Art Whore

Art Talk – Michael Bennett aka ‘Ink Mike’ aka ‘Inkboy’

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Michael Bennett aka ‘Ink Mike’ is a young Australian artist and designer fresh on the scene yet already gaining fans, press and a bursting at the seams portfolio. His work is technical, fun, vibrant and flowing over with Mike’s boundless personality.

(Picture below of some art by ‘Ink Mike’)

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Mike talks of creating from a very young age, specifically drawing to impress classmates at primary school. When asked for a pivotal artistic experience, Mike mentions being drawn to Alex Pardee during his teen years, and lately drawing major inspiration from Australia’s own ‘Boy Wolf’:

Alex Pardee because of his emotional rawness. His works’ insanity taught me that as long as my art was an extension of my personality then I could do no wrong.

Boywolf has taught me that a brand can be a complete extension of your personality, and to never to create something because you think other will like it or it will sell, but because its what you wanted to make; and basically just go nuts till they dig what you’re doing.”

With Mike new to the scene, yet producing art at an amazing pace – now is the perfect time to get to know the man, his art and life, by reading the Art Talk interview, below….

Basics/Getting to Know

Name + D.O.B?

Michael Danger Bennett
20/08/1993

City, State n Country you currently call home?

Melbourne, Australia.

City, State n Country your from?

Melbourne’s been my home since I was raised up in the air and told everything the light touches was my kingdom.

(Picture below of some art by ‘Ink Mike’)

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Describe a memory from some stages of your life ….basically trying to piece together your pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, romance, school, crime… ANYTHING man!

* age 5 – beginnings:

I was drawing straight out of the gates (or womb), put a pencil, marker, Crayola in my hand and I was off. I remember in the beginning it was basically anything to do with animals, tigers, lions, bears, dinosaurs; you name it, as long as it was a carnivore that could tear you to pieces I was all over it, but even then they had big googly eyes.
My highest points were when I used to draw girls I liked pictures so they knew I was boyfriend material, and I’m not ashamed to say that it worked (that’s how I remember it anyway) probably because I was the only kid trying to land a girlfriend before the age of 5.

* age 10 – continuations:

As I was working my way up to the fabled double digits and beyond I was in deep competition against my friend and arch nemesis Nathan, all day we would try and best each other by drawing cartoons and it even got to the point where we would copy one another and convince other people that we came up with it originally, it was fierce to say the least. I attest much of my love for drawing to that rivalry because it was the first time in my life where I knew its what I wanted to be the best at, so Nathan if you’re out there; cheers to you my friend (and nemesis).
It was the first time people used to ask me for artwork and back then it was ok not to pay me, It always left me feeling incredible when someone would walk past my desk and go “WOAH, look what Michael’s doing!”. That same love carried me to gain the most prestigious title of Arts Captain at my primary school, it involved doing literally nothing but with a campaign with the tag line “vote me Mikey B” my competitors didn’t stand a chance.

(Picture below of ‘Ink Mike’ as a kid)

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* age 15 – getting serious:

Around this age I moved from a public school with all my friends to a private school where I knew absolutely no one and was instantly very uncomfortable with the idea that I had to wear a tie. I quickly used my ability to draw as a cover to avoid all the bullshit that the later years of high school presented, spending most of my time listening to heavy metal in the art room trying to perfect my linework and come off as edgy as I possibly could so that no one would bother me, they lived in fear that I might flick aside my fringe and glare at them.
Going through my teens and into my twenties was spent fighting a grueling and furious battle with anxiety and depression which after lasting years felt like it would never cease. Drawing became my crutch as a result and one of the only ways I could express just how shit everything felt and have people understand what I was going through. It led me to create artwork based on how people saw me verse how I was on the inside, people saw a happy kid so I would draw big cute eyes and a smile, in contrast to the way I saw myself which lead to disfigured limbs, gaping wounds and mangled shapes; think Alex Pardee and Micky Mouse had a love child.

(Picture below of ‘Ink Mike’ in the teen years)

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* age 20 – young adult:

I had no fucking clue what I was doing at this point, as most people do. I was finishing of my Graphic Design degree and hadn’t even considered what might come next, I was more keen to travel the world & play video games & I figured once I wanted to join the real world I’ll just do graphic design and make some money off that.
But quickly after graduating sometime last year I realised there were very little jobs out there and billions of newly graduated graphic designers.
It’s hard to know what you want to do when everyone around you starts going different ways, some want money others want tinder dates. So after enjoying my time with my travel and video games I basically said fuck it and decided to work harder then ever and pursue what I always wanted to do which was illustrate.
I just wanted to draw little characters with super squeezable cheeks and let the world enjoy their cuteness (thanks instagram) even in the infancy of all this; sharing my art to the world has been the most gratifying experience I could have asked for, its like a thousand people walking past my 10 year old self drawing and saying “WOAH, look what Michael’s doing”. Now I’ve set my sights on the wonderful world of apparel and it seems to be a perfect fit for my style and all the concepts that I create, and with some personal releases on the horizon who knows whats “in-store” for the young inkboy.

