Manny Janda, also known as Yo-Janda is an illustrator, graphic designer and all-around great guy. His work is a blend of cartoon creations and urban street culture and recently we sat down with him in his chic London flat and discussed what inspires his work and his latest creations, the Bush Boys.
Yo-Janda (YJ): Hey my name is Manny ‘Yo-Janda’ and I am an Illustrator / Designer living and working in South London. I am the co-founder of Mush Studio, an Illustration studio alongside my partner Kushiaania and our cat Kubo. My work consists of funny character designs and playful typography, mainly using a black pen or Adobe Illustrator.
Levile TV (L-TV): We’re really excited to speak to you, Manny. Let’s start from the beginning, when did you first begin to draw?
YJ: I’ve always been interested in drawing. I remember my first drawing. It was the first day of school, I think I was around four years old. My teacher told the whole class to draw what they like and everyone was drawing footballers or houses, things like that, I remember drawing an Indian Superman. I was the only Indian in school, and I remember my teachers looking very confused, but I liked my drawing and I must have continued from there.
L-TV: In your work, what sort of themes do you pursue?
YJ: I like to incorporate humour and things that I enjoy looking at. I use a lot of street style in my work and involve certain clothing I like. So you’ve noticed there is a lot of Carhartt in my work, whether it be a Carhartt Jacket or a cool beanie. I like to use parts of people I see around me, not exactly like a portrait but for example, a person in a big puffer coat. Just the standard folk you see, even a street pigeon.
L-TV: What sort of specific art styles or artists are you drawn to?
YJ: There’s not just one single style I can pinpoint, I’m a fan of a lot of different styles. I’ve always been drawn to anime like Dragon Ball Z and cartoons. The Simpsons in particular or the stuff you find on Cartoon Network, like Wacky racers I like their strong outlines and simple shapes. That’s the sort of art style I do myself. Not too much detail but enough to bring my point across.
There are artists as well who I follow and admire, for example, there is an artist called Jules Julian. I really like his style with simple characters that portray strong messages and funny jokes. I also really like Steve Harrington, he creates really cool characters in his own trippy art style. You can always tell you’re looking at a Steve Harrington picture.
L-TV: Within your work, you take a very freehand approach and use typography. Why do you choose to add typography into your work?
YJ: I’ve always liked the way words look alongside imagery. Like the layout of a magazine or poster, it’s nice to see images withhold text next to it. I think it’s the graphic design part of me, when I studied illustration and graphic design I always thought text can look quite beautiful next to a piece of art. Sometimes I feel like a bit of bold text work can enhance the art itself.
L-TV: Can you take us through what inspired the Bush Boys and how you went to build them?
YJ: Absolutely! It all started with a simple drawing. One day at work in the office, it was very quiet, I had nothing to do so I started doodling. I drew this character with big eyes, trainers and a whole bush for the body. My friend loved it and put it on her wall. That was a few years ago, and during the lockdown, I began playing with the idea to make sculptures. I was re-surging into art toys and that drawing I had done in the office came to my mind instantly. I thought it would be really cool to turn that into a sculpture.
Everything about Bush Boys is drawn from household items. The body is a toilet roll tube, the leaves of the bush are cut out from magazines and the legs are made from burnt matchsticks. The only thing created for them is the shoes, which are made of polymer clay.
L-TV: After you finished creating them, Instagram was the first place you showcased the Bush Boys. What was the immediate reaction?
YJ: There was a lot of love for them. I was quite surprised by it. I thought it would be something people would scroll past but instead a lot of friends showed their support and shared it on their insta stories and the Bush Boys reached a large audience. I got a lot of love from people I didn’t expect like a fashion designer Geo Owan, and Rebel Magazine editor Namal Lanka and the Bush Boys got a lot of love.
I had a few people asking me when the next Bush Boy drop was and how they can get their hands on one. I had a lot of people asking how they can make their own to and wanted videos showing the process.
L-TV: And then you began to sell them, how fast did they go?
YJ: Within a couple of days. I was very surprised by how quick it happened. There were 5 up for sale, and I thought I would for sure sell at least 1, and the rest would go as freebies to friends but no. I managed to sell them all.
L-TV: From the way the bush boys look, especially their expressive eyes, they look very mischievous, do they have their own names and personalities?
YJ: Yes they defo look mischievous, I think that comes from them having to hide in bushes all the time. I wanted to play on that and they do have their own character and that does show in the way I make them. For example, one has been used with leaves from camo prints, he’s a shifty Bush Boy, he’s got something to hide. Another I made tall, I used longer cut leaves for him, he looks shaky and uneasy. With the way that I draw their eyes and cut their leaves, that’s how their personalities come through.
L-TV: If the Bush Boys were living creatures in our world, where would you find them?
YJ: Oh for sure they would be found in stupid places, like the bus stop or sitting on a traffic cone. They would be urban creatures, blatantly in the open. They would be thinking that they’re hidden and no one can see them but instead everyone can see them.
L-TV: Living in the city, what do they eat?
YJ: Hmm …… has to be fried chicken.
L-TV: What can we expect to see from Bush Boys in the future?
YJ: I want to develop the Bush Boys more. I want to be able to turn it into a model where you can actually take off the bush and see the creature hiding beneath it. I’m still playing around with the idea for now.
I want to explore more materials with the Bush Boys because there’s always room for improvement. I want to experiment with clay and resin and polish the overall design. Right now I’m still selling them on my Instagram, but I am excited to where Bush Boys can lead. Creating Bush Boys has definitely motivated me into looking at official figures in the future with more detail and components. I’m excited to see how far they’ll go and what they’ll become.
L-TV: Thank you so much Yo-Janda for your time with us, we’ve had a lot of fun speaking with you and we cannot wait to see what you’ll do next.
YJ: Thank you so much Levile, for showing love and wanting to discuss the Bush Boy series – I had a lot of fun creating these and am definitely excited to see where it takes me.