Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Ben Jones

Ben Jones was a student at Stockport College, doing the same degree as myself, I was lucky enough to meet him when I went to London, whilst I had a portfolio meeting with Cheryl Taylor. My thoughts were that as an Illustrator, Ben has gone from the same course to a job in London, he has worked and produced Illustrations for the Guardian and the Drawbridge newspaper in London, which is edited by Paul Davis. I thought for these reasons it would be good to have Ben as a contact to compare, with other Illustrators or Agencies with his insight on the 'going about's' of getting yourself into the industry.

When speaking to him in college, He was good enough to answer a few questions for me. In terms of his work, he produces a lot of print illustrations, depicting strong shapely elements with some photographic reference. We spoke about the piece below, which he clarified, was what earnt him his place in the industry, it communicates strongly and has a limited colour palette. It isn't overcrowded  and has focal elements which draw your eye into the spot colours and photographic elements. The composition is well spaced and simple.

I asked Ben about my some of my current work, what his opinions were of it, whether or not it communicated from a general point of view? He replied that it had 'strong visual conceptions yet it was possibly a bit overcrowded.'

Communication seems to be the falling point for me, and so I have begun to mail practitioners about how they produce their work and generate ideas without overcomplicating images, as I always want to add more! - similar to the email I sent back to Gillian Blease. Ben also noted that he too would notice that sometimes he too may add elements without there being any means of them being there, he said 'you just have to strip it back and think about what the image is trying to tell the audience.'

After London, I mailed Ben a few questions about the Industry.

Hello Ben,

My name is Sarah Hilton,

We briefly had a meet in London for a portfolio meet with yourself and Cheryl Taylor, firstly I would like to thank you for your time. It was much appreciated! I have always been inspired by your work, your prints are beautiful!As part of my degree, I need to build up information about Illustrators/ Designers and the Design Industry.

I know how busy you must be but was wondering if you get a spare moment, I could have your opinion on a few questions below? I can appreciate there are a few, but any time you have to answer any of them would be much appreciated!

Hi Sarah
here we go!

  • Who and what influences and inspires your Illustrations?
I would mainly say mid century graphic design. Polish poster art favorite being Jan Lenica, 50s American graphic design such as Push Pin Graphics and Dutch graphic design. These days tho I am more inspired by what I read story fairy tales ect, cultural things such as Chinese shadow puppets , Victorian times, the mythology of religion i am getting a bit deep now. I have illustrators I admire but try not to let them influence me to much as work can end up looking to much like what they do. main ones being Nate Williams, Jeffrey Fisher and Sara Fanelli. I love the strange characters that they all produce they seem to give them so much personality which makes there work is a joy to look at this is what I want to do with the characters I create.

  • I always tend to overcrowd my images, I want to include just about everything I find all at once! What advise would you offer in relation to the way you answer a brief?
The first thing you need to look at is does it communicate what the brief is asking so if you find your self using to many elements in your images look which elements communicate what you need to say first then get rid of the others. Failing that rather than making one image create 5 different illustrations and use all the elements you want to use.

  • Sometimes, I experience quite a few mental blocks when I create an image, and have to have a break. Sometimes I think if I prepared myself better from the start or earlier on, or maybe if I had a strategic approach? But you don't have so much time, in the real world (so to speak). When answering a brief, do you get mental blocks or do you have an approach or method as to how you go about creating your Illustrations? (I'm sorry if that question is very vague, I don't quite know how to word it)
Every body gets mental blocks they seem to happen to me when I spend to much time on a peace of work. The best thing to do is as soon as you get An idea no mater how good or shit it is just make an illustration you don't need to labor over a image sometime an illustration that takes a mater of minutes is better than something that takes days.

  • Do you think it is better working in a studio with other Illustrators who you can share your ideas with, as opposed to 'your own private space'? if so why?
It's not really an issue for me I quite like to work on my own I can put crazy music on and not upset any one . I do try to keep in contact with other illustrators as you know Cheza Taylor is one of my best friends, Jo Nelson is a good friend of mine and I get drunk way to much with people from combine illustration. I try to Contact other people in the industry such as Paul Davis, Stan Chow, Holly Wails and Nick Sanders and I always send stuff to YCN so I get feed back if I need from people in the illustration community.

  • What would you say makes the difference between success and failure when trying to establish yourself in the design industry?
Acting on things! Try to always be creating new work, contact people, get your work in front of people. Art directors need to see your work before they can commission you. Some time that means going to London to show your folio or posting work out, emailing ect. Try not to rely on the internet tho as there are allot of illustrators out there with websites so art directors wont seek out illustrators you have to show them what you can do first before they commission you.