(A recent picture of ‘Ink Mike’, below)

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Personal motto?

As cliche as it is, never give up.

Art Questions

Why the names ‘Ink Mike’ + ‘Inkboy’?

Basically Inkboy just sounded super cute and was really fun to say, it had a lot to do with the fact that I was drawing a lot with ink at the time and even now it just kind of fits my personality and style.
Unfortunately its also taken by a lot of shitty tattoo studios around the world and searching the name in google images yields very unappealing results.

Favorite other artist(s)?

Alex Pardee was a massive influence through the worst times of my life and as a result will always be one of my greatest idols but in the last few years Local artists like Mike Eleven, Art By Dale, Travis Price & my local hero Boywolf  have kept me hungry and set a bar for me to jump for.

Worst aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?

Just like throughout history I always feel as if there is one dominating style or medium that when it trends see’s a lot of artists selling out and pursuing it for the wrong reasons and forgetting what makes their own art unique, especially for the younger guys and girls who seem to want to get a massive following quickly so they’ll look at whatever is popular and copy that.

Best aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?

The ability to reach out to people all around the world and collaborate, talk, share, laugh and create a community with. All these things keep me pushing my own boundaries and constantly open up new avenues for me to experiment and grow as an arteest.

(Picture below of some art by ‘Ink Mike’)

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Do you consider what you are making to be ‘art’, ‘design’, re-hashed crap?

I really hope someone has answered with re-hashed crap before. But I honestly consider what I do to be some kind of middle ground between art and design, I love minimalist design and once I began applying those same principles of less is more into my illustrations it began to take shape as what it is today.

When and why did you first start making ‘art’ (drawings, paintings, anything)?

Because more then anything it makes me happy and has a weird tendency to conjure the same emotion in others.
It feels pretty kickass.

What did you draw/make as a pre-teen child?

I was super into animals, as a kid if I wasn’t making my toys fight each other like they were in a mortal Kombat Tournament I was drawing them…like they were fighting a mortal Kombat Tournament.

What did you draw/make as a teen?

Monsters! the more deranged looking the better.
There was even a phase started messing around with stencil art, that phase didn’t last long because I got sick of the stencils falling apart after a few sprays.

Any pivotal artistic moment/influence?

The two biggest stand outs for me are Alex Pardee and Boywolf.
Alex Pardee because of his emotional rawness. His works’ insanity taught me that as long as my art was an extension of my personality then I could do no wrong.
Boywolf has taught me that a brand can be a complete extension of your personality, and to never to create something because you think other will like it or it will sell, but because its what you wanted to make; and basically just go nuts till they dig what you’re doing.

(Picture below of some art by ‘Ink Mike’)

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Describe the process of producing your work? – (dot point all o.k.)

Usually I’ll have a pivotal moment during the day where I go “that would look cute as a drawing” and more often then not I won’t write it down and it will be forgotten forever.
But for the ones I do remember I always start by doing a grey-led or coloured pencil sketch, most of the time its super rough but allows me to quickly play with all the elements and get a starting point for when I start working digitally.
Once the sketch is looking fresh I’ll either take a photo with my phone or use iPhoto on the mac to take a (low) quality picture and drag it straight into illustrator where I begin with the basic linework.
I generally use a wacom to help with creating the cleanest lines that I can but for whatever I often find myself using the trackpad and forgetting the wacom is even plugged in. Once I get all the linework looking pretty I start messing around with the sizes and then decide if its colour worthy and if I’m going for a full pallet or keeping it tonal, most of the design gets created on the fly, especially the typography which is mostly just a freestyle and seems to work out pretty well.
Before I begin working on different mediums I always completely refine my design using the same process, having a clear image gives me greater confidence to work with something I might be unfamiliar with and if I fuck it all up I have a digital piece to show for it.

(Pictures below of ‘Ink Mike’ at work and his workstation)

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I know you studied Communication and Design at ‘Swinburne University’ in Melbourne, Australia…

* what impact has formal study had on your artistic life?

