Volunteer Spotlight: Ben Marcus
Ben Marcus is Is an artist and DJ based in Chicago. Ben has been volunteering at the Chicago Studio as a mentor and collaborator with studio artist Dave Krueger. The two have been working as a pair to create unique comics that mesh both of their individuals styles into one. Recently we interviewed Ben to get his insight on his experience at the studio.
What have you been working on at the studio? And how did you get involved with the Arts of Life?? I have been collaborating with Dave Krueger. We both seem to enjoy drawing and making stories a lot, so we talk about different stories and drawings we want to make. Basically some exploration of the comic form. I was invited by Vincent Uribe to collaborate with Dave last year, but I've been a fan of what The Arts of Life is about for a long time.
What is one of the biggest challenges collaborating (in general) brings about? The biggest challenge of collaborating in my experience is to find a place where both artists are contributing their best skills and ideas. And for both artists to stay consistently inspired and connected to what they are making together. Projects of any kind can move in unexpected directions. And even working on something by myself I can get very lost and disinterested in where the work is going. So to share a vision and workload with someone, can feel like two people driving a car. Collaborating is fun when both people trust the other to take the lead sometimes.
How have you dealt with this at the Arts of Life? It took me a little bit to understand Dave's style and what kind of drawings he wants to do. Also to understand his sense of humor. Now that I understand him better, I can now adjust to what kind of ideas I can share with him and what type of comics I think we can successfully make. A lot of collaborations begin with a mutual admiration of each other's work, but in this case I just met Dave when we started drawing and talking. I think recently we have found a place together where our ideas and skills mesh nicely.
What are you and Dave making at the moment? Right now, Dave and I are making two different types of comics. We have one long, multiple page comic about an Octopus and Mouse on vacation in Hawaii. The story is improvised as we lay out each page, trying to build a coherent narrative. We are also making single page comics, where the title and the end of the comic are all contained on one piece of paper. Recently we did a single page comic based on The Terminator movie. Today we were working on a comic based on the sitcom, Three's Company. We decided to switch the look of the main characters to the Mona Lisa, King Tut and Mini-Me. We are trying to figure out the best way to tell that story.
How has collaborating at The Arts of Life impacted you? The main thing that struck me about working with Dave is how enthusiastic he is about working and making. When I do my own work, I can find many excuses not to just put pencil to paper. With Dave, the most common thing he says after I ask him about an idea is " Let's Get To Work". I am surprised about how much work we can get it done in an hour and a half with an attitude that just says 'lets do it'. There's no getting around the actual time it takes to make drawings, so Dave's attitude has definitely helped us to stay productive, and this attitude is something I need to hold on to. I'm not sure If Dave has expressed much doubt about what we make, and that definitely helps us just keep moving along, trying ideas and techniques until we are both happy with what we are doing. Most importantly though we are making work together that I don't think either of us saw coming. I'm proud to share the studio with Dave.
Dave seems to share similar feelings about his partners influence saying "Ben is a special kind of guy and the best comic book artist in the world. I want Ben to be a full-time artist like me. I learn a lot about making comics with Ben and how to use a lot of panels. We work on outlines together too. I've shared all the images in my brain with Ben. I love it."