Tuck in with Stéphane Casier April 24 2023

Stéphane Casier is a French illustrator born in 1983. After graduating from art school he worked several years as a freelance illustrator and collaborated with companies such as Reebok, Warner Music, or Jägermeister.

For a few years now he’s been focusing on his personal works that he sells online on various products (t-shirts, posters, stationery...) through his brand Yeaaah! Studio that he runs with his wife Laura.

Stéphane’s style is strongly inspired by Japanese pop culture which he got into at an early age thanks to manga and anime.

Stéphane's show Itadakimasu opens May 12.

Interview by Jessie Balletta. Images supplied by Stéphane Casier.

Hi Stéphane, we're so excited to be hosting your show at Outré! What can our audience expect from your new body of work?

Well, I think these works are pretty representative of the style I’ve been developing for the past few years. It’s totally inspired by Japanese pop culture with a strong Shōwa Era vibe. Bright colors, clean linework, kind of a mix between Japanese woodblock prints and anime.

I did two series for this show. The first one is a series of eight portraits showing people eating or serving Japanese food, hence the name of the show Itadakimasu, which is what Japanese people say before eating. These pictures are very brief moments in the day of the characters that are depicted, like a quick photo someone would have taken. It’s just everyday life.

The second series is a four-part story starring my two little ghosts Yû and Rei, out for dinner. Just the everyday life again, but I really hope these little cuties will bring a smile to the audience.

It's no secret that you love Japanese food - what is your favourite Japanese sweet?

Probably daifuku, which is a round mochi filled with sweet red bean paste. I also love mitarashi dango, it’s very easy to make so I often cook some with my little boy.

Now that we have the most important question out of the way, can you talk us through a typical day at Yeaaah! Studio?

It depends on what I have to do at the moment. When I was working on the material for this show I first spent a lot of time on my computer, digitally creating all the illustrations. Then, when I was happy with how they looked, I transferred my linework onto the paper or wooden panel and painted for days and days.

I wish I could do this every day, but since we sell reproductions of my illustrations online (screen printed posters, postcards, calendars…) I often have a lot of "company stuff" to do, like shooting products, creating social media content, preparing files for the printer, doing paperworks and emails, etc… My wife Laura is in charge of preparing the orders for our customers and wholesalers. She handles a lot too. Sometimes people tell us they thought Yeaaah! Studio was a big team but it’s just the two of us.

Do you work through multiple projects simultaneously or are you a one-thing-at-a-time kind of creator?

I’m a perfectionist, so I prefer to focus on one thing, give it my best, and - only when I’m done - move on to another thing. I can work on multiple illustrations at the same time if they are part of a series; that’s what I did for the 'Dinner in town' paintings. Since they all had the same color palette it was more convenient to work this way. But juggling between unrelated projects, doing a little of this and then a little of that, it’s not something I like.

That’s part of why I stopped working as a freelance artist taking commissions. In every project there is always a time when you have to wait days or weeks to get feedback or approval from your client, so you move on to another project in the meantime, but then have to get back to the previous one to make adjustments or whatever. That makes me lose focus and it just breaks the mood and dynamic. Every project is like a bubble - if you try and go out of it, it will just pop and disperse. That’s really how I see it.

Your visual language is so bold and graphic. Have you always had such a confident style?

No, of course I’ve tried many things in the past. Good things, bad things, it’s just a series of trials and errors. You keep learning and see what you’re comfortable with, what feels natural. Style is just a mix of inspirations, practice, reinterpretations of codes. It takes time to develop and it keeps evolving.

I love clear graphics, limited color palettes, simple shapes, strong images that immediately catch your eye. I have a graphic design background and some experience in advertising that I think shows in my work. I’ve learned how to design logos and pictograms in art school, that’s helpful. But back then I was not good at painting realistic stuff anyway so maybe bold and graphic was the only way for me.

You include a lot of text in your artwork - what draws you to typography and how do you go about incorporating it in your works?

I love vintage advertising and everything that mixes typography and illustration: movie posters, comic book covers, packagings, labels, hand painted signs, etc… So it’s always been normal for me to use typography in my work. Even when I was a kid, I always added some words, speech bubbles, or onomatopoeia in my drawings. Typography is great for setting a style or setting your illustration into a certain period of time. You don’t use the same type for an American 60’s vibe and a Victorian English vibe. The choice of typography is as important as the choice of color. Also, I love designing my own types rather than using computer fonts.

I'm really interested to know more about your connection with Japanese culture. Can you tell me about your first visit to Japan?

We visited Tokyo for the first time in October 2012 - it was a dream come true. There were lots of Japanese anime and series airing on French TV when I grew up, and I’ve been reading manga since then so everything looked familiar and new at the same time. It was very intense and we loved it, of course. I fell in love with ramen during that trip. Back in Paris, all we had was some sushi and yakitori restaurants and a few ramen shops that were not very good, so I didn’t know REAL Japanese food. I still remember the first time I had tonkotsu ramen, it was at a Keika Ramen restaurant in Shinjuku. It’s not the best ramen in the world but it’s the first one I had that was really tasty, and it totally blew my mind.

You have quite an extensive roll call of characters, not only in Itadakimasu but across years of your work. Can you tell us about some of your favourites?

Yeah, I love creating characters, and most of the time I imagine their back story when drawing them.

They all live in a city called Y-City. The Y stands both for Yeaaah and Yokai (creatures from Japanese folk tales). But it’s hard to choose, I love them all, they’re like my children! 

One that has an interesting story is Fémur, the skeleton. He used to be an employee in Hell (where he was born and raised). His work was to torture the souls of bad people but he started to feel sad for them. His father and superior, the evil-ish Doctor Radius, didn’t let him quit his job so Fémur had to run away from Hell and hide on Earth. He’s now teaching sports at the Y-City High School.

There are two characters that I've drawn a lot: Mimi the shiba and Kyûka the kappa. In 2021 I made a series of illustrations where I put them in the universe of my favorite manga, series, films, and video games. I had lots of fun doing that.

Thanks so much for chatting with us! We can't wait to share Itadakimasu with everyone!