Anime, graphic design and multiple narratives collide in Taipei-based illustrator Saitemiss’ work

Influenced by 80s Japanese ACG subculture, the Taiwanese illustrator talks us through her visually explosive works.

3 September 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read

Meet Sai, a freelance illustrator based in Taipei who is blowing all of us away with her bold and beautiful artworks. Originally from Kaoshiung, Taiwan, Sai goes by the creative moniker of Saitemiss, a name she adopted at 24 years old which she continues to use across her social media platforms. Her Instagram account, in particular, started out as a place for Sai to organise her unfinished sketches. At the time, she was working as a graphic designer in the Taiwanese municipality, and the account provided a space to archive thoughts and ideas.

In turn, four years later, Sai made the move to become a full-time freelance artist. In this time, she honed her distinctive visual language embodying elements of anime and graphic design in a flurry of digital art. Primarily using the tools available in Photoshop and Illustrator, digital illustration became Sai’s go-to response “because of the ease of seeing my work printed onto different materials,” she tells us. “I love seeing it printed as large as possible and I’ve explored printing my work onto shower curtains and rugs,” adds the illustrator.

As a result, Sai’s work tends to culminate in three different versions: digital, online and installation for exhibitions. This way, almost any kind of output is covered for Sai from a book to print or sculpture. When it comes to the aesthetic of her works, however, Sai explains, “I’ve always been fond of 80s Japanese ACG,” a subculture dedicated to Japanese anime, comics and games. Drawn to “cute moments” which could be anything from the depiction of a gust of wind to a teardrop, in her atmospheric flat works, Sai likes to pause these moments for the viewer to appreciate.


(Copyright © Saitemiss 2020)

In her highly detailed illustrations, frames within frames are hidden in the composition. Each image can be understood as either a larger montage made up of various smaller elements, or an image as a whole; kind of like a comics panel which works as both a narrative and an overall image at the same time. On this style, Sai says: “I’ve always been fond of Japanese ACG but had limited access to it while growing up.” It was Revolutionary Girl Utena and Ghost in the Shell which piqued her interest, especially for their differing methods of storytelling. In a similar way, Sai’s work possesses a unique point of view; a quality distinct to comics enhanced by irregular formatting and sense of perspective. Sai adds on the subject: “When I’m looking at an artist’s work, I often look back to these perspectives to better understand the ideas of the artist.”

In her collection, In the Garden, for instance, Sai depicts a series of scenarios which take place in a garden without flowers, with a bee. In one of the illustrations, a young girl’s hair is lifted by the breeze. Captured mid-thought, Sai conveys an expression of ambiguity. She looks like she is deep in thought and the viewer is enticed to wonder about what. “In any case,” the illustrator adds on the matter, “it’s cute.”

Considered and refined, Sai’s work works just as well in a commercial context as it does a personal one. Highly stylised while being communicating accesibly at the same time, it’s no wonder that Sai is attracting a number of commercial commissions too. And no matter what the outcome, her work always seems to upend in viewing pleasure.

Gallery(Copyright © Saitemiss, 2020)

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.

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