Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ben Walker: Concept Artist

So, I'm a Concept Artist now. As often happens in life, there have been some twists and turns for me and I've ended up living in the San Francisco Bay Area, working for a Facebook game company. (Don't worry, the paint brushes, T-shirts, etc. haven't been put down completely! I'm still chugging away on some new art projects).

The game I'm on is called Ravenwood Fair and it's created by a guy who is well known in the video game world, John Romero. If you haven't heard of him, I'm sure you have heard of the games he has spawned: Quake, Doom, Wolfenstein? yeah.

Yes, John has good taste in clothes. No we are not holding hands.

I was hired by LOLapps and brought onto the Ravenwood Fair team about halfway into it's development and it's been really cool to see it launch and grow so quickly! The idea of the game is that you are clearing away a scary forest (in a fairy tale, Black Forest style) and building a fun fair. But the creepy forests are still around you so there's a bit of a dark edge to this mostly cute game. It's been compared to Zynga's Frontierville, which is fair of course, but Ravenwood Fair is definitely it's own thing and not just another clone (as can happen with so many games these days). I don't think I'm being biased when I say the artwork really stands out on this game! The small but kick-ass art and animation team really made this a top-notch game (they were knocking it out of the park well before I showed up). Big props to Christine Macternan for overseeing it all (and for helping me get my size 10 Chuck Taylor in the door).

So yeah! I've been working hard for the last few months on concept art and other assets for this game. which means digitally painting various, buildings, rides, food items....lots of logs. Some stuff I just do as line art, then someone else will take over from there. Some stuff I will see through to final paints. There is a lot of passing artwork around, which is very different from the way I work on my own art and illustrations. But as long as one doesn't get overly-attached to random pieces or have an ego about stuff, the collaborative approach isn't a problem. I'm just happy to be paid to draw and paint all day! Here are some samples of my work.

Yes, you can show this to your Art Director friend.

My contract is almost up with LOLapps, so it looks like I will be moving on to other things. I've definitely learned a lot and had boat-loads of fun working with this team! I'll be sure to let you all know what happens next for me.

Thanks for reading,

Ben Walker

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

These Are Their Stories


Are you familiar with the art of Brandon Bird? He is in a lot of ways what I hope to be: a super nice guy who creates stunning artwork that also happens to be hilarious. Brandon is known mostly for creating artwork that incorporates his love for the Law & Order TV franchise.

Earlier this year Brandon asked me to participate in a Law & Order themed group show! For this show, each artist interprets a one-line episode summary from the DirecTV program guide. Here is all the info:

"These are Their Stories"
runs July 24 to July 30, 2010
Gallery Meltdown, 7522 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
Opening reception July 28th, 8:00 to 10:00 pm

I chose Killer Has a Foot Fetish for my piece. I took some artistic license and changed it to The Killer Had A Shoe Fetish. This sounds better as a men's adventure magazine title which is the direction I wanted to go with this one. Keep reading to see how it all went down.

My Day in Court

I was summoned to serve jury duty and I knew how much waiting is involved so I thought it would be fitting to bring my sketchbook and my little man-bag full of pens to the courthouse and start sketching out ideas for my Law & Order piece.

Tangent story: If you have never been to a courthouse, in order to enter you have to go though "airport security" with the armed guards, metal detectors and X-ray machines. I set my man bag on the X-ray conveyer belt and began emptying my pockets when the cop in charge of watching the X-ray display started shouting "Whoah! Whoah! What is that!? Who's bag is that?" More cops started filtering in as they pulled out my man bag and started rifling through it. I thought "What could they have a problem with in there? is my phone so old it's unrecognizable?" They dumped out the contents on the counter and out fell two miniature guns.

I had totally forgotten those were in there. They were originally key chains. I had gotten from a vending machine and popped the chains off.

"Oh those are for drawing reference. I'm an artist. I uh, draw bears with guns and stuff..."

