Step into the wonderful illustrated world of Ben Boothman
Surreal geometry, crazed linear plains and bold expanses of colour are the main powerful tools in the arsenal of illustrator Ben Boothman.
I studied on a pretty experimental graphic design course that encouraged a lot of exploration with different mediums and ways of working. For me, this sparked an interest in drawing and illustration, which I developed alongside the rest of my studies. After graduating, I continued to draw in my spare time, slowly searching for a style that felt like my own. Many sketchbooks later, I had a sort of ‘Eureka!’ moment. This partly influenced my decision to go completely freelance at the beginning of 2017. I haven’t looked back since!
I live and work in Leeds, sharing a studio space with a diverse group of creative types, including fine artists and commercial designers. It’s a great environment to get feedback on ideas, as well as a fresh pair of eyes on my work. It also opens up the opportunity for collaboration on different projects. Leeds itself has a great creative scene. There are a lot of organisations and individuals making some seriously great work.
I’ve always approached my work as if I was building something. It often feels like an exercise in finding the right place for the right piece.
While I’m always developing and improving my practice, this approach is at the core of all of my illustrations. Unsurprisingly this means a more organic style has always been out of the question for me. I think I may be a bit of a control freak in that sense! Also, an important part of my artistic development has been the improvement of my pencil sketches. Whereas I used to use them as a rough guide, I now attempt to mirror the final product as much as possible with pen and paper. Doing so has vastly improved the quality of my work and has given me the ability to draw a mean freehand circle.
It’s a pretty common complaint that working as an illustrator can be pretty isolating and I’d agree with that. To combat this, I like to spend my free time around people, whether they’re friends, family, or even strangers. I love a good natter. I also exercise regularly to balance out all the sitting down that I do.
Having a shared studio space means my surroundings are definitely not short of interesting stuff. I personally like to collect toys that I see when I visit places (particularly one’s made of wood). The goal is to collect enough that I need a dedicated cabinet for them all. In terms of my creative tool kit, it mainly consists of pencil case with an eraser, sharpener and about 50 of the same pencil (it’s a really good pencil!). I also have my laptop with a wireless keyboard and an old Microsoft mouse. The mouse is probably about 5 years old, but I’ve yet to find one that fits my hand better.
A dream project for me would be to illustrate an entire music festival, not just the promotional materials, but also the stages, tents and even the toilets! I love the idea of creating illustrations that work on a number of different scales, from very small to gigantic. I also make 3D animations too, so the festival would need a bunch of screens to display some crazy moving images.
I just finished a really cool project for a very well known company. I can’t say anything just yet, but hopefully I’ll be able to shout about it very soon! I also recently worked on some beer mats for an independent brewery in Leeds. The brief was basically “we love your work, do your thing” and I can’t wait to see them printed.
I pushed myself pretty hard last year to develop and improve my style and in the process made a lot of work, however I realised a lot these illustrations didn’t have much of a life past social media. This year I want to focus on the different ways that people can engage with my illustrations, with a view to create more self-published, printed works. I’ve never displayed my work at a print fair before, so hopefully I can make that happen. I’ve also been going to a mural painting class to improve my work on a bigger scale and it would be great to utilise these new skills on a wall somewhere.