Behind never sleeping design is Ben Chlapek, poster designer of course, this is the reason why he is here, but also author of small books and zines like the Ultimate Worrier for example, surely coming from his first works on "super hero characters that were overly muscular" …
Music is an essential part of my everyday life. It's good to have a solid soundtrack to work by, and for me that includes (usually) bands like Destroyer, Brian Eno, M83, Yo La Tengo, Cave, The War On Drugs, Crystal Castles, Jerusalem and the Starbaskets, The Radio Dept., The Strokes, My Bloody Valentine, Galaxie 500, etc.
Can you tell us more about yourself, who are you, where are you from, what do you do?
I'm from Kansas City, Missouri, USA, and have been living in Columbia, Missouri, for the past eight years. I came here for college, and ended up staying because it's pretty cheap to live here and do what you want. I have a tendency to be a bit of a hermit when there's lots of work to do, lock myself in my apartment and become nocturnal. It seems like I'm either constantly working or unable to put pen to paper. Once I get started, it's hard to stop, and once I stop it's hard to start again. That being said, I feel I have a pretty good work ethic. I play and write music as well, so when I'm not in the mood to draw I can usually turn to music.
When did you start drawing?
I suppose I started like everyone else, when I was a kid. I remember trying to make my own super hero characters that were overly muscular, and drawing lots of war scenes with bullets flying everywhere. I enjoyed it and tried to be good at it for a while, but never was.
I had very mediocre skill in high school. There were a few things I did that weren't terrible, but there were several people better than me. I didn't really have a "voice" or know what I liked. Then I went to school for graphic design, and still couldn't really draw in the beginning drawing classes (maybe still life scenes of boxes and fruit weren't inspiring enough). I slowly discovered other artists that maybe weren't technically "good," but who's work I really liked, and who made quite a career for themselves. I took a screenprinting class, which encouraged me to draw and get into concert posters. Hopefully I've slowly gotten better.
Today are you living from your art, or do you do something else for a living ?
I am fortunate enough to do art full time, as my only job. I barely make enough to make ends meet, and some months it's really close, but it seems like just when I'm about to run out of money something will come along. I feel extremely lucky to be my own boss. Bosses are terrible.
I make my own zines quite often, but no, I don't really have too many things I regularly contribute to. I would like to! I think I'm good in that way. Like, I can come up with multiple pieces that work separately and also would look good together. Anyway, it would be fun.
Where does your influence come from? Is there any artists/graphists you particularly like, what are your influences?
There are so many things that can influence art of all forms. Old movies, weather, awkward situations, disasters, music, outsider art/music, architecture, relationships, anything. Artists I really like are Saul Steinberg, Danny Gibson, Maurice Sendak, David Shrigley, and an infinite list of others.
What are the principal steps in your work ?
Always start with an idea. With any creative thing you do. Otherwise you'll just be scribbling on paper and wasting time. Sure, every now and then something good will come from just free drawing, but there's no use in pushing forward if you don't have a plan. At least that's how I feel. So usually there are a bunch of small thumbnail drawings to get an idea of the composition of the piece and how everything is going to shake out. From then there will be a bigger pencil drawing, then I'll ink it, then scan it into the computer and make it the right size/color.
Most of it is by hand, but after all of the drawing is done I scan it in so I can re-size it or correct any mistakes I made while Inking it. I use the computer to separate the colors for screen printing as well.
How long does it take you to do a poster?
It depends. I usually listen to the band's music for quite a while to get ideas, a feel for what it should look like, etc. Once I get an idea, it doesn't take more than a few hours or half a day to execute, then another day or half day to screen print. I like the instant gratification of it all.
You have a very distinctive style, are you doing only what you feel like or if tomorrow somebody asks you an oil painting with horses running out of water with a sunset backdrop, is it a problem or are you up for it ?
Well, usually people come to me for the specific type of work they've seen from me. That's nice. Sometimes though, yes, people will have odd requests completely out of my normal work style, and I usually turn them down. I can't use oils anyway, and I don't want to paint a horse. I think it's funny that so many people get hung up on styles, too, and ask how I developed mine. It's just my own handwriting and not-so-great drawing skills. The pieces usually come out pretty alright though, thankfully.
I mostly pick poster jobs based on bands I like (through the venue or promoter), so that's nice. I'll get commissions from the bands directly too, sometimes, like The Black Keys or Flight of the Conchords.
For which band would you love to work?
Too many to list. I would love to do another Destroyer poster, or M83. Or somehow something for Brian Eno.
Do you choose the artists yourself?
What is the most difficult part in designing a poster ?
Sometimes it is difficult to execute the idea, and get the final piece to look like the image I have in my head. It can be very frustrating when it doesn't work. Maybe if I was better I wouldn't have that problem.
There are tons of people doing hand drawn, screen printed posters. Jay Ryan, LandLand, Patent Pending, and many others. I don't know if I'm part of a scene per se, but I suppose you could view all of the current poster artist like that as a scene. Yeah.
A bit of self-promotion, take advantage of it, it's free, where can we see your work , on the web or in real life?
neversleeping.com is my main site. From there, you can find links to twitter and flickr and all of that stuff. In real life, well, I don't know that I have anything in galleries right now. I hope to do much more of that in the coming year.
The best praise you received lately?
The poster I did for Beirut was taped on to one of their amps onstage, so that's kind of cool. Also, I have a piece in something called The Indie Rock Poster book, alongside 29 other artists. The whole thing turned out great.
I don't ask for much, but maybe that people continue to pay me to make things for them, and that I don't destroyer myself while I'm trying to do so. I'll make things regardless, I suppose. Thanks!