Ben the Illustrator, aka Ben O’Brien, has an unmistakable model, and his vibrant vector illustrations have graced every little thing from Twitter Flashtags to campaigns for The Outdated Vic and Woman Scouts USA.
He is additionally residing proof that experiments and aspect initiatives can grow to be bona-fide revenue streams. In addition to his ordinary apply, he works beneath the moniker Ben Attracts, utilizing a line artwork model that started as an experiment. Like many people, he began a brand new undertaking throughout lockdown – Cowl Variations, noticed him create a brand new tackle basic album sleeves. However not like many people, that undertaking saved going – you may nonetheless purchase these covers in the present day, and in case your favorite’s not out there, you may request it.
“Illustration could be a actually nice profession,” mentioned O’Brien, after we caught up with him not too long ago. “It has its ups and downs, however for me having one thing that balances completely between superb artwork and graphic design, a picture that serves a perform, actually speaks to me.” Beneath, O’Brien explains how he balances life and work, how he ended up working with Elton John and why networking with different illustrators typically simply is not sufficient.
For extra on this Day within the life sequence, see our interviews with Emily Sneddon from COLLINS and Johanna Drewe from Output.
Inform me a couple of typical day as an illustrator
For me personally, no day is identical, some days are pondering days, some are admin days, once I’m fortunate a day is an illustration day! If there’s any routine it begins with going to my studio earlyish, 8am, and firstly I’ll do any required emails and plan out key duties for the day in my To Do checklist (I stay by Google Notes!).
After an hour or so I’ll make a pot of espresso and get into no matter is a very powerful activity for the morning, whether or not it’s sketching out roughs or vectoring in Illustrator. I’ve by no means converted to drawing on a pill, so my sketches are nonetheless on paper, which I’ll then scan and clean- up in Photoshop, that is one in all my favorite processes, getting a sketch clear and clear for the shopper.
Working in Adobe Illustrator is probably 80% of my life, I’ve all the time cherished it, it’s a really meditative course of, simply being current and specializing in that one ongoing activity. I’ll create all the illustration as lifework earlier than shifting on to colors, results and so forth. I typically drop focus after round two hours, so I’d pop exterior for some air, or look over my emails and messages for 20 minutes or so, then again into illustrating for an additional two hours, till lunch.
I’ve all the time discovered that I’ve a lull in my vitality round and after lunch, I don’t suppose at my greatest, I don’t benefit from the display screen time. So I normally break for maybe three hours, I’ll stroll residence for lunch (I stay 5 minutes from my studio), music in my ears, have one thing to eat and possibly a cup of tea. I additionally typically have to select my spouse up from her work at lunchtime, possibly stroll the canine, get some laundry performed, something goes. I discover myself in a much better mindset to do home chores, or one thing enjoyable, or enjoyable, somewhat than working at half-power.
This three or 4 hour break in the course of the day actually is me exercising my proper to be my very own boss, to construction the day how I need to and work in the most effective, most effective manner attainable. By 4pm I’ll be again at my desk and dealing once more, by till maybe 6pm, or 7pm if I’m engaged on one thing enjoyable and don’t have any household commitments. In the direction of the tip of the day, the studio (and sometimes the entire constructing) is empty and I can crank up some music and luxuriate in ending with inventive work, it ensures that I really feel fulfilled and happy with the day’s work.
Which undertaking are you most happy with?
It’s not truly my fundamental output, however over the previous couple of years I had some nice alternatives for example official emojis for Twitter (not strictly emojis however truly Flashtags, the little emojis that get connected to present, newsworthy hashtags). The primary one I did was Elton John, to advertise the discharge of his autobiography, which meant designing an assortment of Tiny Eltons which then went to Elton’s crew and had been developed till we had a last design to be signed off by David Furnish on behalf of Elton himself. I then went on to create emoji variations of Mariah Carey (additionally for her autobiography launch) and a number of music icons for Tim Burgess’ Twitter Listening Events.
