An Interview with Ben Alberson

Thanks again to everyone who came out to the January Art Walk to support us and to meet our visiting artist, Ben Alberson.

Gray Sky artist Julie Devine interviews artist Ben Alberson to learn more about his background, methods, and thoughts on creating his digital art.


JD: How did you become an artist - where did you begin?

BA: I was frequently sick and horrible at reading as a kid.  That prompted me to find quiet entertainment.  I think the combination of watching too many cartoons and a vivid imagination made for an avid drawing habit that my parents fostered early on.  it was cheap, quiet, and it kept me out of trouble for hours on end.

JD: Have you always been drawn to fantasy/sci-fi subject matter?

BA: Yes! I think one of the earliest characters I taught myself to draw was Sonic the Hedgehog, but I always had a penchant for superheroes and monsters. I came of age in the era of Pokémon and Batman & Robin. I remember sneaking to the TV late at night to watch re-runs of Star Trek and Xena.

JD: Tell me something about your training and your influences.

BA: I think most artists start with imitation. My influences were heavily pulled from anime and movies in the early years. My dad also made sure that I was a Star Wars fan by the time I was five. When the Lord of the Rings series began in 2001, I was fixated and just old enough to begin exploring its roots in art history; pulling from J.W. Waterhouse, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, and others. Though largely self-trained until high school, I had several very powerful mentors in my late teens and through my years in art school.

JD: What does your creative process look like?

BA: Depending on what sort of project I'm working on, most begin with an idea that strikes as I'm trying to fall asleep. if I get past starring at the ceiling for a couple hours, I know the inspiration will persist until the next day. Often I know the style or genre of an image long before I commit it to screen or canvas. Usually I'll sketch very loose thumbs to make sure I can fully flesh out the concept. A frequent pitfall for me is that once I actually try to draw an idea, I discover that my brilliant notion was for only one small part of a whole character, monster, prop, or landscape. If I can resolve the whole concept then I'll move on to the final image, which in practice is simply the final medium but will inevitably undergo numerous passes to get right--enough. I find that in the case of paintings my favorite works are those I do very quickly. if I can plow through a piece, I don't have time to obsess over niggly details.

JD: How has living in Seattle influenced your artwork?

BA: I've found that industrial and steam-punk references worm their way into my illustrations completely without my intention. I credit Seattle fully with this condition. The other thing that Seattle has done for me is to place me right at the geographic crux of video game and nerd culture. It presents an audience accustomed to game art and sci-fi whose visual vocabulary makes them both perceptive and prone to high standards of originality and or execution.

JD: What have I not asked about that you would like to share with Gray Sky visitors?

BA: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?  I've aspired to be a concept designer for a game or film studio since I was a kid. Some day I hope to see one of my creations taking swipes at a hero on big screen. One of my favorite exercises is to take an old idea and make it new or reinvent it for a different genre.