Trying to explain "drawing reference guns" to people who look for weapons as their full time job is awkward and futile. Luckily the cops laughed and showed the guns to their cohorts and did not step on my neck at all. I was allowed to take my "drawing reference" back to my car.

Anyway, there was indeed some waiting involved in my day at the courthouse and I got some decent thumbnail sketches done.

Shhh, TV....

I have to say, Netflix - Watch it Now is such an amazing resource for illustrators! To practice getting a likeness for Goren and Eames I just put on episodes of Criminal Intent through Watch It Now and paused whenever I saw a pose or expression I liked. I love the fact that I can choose from a pretty decent library of TV shows and films and stream stuff instantly to my TV. Streamed on my laptop, I can grab clear, still images of whatever I want! Remember Snappy, kids?

Sometimes I like to do a mockup of everything in Photoshop. Obviously it's not something I copy exactly, but a mockup can help me "pre-visualize" pieces that have to be composed just right. Text can be figured out at this stage too.

Closing Arguments

Here is the final piece. It was done with ink, acrylics and Dr. Martin's dyes on illustration board. If you are in Southern California come witness "These are Their Stories" at Gallery Meltdown July 24 to July 30, 2010.

Thank you,

Ben Walker


The Killer Had a Shoe Fetish sold to the creator of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Rene Balcer! I am proud to know that my piece will be hanging in the (home? office? limo? not sure) of the man who brought us Detectives Goren and Eames!


Friday, June 25, 2010

I'm A Model. You Know What I Mean?

This isn't really "breaking news" but I want to share something I am pretty proud of; my appearance in a Marvel comic book! I don't mean my artwork (not yet anyway, but there is hope). No, I mean me.

Last year my good friend Timothy Green II asked me to model for him as he was working on a one off issue of Ender's Game called Recruiting Valentine. I played the bitter school teacher. We get to see what I would look like with Spike-esque blonde hair. Those who've ever gone dancing with me know I'm all too familiar with jumpsuits. Cracking good job, Timothy!

More of Timothy's work can be seen on his blog.


A few years ago I was missing the good times I had drawing costumed models in art school so I started my own "alternative drawing studio" called Pompsicle (like a frozen fashion show. Still not sure if that makes sense). Local artists can pay a small cover to come draw from love models in crazy costumes, cool street clothes, etc. Everyone from fashion models to roller derby girls to furries have modeled for Pompsicle sessions.

I've had the pleasure of meeting a lot of cool people who want to dress up and pose for artists. Occasionally things come up and a model backs out at the last minute or they just don't show up. Which means I've ended up modeling for all kinds of cool, young artists!

This one is done by Afton Kern. She's about the most talented young artist I've met in a long time. I'm not sure if this one has a title so I'm calling it Portrait of Ben Walker with Primate Heads. More of her work can be seen on her Facebook profile here.

Something I learned early on: If you are a guy who may need to model for artists: own a suit...and a cool little hat and you can pull off dozens of characters. Here is a sketch by another talented artist and photographer, Matt Verdolivo. More of his work at

Thanks for reading!

Your Pal,


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Where in the World is Winchester's Bicycle?

Today I received the following email. I thought this question and my response would be worth sharing.


I bought this shirt from you at last year's comic-con, San Diego. I

have gotten questions and compliments on it where ever I've been.

It's my favorite shirt. What's the story with this guy?

My buddy's wedding in NY

London - you can just see him poking out of my sweatshirt -

Athens Greece

Thank You Dean!

I think Winchester's bicycle has become a lot of people's favorite shirt; myself included. Somehow I happened upon a mysterious and iconic image.

So what is the story with this guy? Well this image is called Winchester's Bicycle. It started out as part of my first gallery show in late 2006. All of my pieces were an homage to the dedication and ingenuity of the men who built flying machines in the early days of the race for flight. Every painting depicted people successfully flying in their machines. My flying machines were directly influenced by real (failed) attempts. I used a lot of artistic license with the design of these machines, especially with Winchester's.