I’ve designed official emojis for David Bowie (working together with his property to have fun 50 years of Ziggy Stardust), Blondie (for Debbie Harry and Chris Stein) and The Remedy. I’m so happy with this work, firstly the design problem of creating such an ideal tiny illustration, conquering that could be a actual buzz after which seeing it loved throughout socials. Additionally, I’ve been in a position to work with a few of my favorite artists, precise icons!
How do you strategy a brand new transient?
My briefs appear to fluctuate a lot from a number of sentences in an e-mail (for instance a small editorial piece) to 10 web page PDF paperwork with model guides and a wealth of necessities. However nonetheless the transient lands, I’ll all the time learn it by twice, firstly straight by and secondly whereas making notes, any ideas or questions for the shopper.
Usually a shopper may even need a kick-off assembly (normally a Zoom name) simply to test we’re all on the identical web page. I get nervous about so many video calls but it surely all the time helps to get any questions or unclear elements of the transient sorted out on day one. With the transient clear, typically an thought might be forming already. I’d brainstorm it, analysis, sketch out tough concepts; or if the concept wasn’t prompt (and the schedule permits it!) I’ll sleep on it, suppose it over whereas I’m doing different duties or strolling the canine.
I attempt to belief myself that an thought will come, stress doesn’t assist your thoughts move, so worrying could be a downward spiral. I’m not a robust believer in inventive block, I believe it’s all ‘in there’ – a lifetime of experiences and visuals and completely different inspirations, you simply want to permit your thoughts to mix one thing collectively and a brand new thought is fashioned! With any concepts or ideas in place I’ll normally draw every little thing out and share it with the shopper, bingo!
Inform me a couple of difficult work-related problem
For me the most important problem has all the time been about sustaining my profession, to simply hold going with sufficient work, I all the time really feel that my biggest achievement is the truth that I’ve survived (now 24 years) freelancing within the inventive trade. It’s all the time been a rollercoaster, I’ve by no means had a yr that was simply fixed work and revenue, solely ups and downs. So this problem, I’ve all the time approached it in the identical manner, by having a handful of income streams, elements of my enterprise that may present an revenue.
I think about myself to have an illustration apply that includes three or 4 areas at anybody time, when one is down – a drought in my freelance work – I can flex myself with an internet print retailer (particularly round Christmas time for instance). Having a number of manageable strings to my bow actually fits me and the way I work, I prefer to attempt new issues, however on the similar time will all the time love simply being ‘Ben the Illustrator’ and offering that graphic illustration service to purchasers.
I at the moment work in two completely different illustration kinds, my ordinary vibrant vector work, but additionally a hand-drawn line artwork model which I’ve been enjoying with for a few years now. I even have an artwork print retailer promoting graphic tributes to album covers referred to as Cowl Variations, this was a lockdown undertaking that as a result of a legit a part of my enterprise (and my revenue).
What recommendation would you give a budding illustrator who needs to achieve extra work?
Individuals must know you exist, the precise individuals, it’s all very nicely connecting with illustrators on socials, however they don’t fee work. It’s pretty to be identified for nice inventive work amongst your folks, household, fellow college students and so forth, however that circle could not be capable to additional your manner within the trade itself.
Whether or not you might have a stable, outlined portfolio that it’s essential inform individuals about, or a genius advertising and marketing marketing campaign to get your self seen, you merely must get your work in-front of potential purchasers, they should keep in mind you, your illustration model, your entire vibe and greater than something they should be excited by it and suppose it’s proper for his or her model.
How can illustrators develop their following?
Social media has been a wierd place not too long ago, and using social platforms understandably adjustments by technology, however I do suppose the identical rules stand. Firstly be your self, present your persona, if you happen to’re a deep thinker and fascinated by archaeology, present that, if you happen to love making individuals giggle, present that, if you happen to’re environmentally aware, present that. You’re all the time going to need to work with purchasers that align together with your beliefs or persona traits, so be you.
Keep in mind that anybody could be watching at any time, don’t offend, don’t come throughout as lazy, don’t be aggressive or narrow-minded, no purchasers need to work alongside somebody tough! I don’t imagine within the concepts of getting to churn out content material, particularly if you happen to’re an illustrator who takes time over meticulous element, however do create work and share it, if you happen to’ve acquired some downtime, work on one thing to maintain your socials alive, or present your self in a brand new manner. Your on-line presence is two-way, it’s not nearly us displaying off; talk with individuals, reward individuals, take heed to others, invite dialog.
