Interview by Abi Koh
Sharmaine Sermonia is a 20-year-old illustrator currently living in Toronto. Born in Saudi Arabia, she grew up in the Philippines before moving to Canada. We love the whimsical creatures that she illustrates, which she calls yawnis! Many of the mixed media images you see here are part of her "Yawning Sunday" series, and were photographed by Jimmy Vi, illustrated by Sharmaine, and joint art-directed by both Sharmaine and Jimmy.
What did you major in at school?
I took Fashion Marketing and Merchandising. I enjoyed the company of my friends, but the work and sleepless nights were awful - but I mean that's just how it is. After I graduated, I realized I didn't really enjoy fashion, but it was a great experience.
When did you first begin illustrating?
At the age of 8, I drew a lot of characters while my parents left me at home alone while they worked. Eventually, I taught myself as I got older. I do a lot of experimentation with ink and watercolor, as well as software such as Illustrator and Photoshop. I started to illustrate seriously at the age of 17.
I love the little creatures in your collaborations with Jimmy Vi! Is there a story or inspiration behind them?
I call the little creatures yawnis. Jimmy and I had this theme called “Yawning Sunday Mornings” where a pretty innocent, yet oddly charming character had life taken out of boredom through the yawnis. Each scene represents the idea of what I usually do on a Sunday, and the wish that that my whimsical characters would come to life. The main goal of our collaboration is to bring my illustration into the real world by combining photography and illustration. #yawnis
Who are some of your favorite artists?
There are so many great artists out there, but my current favourite artists are Yayoi Kusama, Sol Lewitt, James Jean, and Mall Licudine. Another person who inspired me a lot was @furrylittlepeach because she's bold and so kawaii.
What tools, both digital and analog, do you use?
For my collab with Jim, we first planned out our ideas through sketching and creating short stories - basically like a mood board and a profile. I then used Adobe Illustrator with my Huion Tablet/Wacom Pen & Touch. Jim’s camera is the Canon 70D with Tokina 11-6 sigma 50mm 1.4 lens, and he used lightroom for editing.
For traditional illustration, I use my favorite brand Isaac and Newton Watercolor and Koi Watercolors. For pens, I love Micron Sakura. Lastly, for paper, I use acid-free, cold press watercolor paper or illustration paper.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
My drawings are inspired by my own thoughts running through my head while listening to music. I always draw sad girls because it reminds me of how I was so emotional back when I was a child, alone in the house with no friends. I was an introvert. I like creating mixed feelings with my art, but in a way it makes me happy creating these images. Also, I think all of my artwork represents me (at least that's what a lot of people say).
What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?
First. know what medium you’re confident with or do experimentations. Second, always draw. If you don’t like something, try again; you'll be surprised. Third, create an album playlist to keep you pumped up. Fourth, research one artist who will keep you motivated to draw. Lastly, post your work on social media, one of the most powerful ways to get known!
What do you hope to be doing 5 years from now?
I want to be a professional artist/designer who inspires others and have my own gallery/clothing store.
Anything else you'd like to mention?
I sell my yawnis shirt at Cocoonx.ca if interested! I'll be creating more designs soon.