The first part of this article ended with Seymour on his involvements in fund raisers and charity causes. Indeed, Seymour’s well known for his generosity and commitment when it comes to events as such. That’s a hallmark of a truly inspiring individual in my books. His designs are really one of a kind, collector worthy even.
If you’re wondering, the name Meerkatsu is a combination of his favourite Japanese dish, katsu curry and the meerkat. Seymour began to be actively involved in various Martial Arts forums sometime back in early 2000 and needed a user name. And it so happened that one day, he was watching a documentary on meerkats. The rest as they say, is history.
Your animal-theme artwork and designs are amazing brutha; it’s like a BJJ horoscope of sorts! And my personal favorite is the Honey Badger Rash Guard. What’s the ‘rash-ional’ behind that particular rash guard design (and other animal-themed designs)?
Animals have long been symbolic to human culture since the cavemen first scrawled charcoal and ochre drawings on the insides of rock walls. We are animals ourselves biologically speaking. Being able to emote with the characteristics of wild nature is a common theme in martial arts. Even if you don’t buy all the spiritual mumbo jumbo that associates itself with some martial arts, having a funky angry tiger back patch is still a really cool thing to decorate your uniform with. For me, I’m a botanist by education so I have studied plants academically, but in addition, I’ve always been a nature doc nut! Animals are fantastic to draw and offer so much inspiration for me. The honey badger is a fierce and fearless animal who, in its pursuit of food and defence of territory, will fight enemies much larger than itself. This is a great metaphor to evoke the fighting spirit in a grappler. In fact many of my designs that feature animals have a story as to why I decided to draw them. My recent peacock themed rashguards are based on the time I went to the zoo with my kids and there was a peacock strutting around. It was the only zoo animal not in a cage. I love the way he strutted around without a damn yet he would squawk and be mean if you tried to grab its tail. Peacocks are not to be messed with!
They say Inspiration comes in many forms. How have they appeared before you?
I work in a photo library dedicated to science and nature so I am exposed to many many images that inspire me. I have already described how animals and plants influence my work, but I also love to see what other artists and illustrators create in a whole variety of styles and genres. Almost everything in human cultural history in the past and present can offer itself as inspiration. The trick is to interpret it in one’s own way to make it fresh. Sometimes I like to create homage designs based on the familiarity of well known objects and brands – eg my Dueling apes t-shirt or my Ministry of Jiu Jitsu t-shirt. These are cheeky nods to designs that are well known to the masses. In those cases still, I try to impart as much of my own style and ideas as possible. At the end of the day, my job as an illustrator is to tell a story, in visual form. Not like a story book, but using the tools of colour, shape, characters and design a piece of art can really reach out and touch people. One good example if the Heavenly Footlock t-shirt I created. Here was a design that in the surface level spoke to grapplers who recognised the technique being used by the geisha girl. But on a deeper level, the composition described the fight between good and bad, small versus large, light versus heavy etc etc. It was fitting then that the design was offered as a t-shirt and all the profits went to charities dedicated to survivors of rape and sexual assault.
Now for what I call the ‘BZK Combat Club’ question. When faced with a creative block describe in your favorite BJJ terminology how you’d tackle the issue.
I very rarely get creative blocks ha! Why? Because there is always a way to move, even the smallest millimetre. Once you can achieve movement, the smallest shift, you can gain momentum. If I am struggling to think of an idea, I put my pencil on the paper and just draw. Anything, even random squiggles and textures. Imagine being stuck under someone’s mount. Sure it sucks, but it is still possible to escape.
Thank you brutha Seymour for your time and insights, it’s been an honor and pleasure. The floor is yours if there’s anything else you’d like to say or anyone you’d like to give a shout-out to.
Thanks to everyone who supports my work and buys my stuff!
Seymour Yang ‘s designs are simply imagination heaven. What he has is a gift and because he shares that gift, we are fortunate enough to be able to own a piece of it. It was indeed an honor and pleasure to write this piece. I wish him greater success.
As for my dream…
I happily submitted to a Geisha’s Heavenly Footlock.
You can check out Seymour’s designs or stay in touch with him here:
— Seymour Yang (@Meerkatsu) April 17, 2014