Just for the record, this was nearly two years before I had ever heard the word "steampunk".

A lot of the pieces from this series seem to resonate with people. I think it's because I was trying to say something about our hopes and dreams, and our love of freedom. The paintings are set in the past but they all show optimism for the future.

So back to the T-shirt. I'm glad you enjoy it so much! It's cool to see Mr. Winchester sort of fly around the world. I don't know if you were hoping to hear a more fleshed out story about Mr. Winchester and his bicycle, but that's what I love about my T-shirt designs; They aren't an ad for a movie or a comic book or mixed martial arts. They are just fun and open to interpretation.

Thanks again for your interest!



Before I sign off, here are a couple more guys who love Winchester.

Actor and geek culture virtuoso, Wil Wheaton wore a Winchester shirt for his appearance on VH1's The Great Debate.

Artist and friend, Matt 136 modeling a Winchester

I will be printing more Winchester shirts for Comic-con 2010. This week I will have to decide whether to reprint in "classic black and white" or do a new color combination for him. If you have a suggestion or preference by all means let me know!

Thanks for reading.

Your pal,

Ben Walker

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Featured in San Francisco Examiner

Another Dimension

Gallery 1988's Tribute to the Twilight Zone is receiving some great press including an article in the San Francisco Examiner's LA Geek Culture page. I'm pretty excited about this write-up since they chose my artwork to go with the piece! Thanks Keri Luna, and thanks to Jensen and everyone at G1988 for including me in this show!

Moving Into a Land of Both Shadow and Substance has found a new home (yea!). More amazing, Twilight Zone themed artwork can be seen and purchased through the Gallery 1988 webstore.

You can read the article here- San Francisco Examiner

Your pal,


Monday, May 10, 2010

We are controlling Transmi- oh wait, wrong show.

Another Dimension
Twilight Zone tribute show at Gallery 1988:LA

I was invited to take part in Gallery 1988's next big group show! This one is dedicated to a TV show that became a timeless icon: The Twilight Zone. If your are a young one you may not be familiar. The Twilight Zone told stories with a bizarre or spooky twist; Very often these twists were metaphors for issues of life, love society, government, etc. I have always loved the show and had a few cool ideas revolving around specific, classic episodes but decided to do a fun take on the intro and Rod Serling himself.

To keep with the classic 50's flavor of the show I wanted to do something that was sort of "black and white, yet not".
So I decided to create the majority of the piece with ink washes and line work with a sort of wet-into-wet, Kirby Crackles technique in the background to add some color and punch.

Moving Into a Land of Both Shadow and Substance
11"x14", Ink and water color dyes on illustration board

Here is the piece framed. The folks at Sacramento Giclee did an amazing custom job for it!

This painting will hang along with Twilight Zone themed art from about 50 of my favorite artists! If you're in So-Cal go see Another Dimension at Gallery 1988:LA. Show opens Thursday, May 20th from 7-10pm.

Thanks for reading!


Monday, April 26, 2010

Art of Ben Walker Launch & The Bear Mouth Tree


My name is Ben Walker. I'm an artist and illustrator based out of Sacramento, California. I draw and paint a lot of "weird Western" stuff including (but not limited to) bears with guns, freaky jackalopes, and etcetera. I also have my own line of T-shirts (more on that another time) and I run an alternative drawing studio here in Sacramento called Pompsicle which brings cool models in costumes to artist who want to hang out and draw them.

So, I've got some stuff I've been wanting to post in some sort of journal, but on the Internet; a sort of "ternal" ...I'm still working on the name. I'll be showing my process on some of my projects, writing about art shows and conventions, and putting the spotlight on other artists and illustrators I enjoy. Plus I hope to create and post some cool personal projects done just for this..."ternal".

Thanks in advance for reading!

Now I thought I'd start by showing the process for a piece I recently created for an upcoming solo show called Those Wicked Woods. This show will be at Mission: Comics & Art in San Francisco and opens May 1st, 2010.

