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Best of Behance: Ben the Illustrator

By Jenny Carless

Who: Ben the Illustrator

What: Molly Ringwald Trilogy Art Print

Where: www.behance.net/bentheillustrator

Behance member since: 2010

With his recent art print The Molly Ringwald Trilogy, Ben O’Brien (nom de stylus: Ben the Illustrator) pays tribute to the 1980s cultural icon and her roles in classic John Hughes movies. But what led him to Molly as a subject?

“She’s the coolest; she played a cross-section of teens from the era, and they’re all strong enough to take something positive from,” he says. “I wanted to focus on the characters she played in Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink—how cool and empowering they were, and how great a role model she was.”

O’Brien set himself a challenge: to use colors from Pantone’s spring fashion palette, which includes this year’s Pantone Colors of the Year, Rose Quartz and Serenity.

COMMITTING TO ILLUSTRATION

O’Brien’s work is colorful, bold, and optimistic.

“I try to make my work dynamic, fresh, and exciting,” he explains. “If it’s not exciting to create, people won’t be excited by it.”

The Ringwald trilogy, like almost all of O’Brien’s artworks, started life as a pencil drawing.

“That’s my mellow, creative time; then I scan the drawing and trace the line work in Adobe Illustrator CC before adding colors,” he says. “Once I had the whole Molly artwork in full, eye-popping colors, I took it into Adobe Photoshop CC and used brushes from Kyle T. Webster’s collection to bring some texture, mood, and life to the vector artwork.”

Illustrator is O’Brien’s favorite tool. “It’s as close as I’ve found to the visuals in my head,” he says.

 

KEEPING THINGS FRESH

O’Brien studied animation in college; after graduating, he got involved in music videos. A couple of years spent animating and directing music videos led to the formation of a small animation and design studio in London, where his creations ranged from animation for children’s TV to T-shirts for record labels.

“That’s when I began working on small illustration jobs on the side, which I adored more than anything else,” he explains. “So in 2005, I left the studio and became Ben the Illustrator full-time.”

O’Brien advises artists not to get stuck in one way of working.

“For years, I’ve worked in Illustrator, and I love working in vectors; however, just recently I’ve started taking the finished vector artwork and using Photoshop to overlay brushstrokes and textures,” he explains. “I used this method for both the Molly Ringwald Trilogy print and my recent Hideaways collection of art prints. By adding this extra level of detail from Photoshop, I’ve taken my vector illustration to a fresh new level.”

With his Hideaways art prints, O’Brien moves from Hollywood to the actual woods. 

“Everyone loves a hideaway,” he says. “I wanted to create a series of places for people to run away to.”

As he started sketching, he became interested in the basic shapes and decided to develop each piece by framing it in the shape of the hideaway itself. O’Brien followed the same process described above: a pencil sketch, vectors in Illustrator, and then adding warmth and texture in Photoshop.

LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE

He’s very interested to see where illustration will go.

“For some years now, illustrators have been diversifying. We are capably producing homeware products, animating short films, creating games and apps, and moving into live action, fashion design, and interior design,” he points out. “It’s wonderful to see what an illustrator who is proficient in composition, color, and creating a still image can bring to other creative areas.”

O’Brien’s own near future holds an actual paintbrush.

“I’m really enjoying playing with paint, and I’d like to take this further,” he says.

A pair of shoes he designed for Bucketfeet is launching worldwide in April. (See a sneak peek.) And he’s interested in creating more trilogy posters. In addition to the Molly Ringwald trilogy, he’s produced a Back to the Future and a Teen Wolf homage.

“I’ll definitely do more of these,” he says, “and I probably won’t restrict myself to ’80s movies—although I do have ideas for The Goonies and BMX Bandits!”