Her name is Nur Aida Sai’ad but most people know her by her alias “Yellow Mushmellow”. If you haven’t heard of her, maybe you’ve seen some of her work—those commissioned by the likes of Redbull and McDonald’s, or even the personal projects she embarks on just for fun. The latter includes characters drawn onto barf bags with mouths that open and close and personalized cakes she draws for everyone who wishes her a happy birthday, among others.
The story behind “Yellow Mushmellow” is… Well, there isn’t a badass story—she admits she wishes she had one. She just likes yellow and marshmallows. Beyond the name, she thinks of Yellow Mushmellow as her superhero alter-ego, “the brand behind which I mask my anti-social desire to draw all day and never leave home.”
Art, for most of Aida’s life, was just a hobby. Even though she grew up in a fairly artistic family (both her parents are in creative fields), Aida never took classes for it, not even in school. It wasn’t until after her A-level exams that she realised her enjoyment in creating little doodles was something worth exploring, not just in University, but also as a profession.
“I tell people I’m a self-employed illustrator
but that’s really a fancy term for fun-employed.”
How did you get here?
I didn’t actually take Art in school. I always just did it on the side. But I think what really made me go, “hey I can do this” was my A-level exams.
I do this thing where I “draw my problems.” It was a difficult and stressful time, so I personified each A-level subject that I was taking and killed them off one by one in different scenarios in a series called “Death by Tests”. They were stick figure drawings but I am still very proud of them. Because I doodled them on the side of the pages or on rough paper, I caught the attention of my teachers. And after a few papers, they started looking forward to my drawings and would ask, “So what did you draw today,” when they came to collect my paper.
Every one of your projects looks fun and has an interesting idea behind it. How do you come up with these ideas and where do you find your inspiration?
I believe very strongly that creativity is seeing magic in the most mundane, everyday things. All you need is a little imagination, spontaneity and fun. If you’re navigating life after a painful loss, draw about your experience with grief and pretend you’re on an adventure in outer space, searching for meaning within the infinite unknown. If you’re angry about something, turn it into a monster and then make up heroic battles in your head — it makes it easier to laugh at your demons when you give them funny faces and silly personalities.
When you’re bored on the plane, draw on the air sickness bags, make them into paper bag puppets, talk to them. Ideas are everywhere. Illustration, words, style and technique are just tools to express your ideas — these things change and grow over the years, but it’s these ideas that influence you that make you you, and you have to let them jump out at you from the most unassuming places.
If I had to name my biggest source of inspiration though, it would be my two special-needs sisters. I think growing up with them and the unpredictability that comes with it forces me to make light of every situation life throws at me, whether good or bad. They also have a really brilliant, uninhibited way of looking at the world, which is very different from our conventional understandings and logic, and that, in my opinion, is the very definition of creativity. I learn a lot from them every day.
I’m sure this is all a lot harder than it looks. What’s the hardest part about doing creative work?
I think the playful nature of creative work makes it hard for people to take it seriously at first. Most of my favourite projects start out as silly ideas or just mindless hobbies that I do for no reason other than that I really, really wanted to do them. They are sometimes considered self-indulgent and a complete waste of time, money and effort. It is not peoples’ fault when they think that way because that’s the way the functional world works and things get done.
I do believe that art, poetry, music, and all these ‘useless’ creative spheres can save the world just as a doctor can. It is the language through which we cope and make sense of our surroundings. It is the artist’s job to master communicating their ideas to the audience in an accessible manner, and I’m always trying to figure that bit out.
Do you have any creative insecurities? How do you deal with them?
As much as the social-recluse-working-from-his-basement-and-bubble-of-oblivion stereotype holds, it’s natural to always compare yourself to others in the field and feel like you’re never good enough.
Good work that you aspire towards has the ability to both—in equal parts—make you feel like scum or feed you with enough delusions of invincibility to propel you to do good work of your own. I always tell myself to want it more than I fear it, even if that’s the harder road to take. Also, to keep doing it anyway. It doesn’t matter if you’re never happy with what you’ve done because dissatisfaction will always push you to do more. Your “impossible” pursuit of unattainable perfection has a higher chance of forcing you to get out, grow and create things than wading around in your comfort zone ever will.
Would you say that you love what you do? How do you know?
I love making things. It’s the greatest privilege and joy to be able to create. I think I know because I never get bored. There is always something exciting to do and think about.