Blurppy was stoked with artist Ben Whitesell agreed to come on board for the Poster Posse’s Pacific Rim project. As with all new artists, we got a chance to ask Ben a few questions so folks could get a chance to learn more about this BBQ loving artist from Louisville, Kentucky. We will even share some exclusive images of his art that has never been seen before! Here you go folks, all you could ever hope to know about the immensely talented, diversely gifted, award winning…Ben Whitesell.
(Damn that’s a big intro, I hope my interview does him justice…)
BW – I have been at it for nearly 2 years now, starting in early 2011. I started submitting work for a poster group called “Minimalz” on the Behance Network. As you might guess from the name, that early work was focused on re-creating movie posters in the minimal style. That was of course at the height of the minimal poster design movement. But, I never felt my posters did the style justice because I kept adding details.
BLURPPY – You aren’t the first artist to be cursed with this “keep adding details” disease. All three Poster Posse Projects I have had some of your fellow artists submit their entry, then resubmit their entry only to RESUBMIT their entry once more. Each one is better than the last though so I never complain. Is art your full time job? If not, what else do you do?
BW – I am lucky that, for the most part, both my day job and my night job revolve around art. My day job being a Senior Designer for a big Fortune 500 company. My night job is as a freelance designer and illustrator. I try to get the best out of both worlds.
BLURPPY – That’s pretty fortunate. Your day job pays you to hone your skills for your night job. Not a bad gig! Whose work do you admire or collect?
BW – I feel like everyone lists off the same poster artists for this question. You know, like Olly, Stout, Ferguson, Doaly, Tong. All truly amazing poster artist. But, I also collect original artwork for comic book pages. I like the stuff from Ale Garza, Tyler Kirkham, Josh Howard, of course Jim Lee, Darwyn Cooke just to name a few.
BLURPPY – Next year, when you come out to SDCC you should head up to La Jolla and visit Jim Lee at his home. (If you go….please take me…please?) What one print, by another artist, blows your mind?
BW – Right now it is anything from Olly Moss. His cover for Batman Black And White #3 is so amazingly clever, like all his work, that I often stop and slap myself upside the head on how simple yet insanely genius his work is. He makes it look easy, but secretly I think he made a deal with the devil for those great visual ideas or he is the Einstein of poster art.
BLURPPY – Olly F’N Moss! He blows my mind on a regular basis. You can tell he either really thinks these things out OR…what you said about the devil. With so much art being produced these days, how do you keep things fresh?
BW – I haven’t locked into a specific style, which seems to keep things pretty interesting. I was in a major tiny detail/tech phase with my pieces for Iron Man 3 and Pacific Rim. I wanted to be able to create 3-dimensional shapes using blocks of color while at the same time adding techy looking smaller details like in my Pacific Rim piece. But at the moment, I have kind of moved back to pencil and paper and I am trying to retrain myself to hand draw again. I think keeping things changing keeps me fresh.
BLURPPY – As you know, I am a HUGE fan of your Iron Man 3 piece you did for Shortlist. (HUGE fan…as is my son.) I’m also hoping you do the rest of the Jaegers like the one you did for the Poster Posse Pacific Rim Project! Besides working on BLURPPY’s Poster Posse Project, what is your dream project?
BW – Easy, I want to do a comic book cover. It has been one of my bucket list items forever. I have been really inspired by artist like Jock and Olly how have done work in that medium. Someday maybe.
BLURPPY – After seeing your old school Dark Knight cover I would LOVE to see you get a shot at a real cover. Reach out to Jock and see if he has any he can’t get to. That guy is INSANELY busy, he HAS to have stuff he can’t find time for! If you weren’t creating highly desirable works of art for adoring fans, what else would you do?
BW – Thanks to wearing many hats at the day job, I have become a fairly proficient videographer and photographer. I have a few big and small awards for doing both. I have a really strong passion for capturing the visual image whether it be a photo, video, or an illustration. I would say something related to that because it is in my blood.
BLURPPY – Look at you Mr. Diverse! Creativity takes many forms and I’m sure you have found ways that they can all overlap, thus making your work that much stronger. What movies are you excited to see this year/ next year?
BW – I am really excited about the Wolf Of Wall Street to finish out 2013. I have this thing for Wall Street movies with Gordon Gecko types. No idea why. Maybe just the businessman side of me coming out. For the nerd side I am pretty much spinning with all the Superman/Batman news. I will go out on a limb and say Affleck will outshine Bale, and we will all need to be ready for Bryan Cranston as Lex Luthor. If that is true, watch out.
BLURPPY – NICE! I LOVE that someone has come out in FAVOR of Affleck. I am a little confused as to all the trash talking about this decision. Daredevil was a long time ago, Ben has more than proven himself since then. As long as he doesn’t do the “Batman voice” that Bale did he should shine in that role. The guy is gifted on so many levels I feel confident that it shall all be good when the movie is finally released. (I CAN’T WAIT for that one !) Cranston would be a PERFECT Lex Luthor! (Zach Snyder…are you listening?!) What is your favorite print from your portfolio and why?
BW– Probably my print for Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. I did that poster as a commission for Shortlist.com and it ended up being picked up by NBC Universal UK to help promote the Blu-Ray release in the UK. It is still one of my most viewed portfolio pieces and it is one of the few posters I look back at and feel that it is finished.
BLURPPY – What’s your biggest pet peeve about the pop culture art scene?
