Call it what it is.. illustration.
I’ve kept a keen ear on Ben Harpers music for a few years now. Not to the point of buying each new release, but being aware of it.. listening in and observing his rise and rise online, in music magazines and tv. In a way like travelling on a Melbourne tram.. jumping on and off at various points along the way and enjoying the experience.
That said, I did take a long enjoyable ride with his previous album “Get Up” which saw him partner up with an old favourite of mine, blues man Charlie Musselwhite.
As a side note I got to meet Charlie during his last Australian tour. He signed one of my chromatic harmonicas after a show in Adelaide. Unfortunately I recently very foolishly erased that bit of marker history, by applying a charcoal fixative spray over the signature. Real dumb move O’Malley.
Anyway, listening to that album from Ben and Charlie gave me further insight into the authenticity Harper brings to his music. The new album marks the return of his band “The Innocent Criminals” after a long hiatus, cooking up a collaborative mix of infectious tunes.
Time marches, on and in serendipitous fashion I recently welcomed the opportunity to illustrate Ben Harper via a commission for the Australian music magazine “Rhythms”.
I tend to spend a fair amount of time researching the subjects I illustrate or paint and many of the interesting things I discovered about Ben Harper were included in the finished illustration.
The internet is a good resource. I ended up watching a ton of his music online, and spent several hours also watching or reading the many interviews available.
Bens website, Wikipedia and the trusty Google images also served as handy guides for referencing some of Bens physical characteristics, along with getting some sort of take on what to include in the drawing to personalise it a little.
The T-Shirt slogan in the picture for instance, comes from an interview I was reading.. it was just something Ben said at the time. I liked the sound of it and it speaks to what he is all about. To me anyway.
The pink balloon is topical and is simply a reference to the first single release lifted from the album. I have included several charity or activist logos throughout the drawing, all of which Ben supports and contributes to.
He has always been a keen skater so the board was always going to make an appearance. It’s supporting the only real dark imagery of the drawing actually.. and the message behind the title track “Call it What it Is”. That of a dark figure as a gun target on the speaker mesh of the guitar amp. “Weissenborn Wailer” incidentally, is both a metaphor for (Bob Marley and the) Wailers and also a sliding nod towards Bens almost trademark guitar and sound.
I was happy with how it turned out and the editorial staff at Rhythms are a joy to work with.. having given me pretty much all the creative freedom I wanted in coming up with this concept etc.
As mentioned previously, the process of mixing natural media and the digital platform is something I always enjoy. I generally like to scan a charcoal layout into the computer, work on that for a while.. print the resulting drawing out and then feed it right back in.
The illustrating and fine tuning from there on in is fairly intuitive, once I have some sort of pictorial framework mapped out.
OK, I better make a move.. glad you stuck around for my ramblings here. Feel free to comment in the feedback box at the bottom of the page.. would love to hear what you think..
Another thing, try and get hold of the album if you can (“Call it what it is” by Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals).. it’s magnificent. and I’m looking forward to his tour of Oz later in the year!