Ben Kopp is a name which will be recognised by keen followers of The Smudge, Clay Hickson’s politically-charged monthly riso newspaper which came into being at the same time that Donald Trump was elected as President. The Philadelphia-based illustrator was commissioned by the paper back in September for a feature written by Mary Hirsch.
Since we haven’t featured Ben’s work in a while, we figured a catch-up was well overdue. “My main focus right now is developing and streamlining my style — I’m constantly drawing in my sketchbook,” Ben tells It’s Nice That. “After a period of time, I’ll try to figure out what my sketches mean and my final work comes out on the other side.”
Peer beyond the neon colour palette, and Ben’s illustrations bring with them a deeper, darker feeling. “I’m obsessed with themes of melancholy and longing and trying to find a way to communicate that with neon colours and funky patterns.” The jiggly, wibbly illustrative style and nostalgic lettering which define Ben’s personal work (“I can’t escape the rave in my head!”) speak loudest to a generation of ex-ravers who have replaced come downs with hangovers and squashed communal flats in capital cities for featureless terraced houses in suburbia and 2.4 kids.
“They’re about taking everything that I’m feeling, observing or doing, abstracting it, and then throwing it into this cartoon world full of neon, pattern and nostalgia,” Ben explains of his drawings. “For example, Caution comes from seeing so many potholes around Philadelphia, The Lost Boys is an amazing movie and embodies the nostalgia that I strive for in my work, and lastly Rave just comes from me having a song stuck in my head.”
With much of Ben’s work living in the digital realm, it makes sense that he’s been exploring the physical side of things of late. “I’m currently wrapping up a zine I’ve been working on for a while and have shirts and paintings coming soon,” he says. Watch this space.
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