Artistic Process: Black River and The Bear Mouth Tree

This piece was done with ink and Dr. Martin's dyes on Claybord. For the postcard I hand-lettered the title of the show separately and added it with the rest of the info digitally.

My artwork is very concept driven. I try to always have some story elements and action in whatever I do. The tough part is that I often expect to have an entirely new concept behind each and every painting I do. That's crazy! This makes for too much time spent sitting around wondering what to do next instead of just drawing/painting. So I've been making a point of exploring my established themes and stories further. One way to do it is to take a fresh look at previous work that had a great concept but the execution... just didn't do justice to the idea behind the piece.

For example: Night of the Bear Mouth Tree. This painting was part of an art show I put together for Halloween 2008. All of my paintings were black light sensitive. Anyway, its a cool idea, a native American warrior fighting for his life in a giant Venus Flytrap, but it could have been drawn better and done with a more approachable medium.

Night of the Bear Mouth Tree, black light sensitive acrylics on wood panel

A lot of what I did for Those Wicked Woods is on Claybord (a newish product made exclusively by Ampersand). I just recently started playing with it and fell in love. The velvety smooth surface takes to pencils (and erasers) nicely. India ink can be brushed on or even done with a quill pen if you're careful about it. I've also been working with Dr. Martin's watercolor dyes lately. On the Claybords, these dyes are somewhat unpredictable but in a fun, "happy accidents" sort of way. The cool part is that it can all be scrapped or scratched away to (near) white.

I started with an 11"x14" smooth, white Claybord and sketched out the warrior and "bear mouth tree" in pencil. A note about story elements: You'll notice for this version I added a vulnerable target in the "bear mouth tree" to give our warrior a fighting chance to get out of his situation.

I then mixed some sepia tones and "warm greens" with Dr. Martin's dyes and watered them down. The first layer was mostly water and some sepia tone brushed over the whole thing. I let that dry, then with a toothbrush full of the color in one hand and a spray bottle of water in the other I spattered the panel, mostly on the outer edges. If anything looked to dark I just dabbed it with a paper towel before it dried.

The drawing stuck pretty nicely but I figured that from then on I would go ahead and do this step first, let it dry then do the drawing.

Next I mixed a couple colors to fill in the main shapes. This is where the unpredictability comes into play. You can test these washes on illustration board first and I even tested colors in the little spots I knew would be drawn over with black ink. But I'm never %100 percent sure what it will look like when the colors are applied to the Claybord and dried. Generally they will be a lot less saturated and cooler. Colors seem to shift if they have not been stirred recently or if you over brush certain areas. But for me, it all results in this "warm-n-dirty" aged look that I go for anyway. Plus it sort of looks like you mixed a whole family of similar colors when it's really done with only one or two.

The key is to do these washes as quickly as you can so staying in the lines takes a back seat as a priority. So crappy edges and runny blobs of color can result.

That's why the Claybord is so cool! With a sharp X-acto blade (#11) held flat to the board you can shave the color back easily. I only did this in a couple bad spots where black line would not be enough to clean it up.

I then used brushes and india ink to do the line work. I didn't do a lot of scratching into the black for this piece; just a little highlight in his hair and some hatching in the dark areas to add definition.

(Please excuse the difference in color on the final image. the process pics were snapped quickly in the studio with my digital camera and this one below is a high quality scan.) After a couple days of looking at this piece I decided it was sort of floating in the middle of the composition and needed some interest and tone in the corners so I spattered more warm greens and dark orange tones. Done! The colors do reactivate when wet and are prone to fading, so an acrylic spray varnish is a must.

This piece and more like it will be up for Those Wicked Woods, Art of Ben Walker at Mission: Comics & Art in San Francisco. The show opens May 1st, 2010, 7-11pm. I hope to see you there!

Your pal,

Ben Walker

P.S. I am pretty new to working with Dr. Martins dyes and Claybords. If you have any thoughts or tips on either, feel free to comment.