Benjamin Lande Interview
We recently chatted to Atlanta's own Benjamin Lande about making band merch for your heroes, social media guilt and how too many Guns N' Roses drawings will land a kid in a child psychologists office.
Who is Benjamin Lande?
I’m Ben, an Atlanta based artist. I design and illustrate band merch, gig posters, skateboards, comics, marketing and editorial artwork.
Like most artists, I knew early on that I wanted a career in art and design. After a short lived tattoo apprenticeship, I switched focus to commercial illustration and attended the Savannah College of Art and Design. After graduating in 2004, I found myself with a dated education, as illustration was quickly moving towards the digital world. The internet was becoming a powerful self-promotion tool around this time and I started networking with bands and other clients through outlets like message boards and Myspace. Small jobs lead to bigger jobs and I was able to turn freelance into a full time career, all while further teaching myself digital illustration and graphic design. Years later, I am still working in the music industry and focusing on comics, marketing and editorial illustration.
What does your process look like? Are you 100% digital or do you mix it up with pencil sketches, pen and ink?
I still break out the traditional media occasionally, but the majority of my work in recent years has been 100% digital. I am able to pencil, ink and color as I would traditionally, with all the editing benefits and tools of working digitally.
"PRE-DIGITAL, I WAS VERY DRAWN TO TECHNIQUES LIKE DRY BRUSH AND TEXTURED/COLLAGED CANVASES. TEXTURE SEEMED TO ADD A SOPHISTICATION TO THE CRUDE, PAINTINGS AND ILLUSTRATIONS I WAS DOING."
What drew you to start using texture in your work? Was it there from day one or has your use of texture evolved over time?
Pre-digital, I was very drawn to techniques like dry brush and textured/collaged canvases. Texture seemed to add a sophistication to the crude, paintings and illustrations I was doing. Later on when I started designing digitally, especially for limited color screen printed band merch, texture once again added that sophistication. Through years of experimentation and better commercial products (thanks True Grit!), texture has become a huge element of my work.
How did you learn to use texture in your work? Was it through deliberate experimentation or happy accidents?
From painting on textured surfaces to trying to recreate vintage print errors digitally, texture has always been an aesthetic I was drawn to. Experimenting with different textures and techniques over the years has helped my style evolve and kept things exciting.
"AT ONE POINT, MY PARENTS WERE SO CONCERNED BY THE STACKS OF DERANGED GUNS N’ ROSES ARTWORK I WAS CREATING, THAT THEY CONTACTED A CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST."
You do a lot of music merch work with big name punk and hardcore acts. How did that come about?
I’ve been obsessed with band merch and album artwork since I was a kid. At one point, my parents were so concerned by the stacks of deranged Guns N’ Roses artwork I was creating, that they contacted a child psychologist, ha! After a few years of making DIY artwork for local friends and my own punk bands, I began networking online with bands and labels through social media. Small bands lead to bigger bands and years later, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some pretty crazy clients including the Misfits, Descendents, NOFX, Pearl Jam, Blink-182 and Fall Out Boy.
You’re pretty prolific and seem to adhere to the classic tactic to just keep making cool shit and putting it on the internet. Are you driven to create or is there a more practice/career-growth strategy behind this?
Between my graphic design day job, freelance work, personal artwork and making music, I rarely have any downtime. I feel guilty watching TV, playing video games or even hanging out with friends. I like to keep busy. The career benefits are an added bonus. It’s basically free advertising. Sharing personal work online creates a social media following which leads to bigger and better projects. It’s also fun to weird people out. It’s all part of a creative cycle that keeps me entertained, advances my technique, self-promotes and generates client work.
How important were personal projects and low budget yet interesting briefs to the development of your career?
Personal projects are a great way to develop your personal style, experiment with new techniques and subject matter and can be pretty therapeutic. Sharing personal work and sketches also gives potential clients and art directors a look into your work process and personality, which goes a long way.
The internet has created a huge, worldwide network of artists hungry for work, willing to work cheap and lowball each other. Keeping budget standards respectable is extremely important, but low budget projects are a necessary evil for many artists, especially those early in their career. Many low budget projects do come with great incentives… a low budget album cover could lead to 5 more jobs and social media exposure which leads to even more jobs.
Who’s work inspired you early on and who or what inspires you to keep going now?
Gross 1980’s comics, cartoons and toys were my first loves and still have a huge influence on me. Line work has always been a central part of my style. My favorite artists seem to use either very expressive, loose line work like Egon Schiele, Raymond Pettibon and Derek Hess or very tight, technical line work like Charles Burns and Jim Phillips. I think I fall somewhere in-between.
In recent years, I’ve found my influences becoming much more diverse. My Instagram feed is packed with everything from minimal, abstract graphic designers to detail obsessed illustrators to UI/UX and product designers.
Do you have any tips or lightbulb moments about working with texture that you’d like to share?
Sometimes less is more!
Any advice for young designers and illustrators starting out?
Developing a personal style is probably the most important thing an artist can do. There are a lot of artists out there, myself included, drawing skulls and designing retro style badges. What makes your work stand out in the crowd? Also, have fun. When art becomes a job, creativity suffers.