© Todd Owyoung / Red Bull Content Pool
Simon Young’s doodle daydream
Being selected as the U.S. champion in Red Bull Doodle Art has been a dream come true for Simon Young.
As soon as he logged onto our call, it was not at all surprising that Simon Young’s drawing had been chosen out of 12,000-plus entries to Red Bull Doodle Art as the U.S. winner. A bookshelf spread across half the wall behind him while the other half along with the wall to his left were covered in colorful, emotive, and whimsical paintings. Cartoonish faces floated amongst swirls of blue and black showcased not only Young’s unique and distinct style of art. The particular mural behind him was inspired partly by the TV show "Twin Peaks" but also drew on archetypes from many different fictional mystery characters. In the same way you can tell a lot about a person from the car they drive or the type of dog they own, my first momentary peek into Simon’s world showed me that creativity simply flowed out of him.
The New Mexico based illustrator and graphic designer has been drawing since he was a kid. He remembers hanging out with his friends and drawing together as early as middle school, but it wasn’t until he was sixteen that he knew that he wanted to spend his life making art. “Everyone was breaking down life decisions and careers and everything and I was like, all right we’re gonna make the worst decision and go to art school,” he joked. Young ended up specializing in illustration at California College of Arts and University of New Mexico. An illustration degree gave him not only a foundation for still lives, live drawing, and other formal fine art skills. But once he’d begun to master these skills, Young was able to dive into creative softwares like Adobe Illustrator that led him to graphic design.
The digital route was not always where Young intended to go. He felt as though he had trouble communicating his ideas through digital mediums and struggled with the authenticity of it. But around the time he started his graphic design business, he discovered the Procreate app and its integration with an Apple Pencil. A digital medium like Procreate has allowed Young to really tap into his ‘doodles’ and turn them into more finished pieces. “Doodles are about going with your gut feeling and going in and making marks that are loose and gestural. They’re pure, and raw, and uncut,” he said. Being able to undo, redo, and layer has opened up a whole new world for Young.
When Young stumbled across Red Bull Doodle Art, he knew immediately the direction he wanted his piece to go in. To Young, the Red Bull brand represents everything high energy, whimsical, and a certain amount of ridiculousness. “Whenever you see a guy barefoot water skiing behind an F1 car, the Red Bull logo is on it, or floating in a hot air balloon doing BMX tricks, there’s a Red Bull logo. They had already established the essence, so I really wanted to make my own character for it. I think I got lucky because there was already an alignment between our styles,” Young said. He wanted his doodle to embody that and really capture the electric feeling that watching Red Bull athletes give off. Young ended up doodling his own version of a Red Bull athlete and tried to capture that very essence. In order to make his piece loose and gestural but still refined, he made it in Procreate, starting with a pink 'underpainting’ before finishing it in digital black ink.
Red Bull Doodle Art has led Young to work on other large scale digital pieces. Right now, he’s working on one inspired by the entire southwestern United States and the tidbits of history from his home state that are less known. “There’s only seventeen people per square mile, we dropped the first nuclear bomb here, we have a really large wealth gap. There’s a really interesting art scene here that’s not all silver and turquoise jewelry or Georgia O’Keefe. I’m trying to bring that in and focus on that in this piece,” he said. Young not only draws inspiration from the world around him, but from history, mythology, and movies. Like the mural on the walls in his office, much of Young’s work tells a story. As is many artists, Young’s work is also inspired by others. Takashi Murakami’s high fidelity, bright colors, and hierarchical composition are a clear influence in Young’s work. The effect’s of German painter and printmaker Albrecht Dürer’s bold crosshatching can also be seen in Young’s work.
Being selected as the U.S. champion in Red Bull Doodle Art has been a dream come true for Young. Social media and marketing himself both feel somewhat foreign and uncomfortable to Young, as it does to many creatives. Being recognized for his work, and a piece of work he really likes that’s very much in his style by a brand like Red Bull has felt like the ultimate stamp of approval to Young. “It feels like, thank goodness, I’m not just wasting my time with art,” Young said, laughing. Going into finals in Amsterdam, what Young is most excited for is just meeting the other artists and creatives. He’s connected with several of them on Instagram already and looks forward to connecting with and getting to collaborate with the rest of them. Although Red Bull Doodle Art is a competition, Young feels like he’s already won the lottery just by being the U.S. champion.
“Red Bull is a brand synonymous with high caliber and cool. I think if you’re a person who makes art, you don’t normally think of yourself as those things. So having a little bit of that handed to me has elevated me hugely,” he said. Young already feels like Red Bull truly has given him wiiings and cannot wait to see where Red Bull Doodle Art takes him next.