  • What was the easiest way to establish and promote yourself within the wide world of Illustration?
Showing my portfolio around, Post outs and getting involved with things such as YCN. I would recommend setting up a profile on there site www.ycnonline.com. Its how I became one of there illustrators on agency ycn.

  • Did you conform to a style that was around at the time you first got commissioned?
Not when I first started. I did a bit last year when Adrian Johnson was doing stuff for Robinson's, but that style just is not me I think it worked against me.

  • Recently I came across a piece of your work within the 'Drawbridge' Magazine, and it appears you have an alternate style of drawing that is not so relevant within your work you design at Synergy. Would you say it is hard to remain an established Illustrator upon changing your style?
I am in the middle of changing my style as I fucking hate photoshop these days so I am spending more time away from the screen. The Drawbridge is a fantastic way to play around with image making. Just so you know I am on YCN not Synergy thats chezers agency.

  • What advice would you offer an aspiring Illustrator?
Do a drawing every day. Its advice given to me by Paul Davis and I have been much more productive since then.

Last one..

  • If you have a recollection of my Portfolio, would you have any advice upon improving it? (I can appreciate you spent quite a bit of time with me already, but if I'm honest I was that overwhelmed upon our meet with yourself and Cheryl, that I got a tad nervous upon what to say, and forgot some of your feedback, I have included a PDF). I'm every so sorry to sound cheeky for asking. I value your opinion very much!
I would just say keep at it. I love your train image its my favorite of your illustrations. Be true to yourself and create the kind of illustrations you want to do and think about what art directors want to see after. Try to remember illustration is just a job and don't be overwhelmed by it People in the industry enjoy looking at illustration and are mostly nice and offer constructive feedback and if they dont fuck em! who cares. Like any other job work hard and you get rewarded.

Hope this will do. I am in collage on Wednesdays teaching the first years so if you want a chat just give us a shout.

Ben x

Thankyou so much for your time, any of your feedback to any of the questions would be greatly valued! I look forward to hearing from you!

Kind Regards,

Sarah x


Recently, Ben has joined the teaching posts of Illustration at stockport college, and whilst I was seeing him round, I thought to take advantage of asking him a few questions relative to my work and the industry, to see if he had any advoce and pointers.

you dont have to be massively firurative, people communicate the idea, because of the text, ie if you were working for book illustration, putting contrasting images and shapes, together to draw your eye in, ben said all he would change about my work, he said the images i have created for my book are just a bit overcrowded. the ideas communicate, but again, because of the text in play, the same applies for editorial stuff, and editorial stuff is always simple. the simplest ideas are the best.
Ben also noted after simplifying ideas, to look into graphic design layout. The ideas are simple and communicate instantaniously, and also dutch graphic design, which has more recently been informing me..
-Henrik Workman
-H M Workman.
-Yan Tsichiold

when you get a commission with an editorial, in terms of what they want, Ben said 'they usually point you in the right direction, but they dont necessarily give you an idea for the brief.' They tell you what they want, and expect a rough within hours which then gets sent to the client and transferred back to you, which you then finish within the day on average for an illustration as i was asking ben. It all becomes about time management. Andy Pavitt stated that he produced what he likes to call two roughs, one being a pencil rough and the other is a more progressed finished design. Pavitt works quite graffically vector formated and with clients such as the guardian. Even if the work you produce is not done or complete, as long as you have an idea, no matter how good or shit it is, 'in the end, it becomes experience, all you have to think about is meeting deadlines.'

They started as an agency and made a website for new designers. Ben did an exhibition at the royal college and the ycn looks for new designers, you dont have to pay, it gives you a platform to view and show your work, for others to comment.

simple ideas, ben spoke about how the majority of illustrators, how 'two styles'. Recently within Bens work, he wasn't so much getting bored of his work, but it differs from his more recent work. Jo Nelson, has a distinctive style of which has always been significant within her work, Ben says he is completely the opposite, but it's not unusual for this to happen, most illustrators, either change their style or develop work in a different 'trend'.
Ben and Cheryl are setting up their own website/agency, nothing to big, but a way to promote their work they do in the meantime. Both Ben and Cheryl spoke about this when I was in London, and how important it is to produce work JUST FOR THE SAKE oF IT! At the end of the day, you have to enjoy what you do. Paul Davis, too, produces work everyday even when it doesn't go towards anything, at some point it might, or it could spark of new influences and inspirations, to future work and take you in any kind of direction.

When Ben was looking over my work, I was asking whether or not my images are too complicated, as this is where I usually fall back.. If there was too much? he said
'you don't have to be massively figurative, because its a book, and with most illustrations, there is text aside; people communicate with the image, because of the text. As long as there is a visual reference of what is going on within the text, you can't go wrong, just keep it simple.'

No comments:

Post a Comment