Lastly, get offline, I’ve seen illustrators get too hooked on socials, feeling they need to be out there and seen 24/7, however nobody would discover if you happen to took a day without work.
How can illustrators guarantee their concepts and output keep recent?
Maintain feeding your mind, new locations, books movies, experiences, structure, actions, no matter it’s, if you happen to’re out and about, absorbing tradition or nature or actual life, you then’re equipping your self with all of the components for concepts sooner or later.
Do you suppose each illustrator must have a particular model?
It actually depends upon the place you’re in your profession, at first it’s essential experiment to seek out any model, and to be taught strategies, or develop abilities. It’s all the time good to have a thread that runs by all of your work, one thing to be remembered by, however that’s to not say you may’t evolve and develop as you develop in an illustration profession.
It’s simpler to promote your self when you’ve got a succinct portfolio, with a mode that runs all through, however you want some flexibility in what you may illustrate, you’ll have a mode that works nice for canines, however are you able to additionally illustrate individuals? Automobiles? Landscapes? Fairies? Sausages? I’ve developed over time, and infrequently I’ve flipped the desk completely and tried utterly new kinds, typically it really works, typically it doesn’t, typically it brings a brand new lilt to your present portfolio model.
What suggestions would you give somebody who needs to get a fee with a high-profile model
Work your manner up; international companies or top-level design studios want illustrators who’re geared up with all of the trade expertise and shopper understanding that they’ve. In case your intention is to work with a worldwide sportswear model, then strategy a neighborhood impartial model, and even produce your personal t-shirts, construct up an understanding of trend, retail, print processes and so forth, make contacts in your manner, develop your concepts till you’re so excellent that they only can’t flip you down.
Be price it; a high-profile model ought to have a high-profile price range, be certain they’re getting their cash’s price. Spend time over your concepts, attempt completely different color combos, brainstorm with their inventive crew, be sure to produce the most effective work you’ve ever produced be skilled and environment friendly, be a pleasure to work with, ship every little thing they ask for.
Do your analysis; It’s not tough to get the title of a inventive director on LinkedIn, or learn the way the corporate constructions their e-mail addresses, be sure to contact the precise particular person. Be certain your portfolio goes to attraction to them, if you wish to work alongside an environmental physique, then they don’t need to see that you simply do a pleasant line in gasoline guzzlers! Take a look at their current output and if you happen to get in contact praise them on their current campaigns or merchandise, flatter them, and use it as a solution to open the dialog about you engaged on their subsequent large undertaking!
Who’s your dream shopper?
Twenty years in the past I had a mighty checklist of dream purchasers, I’d envisage ticking every one off the checklist and each undertaking being a dream come true. Nevertheless, not all dream purchasers are a dream to work with, and typically the shopper you least count on would possibly come together with a undertaking that succumbs all expectations!
Maybe one in all my favorite initiatives final yr was working with The Outdated Vic theatre in London (working with Bristol-based Fiasco Design), and but I’ve by no means set an intention to work with a theatre! If I don’t have a dream shopper, I do have a dream undertaking, I’d like to have a van, journey the world with my household and illustrate cafes as we go, to then be printed in a good looking guide!
What profession recommendation would you give your youthful self?
Decelerate, Ben! I began working in animation, desirous to work in music movies, and so I went straight in attempting to direct music movies, sharing my showreel and so forth, stubbornly impartial! I made my solution to an extent, beginning off with lo-fi, DIY movies and dealing my manner up, I cherished the renegade nature of it, but it surely wasn’t the easiest way to construct a enterprise.
I may have began quite a bit higher by working with others, studying from those that know, be taught concerning the trade with an everyday wage. Because it occurred I burnt myself out working in animation, attempting to do every little thing. Once I moved into illustration I had a much better head on my shoulders and understood the worth of collaboration and studying from others.
To seek out out extra about Ben the Illustrator’s work, see his web site.