Simon Hayag fuses traditional technique with modern technology to ink his own blueprint on the future foundation of modern pop art, and now he’s created a monster. See his art, feel his passion, and read to see how art has changed his life in more ways than one.
Name: Simon Hayag
Text by BBI Staff | Photos: Edgar Hoill
Every so often, an artist comes into the world and develops a style that challenges the very foundations of medium and technique. Simon Hayag is one such artist. Though he is certainly not the founder of the digital medium, his work with it is nothing less than extraordinary. One look at any of his art will leave you scratching your head and reciting the ’80s catch phrase, Is it live, or is it Memorex? You see, Simon’s digital works look more like paintings; so much so in fact, that many of his admirers would have no idea that they were created on the computer. Is it possible to have “amazing brushwork” via a computer program? Simon obviously thinks so, as his work speaks volumes about the possibilities. “There are so many mediums out there, and I’m equally inspired by all of them,” he says as giddily as a first-year art student.
His respect for art is genuine, as his traditional artwork is easily as impressive as his digital works, lest you think he is some sort of one-trick Photoshop hack. No, he is a first-class talent, and his caricatures rival those of acclaimed caricature artist Sebastian Kruger-someone with whom Simon was fortunate enough to take a class under. With images and inspirations from MMA fighters, actors, actresses, tattoo models, and musicians, his caricatures are larger than life and easily have as much personality as the subjects they depict. These are not his only strength-though Simon does not have years of formal training, he has studied and participated in a variety of workshops under the tutelage of some of the country’s best artists. Learning everything from life drawing to painting and digital art, Simon’s skills are well rounded and he has become increasingly fascinated with the medium of tattooing. Fully sleeved with a chest piece and a leg piece to boot, Simon’s affinity for tattoo culture will assuredly come to life either by way of his hand on a tattoo gun or in his upcoming traditional pieces depicting tattooed female models.
A chance meeting with renowned Image Comics artist Scott Clark in his senior year of high school changed his life forever and led Simon to pursue his art full-time. “He was my best friend’s neighbor, and he took me to his house. It inspired me because he told me to keep drawing. Here was a guy who had his own house, his own car… he was more than comfortable and it made me think I could make a living off of my art.”
Utilizing the ever-popular social networking site, Myspace.com, in 2008, Simon began receiving heavy exposure for his work, and he hasn’t looked back since. Having created images for fashion companies like Sullen and Tribal, the future remains extremely bright for this supremely talented artist. While Simon’s natural gifts may even transcend his teachings, he remains ever humble, proving that a true love and respect for art will always be the key to artistic success.
“I just got into art by wanting to put something cool on my wall, and for people to like what I do enough to support me and keep me doing what I love to do, it’s just awesome,” he says gratefully.
How did you get your start?
I’ve been doing art my whole life. I haven’t had a lot of formal training, however. I took one semester at Jeff Watt’s Atelier of the Arts school and was flying down to San Diego for the classes every weekend. I learned a lot there. I also took a painting course in Los Angeles with an amazing guy named Mark Westermoe, and it taught me how to paint. As far as digital is concerned, I took a couple of classes and workshops with Bobby Chiu for digital painting, and it really pushed me. I never really pursued anything with my art until 2008 when I started putting images of my work up on Myspace.com, and it kind of blew up from there.
What fueled your move to Vegas?
While i was working as a caricature artist and taking an animation course, I had an opportunity to work in Las Vegas as a 2D animator and I took it. No one really taught me how to design there; I just kind of learned it on the job.
Did your family support your artistic dreams?
They wanted more stability initially, but they have been very supportive of me. I think any parent just wants their child to be doing something stable, but they became very supportive of me over the years because they could see how much I was into it.
How did you create your own artistic style?
The gaming industry is so digital, so I ended up applying the traditional techniques that I learned from Mark’s painting class to what I had learned in digital design while making 2D animation. The trick is to make something still look traditional; you have to use the same techniques in theory. I also paint traditionally as well, so this makes my transitions between the two mediums pretty easy. I can pick it apart and tell if someone has done something digitally versus traditionally, but I still like to bounce back and forth myself. I am looking forward to doing more traditional art soon.
How do you feel about the flack digital art often receives from the traditional community?
I’m sure that there are some people out there that fuel that controversy, but I know guys that do digital artwork and they are also amazing traditional artists. I don’t really feed into it because I’m just happy to do the art that I love, and I know that I can do both. The techniques along the way just helped me to create, so I don’t feel that one is necessarily better than the other. I do think that learning to do art digitally is important if you want to go into commercial or freelance artwork.
How do you choose subjects in your art?
I like MMA-those guys are already so intense. I love doing caricatures, and I love women with tattoos. In a weird way, for me they all kind of tie in together. When I do my traditional stuff, I think I will do more on women with tattoos.
Besides your teachers, who were your influences?
Sebastian Kruger. I just took a workshop with him. To me, he’s not only an amazing caricature artist; he’s an amazing fine artist as well. The guy only uses acrylics, and it inspired me because you’d think he was using oil. Also Gil Elvgren, American pinup artist.
Are you interested in working in the tattoo medium?
Yeah, I think so. Right now it’s an interesting medium for me because it’s on skin, so it’s very different. I’m studying under a few artists that I know so that I can learn the techniques involved. I’m so interested in many different mediums, but I think tattooing would be a great challenge. I love tattoos myself, so I’d love to study and practice it.
What artists have had a hand in your personal tattoos?
There are a few who have inked me, like Joshua Carlton. Also Luc Zietek, who did my sleeves, Robert Pho, who did my front piece, and Abey Alvarez, who did my leg.
You recently worked with a couple of fashion companies. What was it like?
Working with Sullen and Tribal has been great. I work with Ryan a lot, and Sullen is a great company. I think they’re doing a great job and heading in a good direction. Bobbi from Tribal is a great guy as well. I’m excited about my work with his company and I can’t wait to see it out there. I’m really happy to be working with both of these companies; they place such a high value on quality art.
Your exposure and success has come relatively quickly to you. Are you worried about getting burned out?
I think it’s just the beginning. If I can keep at it, keep putting in hard work and having people enjoy what I do, that’s great. If it goes super big that’s great too, but I already enjoy what I’m doing and I’m happy.
Are there any downsides to being a full-time artist?
For me, it can be very tough on relationships. It’s hard to find that right girl that is willing to understand how much dedication I put into it, which can be frustrating ’cause I’m always busy, I’m always doing something with art.
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