Introduction: Benjie Escobar is a designer and illustrator based out of Los Angeles who currently works in house for clothing brand The Hundreds. While his background lies mostly in production art, he is equally as comfortable off the computer painting or drawing. His work has featured in a variety of art shows and he still manages a steady flow of freelance clients in addition to his day job. Plus, he also runs a rad little brand called Stay Weird Forever. Benjie spoke with us about growing up not quite in Los Angeles County and why living in Southern California is a double-edged sword for creative types.
Name: Benjamin Escobar (or just Benjie)
Occupation: Graphic designer, illustrator, artist, burger taster, pizza slayer.
Hometown: Pomona, CA
Current Residence: East Los Angeles, CA
Please tell us a little about your journey into design.
I’ve been drawing since I can remember. In 4th grade, I came up with my own clothing brand, based on the design in early URB mags. My older brother was a DJ, so I had a head start in that aspect. I started selling bootlegged drawings of Street Fighter 2 characters in 6th grade to buy snacks. I would fully stop paying attention to everything and just draw. Like most knuckleheads around that time, I dabbled in graffiti, but never really did that much with it. Getting into DJing really changed things. My best friend’s family had a print shop, so we would make our own mix tape covers. This took me beyond drawing and into proper design. I learned the process of going from a dumb idea to a finished product, and earned my adobe stripes at the same time. Right after, I landed a job at a local graffiti/streetwear/record store, where it came more into fruition by having to make flyers and T shirt designs. Take all that, shake thoroughly, strain through a few decades, and here I am.
You’re currently working in house at The Hundreds, how did that come to be?
The area I grew up in is considered the Inland Valley, which is next to, but not part of Los Angeles county. Around the time I was doing things, there were a bunch of like minded people scattered across the I.E. Since it was a bit rare to meet people into the same things, let alone trying to make the same kind of things, we all knew each other pretty well. One of these guys, Graham Nystrom (who went on to open up a shop/start a brand named Us Versus Them), had mentioned that The Hundreds was looking for an in-house graphic designer. After a bit of back and forth, I drove out, had a short meeting with Bobby where I babbled about randomness for about 20 minutes, and came on board full time Spring of 2007.
Is it hard to manage freelance work in addition to your day job?
It’s a ton of discipline. My day job is not a standard one in any sense of the word, so it’s a lot of keeping tabs on multiple projects at once and occasionally gluing my eyelids open to stay awake. It all really helps, though. Getting to meet and work with new people really refreshes my love of art/design, and keeps my brain on its toes (weird visual).
Creative block; what do you do to break through it?
This is a tough one. I’ve done everything from self help books, to diet changes. I would say what really helps me is to hang out with friends (old or new) to get a different perspective on things. I’ve realized that sometimes the problem, especially for borderline OCD detail-orientated folks like myself, is that I’m looking at the project too closely to really take it all in. Even just a random conversation about completely unrelated things can really help me loosen up and look at the big picture again. So, in a nutshell, I’d say looking at things differently.
You seem to have a pretty hectic workload; can you shed some light on what your average day looks like?
It depends on the amount that I have on my plate. For a while I was juggling some very different projects so it went something like: wake up at 8am, drive to the office, work on The Hundreds stuff, go home, dinner, work on side stuff and personal projects, nap, wake up around 11pm, paint until about 3am. Repeat. Not exactly for everyone, but it has really worked wonders for my discipline on getting things done.
What does living in Southern California do for your creative side?
Its a double-edged sword. There are a ton of opportunities to create rad things, but there are also an equal amount of opportunities to slack off.
Please describe your creative process in ten words or less.
Think. Prepare. Make. Share. Adjust or fix. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.