Artist Spotlight: benbauchau
Weekly spotlight on a new artist in the NFT ecosystem
This is the seventh instalment of a new weekly series in which I will spotlight a brand new artist along with their works while getting to know them better and understanding their creative processes behind the pieces in more detail.
My name is Boffin and alongside flipping JPEGs for profit with the members of “The One” since day 1, I’ve also been collecting and connecting with these artists. The passion for their craft and the stories they have to share have been nothing but a treat to experience, and it’s with that intention, that this series is being started to share those stories with the wider NFT audience.
This week the spotlight is on the Belgian Artist; benbauchau. He is primarily an illustrator and I had the pleasure of chatting with him about conveying mystery, long-term inspirations & experimenting with different mediums within Web3 while also showcasing a small preview into his creative process. You can (and really should) browse his entire portfolio here
Boffin (Boff): Can you please introduce yourself and what style of art you like to produce/specialise in?
Benbauchau (Ben): I'm an artist from Belgium, I've been working as a freelance illustrator for about 6 years and have always been drawing personal artworks in parallel with my client projects. I would describe my work as surreal art mainly inspired by ukiyo-e and comics (although there are many other influences). These drawings are a way for me to explore my unconscious thoughts or visions and flesh those out into mysterious landscapes.
Boff: When was the first time you heard of NFTs and why did you decide to take a leap into this world?
Ben: I heard about NFTs first without making sense of it, in the course of 2021 through digital artists I was already following on Instagram. I kept on hearing about it and eventually had a friend as well as potential collaborators reaching out more and more often (I actually started working for an NFT p2e game without really knowing that was what it was), I started to be more curious about NFTs. I had no clue about crypto before this either, so it was all pretty new but really mind-blowing. In August 2021 I finally started my journey as a 1/1 artist and soon after started working on a PFP collection called Ascended. They were both amazing ways for me to create what I wanted the way I wanted it, which was a huge change from my last years of freelance work.
Boff: Looking at the types of works you've minted, they feel like a mixture of fantastical, the wear of time & with a touch of divinity. How would you describe it?
Ben: I'm obsessed with unanswered mystery I think that is the best way to put it. I like to draw things that are extraordinary, be it more or less subtle. I have a passion for tribal art and masks, as well as fantasy and sci-fi in general. I think one of the reasons for that is I love to reflect on time, a forgotten past and an unknown future, a perspective of life on a bigger scale, that's not only focused on our present time. I'm not sure how much my art shows that specifically, but it's something that is often on my mind.
Boff: How do you go to convey the mystery in the pieces? You’ve mentioned one aspect of it, which is time (Unknown future and forgotten past) but a lot of mystery is in the intrigue of not knowing the whole picture after all. How do you design the unseen and make it “seen”?
Ben: There is no special process behind the mystery aspect of my drawings, it's actually the process of sketching landscapes that come to my mind and discovering them as I lay them on paper that makes it a process I love. Drawing these is a way for me to explore these places, without having answers. Sometimes they might evoke a more specific idea or feeling, but I tend to overthink too much in my daily life and that's exactly why these drawings are like that, because when I create art, I go through an experience without trying to make sense out of it. I will feed on art (visual, literature, movies, music) that broadly inspires me to come up with visions of these landscapes, so I have these artists and artworks to thank for triggering my creativity and conveying that mystery.
Boff: Looking at your works prior to joining the NFT space, what was the experience of working on the TV show "American Gods"? The world created by Gaiman is rife with creativity and inspiration sources. That is very close to your style of art, is it not?
Ben: Working on American Gods was an amazing experience, still today, prior to NFTs, by far one of my favourite projects I've worked on. I think it had the perfect ingredients of what I like to work on. But in addition to that, it was one of those projects where I'm having the most fun sketching and fleshing out ideas and designs, letting thoughts from my mind lay down on paper (or screen).
Boff: Looking back at your core inspirations, how much would you say about the art of comics and the genre of Ukiyo-e having had an impact on your work as a whole? Translated from Japanese, ‘ukiyo-e’ means “picture[s] of the floating world” (which I'm sure you already know). I'm sure there are parallels you can draw from your experience as an artist over the years
Ben: Comic books (from Europe US and Japan mainly, and animated tv shows at a younger age) are what made me want to draw when I was a kid. I would go to the library and discover all types of comics and look at one drawing for a long time (I have had the habit to look at the frames or pages I liked, as if looking at art, more then actually reading the stories). My fondest memory is when I was about 10 years old and discovered Mother Sarah from Otomo and Nagayasu, I can't say why that one more then others but I can still remember the drawings as if it was yesterday. From there when I grew older Ukiyo-e felt like the perfect kind of art similar to what attracted me with comics visually in the first place. There are different themes but contemplative landscapes and mystical folklore are often at the center of Ukiyo-e, and as you point out, the name itself says something about the delicate touch these Japanese artists had. That and the focus on drawing (each artist's gesture and style of strokes is visible in the final woodprints) is what attracts me the most.
Boff: If we look at the theming of your work and just look at it as a collection of colours, each of your pieces has a gradient to them and more so than that, they are slightly muted. You won't find any bright popping colours (even if a scene is inherently bright). Simple question (though also not) Why is that?
Ben: I’m actually colorblind and I think I've always used muted colors for that reason (to avoid ending up with too much of a mess). Now my partner in life Elsa (Who is a former compositing artist) does the colors of the illustrations and she has kept that intention on the colors while adding something to it that makes the details pop out more and have a cohesive composition. The gradient aspect and muted colors also come from the Ukiyo-e inspiration, although they would often use bright colors, the actual prints usually have a washed out feel which we love to take inspiration from. I personally find that to add to an otherworldly feel I look for in both art I like and want to create.
Thank you to everyone for tuning in to read this. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have to craft this. Tune in next week when there will be a new artist spotlighted and new conversations to be shared.