Chocolate Milk with Funbeard Studios
14 June 2016 by Sancho Murphy
Fun fact: I first met Ben Guy aka Funbeard Studios in Canberra at that time when JB-HiFi announced it was opening up another retail outlet, in a central location within the city - which unfortunately ended up playing out as the spot the record shop formerly-known-as Impact Records was in, that was circa 2004 I think. I was one of the kids working for JB HiFi and part of the corporate takeover clan - I always felt a bit awkward around the OG Impact staff at first - that feeling like when you sit in someone else's chair and they come back from the toilet only to see you in their spot - but no one says anything......
Ben was one from the original Impact Records crew and worked in the DVD section, it turned out we were both going to the ANU School of Art at the time and had mutual friends aplenty. He was always chill to work with. I don't know if anyone in Canberra remembers the rad illustrated DVD price tags in old JB HiFi? But that was Ben! He would do these really rad sharpie doodles next to the price and description of the actual DVD - usually the sci-fi and horror. They were neato. So it's really great to see his skill set grow and evolve, his practice formalised, and being able to host an exhibition at Lobrow Gallery & Bar.
With projects spanning children’s book illustration, concept design, art education, sculpture, painting and large outdoor murals, Ben Guy (aka Funbeard Studios) maintains a multifaceted artistic career, fuelled by his interest in Science Fiction and the human form. Helmets and masks imbue his vigorously painted canvases and drawings, which often feature children in dystopian surroundings. Cowboys, dinosaurs and ruins also recur throughout his works. The mark of the artist is evident in the textured, layered surfaces of his paintings.
Canberra illustrator Houl put together some exuberant questions for us to flick over, enjoy!
You paint under the name Funbeard Studios. On a scale of '3 Hour Maths Test In The Sparse Openness Of A School Hall' to 'Rolling Down A Grassy Hill On A Warm Summer Day, Your Belly Filled With Cake And Cordial, And Your Heart Filled With Youthful Hopes And Dream, Before Plunging Into The Cool Depths Of A Nearby Lake', can you quantify the level of fun your actual beard is?
Ha Ha! Belly filled with Cake and Cordial for sure! Except the cordial would be chocolate milk!!!!!!
A vast majority of your work seems to draw heavily upon Science Fiction, by far the most amazing and inspiring literary genre, you even use an Arthur C. Clarke quote in your Exhibition Blurb (which tickled me endlessly). Is there a Ben Guy Top 5 Need-To-Watch Sci-Fi Novels and Films that will allow those who attend your show an opportunity to greater experience the work and get to know you deeper as a person?
Woah! Tricky to narrow down to five but here goes: (in no order)
- Hyperion - Dan Simmons
- Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke
- Dune - Frank Herbert
- Akira - Katsuhiro Otomo
- Red Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Solaris (the 2002 Soderbergh remake, not the original) Controversial!
- Children of Men
- District 9
Can you explain the ongoing helmet motif in your work?
I don’t like trying to explain too much as I think it should be up to the viewer to take what they want from the image but I can throw some points/themes out there…
I’m a pretty selfish artist in that I paint what I want to see.
The helmet can be seen as a visual metaphor for a psychological state.
Wearing a helmet means having a purpose…explore…battle…journey…protect…survive….
Serious time now. As a way to more accurately understand you and your artistic process, if your art style were able to be translated into a gourmet flavour of Sausage, what would it be? I feel that mine would be a Pork, Labneh and Wizz Fizz Sausage, but the options are endless.
Well I immediately think about the best sausage I’ve ever eaten: A giant black blood sausage in a bun with tomato sauce and mustard, it came from a food truck in Prague, it was so good I went back there for lunch the next day….soooo…..my art style…..ummm….I dunno but I’m hungry…
What is the appeal of oil? What drew you to it? What allure does it hold for you?
Oil paint lets me achieve my goal of creating an image that looks very three-dimensional. I love the smell and buttery texture, the pigment strength, the mediums you mix with it. It’s very versatile in terms of layering, mark-making and finish.
Artists are generally seen to be a reclusive breed of creative, hiding away from natural light, eyes tinged red from the paint fumes, a thin trickle of drool escaping their slack-jawed mouths, yet you run workshops and painting classes. How did you come to make the decision to teach others?
What's the best thing about interacting in this way?
The teaching thing started because I needed a steady job. I teach adults, teens and kids…kids are the best…seeing their faces light up when you help them create something…..I’m also constantly challenged and learning new things when I’m teaching…
Do you have any last words? Wait, that came out wrong. That's the sort of thing you say at an execution, or when you're about to pull the plug on pop-pops before rifling through his pockets and cashing that last cheque. What I should have asked was do you have any parting words you'd like to share with those who've made it this far?
Yes! Thank you for your interest and questions and reading this far!
This coming Wednesday 15th June is the last day to catch the exhibition at Lobrow Gallery & Bar, TIME TRAVEL STRATOSPHERES: Recent paintings by Ben Guy.