WHATSGOOD. WITH BRYAN YONKI

At whatsgood. we're big fans of not only street art but also calligraphy and type. We stumbled upon Bryan Yonki on Instagram, while browsing through the 'discover' page. Not only was he making cool stuff, he was doing it very regularly, and we soon realised that he was challenging himself with a project titled "365 Days of Type". As the name suggests, he made and posted a new piece every single day on Instagram. After following him for a couple of months, we decided that we really wanted to know more about the project and who he was. He was nice enough to do an interview with us:

Introduce yourself to our audience. What got you started? Why focus on type? What’s your background, where are you from, etc. ?

I’m Bryan Yonki, I’m a lettering artist born in Chile currently living and working in Los Angeles, California. I started painting graffiti about ten years ago so that’s my main artistic background. When you do graffiti you sketch a lot on paper and I guess that’s what got me started with hand lettering and I always liked graphic design (even though I went to school for Psychology). So I started to copy a lot from typefaces, studying different letterforms and mixing them all up. That was my introduction to lettering, and the rest just sort of followed.

Growing up in Santiago I got really interested in old bus signs, they were all hand made and fascinated me. Band logos also always caught my eye, I remember the first time that I used the Internet I Googled all my favourite band's logos and put them on a floppy disk. 

We actually started following you on Instagram because of your "365 days of Type project". Could you explain this challenge to our audience and also let us know how this came about? Why you decided to do it? Is there a goal behind this effort?

“365 Days of Type” is a project that I’m still working on; I’m posting one piece a day on my Instagram account. I guess the idea was to challenge myself in the daily practice of creativity, I’ve been posting pieces or works in progress regularly for the past few years but for some reason I felt that I wasn’t doing it often enough and I didn’t really like what I was seeing.

I wanted my Instagram to look like a collection of versatile work and I wasn’t satisfied with my output, so I decided to do this project as a way to focus strictly on letterforms. To showcase what I´m capable of and curate what I´m sharing. I would say that those were my main goals when I started but I wasn’t really expecting any results, even though it has brought me many tangible results. In a certain way when you curate what you share and you show up consistently people unconsciously see you as a knowledgeable person in the field. So, more people became interested in my work and stay engaged. On Instagram, for example, I’ve noticed that people use the follow button as a subscription. This allows them to know what I’m going to be delivering, so they decide to stay tuned. Of course this hasn’t been easy. A year is a long time when you have to come up with different ideas every day, no matter what your schedule looks like, even If you are tired or don’t feel like it. Still the result is so worth it.  

Now that you’re 282 days into your challenge – what’s the progress been? What’s been the most difficult part of the challenge for you? How did you experience say the first 100 days? 

At this point it feels pretty natural, I wake up every day thinking about what can I work on that day, which has an incredible tangible value. Just being in the habit of always thinking of new ideas, new techniques or mixing mediums. I guess the most difficult part has been trying to balance what I’m putting out. I mean, posting really different stuff. I wouldn’t like to post the same kind of work for a whole week because I don’t wanna be labeled as a graffiti artist, a Calligrapher or a Sign painter, even by myself. The harder it is to label my work, the better. Very often I see that in trying to establish a particular style and be known, people repeat themselves, and once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. I´m very concerned with not repeating myself, always trying out new mediums, new tools or new techniques as a way to keep my mind fresh and stay creative. I think especially the first 100 days I experimented a lot. I was less busy so I had a lot of time to think about new stuff. Now that I have a day job and some freelance commissions, my time is more limited and that’s probably the hardest part. I’m limited by time and also by all the factors that affect us as human beings: feeling lazy, blocked or sad, or not up for anything on a given day. We all have more than a few days like that in a year and they can be hard to overcome creatively.  

Your work is pretty extensive – from Calligraphy, hand lettering, Sign Paintings to graffiti – which of these comes easiest and most difficult to you? 

I would say that depends on the day, sometimes I wake up and I really wanna go out and paint a wall, and I can’t think of anything else. The same happens with a calligraphy piece or a sign. I can literally see the letters in my mind before I paint them. Even though a calligraphy piece can take me just a few minutes, whereas a graffiti piece a few hours or a painting a few days, they can all be really hard to come up with. So ultimately more than the medium, it is the concept behind that is challenging for me. Once I have that, the medium or the technique doesn’t matter because I know exactly what I want it to look like.

Your work is often clad with positive messaging; “The Hustle Never Stops” / “Try Anything Once” / “Try Again” / etc. Is there any thought-process behind choosing the right words? If so, what is it? 

I guess I’m really aware of the weight that words can carry. A word can provoke a physical reaction or help you get through a negative mindset, or, of course, the reverse.  If I can choose between making a negative or positive impact on my viewers I’ll always choose a positive message. Sometimes, behind these apparently random words, there is a personal story; a phrase that someone said to me or a word that I overheard that sounded funny to me. I also get a lot of influence from music and books. Still what I really enjoy is analyzing colloquial English language, since I’m not a native speaker. Every day I learn new words or expressions that people use without thinking, they just take it for granted. I do that a lot as an effort to make something more interesting than writing the day of the week, or the name of the latest popular movie. I see that a lot and I think it’s pretty boring, or just not really thought out. You don’t have to write “shaky” with a shaky calligraphy to make a point. 

What can we expect from you in 2016?

For this year I´m looking forward to finish my 365 project and edit a little zine with everything that I did. It'll be a nice way of documenting this process and have a physic memory of the work that i'm doing now. I´m also looking forward to have more time to work on a series of canvas that I´ve been procrastinating on (due to lack of time). But definitely stay tuned for more projects to come.

You can follow my ongoing 365 project on Instagram @bryan.yonki or check my website Bryanyonki.com.

Peace.