We had the good fortune of connecting with Yvonne Byers and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yvonne, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
How to know whether to keep going or to give up…. This question can have the illusion of being so easy to answer, in both cases; it is so easy to give up, yet so profound when the answer is there to tell you to keep going. For me, the defining factor is choosing- or deciding – whether or not you want to keep going. I didn’t grow up religious, but faith, to me, seems like the crucial factor in the decision to continue doing what you’re doing, change up what you’re doing, or to completely give up. If you don’t have faith, what other reason is there to live? For me, faith is defined as something beyond myself: that something is nature, mother earth, the cosmos. That is why my art is inspired by the natural world, it is why I can’t help but create illustrations, images, that represent the beauty beyond ourselves, which is innately a part of ourselves. It is a revolving cycle to always try to tell yourself to do something for the benefit of others, meanwhile sufficing a need to express what is within your own unique being. I never regret spending time amongst the undulating waves of the ocean, in the cozy understory of the redwoods, or the warm spotlight in a mountain meadow. In every circumstance I find myself bathing in feeling of needing to endure in this life and to share that love with everyone around me.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I find myself in a very interesting world, mingling between biologists and plant enthusiasts – both very different though seemingly related. However, I feel comfortable in this place because I find myself yearning to learn more about the scientific side of things but often become the interpreter between the aesthetic draw of plants and the anatomical analysis of how they grow, where they grow, and why they grow that way (questions that much of the time I realize I am answering without any initiation from others). I find it beautiful that the challenges of understanding nature will never cease, nor will the relentless growth of artistic expression ever terminate. This, for me, creates an indeterminate motivation to continue to learn, develop, and enhance my skills and knowledge within the niche of science illustration. I want to share what I know about the world – much of the time in an artistic expression of paintings, illustrations, and tattoos, since words are not my strong suit – and to also learn as much as I can about other people’s worldly knowledge. This, in time, will hopefully lead to a better understanding of myself, of others, and how everything and everyone interacts in this world as a whole.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If my best friend just came to town, I’d have them roll out their sleeping bag at my small, quaint apartment and we would wake up at sunrise, get coffee at Cat N’ Cloud on Portola, then check the surf along East Cliff – from the Point to the hook- and then decide where we’re going to jump in. After a few hours in the water and hopefully a few nice shoulder rides a burrito from Salsa’s taco bar would suffice an empty stomach, or a delicious wrap, salad, or bowl from Zameen’s would do. If there’s no surf I’d take them to the forest- several spots cross my mind but anywhere from Henry Cowell to Nisene would be my go-to hiking spots in town. A few hour hike meandering through some native foliage is plenty time to get our mental states in balance. I’d try to catch the sunset and head to the Shanty Shack for some delicious beverages and grub. The next morning, I’d hope to do the same…!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’m sitting here trying not to write down every person in my life, but I’d say my most prominent life changing moments would not have happened if it weren’t for my botany professor J.R. Blair at San Francisco State University. My first couple years in college dramatically changed my life due to taking a basic botany course and attending occasional meetings at the San Francisco Mycological Society, influenced by J.R. who was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the amazingly intricate life of plants and fungi. Everyone after – from my immediate family, my skateboard family (the Sunset Sliders), and the friends from the Sierra Nevada Field Campus, to all the professors and piers I had during the Science Illustration program at CSUMB- all played crucial roles in who I have become today. Currently, my job as a tattoo artist couldn’t have happened without the help of Taylor Reynolds, an amazing muralist and artist here in Santa Cruz, as well as the radical artists and mentors at Good Omen Tattoo: Tim, Aaron, Heather, Felipe, and Dianne. Of course the story lies deeper than just a few names but for now, just a few will suffice a whole life story.
Elias Cruz Castellanos (mountain/moon photo)