"I would advise other artists to create artwork they love. For me, the time flies by because I’m in a meditative state and I thoroughly enjoy what I’m doing."
Sometimes on Redbubble I come across artworks that are so stunning it induces a gasp, or at least some seriously lifted eyebrows. The unbelievably detailed hand-drawn artworks of BioWorkz are exactly the kind of artworks that make my jaw drop. BioWorkz (aka Ben Kwok) is a graphic artist and illustrator based in Los Angeles with a passion for immaculate hyper-detailed drawings and I had the pleasure to chat with him about work, his advice for other artists, and which artist inspired his nickname.
The immaculate detail in your work is stunning. How long does each piece take you?
It really depends on the complexity and the size of the drawing. However, most of my illustrations take 18-24 for hours to complete from the initial sketch to the completed illustration.
What materials do you use? Is that charcoal?
I use mainly felt tip fine liners like Microns. I also use black india ink washes to cover larger areas with a flat grey color, and add shading with ballpoint pen and colored pencils. It’s usually a mix of all these mediums I listed. Lately I’ve been experimenting with watercolor paper, but I generally use cold press illustration boards.
Animals are often subjects in your pieces, what draws you to them?
I have always loved animals. Been drawing them since I was a child. I started focusing on animals because they lend well to my ornate style of drawing. Birds are especially well suited for my style because their feathers are already broken into their own individual sections and it makes it easier for me to add in ornate patterns.
What’s your artistic process?
It usually starts off with an inspiring photo. I like to browse Pinterest regularly for inspiration. Every once in a while, there’s a photo that catches my attention and I decided to draw it. So the bison was one of those moments where I knew I had to draw it. It starts off with a rough digital sketch. Digital because it’s much quicker and with my workload it only makes sense to streamline my process. After I’m done with the digital sketch, I would rework it by hand on paper. If I’m happy with it, I will scan the sketch into the computer and resize it to what I need. Then I would transfer the image onto an illustration board. After that’s done, I will ink all the basic outlines with a fine felt tip pen. Then I will go with the shading, and 18-24 hours hours later, it’s done.
How long have you been making art?
I’ve been creating artwork since I was a child, but I’ve been doing it professionally for about 10 years now. I’ve always known I wanted to be an artist. But finding out what kind of arwork was the hard part. I went to school for graphic design because I didn’t know any better. After the first course, I knew it wasn’t for me. I wanted to draw, not play with fonts and layouts all day. Then I discovered illustration. I think it’s a nice middle ground between graphic design and fine art. So that was my focus during college. When I graduated, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was trained to create illustrations, but had no idea where to start. Luckily for me, a friend introduced me to the apparel industry where I created graphics for t-shirts. Been doing it ever since. Now I’ve expanded to doing custom tattoo designs and artwork for myself.
Does your work require a lot of patience?
Yes, my artwork definitely takes a lot of patience. I would generally have to draw the same image 3 times to reach completion. From the initial rough sketch, then transferring the image onto an illustration board, then inking it. It’s extremely time consuming. I would advise other artists to create artwork they love. For me, the time flies by because I’m in a meditative state and I thoroughly enjoy what I’m doing. Sometimes I work on simple projects for clients, but if I’m not emotionally invested in the work, a 6 hour project can fee like days. So draw what you love, it’s really that simple.
Who are you biggest artistic influences and why?
Iain Macarthur who I like to refer to as the Godfather of Ornate Artwork was the biggest influence. He also draws ornately decorated images and it’s truly amazing.
I understand you are a fan of H.R. Giger’s artwork – what about it do you enjoy so much?
I love his intense amount of details. You can see some connection of his biomechanical style to my own work. Actually, his work is known as biomechanics and I loved it so much that I decided to make my moniker “BIOWORKZ.” I love how he fuses machinery with flesh. All the curves and intricate details all fused together to give a dark menacing vibe.
What advice would you give to other artists just starting out?
Practice, practice, practice. If you want to get good at what you do, just keep putting in the hours. I guess you can apply this any profession.
Do you do anything to get into a creative zone?
I used to watch TV, but it really slows down my process. Now I just listen to podcasts because I find them entertaining and educational. I highly recommend “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast and for something more art related, I love “Adventures in Design” podcast. I also need to consume an unhealthy amount of caffeine to focus because I’m too easily distracted.
What are you creative goals for the coming year?
I want to start releasing limited edition art prints regularly. I want to build an audience because working for myself has been very satisfying and I want to build a business where I can do that 24/7. I would generally like to draw more, start using color in my artwork, and I would like to start working much bigger. My favorite size to work on is 12 x 16 inches. I need to break myself out of this comfort zone and start working larger like 3 x 4 feet. There are so many things I want to do, but I need to focus on a handful of projects if I want to succeed.