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Benjamin Johnson

Written by Toby Smith on August 28, 2008

Benjamin lives and works out of his home/studio in Melbourne’s inner north. He grew up in the leafy green suburbs of Melbourne’s outer east where his artistic endeavours began to flourish at an early age, starting off with crayons and paddle pop stick houses before graduating up to spraycans and markers. After painting on nearly everything he wasn’t supposed

to in his earlier years, Benjamin eventually moved on to brushes and board where he found his passion and niche as an artist, combining styles and techniques to produce artwork that is uniquely his own.

In the beginning, not being able to find his place in the Australian art scene for years Benjamin decided to travel abroad living in London and Edinburgh in 1999 and 2000 gaining work as a tattoo flash designer and hoovering to pay for his accommodation. He returned to Melbourne in 2001 a changed man with a purpose, seeking to broaden his career options as an Illustrator. He attended NMIT earning his Diploma of Arts, Illustration in 2003 passing with high distinctions and earning an award for excellence at the ‘Illustre’ end of year exhibition. Since graduating Benjamins work has appeared in publications including 200 best Illustrators worldwide, Rolling Stone magazine, Lonely Planet and Lothian Books amongst others.

Benjamin is currently working on his first solo exhibition to be held in either Melbourne or Sydney late 2008 early 2009, stay tuned!

How long have you been painting/drawing?
I’ve been scribbling on one thing or another ever since I can remember, but I guess I started seriously painting in 2001 when I began my Diploma of Arts, Illustration at NMIT.

Mediums that you use?
I use a variety of mediums in my work but mainly acrylics, they dry so quickly and you can really work them over which compliments the way I work.

How does a work start?
That depends largely on the type of job. If I’ve been hired to do a portrait then I start by scribbling the subject over and over in my sketchbook until I know their features back to front. Then I work them in to a composition or setting I feel suits their character, depending on the brief. If I’m starting a personal piece the process is much more organic. An idea will just develop in my brain until it’s ready to pop out onto the page of my sketchbook and grow from there.

What inspires you?
This question should be what doesn’t inspire you? I’ve got an eclectic personality and over time I’ve surrounded myself with every bright, kooky or just plain weird thing that I can get my hands on, to the point where sometimes I feel like a non discriminating bowerbird!  At the moment my collection of tacky placky money boxes is doing it for me.

Artistically who are your influences?
My influences are many and varied but I’m particularly inspired by artists such as Mark Ryden, Brendan Danielsson and the Clayton Brothers who are all beautiful technicians of paint and mood.
Who do you think does great work locally and internationally?
I can’t possibly answer this question without giving a shameless plug to my good friends and fellow illustrators at, Jody Pratt and Vince Agostino. Internationally I think Illustrators like Olaf Hajek, Gerard DuBois, Joe Morse and Johnathan Viner are amongst the best in the world.

What’s it like being an Artist in Australia? (the pros and cons)
Sometimes I feel like the opportunities just aren’t available in Australia for traditional freehand Illustrators, especially now that disposable digital art is so quick and easy to produce. Although having said that it does make it easier to stand out as a painter. Australia is on the edge of an arts explosion I think, you just have to be ready for when she blows!


What’s your favourite artwork that you’ve done and why?
If I was to single one out would be a piece I did at school titled ‘Taking Liberties’. It was done when the American invasion of Iraq was hitting every headline around the country and was my direct response to what I could only see as a power hungry grab for territory by George Bush. It was a very honest piece and I felt it reflected my feelings perfectly.

Even though your artworks are quite vibrant and strong, there seems to be a consistent underlying darkness to your works, What’s your art about?
I think my work is very much a part of who I am as a person and hard as I try to be the happy-go-lucky type, there always seems to be something simmering under the surface which comes through in my work. Besides all of that I just like the colours!

Melbourne is renowned for having a strong arts community, do you think this is true, and has it played a part in fostering your talent and creativity?
Melbourne has an amazing underground art scene, the problem with that is it’s so far underground sometimes it’s hard to find! There are great galleries here though which I visit as often as possible and I think in that way Melbourne’s art community has played its part in fostering my creativity.

Where do you see the Melbourne scene in 5yrs?
Hopefully a little bit closer to the surface! Slowly but surely!

Favourite pub in Melbourne?
That would have to be the Night Cat in Fitzroy, purely because I met my girlfriend there when she worked behind the bar.

Favourite Band?
I’m not really a band kinda guy, but my favorite DJs are The Nextmen and The Herbaliser.

Name: Benjamin Johnson
Age: 33
Phone: 0415 219 758
E-mail: [email protected]
Occupation: Illustrator / Artist

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