We recently printed a limited number of t shirts for London-based illustrator Ben Tallon.
Ben took the time to talk to us through his new design, his role as Creative Director at Quenched Music and his unique working process.
Q. Tell us about your t shirt design.
A. I’m co-owner and Creative Director of a company called Quenched Music, which I set up in collaboration with electronic musician and DJ Dirty Freud. We work with bands who are switched on to develop their visual identity.
I have a strong relationship with The Hyena Kill, whose dirty hard rock sound is a great fit for my work. This t shirt design features the artwork we used for their forthcoming single, Blisters. It’s a World War II gas mask drawn in Indian ink, pen and layered over spray paint.
Above: Ben rocking one of the tees printed by ICON in his design studio
Top of page: Ben combined line drawing and spray paint to design this postcard for adidas
Q. You mentioned Quenched Music there. Why you decided to set the company up?
A. Like every other artist I know, I wanted to design sleeves for the bands I love. But it was no good me knocking on the door of EMI or Warner with a business card. So when I moved in with Danni Skerritt, who later started making music as Dirty Freud, we saw the diverse skill range within our combined network and felt, with a mutual love of music, we could utilise it to create something original. He started to review bands in exchange for cheap cider and I saw that as an inroad to the great new music scene in Manchester.
We stand for originality and creativity. We don’t care how you label your music or how many times you can twerk in your nan’s face. If what you’re doing is good, we’ll try champion it and work with you.
Q. Speaking of music, what do you listen to when you work?
A. He might be my friend and business partner, but I think Dirty Freud is crazy original. The way he fuses electronic music with organic instruments to do something totally different is just spellbinding. Reverend and the Makers, anything from Damon Albarn’s camp, The Hyena Kill, Eminem, Thundamentals and Black Lights are a few of my other current favourites. But anything refreshing is always welcome.
Above: Album artwork for EMI’s ‘Sounds of Brazil’ compilation
Q. Looking back, what would you say inspired your decision to become an illustrator?
A. At school, I had a complete disinterest in anything other than drawing, Blur, Leeds United and wrestling. But I’m bang average at footy, not cut out for grappling (aside from a short run as a kid on an old mattress out in a field in Yorkshire) and never took my guitar lessons. So I stumbled my way into the creative industries. I’ve since worked with Leeds United and WWE, but not Damon Albarn. He’s a hard man to track down though. I’ve tried.
Q. How exactly do you go about making your images?
A. I always begin by drawing, using fine pens, Indian ink and dip pens as well as some more unconventional materials. For example, I once burned the end of a wine bottle cork, blew it out and drew with the ash. I find that whatever’s lying around can be used in some way.
I’ll then layer the piece with spray paints, acrylics, emulsions, pencils and crayons. Sometimes I’ll use found materials too. My work is created 100% organically, keeping all the little mistakes, scratches and splashes that make the image feel alive. I piece my images together on my Mac, which allows me to experiment with different compositions while retaining the natural process.
Above: WWE Superstar Kane poses in front of a hand painted banner created by Ben
Q. Of all the projects you’ve worked on so far, which has been your favourite?
A. Easily the two WWE Faces of Evil projects. I’m a lifelong wrestling fan. I painted and drew wrestlers a lot at college, university and beyond. Eventually, I found the contact details for the Creative Director of Digital and Print at WWE. It turns out he’s from Bolton and we became good friends, bonding over the fact both of our football clubs were going through bleak years. He helped me get a foot in the door and steer my style to new places. He commissioned me to create a series of hand painted sets which were then used in two photo shoots featuring all the major villains. It’s mind blowing stuff that I never felt was possible until it happened.