Words from Ben Walker

ben walker color ink book _BadBear

What project have you been most satisfied with?

I took part in a local gallery show that required making fifty small paintings in fifty days. The show became sort of an excuse to push myself to quickly create a large body of work I could turn into a book. So I illustrated fifty characters from a fictitious Old West town I called Remington Ridge. I thought I’d end up with about twenty images I was happy with but it turned out I had a lot more in me. The project was a really good reminder of how working faster than you are comfortable with can sometimes produce some amazing results. Anyway, I wrote a bunch of funny biographies for my favorite characters and compiled them in a book called Portraits & Tales from Remington Ridge. I published the book independently. It’s nice to have something that’s finished and tangible especially when it bring some enjoyment to other folks.

I’ve been very satisfied with projects since then, but they aren’t as interesting to talk about. I’ll finish a painting and say “Wow, this is a new level of craftsmanship for me, and it didn’t take me forever to do it! I’m going to build off this and make the next piece even better.”

Aright what’s up with the western fascination?

The Western fascination started popping up around 2003 while I was going to the Academy of Art. I was at this point where I was really burnt on art school and on drawing very academic studies of naked people. Thankfully I moved on to a clothed figure drawing class. Right at the beginning of the semester we drew a model dressed as a cowboy. He had brought in the Sons of The Pioneers for us to listen to while we drew. It all just clicked for me. I was having fun drawing again! The character and this classic Western music was so appealing. It’s not like I decided then and there to do exclusively Old West/ 19th century inspired art but the themes kept bubbling up in my projects.

Also, around this time O’ Brother Where Art Thou and Gangs of New York had recently been released and even though they are not really about the Old West, they have this beautiful “warm n’ dirty” old-timey aesthetic that I (and many others) responded to.

I think all of these things resonated so much with me because (despite my ignoring it for so long) Western culture and old-timey Americana has always been a huge part of my life. When I was very young I lived on my grandfather’s ranch in the foothills of northern California. The place was built like an entire Old West town complete with a hotel and jailhouse. I know that made an impression on me. I’ve lived in Northern California all my life. A big part of the history and culture of the Old West comes from right here. It’s pretty hard not to be fascinated.

ben walker color ink book

Tell us about Pompsicle?

Pompsicle is an “alternative drawing studio” I started in 2006. I was really missing the clothed/costumed drawing classes I had left behind in art school. I wanted to get back into drawing from live models dressed as cool characters (oh, and I wanted to choose the models, themes and music myself, ha ha) so I started the sessions through a local gallery I was working for. It kept growing and migrating around town. I grew to know a lot of amazing models (really just everyday people who like to dress up an show off) and artists who I now can call my friends. I organized a Pompsicle session every week for two years. Last year we compiled some of the best drawings into an indie book called Naked Is Boring. Pompsicle was a lot of fun but it was also exhausting so I had to take a break from it. I’d like to get back into doing the sessions on a monthly basis when the timing is right.

What is your favorite comic book?

I’ve really just been rediscovering comics and graphic novels over the last few years so I kind of feel like I’m playing catch up.

I love Hellboy. I love anything Mignola draws. He seems to have more fun with his drawings than just about anybody else in comics. All those rules that have been established for drawing idealized superheroes and comics in general; you can go through and check off as Mignola breaks these rules and makes it look great. Plus his stories have a tongue-in-cheek wit to them that I like.

Some of my favorite graphic novels are Jimmy Corrigan the Smartest Kid on Earth, Daniel Clowes’ Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, and First Second publishes some really fun, unusual books like Vampire Loves.

ben walker color ink book _bear_in_Woods

Could a bear with a scuba tank and a spear gun defeat a giant squid or would he end up lunch?

Probably not. But it wouldn’t matter because the Shark with a chainsaw would end up getting them both.

Any plans for 2010 that will knock our socks off?

I’m working on a story line for a comic book about a band of singing cowboys. It is set in the weird town of Remington Ridge so I’m building off ideas and characters I had in first book. I’m going to be focusing on this project all year. I’ve also got a solo show lined up for the spring. My idea is to have all the artwork for the show revolve around this story.

ben walker color ink book 1

Where is the best place to have lunch?

How about my house? I can make toasted PB & J.

If you had a time machine: where and when would you first travel?

If you’re hoping I’ll say “1880 in the American West” you can forget it. Life was hard then and I am soft and wouldn’t last two days. The glare off those dusty planes would give me a migraine and be like “Where’s my Excedrin? Oh right, there is no Excedrin, its 1880… Where’s my Winchester?”

ben walker color ink book 3

What is your preferred method for listening to music?

I’ve been finding a lot of new music by just checking stuff out at the library. Wow, that really sounds like an old man thing to do. I also like digging for old ass records then converting them to MP3s with my USB Turntable thing. Then I can listen to them on my ipod. That sounds a little cooler, even if they are Grandpa Jones records.

Sandwich or burrito?

Burrito, please; with black beans and sautéed mushrooms.

ben walker color ink book Armed_Bears_for_AmericaClick the Bear to See More