With refreshing clarity, Ben Eagle‘s graphic art just is. “I’m not trying to make art that confuses people,” he declares. Instead, he delights, with pictures of globular, organic shapes swimming around in pools of colour, or scenes filled with ladders, eye balls, fried eggs, floppy disks and other cool-looking things all partaking in some sort of silent disco. Ben’s work is minimalistic yet joyful, and it’s very hard to look at without cracking a smile. Take a gander at some of it here while you read our Q&A with him.
How did you get into graphic design?
I have always leaned toward visual arts, getting started with graffiti. It seemed a natural progression from that to art and then to graphic design.
So, if I’ve got things straight: by day you work with Battalion, and by night you create personal illustration and design work. What does your day job entail?
I work on the creative side of things for Battalion, an event production company, as well as its sister company Mess Hall, a newly founded restaurant and catering company (Joburg’s Great Dane falls under this). Basically I work on all the creative and visual aspects; from the look and feel of the events that we produce, to creating content for Great Dane and Mess Hall’s social pages, or even painting large scale murals for upcoming shows.
How would you describe your personal style or aesthetic? What sorts of things influence and inform this?
I would describe it as unintentional, I’m not trying to make art that confuses people. Ultimately colour and shape form the base of my work. I’m constantly looking at everything around me, from signwriting to train graffiti to gang scrawls or what I like to call “unintentional vandalism” (when someone writes “Jesus Loves You” or their girlfriends name on a wall).
How much has your style or approach changed since you first started out?
It’s progressed from being largely referenced by my graffiti to something more abstract with a focus on colour and shape, like the print series I’m currently working on.
You’ve recently opened up an online print shop. Do you think that having an online marketplace should be customary for an artist?
I think it should definitely be an option that is taken more seriously if you aren’t about going the usual gallery route. Overall I think art and arts education should be more available to people, especially here in SA. Having said that, I think a lot of South Africans are still scared of buying products online, especially from small online stores, so if there were more artists and creative’s making cool stuff and selling it I think the culture would definitely grow.
What’s your formal training? Is there anything you think needs to change about the way that design and illustration is taught?
I did a short course to get to know the programmes, but I’m self-taught. From my experience in Johannesburg there’s not much of a choice when choosing a design school or course and the content of the courses doesn’t always apply to the real world, often the only way to learn is by trial and error.
What’s your favourite era or movement in design?
Rather than a specific design movement or era, it’s more everything about signwriting and typography, any sort of hand-painted signage does it for me…
Do you work by hand, or does the majority of your work start and end digitally? Tell us about your creative process.
It depends. I’ve got sketch books where I develop my own type and come up with ideas. For the new series I’m busy with at the moment, I start digitally and end up screen printing by hand, which has been a great skill to learn.
What do you enjoy listening to while you work?
A recent favorite is Archy Marshall’s “A New Place 2 Drown” and all time favorite is Action Bronson’s “Dr Lecter”.
What are you working on at the moment? Anything we should look out for?
I’m working on my personal print project where I release a new A2 hand pulled silkscreen print at the end of every month which I keep super limited to try and give it some personal value.
As well as my online store which I will be constantly topping up with all kinds of nice things like zines, pins/patches, jackets, caps, prints, sneakers, and any other cool stuff I can get my hands on along the way.
I’m also working on a series of custom prints for a chain of sneaker stores that will be opening around the country.
And…I’ve also got something cool in the pipeline with the super talented Rich Mnisi.
See more Graphic Art Month features on 10and5.