I’ve got a sweet deal for you this week, dear Magpies!
Ben Javens is an illustrator whose work appeals to the shy kid within all of us. His style is at once fun, uplifting and ever so slightly tinged with melancholy. I was thrilled when local lad Ben agreed to share a little about himself and his work for the delectation of Magpies everywhere.
Hey Ben, pleased to meet you. When did you first realise that illustration could be your calling?
Making art outside of an institution is difficult and requires a lot of motivation – something that I lack. As such, when I left university, so did the need in me to make work. It took a long time before that need properly came back and though there was no singular moment that I knew I wanted to be an illustrator, I quickly realised how much I’d missed being creative.
What impact do you feel growing up in Yorkshire has had on the work you make now? How does Birmingham compare? Do you prefer the countryside?
The overriding memory I have of growing up is having fun. Was this due to my surroundings? I’m not sure I just hope that the same sense of fun can be seen in the work I make, even if its just a glimmer. I do prefer the countryside and will always love Yorkshire but am happy living in my quiet corner of Birmingham.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
I do, but my sketch books are filled with exploded views of pictures from my mind. That probably sounds odder than it is. Basically If I get an idea for an illustration I start by drawing every part of it. So for instance if I was drawing a face I’d draw the shape of the head, the hair line, eyes, nose and mouth separately on the page. I’d then scan that in and start to construct the image from the individual parts. I do sometimes make sketches in them too but not often enough.
You are rather keen on screen printing. What do you love about printmaking?
I love everything about it. Every time i make a print it’s like wow, look at that, I did that with my own hands!
Do you ever feel restricted by the style you’ve created as an illustrator?
Creating a style can be restrictive if you let it and I think the key to not have that happen is to always be looking to make changes and let your work gradually evolve and keep on evolving.
Do you have a studio that you work from? What happens on a typical day inside it?
I work from home, which suits me fine. I don’t think I’m cut out for studio life. Going to a studio every day would be too much like having a job and I’d hate to sully what I do.
I don’t really have typical days, if I’m busy I just try to get on and get the work done and if I’m not I try my hardest to squeeze something good out of my head and stay busy. There is always one constant though and that’s music.
What song is an all time favourite of yours?
Red Lady by Phil Cordell.
I like the simultaneously happy-and-sad faces you draw. Is there a specific message or feeling you aim to put across in your work?
Not a specific message but I do want my work to be fun. That said, I would occasionally like to break from that and make something horrible. I just haven’t found a way yet.
What would be your ideal commission?
Every commission is ideal because it means somebody likes what I do.
Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects etc you’d like to mention?
I’m working on a project with fellow Outcrowd members Simon Peplow and Log Roper that involves creating costumes and large papier maché heads for this years Supersonic festival. My own creation will be that of a much darker character than I usually make, or at least that’s the intention but it’ll probably have an overtly chipper demeanor.
I’m also about to start work on a children’s book which I’m very excited about.
Sounds mega Ben! We look forward to the release of your book.