Featured Artist Ken Becker on Being Creative Within Limitations

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Click on the thumbnails to see larger versions of Ken Becker’s photos. Images/characters from image 1 © Ken Becker, images 2,6,7 are © Disney/Pixar; images 3, 4 ©Walt Disney Company, image 5 © 2009 Kehot Publications,

Ken Becker, our latest featured artist, was born and raised in New York, but has lived in Los Angeles for the past dozen years.

Of particular interest to comic book fans (ed. note: guilty!), Ken attended the School of Visual arts in New York City, where he had the privilege of studying for three years under Will Eisner who, as Ken puts is, was “one of the founding fathers and true geniuses of the comic book/sequential art field.”

“After graduation, it took a few years but I finally broke into the comic book industry, working as a penciler and inker for Personality Comics, and its Spoof Comics imprint during the big independent comics explosion of 1992,” he says. “In 1993, I realized a lifelong dream when my own comic creation, a cyberpunk story named ‘Warebeast’ was published by Brainstorm Comics.”

When the comic collapsed under the weight of overproduction and overspeculation, Ken “shifted gears as opportunities opened up for me as a game designer and author, digital illustrator, and animator, in both 2D and 3D.”

Those experiences opened up doors in Los Angeles, where he moved to work as an artist in the entertainment field on the likes of ‘King of the Hill’ and ‘The Mister Potato Head Show’. He also had a decade-long-run as storybook illustrator for Disney Publishing Worldwide, during which he illustrated and/or contributed to the creation of more than 400 illustrated storybooks.

We asked Ken about his approach when working on his own projects versus those for companies with huge and very particular brands.

“Obviously, when going into an assignment for any client, there’s an expectation that you are going to create art that adheres to certain guidelines,” he told us. “In the case of Disney, literally millions of dollars can be riding on you getting the art ‘right’. Knowing that ahead of time, there isn’t a problem taking more dictation. The fact that someone has provided very clearly defined borders doesn’t at all limit the possibilities of what you can do inside of them.”

“In fact, if you allow it, it enables you to be even more creative as now, I’m not only solving the problem of delivering what the client wants, but I’m also solving the problem of how to get as much of ‘me’ in there at the same time,” he elaborates. “It’s a great mind-set to have, very zen, and I have to cop to not always being able to get in that zone, but when I do, I have honestly found that there becomes no difference between painting, say, Tinkerbell, whose skin has to be a certain pink, her dress a certain green, etc . . .”

“Still, if you were to give me a choice between Disney, who tells me they want me to work on a ‘Tinkerbell’ project, and a client who says, ‘We want to do a story about fairies, and we want your personal take on them’, then there wouldn’t be much of a choice. As much as I can enjoy creating art for someone else’s creations, the daemon that calls me to be an artist and a storyteller never lets me forget that I have my own ideas and stories to get out there, and the more of myself that can come into play, the better…”

Enjoy the works Ken provided for the gallery above, and if you’d like to see more, check out his portfolio site at: http://kenbeckerportfolio.blogspot.com

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