From Brandi’s articles, you’ve probably become acquainted with WEBTOON. I also am a fan of the app myself and sought to interview one of my favorite artists to join the trend of giving light to the wonderful creativity that is on there. I’ve been on this app since 2016 so I thought it was only fair to go and seek out a longtime artist.
One creator who has been on the platform for several years now is Andrew Tyaston, better known as Shen. Shen is best known for his “relatable humor” series called Blue Chair. The series is mainly led by a narration of his avatar pictured as a man in a yellow shirt and jeans with a unique red-haired style. The comics can border between absurd, self-deprecating, and wholesome, especially in the moments where he battles against his personification of Life who appears as a purple buff dude.
Shen updates weekly both on WEBTOON and his Instagram with a variety of strips that are just the perfect thing to sit down and read when you feel that your own little world isn’t going too well. Overall, they are a comfort.
I reached out to Shen via his Gmail and thankfully he responded. We had a Zoom call where I listened to him talk about his series and asked several questions about his journey as an artist from making comics on tumblr for fun to becoming an original creator on WEBTOON.
1. How did you come to find WEBTOON as a platform?
“That’s kind of a funny story actually. WEBTOON reached out to me among many other artists. They sent an email with some spelling mistakes or something promising decent money for the comics. And those are both red flags for a scam as far as artists are concerned. My parents thought it was a scam too at the time, but I was a little more naieve which kind of worked out to my benefit. They asked me to send them 5 comics to start and then afterwards I would get paid on a monthly basis. So I took a chance.
They invited of course a bunch of other artists which happened to be people that I often knew, because we all communicate in the webomics community. They would reach out to me and ask if it’s a scam, and I’d reply, ‘As far as I think, no.’ And I’ve been there since before even public United States launch.”
2. On Blue Chair/ Shen Comix, you’ve done short stories like Little FireFighter or Return to Heroland. Out of all of those you have made over the years, which one did you feel most inspired with?
“There was a time that I was starting to come out of the mental state of being super down and depressed. I had moved to LA for a while because a bunch of my friends had moved there, but I didn’t like it there at all so I moved back. Since I was really down I had started making a comic called “Fly to the Heavens on a Bicycle Made of Stars.” It was like the Life Shonen arc. I had a lot of fun with that.
I was working on that comic like a robot. I would get up at like 7 a.m., sit down at my computer, work the whole day on an episode, and post it at like midnight. And then I would do it all over again the next day. That was some kind of a fever dream of a production cycle where I was posting them daily. I think I only skipped one day and that’s only because I wasn’t satisfied with what I had made that day. I ended up deleting it and posting a different version of it.
So that comic I really had an inspired experience making it.”
3. A lot of your comics are listed in the humor genre on WEBTOON. Where would you say your humor comes from?
“I would say a lot of it comes from vulnerability. I think when we talk about vulnerabilities we have in a very straightforward way it can be intimidating and scary to do that. You have a lot of defense mechanisms that pop up. But if we talk about it in a humorous way then it’s easier to confront our own weaknesses. It’s confronting a state of wishing we were bigger and more powerful than we are as people.
Maybe that’s not a universal thing, but I feel like a lot of people struggle with this idea of ‘how much control do I have over my life’. And I absolutely advocate taking as much control as possible. But I also like to do funny stuff with pathetic-ness, you know? I hope that makes sense.”
4. Although, some of the stories in your comics also have elements of horror. How does that come into your storytelling?
“I’ve always been a huge fan of horror. It’s shown up very intermittently in my comics because I feel like horror itself is a form of humor. They have a lot of the same structure of an undermining of expectations. They have “jokes”, except in horror those jokes are scary. So sometimes when people expect humor, the funniest thing you can do is horror, right? And maybe that’s more funny for yourself than your audience, but sometimes that’s what it’s about.
5. How did you come up with the distinct appearance of your avatar, especially in relation to his hair?
“I usually wear jeans so the blue pants are jeans. In one Blue Chair episode, I revealed that they are actually overalls. I don’t know how canon that is, but he takes off his shirt and they’re overalls.
The yellow shirt was something that stuck from all of the other shirt colors. I guess it was a satisfying palette for me to draw. I think it became yellow all the time around when I started making the Life comics around back in 2016. So that’s when he consistently started wearing yellow shirt, yellow sweatshirt.
In terms of the hair, it started looking out like my actual hair which is dark brown. It became more saturated as I like using saturated colors which made it more red. And so people when they actually see me are disappointed that my hair isn’t actually that color. In terms of the shape, I have this bad habit of twisting my hair into knots. I’ll do it on the sides, the top. I think it’s got a name called trick-something-mania. But it’s when you tie your hair into knots and pull it out which I’ll do sometimes because I can’t untie the knots. That’s the origin of Shen’s hair. I have it a little bit under control right now because my hair is pretty short. Back then when I made Shen, I constantly had these wierd bursts of hair which stuck out. That’s why he has two juts on the sides and the thing on the top.”
6.Any words of advice for aspiring WEBTOON or comic creators?
“Right now I’m a little bit, “do as I say but not as I do” on this, because I’ve been kind of bad at this myself lately. But this is some advice I’m stealing from Kate Beaton who made “Hark! A Vagrant”, a fantastic webcomic and she’s a great artist overall. One of the most important things you can do if you wish to improve and gain an audience at the same time is to update consistently on certain days of the week. For example, say I’m gonna update every Wednesday or every Tuesday, ot whatever I can manage. Then basically say that hell or highwater, I am updating something, I am putting something out there on that day. Even if it’s bad, something’s going up.
Then you get into the habit which can help in two ways. One of the ways is that the audience knows they can expect an update from you so they stick around and come back. And the second way is if yiu force yourself to do something for a few hours every week, you’ll get better at it. You almost have no choice in the matter.
And if what you’re doing is specifically comics, then you get into the mindset for the whole week of ‘okay brain, I need two good ideas for this week’. And then you get into the habit of observing things and thinking about things in a funny way, or a dramatic way, or a horrible way. Whatever you need for your comic.
The other advice that precedes that advice is do post, you know? There’s so many people that I know, no shade to them because I give them this advice too, who will make so much preparation before even making their post. But the truth is, you’re not gonna know all the variables, you’re not gonna know what people like, you’re not gonna know what you can manage until you start posting or get in the game.”
Blue Chair updates every Wednesday and Saturday. Make sure to also read his stories on Canvas such as Public U. Art Club! Thank you for reading and tell us what other WEBTOON artists or series you’d like us to cover!