Christopher Benson is one of those illustrators that somehow manages to bring an entire world of captivating stories and mystical creatures to life on a piece of paper or digital screen. Even if you’re not intimately familiar with the characters in his work, they send your imagination into overdrive. Christopher’s illustrations are complex, unexpected, and full of beautiful warriors.
Read on to find out more about the Manitoba-based illustrator’s fascination with monsters, his creative process, and the one tool that he can’t live without.
Tell us about your background. How did you decide you wanted to be an illustrator?
My background is primarily that of a hobbyist. I did go to college for 3-D animation and special effects, but that’s not where my life took me. I continue to love art, and I want to see others love themselves through their art.
Sharing those experiences of mine and living through the joy of other people’s artwork is a big factor in me wanting to illustrate.
You have a very unique and defining style. Can you tell us what the process of finding that style has been like for you?
I think a big part of finding a style is playing with different medias. Digital work, painting, watercolours, pens, etc. It’s all different techniques, but art is forgiving and so very subjective. Don’t be afraid to experiment!
I moved into different styles when my friends would buy me art supplies as holiday presents. I’m still learning how to properly use copics, but I’m having fun with the results.
Can you describe your creative process? Where do you start? What do you usually have on or around you?
My creative process is admittedly very reactive at times. I get big into what my friends are into and get swept up in their excitement. It’s part of why I value being around artists and other creatives so much. It exposes me to a wide range of things to get me hyped up for a drawing session. I’ll sit on the couch with my little portable drawing desk surface and sketch doodles of things I want to draw. It’s relaxing and a good way to spend time near my family.
What do you do to get out of a creative slump?
A good way for me to get out of a slump is to take an older illustration, something at least three years old, and try to redraw it.
I love finding improvements to design, or just using it as a yardstick to see where my style is changing.
It’s a lot of fun, and the creative heavy lifting has already been done! (Thanks, past me!)
What is one tool at your desk or workspace that you couldn’t live without?
Every illustration I’ve ever done has been sketched with mechanical pencil before they go to any other stage. Every digital art piece has a scanned pencil piece hiding somewhere underneath it. I’m always grabbing paper from whatever is nearby. Scraps, notebooks, and loose printer paper. Without the ability to sketch out my design and pose ideas, I’d be gridlocked.
What’s one dream project that you would love to do or be involved with?
It would be a dream scenario if I could travel to more conventions around the world. To be able to visit friends and family that I rarely see while bringing art with me!
What’s the best advice you have ever received?
To not let low sales at an event determine my artistic worth. It’s so easy to take a bad show personally, but there is too much going on at an artist show that affects the outcome. To see what I could change, talk to the community, and find something that works!
Where do you draw inspiration from? Who are some of your favourite artists, and how have they influenced your thinking, art, and career path?
I draw a lot of inspiration from fantasy elements. I grew up drawing the monsters from the second edition Monstrous Manual from Dungeons and Dragons because they were so varied and interesting. Dragons, liches, slimes, mermaids, goblins and gorgons. Everyone loves a cool monster!
In terms of specific artists, I really admire artist Ian McConville of the “Mac Hall” and “Three Panel Soul” webcomics. He did some speed paint videos that taught me so much about the digital art process early on. He uses such bright colours with a gorgeous painterly style. Most of my cell shading technique I use for my digital pieces were learned by looking at his art!
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
The only person you should compare yourself to is the artist you were yesterday. Celebrate in the success of your peers, because you’re all creating together.
Follow Christopher on Instagram to keep up with his latest projects.