L.A.-based artist, Ben Kwok, also known as BioWorkZ, creates incredibly detailed illustrations that pull the viewer in to reveal intricacies within each design. Ben, spends upwards of 50 hours a week on each illustration and continues to push the boundaries of where his art will take him.
"I feel like an artist is meant to make the world more beautiful. It is our role to assist people in seeing the world how we would like it to be seen. Artists tend to think outside the box and it’s important to share this unique point of view."
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a veterinarian or a cartoonist. As a kid I didn’t know any better and thought that being a veterinarian was the only profession where I could be around animals all day, or being a cartoonist is where I’d get to draw all the time. Now I draw animals all the time. The best of both worlds.
Describe your work in 7 words or less.
Ornately decorated animal illustration
What are your creative weapons of choice?
One of my favorite tools is the ballpoint pen. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just a basic black BIC ballpoint pen will get the job done. I recently discovered the Ti Arto pen by BIGiDESIGN, and it’s by far the best ballpoint pen I’ve ever used. It’s like a lead holder, but for pen refills, so you’re not limited to any one pen. What’s truly amazing is that it’s compatible with 200+ refills. So whatever kind of pen refills you like to use, you can use the Ti Arto pen. If you look at my Instagram account, you’ll notice that I use lots of different pens all the time. It keeps it fun and interesting for me.
What role do you feel artists have in society?
I feel like an artist is meant to make the world more beautiful. It is our role to assist people in seeing the world how we would like it to be seen. Artists tend to think outside the box and it’s important to share this unique point of view.
Has the process you used for creating your work changed?
It hasn’t changed too much. I still draw ornately decorated animals. I have noticed that my patterns are more angular and complex and my shading has gotten bolder. Been using more colors lately. My artwork is colored digitally because I’m just not comfortable with traditional colored mediums.
Most of my sketches are now digital. Doing digital sketches allows me to work faster, larger and with more details. With a number of details I put into every piece, I can expect to spend a minimum of 50 hours per illustration. The goal is to keep working larger and larger until I get to work on a mural in late 2017 or early 2018. The objective is to work outside my comfort zone and see where it takes me.
Name one thing you cannot live without.
My wife and daughter….and a good lead pencil
What is your dream job?
I’m living the dream job. I get to draw what I want and make a living doing it. I work from home where I get to be around my family. No bosses, no driving in traffic, no drawing bullshit I hate. Just to clarify, it took me over 10 years to reach this point in my career. During that time, I had many horrible bosses, driving 2-4 hours daily, and drawing lame things I am not proud of. What made the biggest difference was putting in the time outside of my “job” into what I really enjoyed doing.
"I’m living the dream job. I get to draw what I want and make a living doing it. I work from home where I get to be around my family. No bosses, no driving in traffic, no drawing bullshit I hate."
Share something you think everyone should read or listen to.
I recommend “The War of Art” by Stephen Pressfield to any artist who asks me for help. It’s a great motivating book to get off your ass and get working. Instead of making excuses or procrastinating, it encourages you to show up and do the work. That’s where the magic happens. As for podcasts, I listen to too many to list, but it’s a great way to get educated and entertained while you work. Sure you can listen to music, but you don’t necessarily learn new things with music. Audiobooks is a great source of entertainment as well.
Which style of art do you most identify with?
I call my style of artwork “ornate”, but aside from that, I tend to draw inspiration from patterns from various cultures. Sometimes my artwork is very mandala-ish or draws inspiration from sacred geometry. At other times, it would be patterns from Egypt or from the Victorian Era. It’s like revitalizing an existing form of decorative art, but using animals as the subject matter instead of architecture.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given as an artist?
“Build your own brand”. This advice doesn’t necessarily mean build your own brand name or start a company. To me, it’s about being true to your own voice, create work that’s authentic to you, know your own worth, and to be consistent with the work you produce. I’ve been a professional illustrator for over 10 years and it wasn’t until I found my “ornate” style that things started to happen. That’s how long it took me to find my style.
What advice would you love to have told yourself five or ten years ago?
I would have love to tell myself to not worry so much. Things will fall into place and good things will happen. Even thinking about this now, it’s just a difficult piece of advice to accept because I tend to worry a lot. But it would be nice to know that things will work out and worrying about stuff is unproductive and a waste of time.
Describe a real-life situation that inspired you.
One of my many weaknesses is using color for my artwork. So I’ve been watching lots of painting tutorials online and it’s very inspiring. It demystifies the process and it’s fun to watch. The people in the tutorials make painting look easy because they’re great at what they do. But I find it inspiring and makes me want to paint.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I hoard pens. I love all types of pens, especially ballpoint pens and mechanical pencils. I have more pens than I can possibly use in a lifetime. However, I can’t get enough of it. I think I’m reliving a childhood dream of having lots of pens. The good thing is that I get to use my pens for my artwork so I can justify the ridiculousness of it all.