It really allowed me to experiment with all manner of different mediums and techniques; Thanks to that course I developed a love of publication design and hate for package design.
The same techniques I learned at uni I still apply to my illustrations and design life, I see it as a foundation for me to create the best art and design I possibly can.

* highs and lows of your uni career?

Package design was the lowest of lows. I just hope I can go through life without having to ever do more package design. Fuck package design.
Learning Japanese was an absolute high, Chen Sensei, if you’re reading this; you were the best and most wonderful teacher of all time and space.

Odds n Ends

Please describe your experiences growing up in Australia?

I’m half Lebanese which has meant that from the get go I was getting the most delicious home cooked meals from both my Grandmother and Mum, even till this day they are the highlights of my week.
I’ve been in the same house since I was born which has allowed me to see the world change around me with sensation of be grounded.
Growing Up I’ve always loved Melbourne and known it would be my home, In recent years I’ve traveled the globe and always looked forward to coming back home; there really isn’t anything like Melbourne.

Who was your 1st crush and why?

Rachel Commander, we dated in primary school.
I guess you could say she was GENERAL-ly pretty good at COMMAND-ing me to like her; they’re the best puns I could come up with.

(Picture below of some art by ‘Ink Mike’)

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What role did toys play in your childhood?

They were absolutely instrumental in allowing my creativity to grow, they were a physical bridge between what I could imagine and what I could use to bring my imagination to life.

Does sex change everything?

Depends on like a trillion different factors.
But to anyone who cheats on someone, fuck you.

(Picture below of some art by ‘Ink Mike’)

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Favorite band(s)?

Bring Me the Horizon, A day to Remember, Architects, Pierce the Veil that kind of stuff.

Favorite TV show(s)?

There is only one tv show in my life, and that is How I met your Mother, nothing helps me work harder then the antics of 5 friends who go on wacky adventures and find themselves in absurd scenarios.

Favorite sport(s) + teams?

Ice Hockey and League of Legends.

Favorite movie(s)?

Anything Featuring Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson.

Favorite books and comics?

I own the full set of original Venom Comics from Marvel, and although I’ve never opened them because they’re wrapped in plastic, I’m sure they’re the best thing I’ve ever read.

Which 1990’s era cartoon, would you most like to see as a sex toy, and why?

Literally any character from Hey Arnold could be a sex toy, I mean just look at some of the features.
Personally I’ve chosen Gerald because his head looks like a dildo, and he’s a cool guy.

(Picture below of ‘Ink Mike’s’ ‘Hey Arnold’ tribute Gerald dildo)

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Who would win in a fight and why: a rake thin and rowdy early 20s lad Vs. An angry jock on his way home from the footy?

Look, the lads have their Nikes, they really do, nike this nike that, what they don’t have is the manners to thank their parents for buying the nike’s for them.
An angry jock could have done anything to become a jock (this particular one wanted to be a  like Dwayne the Rock Johnson) and seeing the Richmond tigers lose tonight has really pushed him over the edge, not to mention his dog Peaches has been missing for two weeks and he’s starting to worry.

(Picture below of the battle in all it’s glory!)

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Please describe your latest dream in detail…

Oh jesus I really don’t think I should write about it just in case my mum ends up reading this.
Like, I really shouldn’t.

Have you ever tried psychedelics of any sort? And what was the experience like?

My brain is going through enough as it is without the addition of psychedelics.

(Picture below of some ‘Ink Mike’ stickers)

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Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?

That’s an intense question to ask a 22 year old.
I guess if I died tomorrow I would just want everyone who I care about to know I love them.
My favorite thing is the people around me and I want them to always know they are who make me who I am.

Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?

Gateway to the universe of wasted time.

Please describe what you think the Australian Psyche/Zeitgeist is today?

A splash of racism, a dollop of bad decisions, and a dressing of misdirection.

Your resume lists you as being “100% machine washable”… Gotta ask – what exactly would happen if someone made the mistake of washing you by hand?

A hand washed Michael is a region of spacetime exhibiting such strong gravitational effects that nothing—including particles and electromagnetic radiation such as light—can escape from inside it.
The theory of Handwashativty predicts that a sufficiently compact mass can deform spacetime to form a black hole.

The Future

Any collaborations on the horizon?

There are quite a few in the works with some incredibly talented local artists.
I guess you could say my train has arrived at collaboration…station.

Any major projects you want to hype?

If you’re into cool stuff I’ll be releasing a whole range of products at the beginning of August (hopefully), they will be pretty cool.
You can wear them or just buy them, or both; it’s completely up to you, very versatile.

(Picture below of a patch by ‘Ink Mike’)

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