If the world was plunged into a state of apocalyptic despair and all colour from the streets had gone, laughter had faded and there was not a smile to be seen anywhere, then I truly believe that I would have the solution.
I would call upon the man who describes his illustrations as colourful, happy, and stupid and who believes his Holy Trinity is ‘colour, mood and balance.’ I am of course talking about Yeye Weller.
His work is a beautifully crafted kaleidoscopic explosion of colour, influenced by the world of German illustrator Heinz Edelmann, who was responsible for the magnificent Yellow Submarine, Walt Disney, and the legendary American animator, Max Fleisher, who brought to life Popeye and Betty Boop.
His designs and prints are the perfect marriage of retro and vintage and are dripping with nostalgia and loaded with humour, sarcasm, cheek and a reminder to smile, take it easy, and enjoy life. They are a beautiful antidote to a world that sometimes takes itself too seriously and they resonate with so many people across the world.
Yeye has a penchant for soccer, stickers and sidecar cocktails. An avid collector of beermats and advertisements of his favourite skater brands, he is fuelled by large quantities of coffee, his love of music, doodling, working hard, but most importantly having fun.
Born in Germany, he had once upon a time dreamed of being a singer before he discovered his love of creativity and Adobe Photoshop, which transformed him into an illustrative alchemist.
His client list reads like a who’s who of some of the world’s biggest organisations; Adobe, New York Times, KFC, Adidas, Netflix, Sprite, McDonald’s, Snapchat
Dunkin Donuts and Warner Music Group, to name but a few.
It is the length and breadth of the work that Yeye produces which is quite remarkable. Whether it’s murals, t-shirts, prints, socks, pin badges, art exhibitions or advertisements, he is able to turn his artistic hand to it. He is in demand from Portugal, the UK, America and beyond, to work on projects and collaborations for businesses, brands and people who are in search of that something unique.
During our chat, Yeye apologises for his grasp of English, which I remind him is not at all necessary, as it’s probably better than mine and also my German is horrendous.
In fact, from my high school days all I have retained is the ability to recite the German alphabet, tell people that I play table tennis, go to the disco and can buy a bike. None of which has proved helpful on any of my travels to Germany.
It does though give you an insight into Yeye’s humble, down-to-earth and self-deprecating nature. One of the other most delightful things about Yeye is that he is a fan of The Gummi Bears.
The reason I mention this and why it pleased me so much, is that I have never met anybody else that has ever seen the Gummi Bears. For years, my friends and family have been insistent that this show never even existed.
Having excellent knowledge of TV shows from the mid-’80s is of course just one of Yeye’s many talents and it was a pleasure to sit down with him and learn more about his career, what it is that motivates him, and why developing your own style is just like cooking soup.
I immediately became addicted
I live in Münster these days and I think it will stay that way. Münster is famous for rain and churches, but I love living here. On the one hand, we have got a historical city and on the other hand, there is a big student scene and the city is pretty open-minded. The city is also very famous for riding bicycles, with twice as many bicycles as the population.
I wasn´t the typical stay-at-home kid, who drew pictures for hours in his room. I grew up in a small village in Germany (near Münster) and most of the time we stayed outside and did the classic childhood things like playing football and roaming through the woods, but there was always a special interest in nice things.
Since my early childhood, I have collected stickers and beermats and I still love them today. Later I started to collect all the ads of my favourite skate brands and this was also the starting point of being creative.
It started very simply by filming our awkward teenage skateboard skills but we started doing more and more every day. When I was about 14 I got a cracked version of Adobe Photoshop and I immediately became addicted. A short time later we started to sell our own produced shirts to friends and classmates and things started to take their course
Developing a style is like cooking a soup
As a kid, I always wanted to be a singer. I never played an instrument and I can’t sing very well, but I liked the idea of standing on a stage in front of a crowd.
Today I am very glad that this dream didn’t come true and that I work as an illustrator in the background. No spotlight, no crowd, no screaming, just me, my studio and some good music.
