For more than 20 years, Ben Brown has been making his mark on Australian surfing/skate culture and music.
The Sydney-based illustrator is known for his unique visual style of vibrant colours and bold lines, often using it to make stunning mashups between pop culture iconography and skulls.
One of his best works is a series of illustrations called Die Young. It’s where he draws members of the 27 Club – namely Kurt Cobain, James Dean, and Jimmy Hendrix, among others – with half of their portraits depicting their skulls and bones.
He’s also renowned for his extensive work in the surf art movement. He’s worked alongside brands like Mambo, Rip Curl, Volcom, and Hurley.
Having been the lead singer of The Hellmenn, a legendary punk rock band from the 1980s, he’s also made every concert poster for every cool band that has come to town. The list includes Fatboy Slim, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana.
>>Also watch: Interview with Ben Brown about his art
We recently spoke to Brown to discover more about the man behind the candy-coloured works of art.
You’ve combined passions for music and art in your life. How challenging has it been juggling the dual interests at various points of your career?
“Not hard at all. The two complement each other. When I was younger and playing in bands, it was all fun and going nuts – so the imagery reflected the lifestyle. These days, I am a music fan that gets to design really cool posters, packaging, and merchandise for music I really enjoy. So it’s not much of a challenge. I consider myself lucky, and enjoy it.”
What’s it like working on Mambo?
“I was a fan of Mambo when I was younger in their heyday but never worked for the label when it was owned by Dare Jennings and directed by people like Wayne Golding. I came along much later and have worked with them over the past ten years or so. They are a great crew and it is fantastic working with brands I have always liked and admired.
“I’ve been lucky enough to work with other iconic brands like Hurley, Volcom, and Rip Curl, among others. It’s always great working for legendary outfits with a history.”
>>Also watch: Stunning time-lapse of Ben Brown drawing
Who were the artists and musicians that inspired you when you were learning your craft?
“I have an endless list of artists, writers, and generally cool and groovy people that have inspired me at different times in my life. There’s a lot I admire in different people, but it’s hard to put my finger on it. I’m inspired by motivated people with a strong work ethic who go places and do stuff.
“I’m kind of not like that. I wish that I was, and maybe had a bit more focus and direction. Lots of artists and musicians I admire spring from a do-it-yourself tradition (punk rock!), making things work with little or no resources.”
Stoked to do a second poster for @blink182 on their current run thru the UK – this is available now on my website (link is in my bio) – 7 colour screen print – 20 limited edition on rainbow foil and 50 limited edition on off-white cream card – numbered and signed by me #blink182 #punkrock #captainblink #california #newcastle #screenprint #poster #mentalben @blink182 @mrtsurt @streetteam182
How vibrant is the local art scene in Australia these days versus back when you were just getting started?
“I liken the art scene now to how bands were back when I was a kid. There is a whole community that gets out there, hangs out together, works together, creates together, and party together. There are always events and exhibitions on – which is great. I don’t think there was that much of an underground art scene when I was younger, but now it is thriving.”
If you’d like to know more about Ben Brown and his work, head on over here.
>>Also watch: The full Facebook live LAEM Session with Ben Brown