogurtM.” A 22-year-old chemical engineering student by day, Lee moonlights as a comic book artist, nurturing his Yogurt Project from its foundation in 2009 until today. Lee is the sole member of YogurtMedia.

The first print volume of the Yogurt Short Comics launched on October 1, 2013. If you were hoping to get your hands on it, you’re out of luck – the volume sold out two months after the launch. However, Lee’s illustrations, gifs, and ideas can still be found on the YogurtMedia website.

For those of you who want to know more about the Yogurt series, we asked Lee some questions about his inspirations and influences, his plans for Yogurt’s future, and his advice to those budding artists out there.

What is YogurtMedia?

YogurtMedia is a self-publishing circle dedicated to producing content related to the Yogurt Project. Online, YogurtMedia is a blog where most of the content related to the project is hosted. The Yogurt Project initially started as an idea to produce an original series following the everyday life of a fictional character aptly named Yogurt, my mascot character. Today, the bulk of the content related to the Yogurt Project revolves around the 4-panel web comic series.

What platforms do you work with?

The works I make are published under the YogurtMedia name. Most of my works are published online, such as my web comic series. Print volume collections of my comic series will also be published in limited quantities, through existing vanity presses. However, many of my readers are more actively involved online, so I focus my attention to publishing content there. Nowadays, I find that it is easier to reach out to more people using the internet as the main publishing platform. Of course, I’ll always try keep the books coming too. Some people love the feel of flipping real pages and having a physical copy on their shelves.

Who/what are your inspirations and why?

If I had to choose a particular group of people who had influenced me the most, it would be my friends and family. Much of my comic series revolves around the life of Yogurt, whose experiences were inspired by my own personal experiences and interpretations of various interpersonal interactions between my friends and family. Second to that group would be other budding artists. Seeing many starting artists challenging themselves makes me feel like I’m not alone. For many artists, even those who are accomplished, this journey never ends.

What do you hope to achieve with the Yogurt Short Comics?

The Yogurt Short Comics series is simply a branch off the Yogurt Project. With the series, I am able to draw cute characters interacting with each other. There’s a lot of room for small, innocent jokes and heart-warming moments. I would assume that many of my readers picked up my series because of how simple and cute the series is as a whole. I find that it doesn’t try to be pretentious or over-the-top, so the series feels very laid-back and basic.

One achievement that I hope to accomplish with my series is the ability to influence my audience. Getting my readers to feel a certain way is something that I hope to achieve. In this case, I’d like my readers to feel relaxed. The type of sub-genre that I would classify my series would be something along the lines of, for the lack of a better term, healing slice-of-life. The purpose of many works classified in this genre is to create a very strong escapist basis and by creating a very soothing or healing atmosphere, often emphasizing the tiny pleasures of everyday life or nature itself. Despite the lack of an over-encompassing plot, I find many works in this series to express complexity through simplicity. Seemingly simple works could actually have very deep and emotional undertones hidden away within the settings or characters. This sub-genre is somewhat niche, so many works in this area are typically limited to a small, but loyal fan base. To me, as long as I’m having fun making these comics, the number of readers isn’t important.

Another reason why I wanted to approach a comic series is to simply breathe life into my characters that would otherwise remain a concept. A part of me loves to be able to play as the creator. Directing my characters and dictating everything in their lives makes me feel like I am in control. Of course, there’s also an attachment to my characters as well. I would be lying if I said I didn’t love my characters, or if I said that I didn’t want to see them live their lives happily.

What advice do you have for budding artists?

As one of the moderators of the growing Google+ art community, Anime Artists, I’m always surrounded by budding artists. One of biggest advice I can give is to simply keep at it because you love it. Another common advice is to simply take your time. It can take years for artists to reach a “spark”, and it can take even longer to hone the necessary skills to achieve their goals. It isn’t something that happens overnight. Artists must also learn to balance their ambitions. Learn when to prioritize your own ambitions over the ambitions of others, and do not let yourself be distracted from what you want to accomplish. If you happen to get stuck at the inspiration stage, look at others. People-watching is a great way to get inspired. Just try not to look strange when watching others!

What’s your favourite animated show or movie?

I consider myself a fan of Japanese animation and comics. It’s not unusual to see me catch an episode or two, or read manga daily. Picking out favourites is something that I try to refrain from doing, simply because there’s too many to pick from. However, I can list some of my favourite mangaka (comic artists), whom have influenced me and my works to an extent. Keiichi Arawi, Ume Aoki, and Yui Hara, just to name a few, are some of the authors that I look up to. Their style of writing and illustrating is something on a different level than most of the works I’ve looked into. As a result, I began to explore them, incorporating similar concepts into my works. As I discover other artists who have similar concepts in mind, I’ll probably add them to the above list.

What are you working to improve on?

As I continue to produce comics and illustrations for the Yogurt Project, I have aspirations to, not only improve my current skills to better illustrated what I really want to express, but to also expand the project further and hopefully into the realm of animation. Seeing my characters interact panel by panel is nice, but a step up would be to see them move and interact with each other that way. That is far down the line, but I’ll certainly leave that open for possibility. It will give me another goal to reach.

CC photo credit: Lee Cheong Loong and Yogurt Media

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