There are some moments when you struggle for work as a freelance illustrator, but nevertheless, I would say it is my dream job. Even if it sounds a little bit too dramatic.
Developing a style is like cooking a soup. Find out what you like and take the best ingredients from all over the world and create a tasty and harmonic result which bears your own hallmark. And it’s very important to be patient. The longer the soup will simmer the more intensive the flavour will be at the end.
I´m a big fan of Heinz Edelmann and the Yellow Submarine. You can watch it a hundred times but are always amazed like you’re seeing it for the first time. It is perfect in colours, characters and music.
Obviously, my style is also based on the 1930s cartoons by Max Fleischer or Walt Disney. But I can’t say that I read a lot of comics in my childhood. Of course, I love to watch cartoons like The Simpsons or The Gummi Bears.
The biggest task for creative people is to be able to motivate themselves again and again, even after years
I love music! Listening to music every hour of the day is the best part of my job and I can assure you that nothing works without music at my desk. It may sound boring, but I listen to nearly every kind of music, from Lil Wayne to Serge Gainsbourg. But at work, I have a special preference for female groups of the 60s, like The Chiffons, or The Shirelles.
I wouldn’t say that film, music, football or culture affects my work in any particular way though. I would rather say though that the internet and the almost endless possibilities still influence my work today.
Luckily, I have never had a creative block or something like that. Rather the opposite is the truth. I don’t have enough time, to fulfil all my plans and projects. Maybe this is because I work most of the time for clients and they usually have a clear briefing for the artwork.
I think the biggest task for creative people is to be able to motivate themselves again and again, even after years, and to have fun at work. To be able to push themselves to perform well again and again and to have high expectations of themselves. This is sometimes a bit exhausting, but I think it is the basis for everything.
focus on one thing you really love and develop this style
I think with anything it´s always a little bit of luck and talent. But the most important thing is hard work and having fun. In the beginning, you have to motivate yourself every day, working on your own projects or badly-paid jobs.
Even if all your friends are hanging out in the park and enjoying the sun or having a drink. Don´t get me wrong you should enjoy your life, but being self-disciplined and working hard is the base of this job.
My studying years looked like enjoying life on the one hand (because it´s one of the best times of your life) and taking time to develop your style. I was always very lazy in courses that didn´t interest me, but I was extremely diligent in all those courses that I liked. You shouldn’t stress yourself to finish your studies.
The job market is really hard and no one is waiting for you (and me) when you have finished your bachelor’s or something else. So sometimes it´s better to take more time in order to develop further.
In the first years of studies, it is important to try things out and find out what you like. During the last few years, it is important to become more concrete, focus on one thing you really love and develop this style over the years. It´s not easy, but this decision is indispensable.
i´m just happy to be a child of our time
On my ideal working day, I would come to my studio well-rested and it would be raining outside. I don’t know why but I love to work when it’s raining outside. I wouldn’t have any appointments in the evening and no office work to do beforehand, just time for something creative and already with a rough idea of what I want to do. Then I would turn on some nice music and the rest would come all by itself.
Besides designing I like to do some music. I don´t play any instruments or anything like that, but I´m just happy to be a child of our time where everything is possible with a laptop and an internet connection. Otherwise, I love cooking for friends or having a few drinks with them in a pub.
Furthermore, I love to play ball sports. I used to play a lot of football, but now it’s more like “Speckbrett” the German word for bacon board. it’s a special form of tennis that is only played in Münster. The sport is a bit more urban than tennis and you can find courts everywhere in the city. It’s played with a wooden racket and a tennis ball mostly on asphalt ground. It´s super simple and super fun.
That would be a project that changes the whole thing
I think you should never stop dreaming, that’s the magic energy which pushes you every day. I think this “job” would be so boring if you got to the point where you felt that you had achieved everything you wanted.
At the moment I’m dreaming of doing some big things. Something far away from the digital or print section. It would be so nice to see my illustrations as big sculptures in the urban area. That would be a project that changes the whole thing.
Our thanks to the gentleman that is Yeye.