Illustrator Ben Perini has had a long association with the Guild, first as a member, then as a National Board member. On top of that, his illustration career has been expansive, covering several decades and spanning exquisite realism to acerbic social commentary to bright, cheerful digital works. When it came time to search for a cover artist for the 15th edition of The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines (also known as “PEGs”), Pernini was an obvious choice. His deep understanding of the Guild’s mission and activities, as well as his exemplary illustration skills, meant the Handbook committee would be tapping into a valuable resource. We recently interviewed Perinin to get his take on how he approached the Handbook project, as well as how he has navigated the twists and turns of his professional career.
Talk about your association with the Graphic Artists Guild and the art and design of the 15th Edition of The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines.
I joined the Graphic Artists Guild when I started my freelance illustration career. The many forums and events I attended on running and promoting a freelance business were very helpful throughout my career. Also joined the Illustrators steering committee, which I found to be supportive to the Guild as well as beneficial to myself.
I was glad to have been selected to create the cover art and design for the latest Guild Handbook. As a member of the Guild for many years, I’ve been impressed by the creativity and design of many of the past Handbook covers. And it’s a very useful book at that.
When the PEGs cover committee, headed by Dawn Mitchell, contacted me for the cover, they expressed interest in my illustrations that featured neon light letterforms. In the cover sketches, we explored designs that included neon signage, along with several other concepts. We wanted the cover to represent looking to the future as well as the past of art and design. The digital easel with display sign are meant to exemplify the Graphic Artists Guild’s creativity and presence in the graphic arts.
How long have you been a working illustrator? What kinds of clients do you have, and do they fall into a particular niche, or do you work for a variety of clients and projects?
I’ve been a working illustrator for over thirty years, starting with creating cover art for paperbacks and hardcovers. Throughout my career I’ve worked with most of the major publishers, and the publishing market has been my mainstay. Over the years, projects have come from design firms, ad agencies, and editorial clients as well.
Your work spans a variety of styles and techniques — everything from very traditional charcoals and gouaches to brightly colored digital work. Much of your work seems to be inspired by traditional masters. Which artists and illustrators inspire you? How do you manage to bridge such a variety of techniques?
Yes, my work is inspired by traditional masters. I’ve been an artist all my life, at least as far back as I can remember. And from a young age I often visited the great museums of New York City.
My style is realistic – it sometimes might be referred to as stylized realism. I would also say the illustration style has always been influenced by the project at hand. Over the years, the style has changed in subtle ways, and I might say has been effected by technology. When I started working professionally, I was using traditional materials for illustration and design, and when computers were introduced I slowly migrated to working fully in digital media. Over the last fifteen years a majority of the projects were created using with 3-D programs and Photoshop.
A number years ago I started offering watercolor illustration to my clients as a way to get back to putting brush to paper. That landed many projects, including a three-year stint with a major woman’s magazine of monthly spot art for beauty and health articles. I’m now working on doing more hands-on (traditional) works in combination with digital techniques. The results are very satisfying.
My gallery art works of late have been inspirational and challenging. A solo show in 2014, called “Random Thoughts and the Fictional Portrait,” featured new large-scale charcoal drawings. I’m currently showing works in Brooklyn at the BWAC Galleries. A piece shown there titled “The Passion Play,” the largest drawing (52” x 204”), was greeted with great popular appeal. I’m now looking to blend the ideas and concepts of the gallery art, and political and environmental commentary into my illustration work, creating a new portfolio. It’s another transition in a long career.
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