A good cartoonist is hard to find especially one with anything worth reading the ink they put to pen, luckily the work of Ben Passmore is worth all that and a more. Originally from Massachusetts the travel worn Ben has recently settled in New Orleans to continue his current wok "The Gospel of Tug Benson". I wanted to share with you some of Ben's worth while work and get a better understanding of him and his creations so I asked him a few questions on his past, politics and of course art.
Kaos Blac: Tell me about yourself.
-Its me, by Ben Passmore
Ben Passmore: For generations my family members where either members of occult societies, whalers, or scientists. This means that my family's fathers spent most of history in small rooms with lots of men wearing funny outfits. It's my life's work to break this cycle.
Kaos Blac: How do you start conceptualizing a piece? Ben Passmore: I first try and forget everything I learned in art school and act instead on reckless abandon. Caffeine helps.
Kaos Blac: Whats has moving to new Orleans done for you if any thing.
-The Flood pg 1, by Ben Passmore. " Page one from an anthology comic I did about a possible future"
Ben Passmore: There's a sometimes quiet, sometimes blaring chaos here that suits me like bath water. The city is also cheap. This all makes me very happy.
Kaos Blac: Your work has a lot of political and social undertones, what messages do you hope to get across with your work?
- Idiot-ology, by Ben Passmore. "What we have here is a country run by professional politicos who are willing to say just about anything to keep their overly paid ass's in office. I wondered what they would really sound like if they weren't allowed to lie."
- A Brief Crossing of Paths, by Ben Passmore. "I'm not sure how to explain this. This happened to me last week in the park."
Ben Passmore: The honest answer is I don't know anymore. I've been on a political roller coaster for a while. I started out as a Garveyist, then a Social-Democrat, then a Marxist, then a Proletarian-Authoritarian, then a Anarcho-Communist. A couple months ago I got on my lil red bicycle and I road it from Vancouver, Canada to San Diego, California. On that trip I realized I was a book-learned, armchair activist and I knew nothing about this world, or this country, and what it needed. It was liberating.
I decided to go back to the basics. So my work is an attempt to transmit a few simple concepts: Bikes are good, you should like people, you should know history....and maybe the rich and powerful should suck less.
- The Doctor, by Ben Passmore
Kaos Blac: What do you feel about political art and its place in media?
- The New Recruits, by Ben Passmore
-Dont Vote, by Ben Passmore. Click here for the full story behind his piece.
Ben Passmore: Art is essential to the instant and long-lasting transmission of ideas. Thats why we've got cave paintings, hieroglyphics, and uncle Sam. I've been doing "politically themed" work for years, but I don't like most political works of art. This is mainly because most political work is too obvious, vapid, or shallow; it doesn't make the viewer work and I think we often feel condescended more than engaged. This is often my biggest problem with Shepard Farey, (for those that dont know Shepard Farey is the guy behind the Barack Obama "Hope" image), among other things.
Kaos Blac: What kind of works would engage you in the respects of making a political view acknowledgeable to a viewer.
- My Daddy Was A Solider, by Ben Passmore. "You know, we're at war. Not overseas, but with ourselves. I often think about the kind of world I'm going to leave my children."
- Wal-Mart Poster, by Ben Passmore
Ben Passmore: Concept, in many ways, is more important to than craft. Trouble Town by Lloyd Dangle is a pretty extreme example of concept over craft, in that Dangle is not a great drafts man as much as he is deftly talented at developing penetrating ideas. This adds more to the stream of discourse than a brilliant artist with little to say. Unfortunately, most artists (myself included.) rely too much on a collection of trite visual tools (fists, doves, undesired politician sporting horns, the color red.) to relay our message to our viewers. I see many folks recycling stuff from the 60's anti-war movement, the nonproliferation movement, the Harlem renaissance, or other like by-gone movements, that are easily ignored and/or contextualized. When companies started using the peace sign, or the fist, or Che to sell things it was high time we moved on. They sold kufiyas at Urban Outfitters of Christ's sake! As artists we have to challenge ourselves to be a little more interesting and harder to co-opt and/or copy. Much of my work in the last year has been about playing on these played out visual constructs.
Kaos Blac: Why does the past or history in itself hold such a sway on you and your work. Why is it such an important integral part of what you do.
Ben Passmore: History is cyclical so understanding it gives today a context and allows us to have a better idea of what tomorrow holds and how we should prepare for it. I can't see Nader's struggle with introducing a viable third party without thinking about Eugene Debs, or see the Iraq war with out thinking about the Spanish and American war. Our history and it's symbols and ideas have slowly become the language that I speak visually and literally. The past is not distant or irrelevant, it's what's happening right now.
To plague you with a metaphor; I see myself as a cog on a moving belt. It's my job to shift the ideas and knowledge that far smarter men and women to the fore in new and engaging ways. We can't know anything without history, personal experience is not enough. This may seem contrary to what I said about keeping it simple, but it's not. So there.
Kaos Blac: Do you have a favorite medium to work with, pen, inks, comics, illustration, ect.
- "Color comp/ sketch for an illustration I submitted for a poem anthology."
- Untitled munny
- EZLN bike bull Commindante Marcos agent Cero, Poster, by Ben Passmore
Ben Passmore: I love drawing comics, I've been doing it every since I read the very first issue Tom McFarlene's Spawn when it came out. I ran home to draw my very own (ripping Tom off miserably.). So I mostly draw comics on the whole, I've been working on a 200 page graphic novel, (The Gospel of Tug Benson), for a year now. But, I also do all types of illustration as well.
Kaos Blac: Where can people find more of your work?The web comic "The Gospel of Tug Benson"
Ben Passmore: You can see my portfolio at Ben Passmore. My on going web-comic is at The Gospel of Tug Benson.