After discovering Ben as part of our ‘100 Days. 100 Commissions.’ initiative, we couldn’t wait to find out more about his work, his passion for printed products (he even has his own screen printing set up!), and how he became the multi-talented, multi-disciplined artist and designer he is today.
Tell us about your creative background. Were you into drawing growing up?
Yes, the first time I really started paying attention to drawing was around the age of seven or eight. My Grandmother had a huge collection of a monthly comic book from the GDR (German Democratic Republic) called ‘Mosaik’ and we had a lot of Asterix Books at home. A bit later I also got some used and very poorly printed marvel comic books. I was fascinated by these images and characters and tried to recreate them at first, but then started to imagine my own characters and stories as I got better at drawing.
From there, I was drawing and also collecting comics through my whole childhood and dreamed of being a comic artist someday. But also around that time my big Brother got his hands on a copy of CorelDraw version 4 or 5 from his computer club and installed it on my dads 386 computer. I was able to ‘play’ with it from time to time and got a very basic first taste of graphic design on a PC.
What are your main sources of inspiration now?
For me inspiration can come from many different places. Comic books are still a big source of inspiration for me, as well as music. But it also can come from a project brief itself, from brainstorming with colleagues or even talking with people who are completely unrelated to the project who see things from a different point of view. And of course also from other things I see, read and hear in my daily life.
Your portfolio includes illustration, graphic design, 3D art and animation. How did you become skilled in multiple disciplines?
I guess its because I am, and have always been interested in a lot of stuff and being creative in whatever form was part of my whole school education. My parents saw my interest in drawing and creating stuff but also music, so after Primary School they gave me the opportunity to go on a school with a higher focus on the arts. Which means that they offered more art and music classes than other schools. After graduating Secondary School in the early 2000’s I took an apprenticeship as media design assistant where I got a basic design education and a first taste of 3D and computer animation.
I then decided to work for a few years as a graphic designer in a small agency where I could get my hands on a wide range of projects. From graphic and web design to architectural 3D visualisations. During that time I was able to experiment a lot to find out what fields I liked and which I didn’t. After seven years of working there I went to university and started studying integrated design at Anhalt University of Applied Science. This program combined the three fields of communication design, product design and media design which allowed me to broaden my knowledge in fields I did not know before but also gave me the chance to really focus on the things that I wanted to learn and improve.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
Currently, my day starts with some family time before taking my kid to kindergarten and heading straight to the animation studio until the evening. After that there is some more family time and when everyone else is asleep I often head back to my computer for another few hours and work on my illustration projects and other client work. When I work from home the schedule is pretty much the same.
How did you first hear about Affinity and what inspired you to give our apps a try?
I heard about Affinity Designer a few years back and found it pretty interesting but as I work on a PC and it was only available for Mac it wasn’t really an option for me back then. In 2019 I had become very frustrated with CorelDraw which I used for most of my illustrations at that point because I never really got into Illustrator. So I was looking for an alternative online and found out that there is now a PC version of Affinity Designer. I gave it a try and was imidiately hooked. The complete switch to Affinity only took me a couple of weeks.
How does Affinity fit into your creative workflow alongside other software you use, for example when creating 3D art and animations?
Affinity fits in there very well. I use Affinity Designer for creating sketches and storyboards before I start a project in 3D but sometimes also for creating vector shapes and typography which I then export and process further in cinema4D, for example. Affinity Photo on the other hand has become my main program for compositing still images or styleframes and also for creating and editing texture maps.
You also design gig posters which are often screen printed. Is there something about seeing your work printed in this way that appeals to you?
Yes I’ve always liked the look and feel of a printed product. When I was reading those comic books as a kid they always had some special kind of smell and vintage feeling to them because they where printed in the 70’s or 80’s. That’s something that really stuck with me. And somehow the same thing applies to a screen printed poster, at least for me. But also the process of printing itself and creating a handmade, physical product from my designs is something I really enjoy.
Tell us about your process for designing a gig poster. Is there anything specific you need to bear in mind when designing a piece of artwork for screen printing?
First, I usually start with some rough scribbles of ideas that I think could work for the subject. I always try to tell a little story with my designs. After I’ve settled on a direction I work out the sketch a bit more but since I work with Affinity Designer I start the final vector artwork way earlier than I did before. And if needed I just hop back to the Pixel Persona and sketch some more details or refine some areas of the sketch. One thing I try to think of from the beginning is how many colours I want to print with and what additional colours or tones could be achieved by overlaying several colours. And as I’m still a beginner in the whole screen printing thing I’ve been experimenting with that a lot lately. After that, I print out the films, expose my screens, prepare the colours and start printing.
Can you tell us what you’re working on right now?
Currently I’m at Woodblock, an animation studio in Berlin, where I work on a range of 3D and animation projects. Besides that I’m working on a record cover illustration and some smaller logo design projects at the moment.
What piece of work are you most proud of and why?
One piece, which I personally love how it turned out, is the gig poster I did for the Descendents concert in Berlin back in 2018 because they are one of my favourite bands and this was the first screen print I did with my own DIY setup.
If you could be given a dream brief or project what would it be?
There is not actually a dream brief or project but I really enjoy projects I can relate to somehow or projects where I have a lot of creative freedom. For example, when I can design stuff for bands I personally like or when I can support the work other people do in a social context with my designs, like I’ve done for the ‘Stains in the Sun Festival’ a few times now. This DIY festival is organised by ‘Agenda Alternativ e.V.’, a small non-profit association which does a lot of supportive work and workshops for democracy and political education for teenagers and adults.
Lastly, what are your future aspirations? What would you like to achieve in the next five years?
Currently I’m very happy where I am. The only goals I have for the next five years are to further improve my skills in screen printing and extend my little workshop. I also want to improve my character design skills and do more character work as this is something I really enjoy. And last but not least to spend as much time with my family as possible!