A Bustle in your Hedgerow – an interview with Ben D (Airsoft International Art Editor)
I’ve lost the amount of times I’ve countlessly met kindred spirits, through a mutual appreciation of music, film, art and comics, ‘Plastic Deth‘ – countless …
Often, I’ve coined such encounters, remarking ‘we can smell our own’ and as I’ve done so over the years, made a firm friend, brother – member of the S23 Familia if you will, here in Ben D.
We’d crossed paths a good few years back at the War and Peace show, and whilst pleasantries were exchanged as Paul, Ebcon Publisher, introduced me to the then newly reinvigorated Airsoft International editorial crew, including editor Ben W and of course graphic designer, Ben D.
A few years passed, and we reunited at my first Ai500, running the ‘desert’ themed Viper team. Along with good friends who served as my ‘close protection’ team, Jamie, Phil D, CJ was Ben D.
Enduring sunken sleeping cots, excessive mud, and bitingly arctic weather conditions, it dropped to minus five during the long nights, which I know others have and do endure far worse, perhaps our tents were perhaps not the best equipped to deal with such conditions.
Nonetheless, exhilarating game play throughout, as we all made much ‘war’ – friendships where cemented on what was the now infamous battle of building ‘D3’ (or was it D5 memory fades with age).
Here, the five of us, surrounded held off the entire OpFor – whilst the rest of the Viper team effected our rescue QRF.
Hundreds of spent BB’s, pyro and the floor littered with spent magazines saw three of us emerge, grinning to the news of victory.
This saw Ben D posthumously promoted to my 2nd in Command, and as such we’ve crossed the UK a further five times leading the Viper team into mortal combat. We are set to do so again, in June at the latest sold out Ai500 ‘The Gathering‘ …
Anyhow, I digress, there’s more to young Ben than cool gears, a vociferous appetite for destruction on the field. He’s also the talented Art Editor for Airsoft International who brings to life, Ben W’s, James, Phil and my own scribblings to life each and everyone month in the venerable pages of Airsoft International.
We thought we’d sit down with Ben, and go behind the quiet diminutive stoic exterior, and get insight to his creative talent.
S23: Welcome aboard bro, a departure perhaps from our usual fare, but no less relevant, as you help bring it all together each and every month for our favorite ‘Plastic Deth‘ periodical ‘Airsoft International‘.
Give us an insight to your Art and Design/Graphic background. (Did you discover a talent early in life, educational background) ?
BD: I’ve always been surrounded by design. I studied Graphic design at school and then further at college, but prior to those hazy days (and from quite an early age) I can remember peering over my Dad’s shoulder at his architectural drawing board, as he carefully penned in thick and thin black lines of the most precise building plans and elevations (I can still smell the blue eraser and thick layout paper). Then, once Apple (or Macintosh as they were more commonly known back then) became the new commonplace tool in the architectural and design world, his practice and trade naturally moved over to creating plans digitally and Apple proudly paved the way as the ‘industry standard’. Well… that was it, I knew I wanted to pursue design in computer-based graphics and the only limitation was my imagination.
S23: A little bird tells (Publisher) you’d not always been into Airsoft, until coming on board with Airsoft International ?
BD: Yeah, this is true. Before joining Ai, It was where I was invited to have a go at a local site that I truly discovered Airsoft. It actually really helps in my trade if you immerse yourself into you’re subject matter. It allows you to understand your audience and stay at the crest of the wave.
S23: As we recently covered here on the blog, you often collaborate with the inimitable counter culture fiends – Rogue Printing. This gives you an outlet to explore some of your other interests in design, fun, creative excess or just a way to express your ideas ?
BD: Yeah, Rogue Screen Printing is run by one of my best mates, Matt. He regularly collaborates with some incredible ‘A-list’ artists and is able to produce some jaw-dropping, hand-printed t-shirts. With anything creative, if you’re passionate about the product and you enjoy what you’re doing, the end result is going to shine, and his t-shirts are some of the finest you’ll ever find, because he loves what he does, and it shows. I’m lucky enough to have put out a few of my designs with him and yes, you’re exactly right, this gives me a golden opportunity to further explore the avenues of creative design. Every designer yearns for a completely open brief/blank canvas and Matt at Rogue allows me to do this in spades.
S23: We’ve often spoken about other interests, music, whilst Ben W is often found in ‘corpse paint’ with his spiky ‘war vest’ drinking IPA in the woods, and me virtuously espousing Hardcore social justice and unity, I understand you’ve a far broader and eclectic taste. Does this fuel sonically some of your designs ideas and approach to graphic design ?
