I Painted A Non-BLM Street Mural

Last week, I got the opportunity to work with the Crenshaw Imperial Plaza to create a street mural that spelled out “COMMUNITY”. I’m actually not sure how they came to that decision, but when I was brought on, it was clear they wanted something in the spirit of the letters that have been recently used to spell out BLACK LIVES MATTER. While we were painting, a lot of the people that came by kept asking what we were spelling out. Many of them were expecting a BLM mural like they’d seen on the news, but were mildy surprised that we were doing something different. At least one person replied with “Good!” I didn’t know their motivation, but I thought it was amusing.
This kind of project was a new one for me. Being out in the hot sun on hot concrete and sniffing industrial-grade paint was new for me. My legs and back were hurting from trying to navigate the proper stance to lay down the art. At some point, I had thoughts about what Michelangelo must felt creating the Sistene chapel ceiling. Of course, that was on another level. This must have a been a laugh to someone like that. New respect for public art.
Out of three artists, I was responsible for the ‘COM’ portion, Artist Marie Jose did the ‘MUN’ and Vanessa Rivera came through with the ‘ITY’. You can find their links at the bottom of the post. If you’re in the region, be sure you check it out.

Marie Jose – www.mariejose-art.com/shop
Vanessa Rivera – https//linktr.ee/vjrivera

– Mr Benja –

What Kind of Parents Created Me?

So…I really got into creating online because of the ability to share the interesting people and experiences that I was coming across. I have some images that I don’t usually show. They’re always on my mind and will accompany my other posts. We’ll see what happens.
This is my father Earl alongside one of my favorite image of his, a block printed painting known as “The Line”. I found a photograph of the image and recreated it on the computer and got a large print made for his birthday. You can’t tell here, but he’s really happy about it. :).
I’m actually reminded of “The Line” as I see places like Wal-Mart and Ralph’s with huge queues of people stretching around the block for some canned goods because yeah, everything is crazy right now.

The other half of my major influence is my mother, Shirley. All my life I knew her as an opera singer and professor of music at Florida A&M University. More than that, I knew her as an educator and a student. She was always on the hunt for knowledge and was willing to share it to everyone in her environment. Also, that’s not a college student in the pictures, btw. She also taught young ones in few moments of “spare” time. Interestingly enough, she was strict, but never pushed the arts on me as the end all and be all of life. In fact, when I expressed interests in computers and video games, she was all for it even though it really wasn’t her ballpark.

Dr Shirley showed me how to fight the fight to get to where you want to be. How to get around the obstacles. And how to get your music heard.

Now you know.

– Mr Benja –

Malcolm X Gonna Give It To Ya

Note: I sent this message out earlier in February, but should have turned it into a blog post back then. Here it is now as late as it wants to be.

As we close out Black History Month, I am releasing “X.1” as an 8BitCubist print. It’s a reminder of the enigmatic and controversial figure known as Malcolm X, who unapologetically fought for freedom from racism while in the crosshairs of opposition from numerous forces. His story is also an interesting one of religion and culture. I didn’t want to do much else but make a simple statement with this one.

See, the game doesn’t always have a happy ending, but must be played to completion to the best of your ability. It’s also probably your favorite button.

Love him or not, if you haven’t seen the Malcolm X film by Spike Lee, then you should have watched that by now.
You can find that link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FtH94TiL0I

This new print, “X.1” was released on the8bitcubist.com.

– Mr Benja –

I Create Nothing Real, Yet I Create So Much

I just realized that I create no physical products. I am a complete idea/concept person, and I have been for decades. I mean that in the sense that most everything I do is non-physical. In fact, I started painting with actual materials to get more in touch with “real” life.

This is not a bad thing, though. Ideas and concepts are the basis of mathematics, books, ideologies, music, art, and so much more that enable us to navigate the physical world.

It’s just this weird idea that I had that my output is basically virtual.
There’s something not quite real about that.

– Mr Benja –

The Commodification Of Art Continues

There are a lot of people that aren’t into the art scene (or whatever scene ), and they’ll look for an easy fix for their itch. This usually means they’ll end up consuming something mass-market and commodified. It’s hard to win that game on creation alone. (If you can, you’re in a good space.)

On eBay and other marketplaces, people are selling cheap “original” wall decor that are painted in assembly-line factories located in China, Mexico, Bangladesh, and across the US. (Or even think of art that is simply printed with embellishments.)

These items are usually copies of a style, direct facsimiles, or quick Photoshop edits. Aside from the legal and moral lameness involved, I don’t think it’s very good. But I understand the role it plays, and I’m not mad it it.

What you’re seeing is a commodification of art on a large scale. (Notice that the image above says 24 sold.) While, I don’t knock anyone that buys this stuff, I think you can do much better for yourself.

– Mr Benja –

A Print-First Development Procedure

For a while, I only created original paintings and didn’t do prints. The concept behind the art required that I create original works only. The philosophy had to do with creating representations of digital works in a 1-of-1 medium. It gets into a lot of artsy talk that I’d rather not get into now, but if you have one of those paintings, I will never create prints of those. Enjoy!

While a lot of artists create prints to supplement their original works, that’s never factored into my art. In fact, I would almost rather not have to deal with the idea of prints at all, but times change.

Recently, my art has changed a bit, and the message no longer demands the works be unique offerings. So now, I have a started creating prints and will be creating them more often. In fact, the message/philosophy has changed so much that I have found myself with a print-first procedure. Basically, I create these images and then decide which ones I like enough to convert to paintings. Some of the prints are rather difficult to render as paintings, so there’s that issue as well.

