Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
My name is Robert Sae-Heng and I am a London based Illustrator/ Artist of Mexican and Thai origin. I was born audibly impaired but eventually learnt to read and speak at a later age. You can find me a lot of the time drawing in cafes or walking about in search for the best burrito in town.
What appeals to you, or attracts you to, working in pencil?
It gives me control and the ability to create different layers of tones.
What size do you tend to work at? Do you have a preferred scale? Why this preference?
I tend to draw on massive sheets of paper as it gives me freedom and flow. It also makes the editing process easier as it allows me to see the bigger picture!
How do you conceptualize/construct a piece? Do you think of it as a story, snapshot, or abstraction?
Do you have a favourite subject matter? What’s the particular attraction to it?
My work is highly influenced by my cultural backgrounds. (half Mexican/ half Thai) For many years and for the foreseeable future, I have delved into my Mexican side. Maybe one day I will delve into my Thai side, then the world…
What materials do you seem to always return to?
I always return to pencil and painting in ink. Traditional medium will always remain key to my creative process.
Can you tell us about a favourite or formative creative experience?
As a deaf child, creativity was a way for me to communicate and express myself. This has obviously had a profound effect on the path I have chosen in life.
Your work is so whimsical. Is it safe to say you have a lot of fun in your life?
I do live life to the fullest and travel at any given opportunity. I truly believe traveling broadens the mind.
What is your favourite image or photograph? What brings you back to this picture?
My favourite painting is by Jenny Saville, which I find so inspiring and beautiful in its own sense. As my favourite photograph ‘Their first murder’ (1941) by Weegee, which captures a wide range of emotions amongst the energy and ruckus.
Do you have any early memories of drawing or, what’s your first memory of an image?
I remember when I was very small in Mexico I used to draw on the kitchen walls of my mothers house in different coloured chalk.
Unicorns figure predominately in your work. Can you tell us about your first unicorn illustration? How/when/why did it transpire?
It is inspired from a visit a few years ago to Sterling Castle in Scotland with their show ‘The Hunt of the Unicorn’. They are often referred to as ‘The Unicorn Tapestries,‘ a series of seven tapestries dating from 1495–1505. These colossal tapestries show a group of noblemen and hunters in pursuit of a unicorn. Since then I have been inspired to paint, spray murals and draw a sneaky unicorn in every commission I have done in the last year…
Are narwhals the unicorns of the deep?
Narwhals have the brains and unicorns the beauty…
Your illustrations appear over several platforms ranging from wrapping paper, wall visuals, advertisements, and album artwork. What has been your favourite of all these projects, and is there a project you haven’t done but are yearning for?
I‘ve always had a true passion for wall visuals. Since as a child living in Mexico I used to paint these colossal murals of people dancing across my home village. I have so much grit to paint a 100 ft mural on a side of a building in the near future. But most of all, just to have more time to paint more personal works…
Do you keep a sketchbook?
I always carry a sketchbook wherever I go, it’s a friend I can return to every time. Especially when traveling on the London Transport, I try to capture subjects on the spot when most vulnerable, asleep…
Do you have a favourite type of pencil?
A loyal 0.5mm HB mechanical pencil I have been using for the past 8 years.
What is the origin of Mr. Rubbertoes, your blog?
It is from a really bad Mexican joke I have been saying throughout the years which as seem to have stuck. Taking into mind I’m half Mexican and my name is Robert.
Question: What do you call a Mexican with Rubbertoes?
Which lead me to literally get the word ‘rubbertoes’ tattooed on my toes!
Where can we find the best Mexican food in London?
I am still searching for it…
What directions are you interested in exploring in the future?
I am potentially looking into ceramics, as I can visualise my characters working well in this medium.
What are you working on now? What can we look forward to from you next?
I am currently doing the branding for a chain of Mexican restaurants based in Dubai called ‘Taqado Mexican Kitchen’. Also doing the complete branding for a new biscuit company that’s taking London food markets by storm. In the next year you can expect murals to be painted across Europe and the Middle East from me. Along with a series of ‘Day Of The Dead’ themed illustrations I have been planning in my sketchbooks for the past few year.
Where can people get a hold of your work, or find out more about your previous projects?
You can find out more about my previous projects from my website and blog.
My work can be purchased at Somerset House/ Rizzoli now, where my gift wrap, exercise books, greeting cards and other products are now available. My online store will be going live at the end of July.
The Tiny Pencil QUICKFIRE QUIZ:
What was the last film you saw in the cinema?
What records or pieces of music are floating around in your head these days? Do you listen to anything while you’re working?
I am a massive fan of Sigur Ros but when it comes to working I tend to listen to podcasts or TED Talks. I like learning new things and listening to peoples thoughts.
What are the books on your bedside table?
I don’t own a bedside table…
Coffee, nicotine, or booze?
Favourite city in the world?
Glasgow. I love veggie haggis!
Favourite city to draw/sketch/illustrate/create in?
Robert’s work appears in Issue 2.0 of Tiny Pencil, the summerzine Monsters, Mammals & Mars! Available to buy here.
This interview was brought to you by The Tiny Pencil – fine purveyors of the pencil arts and mishmosh artist Heather McCalden.
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