BW – That’s tough because so many things peeve me. Just kidding! I probably worked on 2 or 3 “indie” movie posters were they said, “We can’t pay you but will you design a poster for our movie?” I said sure it could be fun working on something on the ground floor, but I now have a handful of designs that never made it to the final print stage because the projects stalled out. I have since learned to recognize those types of projects right out of the gate and tend to steer clear.
BLURPPY – Ben was kind enough to share some of these never before seen prints for 2 movies that never saw the light of day.
BLURPPY – What has been your best experience to date, in the pop culture art scene?
BW – Out of the blue I was contacted by a very established Hollywood ad agency that has done nearly every big budget movie poster design for the last decade. I had the opportunity to do some preliminary design work for a tent pole 2013 summer blockbuster. It is kind of like getting called up to the big leagues. I had access to studio photo assets and got to see how things operate behind the scenes. All very cool. They came to me for an illustrative approach, but ended up going with a more photo centric poster, but I could definitely see a few nuggets of my early concepts in the final poster, which is cool. That and the money.
BLURPPY – Son of a… you had this nugget under your cap and didn’t mention it at dinner during SDCC? I’m hitting you up to find out what movie it was and I better not hear anything about an NDA! What was your most embarrassing moment as an artist?
BW – Every time I see my work alongside other artist in an alternate movie poster gallery and I think, man they nailed it, and I suck. But a little competition can be good. Makes you just want to kill the next poster.
BLURPPY – Does that mean these Poster Posse Projects are a “love / hate” thing for you? WAIT! Don’t answer that, I may not want to hear the answer. What is the best interview question you’ve ever been asked and what was your answer?
BW – Any Blurppy questions! But besides those, I did an interview for Creativebloq.com last year asking about the debate on fan art and copyright infringement. I think for the most part fan art helps to elevate the source material and give it longevity, but as an artist you own the rights to your work and filmmakers are artists too. A tough question to answer. Like being on Barbara Walters.
BLURPPY – I see the dilemma. As a fan, I can’t get enough alternative posters for properties that I love. That being said, I have recently started hearing some of the numbers thrown around for licensing projects and it’s astounding. I DO see studios starting to look to independent artists and I think / hope that this trend continues and grows. Nothing better to see a poster from a FAN of the project. The old cookie cutter posters just aren’t cutting it anymore. PLUS, the studios are starting to see that there is a massive opportunity to generate additional income from these prints. What do you have on tap for the rest of 2013 and don’t give us that line, “Lots of stuff , just can’t talk about it yet”
BW – Poster Posse #4 of course, but I can’t talk about it yet! I have had the pleasure to meet Adam with Hero Complex Gallery over some ribs at Comic Con and I will have a few pieces for some upcoming shows there. I also do a lot of work for the music industry. Concert posters and such. I’ll have a few of those releasing later this year. You will also see me in Print Magazine’s Regional Design Annual in Dec. I will be representing my home state of Kentucky for both my Moonrise Kingdom poster and my poster for local band, A Lion Named Roar. That is on top of having a poster selected for this year’s Communication Arts Illustration Annual #54 on newsstands now!
Ok, KUDDOS to you for keeping Poster Posse Project #4 under wraps, (I was a bit worried at first), and THANK YOU for a nice laundry list of things coming up. You REALLY listened when I said, “Don’t give us that line, “Lots of stuff , just can’t talk about it yet” Now we all have stuff to look forward to from Whitesell! Hard to say who is more excited here, your fans or me. (BTW, I’m reinstating that whole Phil’s BBQ dinner again at next year’s SDCC so get ready for some more ribs! You and your wife are both invited again!)
Now… here it is… everyone’s favorite part. I will throw out 10 quick things and you say the first thing that comes to mind. If I sense that you are contemplating an answer I will stop, ask your wife to send me your most embarrassing photo which I WILL post it at the bottom of this interview so be honest and you will not suffer my wrath.
– DC or Marvel?
– My roots go back to comic books, so pre-comic book movies, which means DC all the way. Supes and Bats… can’t beat them!
– Most Desired Super Power?
– Super intelligence. I could then invent more super powers through science and technology.
– Who is your favorite Star Wars Character and why?
– Vader, because everybody loves a villain.
– Best movie snack?
– Chewy Sprees
– Growing up, what was your favorite TV show?
– GI Joe. Because knowing is half the battle.
– What’s the best way for fans to keep up with all you have going on?
– My blog benwhitesellblog.com is where I share all my secrets. I try to include as much process stuff as I can, but balancing writing and all my contract work is kinda crazy.
– What’s your favorite pop culture event?
– San Diego Comic Con. My 1st trip was this year. Great people. Totally crazy experience. I am now addicted and will be back next year.
– Who is your favorite fictional character of all time and why? (Can be comic books, movies, literature, etc)
– Homer Simpson. The guy doesn’t age and has been everything from an astronaut to a fortune cookie writer.
– Would you rather design the poster for an upcoming Star Wars movie or the upcoming Blade Runner prequel?
– Star Wars. The original trilogy posters are so iconic that if you could capture 1% of that magic it would be a pinnacle career moment.
DAMN IT! NO EMBARRASSING PHOTO OF BEN WHITESELL! There was no disturbance in the force thus he spoke honestly and openly. Guess I will just have to include this self portrait instead.
Let’s recap, he completely caught me off guard with “Chewy Sprees“, (I never saw THAT coming), he is all-in with the choice of Ben Affleck as the next Batman and he is coming back to SDCC next year for more Phil’s BBQ! Huge thanks to Ben for taking the time from his busy schedule to give us a little background info on him and his work. Here’s hoping that he comes back for Poster Posse Projects 5, 6, 7 and more!