Interesting times.

Click HERE to see the prints that I create for 8BitCubist.

– Mr Benja –

Behind The Kobe Bryant Prints (Pt 1) – “24/8”

After the passing of Kobe Bryant I was inspired to create. It just happened that way. He is one of those figures that exemplified the push that I have been engaged with lately, so I felt I had to do what pop art does, speak on popular culture.
I always think deeply about those that have inspired me, and in the spirit of pop art, I created two pieces after Kobe’s death. The first of these prints is called “24/8”. 
"24/8" Fine Art Print by Mr Benja for 8BitCubist
As usual, I went with what felt natural to me. But since it’s the first tribute piece I’ve ever done, I felt weird about not going the usual tribute route. In fact, while typing this, I realized that I needed to delete all of my art-speak and just let you know what was on my mind as I constructed this image:
* an ode to Kobe’s legacy
* the game we play
* the ball
* constancy
* forward motion
I will post about the second one a little later on. It’s a bit more involved.

CLICK HERE FOR THE “24/8” PRINT ON THE 8BITCUBIST SITE

– Mr Benja –

Hey, Ari. Comedians Should Cross ALL Lines, But…

Being that I have a mind that pushes boundaries, I like to think I get comedy. Aside from being fucking hilarious at dinner parties, I did three summers worth of standup at the ACME Comedy Club in Minnesota. (Shout out to Nick Swardson who showed me what it means to be made of puuuurreeee eeeevilllll and to Victor Varnado who showed me what it meant to embrace the “fuck it” attitude.) Also, it’s healthy for us to look at all sides of an issue.

Now before I continue, CLICK HERE TO EDUCATE YOURSELF ON THE STORY. You can also check his Instagram to see his statement on the matter.

But calling him right wrong isn’t my point here. It’s about crossing lines.

I’ll start with this quote from the legend George Carlin, which may or may not be from him. He hasn’t responded to my tweets, so I can’t verify this part.

Okay. So was Ari Shaffir simply crossing lines that should be crossed? Was he just trolling? Because he really does troll people, but not like this.

At face value, line-crossing in comedy is fine. The craft is not necessarily about being “funny” or acceptable. The comic should be out there picking fights, ruffling feathers, making people think, pushing buttons, and even bombing in the presence of innocent civilians. (See what I did there?)

I mean that. For example, here are popular topics that comics SHOULD broach:

  1. The sanctity of life
  2. Race
  3. Rape
  4. Religion
  5. Pregnancy
  6. Prostrate cancer
  7. Gender identity
  8. Sex organs
  9. Murder
  10. Floridians
  11. Politics
  12. Physical differences
  13. Joke thieves
  14. Denial of mental health problems
  15. Culture
  16. Economic status
  17. Social class
  18. Failed marriages
  19. Anything that has ever appeared in People magazine
  20. Black people with thin lips
  21. Overweight freerunners
  22. Your mother (also known as yo mama)
  23. George Clooney
  24. People that browse the hashtag #crystalsforsale
  25. And EVERYTHING else we hold sacred

It’s all on the table. That’s how it’s supposed to be.

But the question is… HOW ARE YOU CROSSING THOSE LINES AND WHY?

Are you helping anyone? Did you make anyone think? Were new opinions formed? Did a reasonable dialog come up? Was it worth it?

See, this whole situation annoys me because I honestly can’t stand our war on comedy. We’re are a bit soft nowadays. We need comedy now more than ever. I want people to go outside without having anxiety attacks. Unfortunately, we’ve got Ari Shaffir going around making the situation worse. Even shock outlet Opie Radio had to call him out.

Pretty much.

At its best, comedy like this is lazy. At its worst, it’s dangerous. Comedy is a powerful weapon that should only to be wielded by licensed skeptics, cynics, outcasts, and socially-malnourished intellects.

But wait. You don’t think bad comedy can be dangerous? Remember the time Ari spoke about showing his privates to a six year old girl? Ehhhh…come on, dude. Do better.

So regardless of my personal feelings or my thoughts on celebrity worship, the “joke” failed because it was delivered improperly. It didn’t help the case for art. It just seemed like some guy channeling his inner jerk. I don’t know, maybe his career implosion can be used to open the door for better post-death comedy.

Finally, while I didn’t want to come on here and stan for Kobe. I have much respect for the Black Mamba, so RIP to Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and everyone else that died.
Click here to learn more about the lives that were lost.

Be well, people.

 – Mr Benja –

Creatives Have All The Power

In a world abuzz of social media discussion, we seem to forget that creatives have the power. I forget this all the time. While there’s a lot of extremely relevant marketing discussion going on, it’s mostly coming from the marketing people that don’t specialize in content creation. That’s the job of the creator, and it’s a power that we should be tapping into much more.

We complain about social media, but it’s our weapon moreso than thei

Say you’re a writer. It’s your place to create 60,000 words for a novel. You’ve got a lot of work to do in order to create a coherent piece of work. On the other side, it’s the marketer’s/advertiser’s job to make 20-100 words of fantabulous copy and spin that into a multitude of views for your 60,000 words.

While this might not seem fair to you, please realize that you just wrote 60,000 words. You can *probably* figure out a way to write 20-100 and spread it out. And even if you aren’t very good at creating those 20-100 words, the really hard part is getting over mental blocks, putting those words out, and convincing people to listen.

But honestly, that part is much easier.

Dive in.
Learn from others.
Get good at talking about your work.
Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Content is still king.

– Mr Benja –

P.S. I’m not talking as if I’m some outgoing, social maven. I’m still working at this myself. 🙂