Ben Weeks

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At 23, Canadian-born Ben Weeks is still finishing up his Master's Degree in creative imaging at Huddersfield University in London and hasn't made a single dent in the advertising world. But it's easy to see how that may change very soon. Through his program, a joint venture with design hotshop Attik, he's already gotten a chance to collaborate on upcoming work for Scion. Moreover, his portfolio is already full of impressive spec projects, including a mock cover for the New Yorker featuring a Greek waiter with distorted Picasso-inspired anatomy, as well as a series of info cards for U.K.-based anti-drug advocacy Frank, for which Weeks created gorgeous, painterly abstractions of emotions associated with drug abuse. "My approach varies depending on the context of the job," he explains of his media mix. "I've got a lot of tricks up my sleeve-flashbang grenades, the psychology of seduction, techniques from the Old Masters. But I usually like to do my work without the tricks." Indeed, while the young illustrator is versed in all sorts of forms, he makes his boldest statements with his simpler pieces, often marked by scraggly, childlike line drawings complemented by no more than bare bones color treatments on the computer. All, however, bear his refreshingly wicked sense of humor, like "Ice Cream Man," a floating anthropomorphic blob of mint chocolate chip ice cream who looks on with "survivor guilt" at his packaged comrades in a grocery store freezer. There's also the hilariously literal "Crab Man." A sketch of Weeks' would-be Halloween costume, the title character wields crustacean pincers for hands and a crab on his crotch. "Sometimes with illustration it's really good to be as not literal as possible and be totally abstract about it," he says, "but other times it's more important to do just the opposite, making it as realistic as possible, or totally taking it literally."

"Not About Drums," featuring a squirrel banging on a drum kit, is a deceptively rudimentary work that Weeks created for the upcoming "Prospects" illustration competition in London, in which he placed as one of 23 finalists among 1800 entrants. The piece's dual canvases of varnished wood and white sticky paper combine counterintuitively with its simple line drawing, inspiring quite the mindtrip if you take a careful look. But Weeks is quite comfortable that his work may not be easily digestible to the mainstream hordes. "I try really hard to make myself interesting, to learn everything I can about everything, but the more I do that, the more boring I feel," he notes. "So I think it's good when you try to do stuff that's just you, that doesn't really follow trends. That's what I enjoy, even in other people's work, when they don't care if other people like what they do or not, because it's who they are. That's really, really important."