I recently had the privilege of interviewing Ben Lawrence, a Comic artist from the UK. His comics have brought us laughter for years now, proving that the funny pages are far from dead. He is one of the exclusive artists here on TAC and we simply can’t get enough of his amazing work. His unique art style combined with his hilarious writing make for hours of side-splitting fun! Read on to learn more about Mr. Lawrence and his thought process.
TAC: So, Ben, how long have How long have you been an artist? Is it something new, or have you done it since you were young?
Lawrence: I’ve been drawing comics on and off for most of my life, but always lacked focus, I would always get distracted and forget about the project or when I was younger it was just a way of trying to tell my own rubbish stories sometimes with characters I liked from a video game or something like that. I tried to do a political strip about 8 years ago, but I found I burned out really quickly, I found it exhausting trying to keep up with current events and create a joke that would probably be irrelevant in a matter of days. Also politics is so divisive and with my current project I really wanted to keep politics out of it, occasionally it still slips in, I mean politics are still part of life and every now and then I may feel like I have a commentary I would like to express with drawing. I try my best to keep it fairly neutral because people in my life are from all sides of the political spectrum and I think the only way we can truly progress if is if we all start talking and listening to one another, trying to learn about each other’s perspectives and helping to educate one another at the same time.
TAC: What inspired you to be a comic artist? What makes you still do it to this day?
Lawrence: I grew up reading the Beano, and to a lesser extent the Dandy, which in England is basically the comic that is available, I always admired several comic strips in general namely Calamity James and Les Pretend, Calamity James’ art style in particular has always influenced me its got a lot of attention to detail and lots of weird ongoing jokes in the background, its also a bit gross/disgusting looking. But it wasn’t until my brother got me the Death Note boxset on dvd for Christmas and then subsequently lent me the manga of the same series that I suddenly felt like creating comics was something that I wanted to pursue seriously. That was about 9 years ago now but it set me on a path that involved me improving my skills and having a vague goal in sight. I was also influence a lot by Jamie Hewlett his artwork for Gorillaz and Tank Girl have really informed my style and the way I think about composition / characters. My partner really likes Ren + Stimpy and although I missed it when I was growing up due to only having terrestrial television, we watch it every now and then on dvd and my partner told me that the artists had to come up with a new expression every single time they were drawing the characters so that it always looked weird and the style never got samey. I love this idea and I try to apply the same sort of logic to drawing my own characters challenging myself to draw more and more grotesque and bizarre expressions each time! Music, video games, film, television and art in general also really inspire me, but that is a conversation for another day!
TAC: What is your current project? What were some/all of the major projects you worked on leading up to your current project?
Lawrence: My current project is called ‘Obsessive Compulsive Disasters’ Or ‘OCDisasters’ which is less of a mouthful and it’s a gag comic strip series that is largely inspired by my life with my partner and some en-souled inanimate objects. I’ve also started doing a lot of ‘interdimensional cable’ style jokes as these allow me to shake my own format up and introduce new and strange characters and ideas. I’ve been planning an ‘epic’ saga for about four years I am unsure whether it will ever see the light of day but I do constantly keep thinking about and coming up with new ideas for it, but it is a bit of an intimidating task. Last year I was planning a different long form story but about 10 chapters in I suddenly felt like It wasn’t really going anywhere. I started doing OCDisasters as a way to train myself on smaller narratives and I will revisit longer narratives when I feel like I am ready.
TAC: Do you have any other comic artists that you look up to and admire? Why do they inspire you?
Lawrence: Eiichiro Oda the creator of One Piece is one of my favourites, he inspires me because he has such dedication and love of his work, world and characters. His work ethic is absolutely insane and I aspire to have about 1/10th of his enthusiasm and that helps me a lot. His pairing of wacky, over the top characters and stories with real heart helped me see that although my own style is also wacky and silly looking it still has the potential to move people. As mentioned earlier, Jamie Hewlett is a big influence, and Skottie Young is another one.
TAC: What advice would you give to young, up-and-coming comic artists just starting out? What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time?
Lawrence: Get yourself into various daily routines, I have the same thing for breakfast every single day and I find that the less time I am thinking about ‘what am I going to eat for breakfast’ the more time I have to think about ideas. This is something that David Lynch said as well, and if you don’t want to listen to me then listen to him he’s much more successful! Even if you aren’t sure where you are going with the comics keep going and just draw whatever ideas come to you but most importantly give yourself a REALISTIC deadline and hold yourself to it. A lot of the time I would rather be playing video games but if I align my reward centre correctly then if I have that itch to play a game, or whatever it is, I can use that as a motivation to finish my work – once I’ve finished I can have a bit of gaming time and the time will feel earned and I will also get more out of the gaming. But just DRAW, draw as much as you can, if you have areas that you are struggling with then make sure you challenge yourself and just keep drawing no one was born a genius, there’s always a lot of hard work in between you and your goals.
TAC: How long does it take you to draw a single strip/page? What are the general steps in your process?
Lawrence: It varies strip to strip but I would say on average six hours. Ideas are in some ways the most difficult part and there is no easy answer as to where to gather ideas from, but be mindful of your surroundings and things happening in your life and you may start seeing ideas form as you go about your day.
TAC: What tools do you use to create your strips? (pencil, ruler, paper type, brands, software, etc).
Lawrence: For the moment I’ve gone completely digital, I have a Wacom Intuos5 pro (small) and use the software ‘Paint Tool Sai’ which is the same software I’ve been using for about 9 years or so.
TAC: What is the hardest part of being an artist for you? What challenges do you face on a regular basis, or maybe a specific problem you dealt with in the past or are dealing with right now?
Lawrence: Ideas and time management!
Thanks for the interview, Ben! It was fun learning more about one of our favorite artists! We look forward to seeing more of your work as it comes out.
If you would like to see more of Ben’s work, feel free to check out the links below!