Feature Friday #009 — Josh '@yoyoha' Hara

Feature Friday #009 — Josh '@yoyoha' Hara
Just when you thought your Friday couldn't get any better, we go and do something like this… and release Feature Friday #009! Welcome to our series highlighting some of the incredible people on Cotton Bureau. You can find the always entertaining Josh '@yoyoha' Hara on Instagram and also shop his collection on Cotton Bureau

Hey Josh. Gotta say, I have a ton of questions for you so I'm pretty excited about his one.

It seems like your journey to social media superstar status was kickstarted by your coffee cup sketches. It's been a minute since we've seen one though. Was there a particular reason you ended the series or was it just time to move on to new challenges?

I started the coffee cup series in March of 2014. Then, in 2018, I successfully crowdfunded a book using the publisher Unbound.com out of the UK. Eventually, the work that went into creating that book, writing it, designing it, and coming up with rewards for all the different support levels for the people who contributed to it wrung me out creatively. And having this anthology, this tangible complete thought as far as the coffee cups went, felt like the logical end to the series.

Plus, drawing on coffee cups was a massive pain in the ass. I was ready to return to nice, simple, traditional flat media.

Order All the Coffee Cups from Josh '@yoyoha' Hara and Unbound

Your work has a very unique tone. Let's call it… sarcastic. Do you feel your satire is more prevalent in your art than in your personal interactions?

Personal interactions? I've barely left my house over the last three years. The pandemic permitted me to fan the flames of my most reclusive tendencies, so most of my human-to-human interactions are limited to the barista working the window at Starbucks and the cashier who's forced to help me when I miss-scan something at the self-checkout at the grocery store.

So, yes, most of my sarcasm is dedicated to my creative work, save a small percentage I expend in self-defense as my grown children insist on making fun of me at every opportunity.

Everything feels so serious today, which is why I think your humorous takes are needed in our current environment. Have you found any other outlets that complement your disposition? Standup comedy, script writing, podcasting, etc…?

Everything is serious, and when the news cycle is like this, I find it hard to create cartoons or anything humorous. While I agree it's needed more than ever, the weight of the world also makes everything I do seem trite and pointless. I know that sounds depressing, but it reminds me of the scene from the movie Moneyball when Brad Pitt (playing Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane) comes into the clubhouse to find players joking around and dancing to "We Want the Funk" by Parliament Funkadelic after a loss. He smashes the radio with a baseball bat, stares them down, and asks, "Is losing fun? IS LOSING FUN?" The player who had been dancing on a table humbly admits, "No," to which Beane responds, "So, what are you having fun for?"

I hate to say it, but that's the way I feel when I think about posting some drawing out of my sketchbook or working on a silly comic. With all this hate and suffering, what am I having fun for? It's not a healthy attitude, I know – being a sensitive artist is stupid.

But to answer your question, I've returned to my roots over the last year, filling up sketchbooks with drawings and comic ideas. I hope to return to posting things that other people can enjoy, but for the time being, I'm focusing on just entertaining myself.

Caffeinated Skater by @yoyoha on Cotton Bureau

Your cartoon setup-to-punchline equation is dang near perfect in my mind. Do you have a cartoon influence? Either in artistic terms or delivery style…

I have so many influences, but Gary Larson of The Far Side is one of my all-time favorites and who I most tried to emulate when I was starting out. Most of all, I loved his ability to create one singular, timeless joke. And while I loved to draw, my ability to redraw the same characters repeatedly, like Bill Watterson of Calvin & Hobbes fame, was a non-starter. Thus, the single-panel comic was always my muse, which made the coffee cups a natural fit at the start.

You've worked on a few books at this point. Tell me how the process differs from individual illustrations to integration within a story. Is it difficult to create in linear terms?

I've worked on two books over the last five years. My All the Coffee Cups anthology and I illustrated a children's book about inclusion called Some People Do, written by Frank Lowe (a friend of mine from Twitter.) The coffee cup book was fun to write because it was me poring over the entire project, cup by cup, and featuring the best of the 500+ I created over the years. It wasn't an easy process, but it turned out just as I wanted, which still feels like a heck of an accomplishment.

As far as the children's book goes, that was hard for a different reason. It required so many different drawings, and it took me so much longer than I ever anticipated to complete. When you add my tendency to procrastinate almost everything, it required a mad scramble to finish by the final deadline.

While both experiences were mostly positive, I don't recommend it to others looking to get into the book game. It's expensive and time-consuming, and there is only a return for your effort if you're a celebrity with a massive audience or have an exceptional book agent. I'm not jaded.

OK, I'm a little jaded.

I think my favorite CB design of yours is the Carbs hat. So very important question: In or out on the Chick-Fil-A Pimento sandwich?

The "Carbs" design is the most popular thing I created on Cotton Bureau. As far as that Chick-fil-A pimento sandwich goes, I still can't believe the food stylist didn't throw up 1,000 red flags and encourage the powers that be to tank that from the menu as soon as they saw what they were working with. It looks like cat vomit on a chicken sandwich, and I want to know what kind of person in the world looks at those ads and is like, "Oh yeah, I'm all in on THAT." I'm nauseous even talking about it.

Team Carbs Dad Hat by @yoyoha on Cotton Bureau

As a company HQ'd in a city with a minor identity crisis (is Pittsburgh Midwest? East coast? Appalachia?), I'm interested in how you view your hometown of Columbus. Do you feel like there's a supportive art community?

As far as Columbus goes, it has an amazingly supportive art community. When my cups initially went viral, I was featured in the local paper a few times and had invitations to be on the news (which I declined because no).

The Ohio State University also has the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum, which boasts one of the most significant archives of comic and cartoon art worldwide. Every October, the city hosts CXC: Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, a big convention featuring tons of artists from all over the country. I've never gone because I'm basically a shut-in at this point (like Maurice Sendak with far less talent), but it's nice to know it's there.

We've covered a variety of projects you've worked on in the past, but what comes next for you? Any interest in dabbling with AI art? I'm always interested to see what influential people in this space are expecting for the future.

Honestly, I'm not sure what's going to be next. While my social media production has stopped, I'm still churning out new ideas on the daily. Like most of us, I’ve poked around ChatGPT but I'm not into AI from a visual perspective. Art & technology have always been intertwined, but something about AI art kinda bums me out.

I guess I feel like most artists have already been robbed by social media platforms and AI generated art feels like an extension of that. Artists, comedians, and other content creators made all these platforms more fun to visit, and how did they get repaid? Their audiences were held hostage by the all-knowing algorithm.

Which is why I’ve always loved partnering with Cotton Bureau*. You guys saw the immense amount of creativity that was unlocked and found a way for artists to make money on their talent. We upload a fun design, and you do all the hard stuff – the printing, the shipping, the customer service and the keeping track of everything. And while I haven’t made a million bucks doing it, it’s definitely helped me keep cash loaded on my Starbucks app, and that alone is something to be thankful for.

* I just want to highlight I was not asked to say anything nice about Cotton Bureau before the interview – I just wanted to make sure to give them credit for being one of the good companies out there supporting artists and designers and helping them do more of what they do best..

Sure, we’ve found creative ways to use social media and some of us have been lucky enough to build big audiences. But in doing so we made Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and whatever fun to visit because audiences loved being able to get something funny, cute, awe-inspiring or interesting every single time they signed onto them.

Well, we couldn't love that response more (and it's not just because of the CB praise). You bring such a unique perspective and candidness. This definitely did not disappoint. Thanks so much Josh!