“Humour and fun have always played an important role in my life and work. I always, most of the time very sarcastically, see the funny side of things,” says Stuttgart-based illustrator and graphic designer, Ben El Halawany. Drawing under the pseudonym El Bebbe Grande, Ben’s work is deceptively uninvolved, communicating anecdotes in their simple forms through his use of bold lines. “Just listening to someone talk, seeing somebody tripping over their own feet, or seeing some weird looking dog really inspires me,” he explains of the scenarios he cooks up.
Currently a student in his hometown at the Stuttgart State Academy of Fine Arts and Design in the class of Patrick Thomas, Ben has been doodling for as long as he can remember. “I had the luck of having an older brother with great taste who also drew little comics and illustrations,” he recalls of his entry to the medium. “He also introduced me to things like comics, music, movies, album artworks and all other kinds of creative and fun stuff. His passion passed on to me and never left.”
As time went on, Ben love’s for “the range of images which you can create with just a pen, paper and the stuff that’s in your head,” developed. Although initially working in quite an elaborate manner, it’s the process of breaking down and communicating a message in its simplest form that now anchors Ben’s illustrations. An extremely visually reduced style, his (often) square format doodles make use of bold, free lines usually left in black and white.
Although visually succinct, it’s Ben’s use of humour and sarcasm that really makes his work distinctive. His cast of characters with their lack of hair, again and again find themselves in hilarious scenarios whether they’re asking the devil for hell’s wifi password or telling their Siamese twin “it just feels like we’re not that close anymore!”
Ben’s constant doodling, while living on his Instagram account has also recently been published in his book Grande! Published by Stuttgart-based imprint Duplo Press it’s a formalisation of Ben’s sketchbooks. “All of the illustrations are taken directly from several of my sketchbooks and are not edited,” he explains. Mirroring Ben’s preferred style of sketchbook, the illustrations are presented in their original size and provide a glimpse into the comical and playful stream of consciousness that is Ben’s working practice.
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