BOS Ice Tea brand is all about is self-expression and creativity. Thus, when looking for ways to create a fun and positive conversation during lockdown, the BOS team turned to this pillar. The company approached Russell Abrahams, aka Yay Abe, to design an illustration that could be downloaded for people at home to colour.
Abrahams is a Capetonian artist who works as an illustrator. He studied graphic design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and says he has been “messing around with Photoshop since the age of 15”. And now, at 27, he is “having a blast” with a wide range of commissions for illustrations and artworks, some of it street art/murals.
BOS Brands global Creative Director, Marie van Niekerk, says the brief to Abrahams was to depict his response to lockdown: “We suggested a theme of ‘Moments of Joy’, as we all grapple with a new way of life during lockdown. We are thrilled with the result and hope that people have fun colouring in.”
Abrahams said of his design: “I really wanted to illustrate a moment of joy for myself and people I’ve interacted with. The concept is based on using cellphones and technology to connect with family and friends. I think the power of video calling really makes us all smile from ear to ear. The scene depicts many screens with lots of happy people on them, as if we’re all still together.”
“I need to be quite versatile as an illustrator. When the opportunity arises, I’m free to work in my own unique style, which uses bold colours and shapes accompanied by black line work which is very pattern-like. My main aim is to create simplistic line work and shapes that come together and create a very elaborate and detailed final piece.”
We asked how the lockdown has affected him as an artist: “Lockdown definitely gave me a big fright and it still does. It led to job cancellations and others being postponed. At the start of our lockdown, I published five illustrations to my Instagram which served as little reminders of how to be a good human being during the lockdown. I think this helped me quite a bit as any work that’s been coming in has referenced these pieces. I think finding creative ways to push yourself is the best way to utilize and capitalize on this time. Without neglecting one’s mental health, of course.
“As an artist, it’s been a good time to just clear my mind and count my blessings. I’ve been making sure to try to evolve myself and my work.”
When asked if he thinks lockdown will have a permanent impact on him as an artist, he says it has highlighted the meaning behind his work. “If anything, it’s impacted the “WHY?” behind my work. Making work that’s more people-focused has definitely been something I always loved doing, and it seems I’ve been heading down that road again.”
In addition, he says he is motivated by inspiring others: “Representation matters and I really want other young kids (especially of colour) to see my work and understand that they can make a living following their passion for drawing.”
“My favourite artists are probably Kaws, Karabo Poppy Moletsane and Smithe. Lucian Freud is definitely my all time favourite traditional artist.
“The Maboneng mural is definitely the largest piece of work that I ever worked on. It was 15meters by 4 meters and it was such a communal piece of work. I think playing with scale is always such a great way to amplify and enhance one’s work.”