Shyama Golden: behind the illustrations


Doubleshot × Lagom: this is the second video from our collaboration with lifestyle magazine Lagom. For this film we spent a day with Brooklyn-based illustrator Shyama Golden. (Pronounced like Llama)


We planned to conduct the interview and filming over two days. After our online research, we wrote a series of questions, and divided them into a three-act structure.

The shoot

1. Inside

We arrived at Shyama’s apartment soaked from the rain, yet very excited about our second shoot in Brooklyn. Llamas and other eccentric objects are the inhabitants of her home and workspace.

First, we recorded the interview, discussing the journey of a creative and the evolution of modern technology transcending traditional techniques.

“Second half of the day is when I do my real creative work. I get in the zone, block everything out, just work through the evening and I generally come up with a concept for an illustration or something which requires more thought.”

Shyama showed us numerous sketches, paintings and how she draws colourful portraits and creatures of all kinds.

“Up to two years ago, I felt snobby about tools which were physically drawn on paper like canvas versus digital work. I saw a lot of great digital work from inspiring people but for myself, it felt that my physical work was always better. The digital work was something that I’d do because I didn’t have enough time to execute a physical work. But ever since I got the iPad pro, it didn’t change right away, it took about a week, then after a few weeks using the app Procreate, finding these specific tools and technics that I like to use just really clicked. It felt truly that I could make work which was equal to the oil paint. The physical texture isn’t the same, although with something you’re going to scan anyway, then I think it’s totally equal.”

We split up the filming work by using our lightweight equipment: a slider, several prime lenses, a travel tripod and the Sony A7sii.

“Narrowing my theme is my next challenge. After having done everything from app design to type design to illustration and beyond, figuring out what is it that I want to put out there as my thing – at 33 it’s time to demonstrate what is it that you want to be known for.”

2. Outside

We then followed Shyama in her neighbourhood and caught some footage at local café, Gimme Coffee, just around the corner from her apartment. It’s a place where she writes emails, schedules her work and catches up with friends and family.

“What’s really cool about being an illustrator is that unlike being a surgeon or a doctor, we can do everything on our own, it doesn’t take much to make something. Coming back from a job that you’re not happy with, illustration is quite motivating because you can start something which makes you feel happy that you’re proud of. Eventually the person that is interested in your domain will find it. It takes a while but then slowly it gets out there as long as you’re sharing it. You have to do a little bit of work on your part.”

We found a bright brick red wall to shoot her portraits and walked back to her flat, capturing some tracking shots along the way.

“As a kid I was drawing just like everyone else. But I didn’t stop. My parents encouraged me and I just kept doing it. It seems to be where all my interests were. I wasn’t really into sport but I was always drawing. That’s how I knew it was the direction I would go. It was never a question, I was looking at things and drawing them straight after. At that time, I didn’t have concepts or ideas behind it, until I got into the real world where I had to come up with a concept through images. When you have freedom in your work, no-one has to tell you to stay late and do extra work, you just do it because you want to, you’re self-motivated.”


The edit

Cutting 45 minutes of interview down into a 3 minutes’ video can be a dilemma. We opted for a selection combining personal thoughts, insights and humour. We wanted to produce a film that really captures Shyama’s unique personality.

You can read more about Shyama’s story on Lagom. To see more behind the scenes pictures of Shyama’s shoot follow us on Instagram.