BD: I can’t work in silence, there’s always something blaring out of my sound system. I’m into a lot of different genres and I couldn’t label myself to anything specific. I’m big into 90’s hip hop, funk, turntablism, heavy metal and when I’m up against magazine deadlines, I welcome a heavy dose of filthy drum and bass… I guess it all depends on my mood.
S23: … We often talk about artists who inspire, influence and naturally who’s work we enthuse over. Which of these motivate you in particular, and what do you draw from their work?
BD: I collect art, it’s a bit of an addiction to be honest. There are a handful of artists and graphic designers that I adore and definitely take inspiration from. Some many of you will probably be aware of; Olly Moss, Jock, Matt Taylor, Nico Delort, Chris Thornley, Matt Ferguson, Karl Fitzgerald, Mike Mitchell… I could go on.
These guys, in my opinion, produce some of the most original and inspirational work out there and they undeniably drive me to try something different, approach briefs from different angles and explore new areas and techniques.
S23: So, with this years incarnation of the Ai500 – aptly renamed and reconfigured as ‘The Gathering’ you put together a stunning design for this events exclusive patch. It thematically captures elements of the location, a disused theme park (fair ground) with a cool, darker twist on things. Talk us through the process – readers and attendees alike, Ben and the Ai500 crew have collaborated to bring this to life as T-shirt, working with counter culture upstarts Rogue Print Co.
BD: Okay, so at each event we put out a new patch and I try to incorporate different elements from the scenario, the site itself and the game brief. Before settling on the final design of this Gathering logo, I knew I wanted to include a Horseman/Reaper figure and his scythe somehow and possibly work in some sort of theme park element. I played around with rollercoaster tracks, a big-wheel, bumper cars etc. but none of them were working organically with each other… until a light bulb went off above my head and a Horseman riding a carousel started to appear on my sketchpad. I took the style inspiration from The Racing Machetes, these are a series of graphic t-shirts representing a vintage motorcycle team in Seattle. Designed by Brandon Rike of Dark Collar Art Co.
S23: … and the now infamous Batman/Spiderman hybrid design ?
BD: Okay, well this was a happy accident. I created a flash-sheet (selection of potential designs) for Matt at Rogue and for no other reason than to make him laugh, I always throw in a small, design of something stupid in the corner of these flash-sheets. This is where the ‘Spidey’ design came from… I couldn’t tell you how I thought of it or where it came from, it was just a little design spark that jumped off the anvil and I never thought it would make the cut or be so popular! I remember Matt replied instantly with “We’re printing that!” and the rest is history… I believe it’s still his best selling t-shirt? You’d have to ask him though… funny how a piece that took me two minutes to throw together could be so celebrated.
S23: Now, I’m a huge fan of your gears, which understandably keep you light and fleet and in the thick of the action, longstanding injuries aside from years of tortuous snowboarding and extreme sports. Whilst undoubtedly UKSF inspired, how much of these gears is in part influenced by your graphic eye for the aesthetic against practicality, form over function?
BD: When it comes to Airsoft, I’m fortunate enough to exist within the industry, so I have had access to some really nice gear. Over the years kit comes and goes, but a few hardy pieces that have proven their worth, stick around. Hardware aside, these consist of Mayflower, Blue Force Gear, Crye, Ferro Concepts and a few bits of Tactical Tailor. As far as things ‘look’ from an aesthetic point of view, I like Multicam, but my eye tends to be drawn towards the classic US patterns like DCU (Tri-colour) and US Woodland (M81 pattern). I never like to be dipped head-to-toe in one colour/pattern and always try to ‘mix-up-look-sharp’. I think this is why I like the 90’s and turn of the century UKSF look, as it’s basically a mash up of traded camos from their in-country US comrades.
S23: … last but not least, as I know your busy chasing, looming deadlines …
… but, before we let you go, really appreciate you taking the time out to talk, obligatory last question I always like to ask (kind of a trademark), I’m a fan of 30 Rounds per mag, what’s your thoughts on this – could you see this perhaps bringing something new and fresh to game play if embraced by the masses?
… huge thanks to Ben for taking time out to sit down with us, I owe you a coffee f’sure bro. Check out his incredible work each and everyone month below at Airsoft International, and his collaborations alongside many other extraordinary talents at Rogue Printing Co. – S23
Airsoft International: http://www.ai-mag.com/
Rogue Print Co: http://roguescreenprint.bigcartel.com/