Let's Go Play with Lovesoup May 30 2021

Lovesoup is a Thai artist who was previously based in Sydney, Australia, and has since relocated to Tokyo, Japan. She finds inspiration in everyday mundane life and aims to create illustrations that will make your day a little better. Lovesoup is known for her soft, pastel-coloured illustrations featuring joyful characters and animals. With a formal background in architecture and graphic design, Lovesoup decided to take a leap of faith and move overseas to pursue her love of drawing. She now works full time managing her online store and creating designs for adorable stationery. Her character Pepper is a grumpy lazy girl who lives in a world of cats. 

Interview by Viet-My Bui. Photos supplied by Lovesoup.

Tell us about your creative journey. What pathways lead you to this particular point in your art practice?

It’s been quite a winding path! I have always loved drawing since I was young and was particularly influenced by Japanese anime and manga. Growing up in a traditional Asian household, art was definitely not a career option, so I took up Architecture instead. I immediately found out it was not right for me, but having little say at the time, I finished both the bachelor and master’s degree – after 6 long years!

I’ve jumped around a few creative careers since then – from working as an Architecture Assistant, to a Graphic Designer, to an Advertising Art Director. Maybe it was my upbringing, but I’ve always thought I had to work for a company and climb the ladder, because that’s what everyone around me was doing. I was chasing the perfect job but nothing felt right. Looking back, I am so grateful for everyone who gave me chances along the way, but at the time, it was pretty tough. I wasn’t happy, I felt lost and behind all my peers, and wondered if I was being too picky with my career.

After a particularly tough period of overworking and burning out, I left my full-time work and became a freelancer. That was a big and scary decision at the time, but suddenly I was left with so much free time to make art! That was all I ever wanted: to draw. Slowly I started creating again, being active in the online art community and making products. Gradually things started to pick up and I eventually stopped freelance work to concentrate on my own business.

It’s a dream I didn’t even dare to dream. It’s been 2 years since I’ve been able to work on art full-time and every day I feel grateful and blessed.

What is the story behind the name 'Lovesoup'?

It’s a little embarrassing but back in 2010 I was into a Japanese female rock band called Chatmonchy. I needed a username and at the time thought of their song 'LOVE is SOUP' and I shortened it to Lovesoup. I wasn’t really thinking much at the time but the name kinda stuck until now!

What motivated you to move to Japan in 2018?

Maybe it was a little bit of escapism, but I’ve always dreamt of living abroad. After burning out and quitting work it just felt like the right timing. My partner is Japanese, so Japan was the natural choice for us. It worked out perfectly because I’ve always loved the country and am so familiar with and inspired by so many aspects of the culture!

Walk us through a day in your life as a full time artist.

My days are pretty simple and quiet, but I enjoy it very much as an introvert. These days I start with a cup of coffee and a little walk at the park, then spending the rest of the day at my desk. Since I am currently a one-person team, tasks are varied. I usually split them throughout the days of the week: art, Patreon, creating/managing products for the shop, admin, packing orders, making YouTube videos, etc.

A big part of your independent business is the creation of supremely cute merchandise: keyrings, stickers, stationery. What inspires you to create these products?

I love surrounding myself with cute things. I grew up with plush toys on my bed and using cute stationery from Asian stationery stores (Morning Glory anyone?). I may have grown up a bit since then but my desk is still full of toys and little knick-knacks. These are things that bring me joy and I want to create items for people who love cute things as well.

Your artwork has soft pastel palettes, adorable characters, and a gentle simplicity. How did you arrive at this art style?

My art is still a work in progress, very much like myself! I’ve gone through phases of trying to develop more intricate, detailed styles, and even playing around with limited palettes. But I realised it wasn’t really me. I decided to embrace what I love: simple and cute things. I want to make people smile through a little twist of the familiar :)

Your grumpy, lazy girl Pepper recently began featuring regularly in your works. Can you tell us more about this mascot of yours?

Yes! My first illustration of Pepper was actually in 2014, so quite a while ago. I drew a girl surrounded by cats and named the piece “Strangers”. That was quite a personal piece. I wanted to illustrate the feeling of “being an alien” which I often felt growing up – except instead of being an alien among humans, the protagonist was human and everyone else were cats. It made me smile to imagine my childhood feeling of being different in this funny way. I really loved how the illustration turned out and I couldn’t forget about the girl even years later, so I turned her into a mascot.

Pepper has a lot of elements of me, what I am and am not. She’s also things that I wish I could be or embrace more in myself. After burnout and years of caring too much about productivity, toxic positivity and hustle culture, I wanted her to be the complete opposite: a grumpy lazy girl who just loves to eat snacks all day.

You have a huge online following, a busy online shop, as well a thriving Patreon. How do you juggle making products for others versus making personal art?

I would say that I struggle to make time for 'personal' art these days. But I am also very lucky to have a community of supporters who give me creative freedom to do what I want. I often use my Patreon as a space to experiment with designs and colors. And I am lucky to get to play around with different mediums of expression, not just art but product design and even video editing for YouTube. It’s not easy juggling all the tasks and I am always trying to find ways to fit everything in!

You have an upcoming show with us at Outré Gallery. As I understand it, it’s one of your first ever solo shows! Tell us the concept behind the works you created for the show.

Yes, thank you so much Outré for the opportunity!!! In this show I wanted to share my obsession with Japanese playground toys, particularly spring riders. I find myself taking photos of them every time I come across a new design. When looking at these toys, I feel a sense of nostalgia for lost innocence and imagination – that’s what I would like to portray in these pieces!

How do you combat burnout and artist block?

Definitely something I am working on as I can be prone to overworking. Since I am my own boss most of the time, setting realistic deadlines and expectations help to reduce myself from stress. I prefer to work ahead whenever possible to avoid last minute rush, and I like to schedule my time to separate work and personal life. I’m also finding ways to keep my days more balanced: taking walks, making myself a nice drink, journaling and taking breaks when I need it. When stuck on a piece, I’ll switch and work on something else for awhile. Most of the time this works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you just have to get through a bunch of bad drawings before you get to a good one!

What are some important lessons you've learnt so far along your journey as an artist?

As someone who spent a long time to find myself, I realised these three things:

  1. To stop comparing my journey with others, everyone’s path is unique in their own ways.
  2. Own your story and then you can write the ending – a little cheesy but a big lesson for someone who didn’t feel in control of her own life.
  3. Consistency is key. Keep going even if it doesn’t seem to be adding up to anything yet!

It has been a strange year, and staying connected to others is especially important. What do you feel is an artist’s role (or your role specifically) in connecting people and reflecting the human experience?

I am not sure I have an answer for this. It has been a strange year in many ways, and I spent a big chunk of the year feeling disconnected maybe like many others. At times I found comfort in hiding myself in work, which didn’t work out too well for my mental health! Art provided me a little ease and escape from reality and I could only hope that people could share this feeling of comfort when they look at my works!

What advice do you have for those wanting to pursue a creative career?

My advice is maybe tailored for the over-worrier like me! As someone who has dabbled in a few creative careers and freaked out almost the whole way, I would say to first, take a deep breath. There are people who would be willing to give you a chance based on your portfolio rather than your education. Do good work, make good connections, but understand that things take time. You can do it!

Sai, thank you so much for this conversation. All the best for your first solo show in Australia!