Ben Brignell

Meet Ben… He’s a multi-disciplinary designer and artist based in Walthamstow. Ben recently took part in an exhibition at Winns Gallery called Draw Walthamstow Draw which featured drawings inspired by Walthamstow’s creative culture. He talks to us here about his work and what he loves about E17.

Please introduce yourself and tell us where you are from

I am Ben, I’m from London. I’ve lived in East London all my life and in Walthamstow for about 16 years now.

Tell us about your work

I’m a freelance designer, most of my work is Digital Product Design which means I work a lot with users, prototype ideas and experiment with design systems. I design for multiple devices and believe all users of the web should be able to access content and use web products regardless of their device choices.

Example of resizing to different devices

The rest of the time I’m an illustrator, cartoonist and draw artwork for Bob Mortimer and Andy Dawson.

Athletico Mince artwork

I love architecture and recently did a large drawing of the entire Walthamstow horizon.

What are your favourite materials to work with?

A fountain pen and a sketchbook are my favourite materials. I enjoy making art with twitter bots, creating stories and experimenting with a text-expansion javascript library called Tracery. Designers are storytellers so I think the common materials for me are those that mix scribbles and words.

Any future plans / projects you can talk to us about?

I’m currently building a podcasting platform to help people make a business from running their podcast. In my spare time I’m working on a couple of bots, an auto-generated story bot which narrates an episodic journey through space and a webcomic which is self-writing/drawing.

I’m also doing a project about what can be achieved even if you think you don’t have time to draw. I stop at 5 key places on my route to work and draw for 60 seconds. It only adds 5 minutes to my commute but over the course of a few weeks I end up with 5 new completed drawings. You can achieve a lot over time just by investing a minute a day. It’s also interesting to see more focus and detail in one’s style with this approach, possibly since you’re much more focused when drawing for such a short period of time.

60 seconds per day for 5 days

Where and how did you learn your craft?

I don’t really know what my craft is. I’m never sure if this is a good or bad thing. I think the skill in being a good designer is to be a generalist without being too general. I am a kinaesthetic learner, I’ve had no formal training on anything I do but I like to experiment and learn new processes, techniques or technologies on each new project. As for illustration, I learn by drawing every day and setting artificial constraints; time constraints, thicker pens, drawing something complex with only one line.

Describe your workspace

I don’t always work in the same place but wherever I work it’s usually a complete and utter tip.

What inspires you?

I think shadows inspire me the most. Often, something mundane that I may have walked past on a daily basis for weeks suddenly changes shape when the sun catches it at a certain angle. Satellite dishes, wires, messy cabling running down the side of a building, skips… these ugly things become transformed by light and shadow.

What do you enjoy about working / living in Walthamstow?

I like the variety that the Walthamstow landscape provides. There’s so much new stuff happening and being built, there’s constant change, and on the other hand there’s such a stable history which has always celebrated diversity, art and design. It’s near Epping Forest, about 15 minutes from The City and a short walk west takes you into the canals and marshland where sometimes you can’t possibly imagine that you’re even in London.

Describe your perfect Walthamstow day

I don’t have a dog but let’s imagine I have a pet dog. A walk with my wife, son (and imaginary dog) through Walthamstow Marshes, along the canal and up to the Lea Bridge Riding Centre to see the horses. Then back past the Coppermill Lane Waterworks (where they let me in to take some photos and do some sketches) up Walthamstow Market, towards the William Morris Gallery for a look around and some tea and cake in the café. Then somehow magically some of our best friends from around the world (also with imaginary dogs) happen to all conveniently be at The Bell where also just by chance there’s a few Brodies beers on tap.

A campaign to highlight and celebrate creative businesses based in Walthamstow, E17. #stowedaway

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