As soon as we completed the recording of 'Play All Day and Sleep All Night', we began a vigorous search for the right artist - someone who would be able to visually articulate what we had done with the songs and recordings. We wanted someone who was creative and intentional, original and authentic. That's when a friend introduced me to Kenneth James Benson. And I am so glad she did! Kenneth is a rad dude, and he is actually working on his own children's' books (more below) - I interviewed him here. Enjoy! - Joshua 'Mr. Josh' Pearson
Mr. Josh: What is your background with art/when did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Kenneth: I went to school for my BFA in Drawing and Painting, though currently my emphasis is on illustration design and screen printing. I always drew growing up; I even got into trouble in elementary school for drawing in class. I was sent to the principle's office one day, and they called my mom at work. The only odd thing was that my mom couldn't tell if that call from the principle was a bad call or good call - he encouraged her to put me into some drawing classes. Originally I went to school for Early Childhood but after taking an art education class, I was like "Why, am I not majoring in Art?"
Mr. Josh: What is your process like when creating a new concept or piece of art?
Kenneth: New pieces of art I create can come from either an original thought from my day to day experiences or can be inspired from artists that I enjoy and keep track of.
Mr. Josh: With the Sugarcrash Kids album art specifically, what was the main thing you wanted the fans to walk away feeling?
Kenneth: Interesting question. When you were talking to me about what you wanted the album to look like, I pictured a party on one side and then everyone piled on top of each other sleeping on the other. Thinking about the title, "Play All Day, Sleep All Night", I wanted it to feel literal and represent what kids do best. I have two kids of my own (7 years old and 1 year old) - they play hard and never seem to get tired, but once you get them in bed, out cold. Play hard, sleep hard. What I ultimately want the viewer to know is that the songs you wrote and recorded are truly the embodiment of what kids do best.
Mr. Josh: Can you elaborate on some of the characters you created for the Sugarcrash Kids album art? Did anything/anyone in particular inspire you?
Kenneth: When I draw, I like to use references to help with body movements and form. For any child wanting to draw, that is one of the best ways to get better. It helps to see it rather than imagining it, so when you really need to draw from your imagination, you can. Now, as far as my illustration style, one of my main influences is Pendleton Ward's 'Adventure Time'. I love the simplicity and the fun way the characters are drawn. There's also a sense of wonder because sometimes the characters will do or move a certain way that's not common, but it has an awesome quality about it. Just watch one episode and you'll see what I'm talking about.
Most of the characters for the album come from different references. The alien (Nerlin) was a mixture of Doctor Who and Star Trek. The robot (Boltz) was loosely based off of one of my artist friend's style, Leonard "Porkchop" Zimmerman. He paints very beautiful vibrant paintings of robots, most of the time doing the day to day stuff that we would do. One of the characters has a funny reference. For the shipmate (Mr. Grumpelstein), I was envisioning something similar to 'Smee' (Captain Hook's first mate). Someone short and round like Danny Devito. Artists like to have fun sometimes and hide easter eggs in our work.
Mr. Josh: Is it true that you are working on your own children's book? Tell us a bit about that.
Kenneth: I worked at a library for over 10 years (7 years full-time and the last three in the Children's Department). One thing that most people who are around books will think is "I could write a book better than so and so". Well, here I am. For the past couple of years (yep, years), I have been working on several childrens book ideas and recently on updating my illustration portfolio. The kids' book I am about to submit is a picture book. It's a story about friendship - an astronaut, Charles, gets lost in space, lands on a planet, and befriends a T-rex, Hector. I'm hoping to do a series of books about Charles and Hector and their misadventures in space, all revolving around Charles trying to find his way home. Keep an eye out for it, when I get it published.