Brendan Benson Success Story
Brendan Benson an artist.
Tell me about yourself?
My name is Brendan Benson, I am an independent artist from Seattle, Washington. In addition to being a part-time artist, I am also a full-time elementary art teacher! I am currently navigating the joys and frustrations of teaching art to children through a computer. I also have a wife and a 6-month-old named Kai!
Tell me about your work experience?
I have been creating art only as a hobby for many years, teaching art has been my primary focus over the last decade. I have taught every grade from kindergarten through to seniors in high school. I enjoy the energy and enthusiasm that young kids bring to art! Every tool, material, and project is a fun opportunity for them and it’s really fun to see what they can do. Since the pandemic broke out and everything started shutting down I decided to draw a lot more as a way to pass the time but also process everything that was going on at the time. My child was due any month and the world seemed to be in complete disarray. Sketching daily turned into drawing, which turned into commissions for other people, and before I knew it I was selling prints and stickers of my work having no idea how I got here! I am incredibly grateful that people have been enjoying my work and style and I feel fortunate that I have had a steady amount of work to complete. I now draw every day and I feel like I am making more progress than I ever have. I guess it’s never too late to open a new door in life.
At what age did you start doing work and developed a love for artwork?
I have been drawing for as long as I can remember honestly. I have lucid memories of drawing in preschool and maybe even earlier. It has always been something I have gravitated to and for me remains one of the greatest tools for decompressing and processing the many ups and downs of life. The first drawings I ever created I called “slimmer’s”, they looked like potatoes with arms and legs. I would draw these slimmer’s over and over again, my parents saved dozens of them. Eventually, I started reading comic books and became obsessed with the artwork inside! I wanted so badly to draw like these artists. I would trace and freehand anything that caught my eye thinking I could learn something by retracing their lines! I studied the way they shaded and practiced various techniques like hatching until I could replicate it myself. To this day I still love drawing the same things I did as a child but now I can make them my own and it feels very rewarding.
How did you develop a fondness for artwork?
My love and fondness for art have just always been there. I can’t honestly say there was a pivotal moment where it came to be. I was the sort of child that would love to go to the art museum and marvel at the massive paintings and sculptures on display. I think it is honestly just wired into me.
Did you study artwork? If yes then from where?
I attended college at Mankato State University in Minnesota and graduated in 2007. There I received my bachelor’s degree in art education and a very useful minor in painting. Although I joke about it, I know my time painting has been very formative for my work now. It gave me a deeper understanding of mixing and layering colors that I still apply today with my marker work.
Why did you choose graphic design as a profession?
Graphic design is not my current career however I was convinced I wanted to be a graphic designer when I was a freshman in college. After taking one course I decided my love for art did not transfer over into the digital realm. I found myself feeling limited and all I wanted to do was a sketch on paper rather than build something on a computer. I knew pretty quickly it was not the right choice for me. I am interested now in learning to draw digitally and hope to someday learn!
Who are your biggest influences?
I have a lot of artists that inspire me from all sorts of professions and walks of life. I think the biggest influence for me is nostalgia. I love to chase it through my art. Being able to draw the things I wished I could draw as a child is very fulfilling for me now. When I sit down and draw a character from my childhood I am filled with memories, some I have long forgotten, and I love to relive those moments through my art. I always try to add my style or personality to my work so others can find it familiar but new at the same time. If I can trigger others to have those nostalgic moments as well through my art then I feel like my art served its purpose.
How do you become a successful artist?
I don’t know that I consider myself a successful artist so I am not sure I can pass on any wisdom in this regard. I think success is measured internally more than externally. The reason this question is tricky is that artists are always trying to push themselves and their work to the next level. Success for most of us is incremental and at times feels always just out of reach. There are many things I hope to improve in my work and so I don’t know that I can say I have succeeded at it. Art is a lot of very small successes that I continue to strive for every time I sit down and draw. Be persistent and don’t focus on the end goal, just each step along the way.
What makes you a good Illustrator and different from others?
I am not too sure what makes my work different from other artists, but I do know that people often comment on how clean and detailed my work is. People seem to appreciate the attention to detail that I have with my work. Whether it’s sketching, lining, or coloring, I am very intentional and patient with my work. People seemed to have picked up on that. I also hear often people like my “style”, although I don’t know exactly what my style is, there seems to be something unique about the way I approach the characters and subject matter that I draw. People seem to enjoy how I can make something so familiar feel different. It may be a character you’ve seen dozens of times but it’s just different enough that it makes you pause for a moment. I think my style is a culmination of all the influences I have had over the years of enjoying and appreciating art.
What Do Your Illustrations Represent?
I think the thing that sets my marker work apart from others is that I have a painter’s approach. Marker art is very popular these days and for many, I think it’s become a gateway or starting point into the drawing. I think those that first learn to draw with markers are going to have a very different approach than someone who has spent years painting. markers are a lot like paint in that you can layer them to create various shades and colors. If you have experience painting you can use that knowledge and experience of layering and mixing colors to make your marker work that much more dynamic. Someone who has only used markers may try and find the perfect color from the selection that they have whereas someone who has experience painting will use what they have to create the color needed through layering. I have recommended to many artists who want to take their marker work to the next level to first learn how to paint with watercolor.
What Does Your Art Mean to You?
My work is a collection of things that have entertained and inspired me over the years. I create fan art because I am a fan. When I see something I love I feel the need to create it! I enjoy being able to create fan art for other fans like myself.
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