Hi, I'm Benjamin Lane. 35 years ago, I was born. 17 years ago, I went to prom with my girlfriend. 16 years and 51 weeks ago, I got dumped by my girlfriend. 16 years and 50 weeks ago, the "Simpsons" premiered on Fox. 9 years ago, I got married and started working on the "Simpsons" as a character layout animator. 5 years ago, I had a little boy. Last month I built him a clubhouse.
Every once in a while, I draw something.
Sometimes, those drawings become animations.
When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
Around first grade I played on a little league baseball team. I played outfield. I was always playing outfield. Sometimes, I just stayed in the outfield even when my team was up to bat. It really didn't matter who was up to bat because there was no way I was going to catch the ball. The ball terrified me. It was obvious to most everyone, including myself, that my baseball was not my calling. So I tried drawing.
Drawing was fun. Drawing rarely caused bodily harm. My older brother also drew and had a lot of sketchbooks full of wonderful cartoons. One year, I got a small lightbox and started tracing over his drawings. I got pretty good at doodling and slowly began to realize that other people really enjoyed my sketches. This peaked my interest in art. The real pivotal moment came during college when, my then girlfriend (now wife), helped me leave the ramshackle art school I was attending and go to an art college that offered a wide array of training and possibilities. It was there that I was exposed to all aspects of art; graphic arts, illustration, comic book, fine art, sculpture, animation, etc.....I had found my calling.
Who or what inspires you?
I get inspiration from all sorts of things. Museums, magazine ads, milk cartons. I usually have my best inspirations when I'm supposed to be working. There's a corner of my desk that is reserved specifically for idle sketches that happen while I work. It tends to pile up very fast. I also learned to keep a sketchbook with me at all times, for who knows when you might see a precious pimply faced kid looking completely void while he mans the castle jumper at Chuck-E-Cheese.
Recently, I've been hooked on blogs. It's like peeking into someone else's sketchbook. I'll find a blog I like and they almost always have links to other great artists. It's a vicious circle. Before I know it, it's so late that I'm going to bed to info-mercials. I've had to reorganize my 'favorites' folder because I've bookmarked so many blogs.
As far as artists that inspire me. Glenn Barr comes to mind, Peter De Seve, Carter Goodrich, Gary Baseman, Heinrich Kley, Lane Smith, Bill Watterson, Rockwell, Daniel Adel...fine artists with a sense of humor.
Inspirational blogs: Why sugarfrostedgoodness.com of course! As well as blogs of Pascal Campion, Jared Chapman, Steve Lambe, Marcelo Vignali....too many to mention really.
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
I went to Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio. My main motivation for going there was because Disney studios had sent representatives to look over porfolios every year. Animation was having another revival and I had ambitions of becoming the next Walt, however, "Lane Land" just didn't seem to have the same pizzaz as "Disneyland".
I taught myself Flash and thoroughly enjoy every aspect of the program. I love creating short animations, I love illustrating with Flash, I love making applications with Actionscript. I love Flash, and Flash….loves me.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
I keep looking at inspirational work. I'll try something new. I bathe daily.
What are some of your current projects?
I work full-time as a character animator on the Simpsons. In the late hours, I’ve been freelancing with American Greetings creating “winks” - animated greetings used with instant messaging. In the late, late hours, I’ve been doing some design work with Flinch studios in Florida and Wicked Liquid out in L.A. And in the early morning hours, I’m painting my house.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
A while back, I animated a short segment of the Simpsons in Flash. It was dream sequence that was supposed to emulate the look of the opening credits to “Catch me if you can”. It was a nice melding of work and hobby.
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
Focus on telling a story with your images. That’s the bottom line of illustration. Don’t get hung up on mastering a slick technique. If your drawing conveys a message (hopefully, the message you intended to convey), consider yourself a successful illustrator.
What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
See #8. Even the simplest sketch can be considered a successful illustration if it can convey a message beyond being just a sketch. Almost sounds like the premise for a Disney film.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
To keep motivated, I’ll look through my collection of art books, illustration annuals, sketchbooks of other artists, etc… within a few pages, I’ll find myself at my desk doodling away, trying to capture a feeling I got from looking those other great works of art.
Avoiding burn-out? Take breaks. That and I’ll find ways to create and play at the same time. For example, I’ve made simple games on the computer that I could play with friends, but during that process, I’ve learned something that will help with a future job. I’m having fun, but I’m developing skills at the same time. If only high school was like that.
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
Well, I'd have to go with "The Simpsons"...followed closely by World series of Poker, 24, and Lost. Oh, and Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends.