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Chopping Block: Ben Kwok "Bioworkz"

Resident Alien, Living Dead, unbiased opinion: We all love a good oxymoron. While “Ornate Minimalism” may sound like one to add to the list, anyone who has ever seen the polished work of Bioworkz aka Ben Kwok can attest to his ability to blend the two styles seamlessly. Possessing a natural gift for the arts and a REALLY steady hand, The Taiwan born, LA based artist sat with us for a few to talk a bit about his unique style and a couple of other things.
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POW:  Most artists dabble around until they find a niche they feel extremely comfortable in. Can you walk us through a bit of your experience as a young artist striving to carve out your niche?

KWOK: It all started when I got abruptly laid after only 1 week at a new job. I was dumbfounded, and didn't have a back up plan. So I just started drawing for myself for the first time in a long long time. It was awesome because I didn't have to answer to anyone, no endless revisions, no one to please. It was so liberating and I fell in love with art all over again. I got into art because I'm passionate about it. But turning it into a career as a commercial artist in the apparel industry really sucked the life out of me.

The current style which I call "ornate" was heavily inspired by Lain Macarthur. When I saw his work, it really spoke to me and I gave it a go. I fell in love with this style and kept going with it. Three years later, here I am doing my own thing and I love it. In retrospect, being laid off was the best thing to happen to me. Now I get to draw whatever I like, and still work in the apparel industry. I'm so grateful about this new phase in my career.

Ornate_Elephant_Print_Signature-crop-4x5.jpg.thumbnail_3Ornate Elephant V2 by Bioworkz

POW:   Telling by your precise detail and shading techniques, a great deal of time and attention must have been put into each piece. What is your creative process?

KWOK: It all starts with a digital or graphite sketch. I would draw the basic image and add grid lines to show the form of the animal. Then I would add in various patterns. There are no rules to what kind of patterns I use. It's basically whatever I feel like drawing at the moment. I do care about the patterns forming the shape of the animal. When I'm happy with the sketch, I would scan it into the computer (if it's a graphite sketch) and size it to the illustration board I'm using. I would then print out the sketch in non-photo blue, cover the back of the print with 8B graphite, then trace the sketch onto the illustration board to transfer the image. Once that's done, I would outline everything with a fine liner, usually with Micron or Copic pens. Then I would use diluted black non-waterproof black india ink to cover big sections of the drawing. Once that's done, I would go in with a ballpoint pen and black colored pencils to add more shading. Most of my drawings range from 18-24 hours. Some drawings are over 100 hours.

S6-print-crop-4x5.jpg.thumbnail_3Valykyrie by Bioworkz

POW:  I noticed while scrolling through your Instagram page that you’re a collector! toys, pens-LOTS of pens. You’d be sold within the first 2 seconds of asking “can you sell me this pen?” Could you tell us a bit about your pen collection?

Some of them are still in their packages. Will you break into them eventually?

KWOK: My pen collection has been ongoing since I was 11. The Pilot Precise V5 was what started it all for me. The line quality, and the design of the pen really caught my interest. From then, I've been collecting pens, fine liners, mechanical pencils, and now fountain pens. Yes there are still lots of brand new pens in their original packages because I simply haven't gotten around to using them. I would like to use them all eventually, but with my growing collection, I don't know if that will ever happen. I'm like a kid in a candy store when I'm at the art store or stationary supply section. I will never have enough pens. What you saw on my instagram page is only a portion of my collection. It really is getting out of hand and I love it.

POW-Print-crop-2x3.jpg.thumbnail_3Orante Grizzly Bear by Bioworkz

POW:  You made a post recommending a bunch of great reads on creativity. Of those, I’ve read Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky-definitely a good one for learning to lasso all that high charged creative energy and whip it into an organized plan.  That’s one that I refer to every now and then when I start losing touch. Is there a book that you would say really resonates with you? How so?

KWOK: The most important book to me for the creative process is "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield. It's an easy read but has tons of important tips and advice that resonates with me. The book talks about showing up and allowing the muse to work through you for creative projects. I think this book is great for anyone regardless of their profession because it forces you to see the resistance that shows up to avoid the task at hand. Resistance is a monster we must slay on a daily basis to get our creative juices flowing. Now I consciously sit in front of my desk to work even when I don't feel like it. Do this enough times and something magical will happen. Good or bad, half of the battle is showing up.


Ornate Owl Head by Bioworkz

POW:  Can you tell us a bit about a current or new project you’re excited to take on?

KWOK: I plan on taking my drawings to the next level by using color and adding a background. I'm not comfortable with colors and that's exactly why I should practice that more often. It's really nice to draw for myself, and every piece is exciting because I don't know exactly how it will turn out. It's hard to explain, but there's a certain fulfillment, peace, satisfaction I get from drawing for myself.


For more information on Ben Kwok (Bioworkz), please visit: bioworkz.com