Jim Benton

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One of Jim Benton’s many, many sketches. Foreboding much?

When I talk about myself as an illustrator, I always say that, skill-wise, I’m a cartoonist on the way to becoming a comic book artist. Despite my quick wit and love of good (and bad) humour, it never occurred to me that I should take being a cartoonist seriously and see what happens. When I was a kid, I read something about how statistically unlikely it is that you’ll be the next Jon Davis (Garfield),  Charlie Schulz (Peanuts) or Aaron McGruder(The Boondocks). I even met a guy last year who used to draw the Beano once upon a time. Good luck trying to get that job in this decade. It wasn’t until I stumbled across Jim Benton on Tumblr recently that I felt like I’d seen a clear indicator of a path forward for me.

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Knowing that I shouldn’t laugh just makes it funnier

Benton is American born and based. He used traditional media like inks and watercolour, but also works digitally. I (really) don’t know if you could call him famous, but cartooning is definitely his day job and he’s paying the bills with it.  He has such an endearing art style, which is usually combined with subversive messages. When I look at his work, I typically laugh out loud and then go find some more. This can last for hours. This need to binge on his particular type of direct, silly and insightful humour is something I’ve always wanted to elicit from others with the Smile-e Show, for example.

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Not all of Benton’s work is explicitly subversive. Or is it? Oh no, I’ve gone too deep! Help!

He reminds me of a good stand-up comedian: one part risqué, One part charming, one part discerning, but all parts funny. You know you’re on to a winner when you laugh before you have time to realise you probably shouldn’t. Jimmy Carr taught me that one.

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So I guess Jim’s heard of Usagi Yojimbo then…

Benton makes it look so easy to make art and jokes at the same time. And good jokes. And good art! I had a go at trying to follow in his footsteps without just stealing his schtick outright. It’s harder than it looks to come up with something cute and barbed at the same time and then not screw up the delivery. Illustrating cartoons is far easier than making comic books from scratch in the same way that building a car is easier than building a skyscraper; you still have to make sure every thing you do is appropriate and adds to your overall quality instead of detracting. And you’d really better make sure you know how to use all your tools properly. It takes far longer to find mistakes in a comic or building than it does in the far smaller cartoon or car.

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My attempt at Jim Benton style humour. More vector art than I typically use, but it takes a lot of work to keep stuff simple looking

I don’t really expect I’ll ever make money from art, and being popular on Instagram for it’s own sake seems pretty puerile to me, but, if I was to go deep into my mind to pull out the best jokes and then deliver them with a commitment to quality, that sounds like something to be very proud of. We’ll see.

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Oh whoops. Shouldn’t have laughed at this one for sure. Oh well. Better luck next time.

If you’d like to laugh a lot and wonder what happened to the day, check out Jim Benton of his official website or discover him the same way I did, on his Tumblr.




Southampton Project: Final Outcome: Movie

During the English civil war in the 1600s, royalist poet John Taylor journeyed from London to Southampton on his way to visit the deposed King of England Charles I.  I’ve turned his poem about it into a short movie.

I broke the poem into couplets and storyboarded visual accompaniments to them. I tried to balance good ideas against my complete lack of knowledge when it comes to working with video.

In the two to three days it took to create my one minute, I learned how to source audio, video, combine multiple audio and video layers, add in some animation stuff and all sorts. There were two main reasons why this was possible: the first was a great introduction to Adobe Premiere Pro by Ricardo, one of our tutors and the second was my familiarity with Photoshop. Understanding layers and how they work together with each other as well as knowing what I could import into Premiere Pro from Photoshop and what options I would have with that stuff greatly helped.

It wasn’t necessary to go to such lengths for this piece of moving image. We could have just done a slideshow or a movie using only found content. I know one student took a clip from a movie, mirrored it and turned it, effectively into a piece of fine art. It couldn’t have taken him more than half an hour, but, different strokes for different folks.

I’ve long wanted to get to grips with video editing. It’s rather complicated and time consuming, especially if you’re creating your own assets to use, but it’s a really great thing to be able to do.

I look forward to doing more. I need to work on my ratio of time put in, to work put out. I’ve always avoided animation for the same reason: takes too long to get acceptable results.

Who’s Colt Cougar, you ask? Well… send your answers on a stamped addressed envelop to…