Hi Ben. Could you tell us how you got into design? I graduated from SCAD in 2004 where I majored in illustration. I was interested in several outlets for my art like tattooing, making comics and editorial illustration. I didn’t think a career in band merch was even a possibility at that time. How did you get your first gig? After school, I began networking with bands online on message boards just before myspace took off. I offered free artwork to any bands interested. I quickly built a portfolio and it soon became a full time job. What and who are your influences? The bright, gross action figures, skateboards and cartoons I grew up with have definitely played a huge influence in my artwork. I can’t deny that covering Skeletor in slime as a young child changed my life forever. I’ve always been pretty obsessed with horror movies and band shirts too. I get bored around most people…I usually start to look around and think of weird things to draw. Can you describe to us your works? I go back and forth between concept and “cool”. I think of a CD layout almost as a comic book…its a great format to tell a story and get creative with. With my shirt designs, I think bold, obnoxious illustrations work best. Overall, I think I am thought of as the guy with the neon, crudely drawn creature illustrations. I’m totally happy with that. How do you usually work on a concept? Could you tell us the usual process? When a client gives me complete freedom, I usually take the opportunity to work on something that I would like to see. Zombies, gore and random animal hybrids usually come the most natural. I will start off with a quick thumbnail sketch to get the basic composition down. From there comes a pencil drawing and inking. I’ve been doing more and more digital inking with Photoshop and a Wacom tablet over the past year. Color, textures and logo are added in the final steps in Photoshop. What was the worst experience you had with designing MERCH? I can’t say that I have ever had a truly bad experience designing merch. My clients are familiar with my work and know what to expect from me. Collecting money from certain bands, record labels and managers can be fun sometimes. Could you feature one work and tell us how you did it, the difficulties you encountered, etc? This design for Chiodos was created using my usual traditional/digital hybrid illustration process. The hardest part for me is finding a good stopping point with the linework. With digital inking, it is easy to get caught up adding endless lines and small details. Overall this was a fun, smooth project that got approved with no revisions. What are your plans in the future career-wise? I am always trying to take my art to the next level and push myself further, while creating what I think is cool. If I never work in another office or retail store I will be extremely happy. I’d love to paint more and focus on the fine art world a little more too. What advise can you give to those who want to get into this kind of career? Developing a unique style and building a strong portfolio is the best thing you can do as an artist. Networking is also extremely important. Trends come and go. Do your own thing and hopefully others will dig it.
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