What’s your name and where do you currently live?
Benjamin William Knight is my full name. I live in Vancouver, but I’m currently down in San Francisco skating with some friends from Montreal.
What was the original spark that got you inspired to start making art?
My mom is a very creative/artistic person and she got me into it at a really young age. It was something I just messed around with, I didn’t really see how it could ever turn into a job even though the idea of being an artist always seemed cool. The first time I remember being inspired was a photography class in high school. I loved it as a creative medium but also how it was very formulated and predictable once you learn how to use a camera and work in the darkroom – it’s kind of a craft or trade in that sense. That’s what attracted me to screenprinting and eventually sign painting.
How long have you been making art for?
I’ve been messing around with it since before I can remember, but making the decision to try and make money from it was about 7 years ago when I moved to Vancouver. Big thanks to Drew Young for making that move possible and giving me a little push!
Do you have any training/schooling or are you completely self taught?
I went to this weird art school in Victoria for a year right out of high school that I didn’t take much from, but met Drew Young, who years later got me over to Vancouver.
Before I moved to Vancouver I went out to Montreal for a summer and ended up staying for two years… I worked at a screenprinting shop which is where I learnt how to screenprint, then with a shop back in Victoria for just over a year before moving to Vancouver and starting SOL (Slice of Life).Traditional sign painting quickly became my new passion and I’ve been very fortunate to have some big heads in the industry take me under their wings.
Chris and Stu Dobell, two Aussies transplanted to Victoria, are the resident sign painters at Phillips brewery and basically run the Victoria sign game. Their Dad was a sign painter and both went to trade school for sign painting, which doesn’t really exist anymore so they’ve been amazing dudes passing off their knowledge! When I moved to Vancouver the Chris connected me with John Lennig (@bigtopsigns) who’s become my mentor in Vancouver with 50+ years of experience, I really couldn’t have a better guy to teach me and paint with!
My personal artwork I tend to use bits of everything I’ve picked up and apply to it my own ideas. For example, I’ll use my photos for screen printing with hand painted aspects and I’ll use sign painting methods in typography pieces I make.
Do you work out of your own home or have a studio?
I just recently re-set up my studio in SOL, up until that I worked out of a separate studio in the Acme building on Hastings but it made more sense to have it at SOL since I spend most of my time there.
What does Slice of Life mean to you?
SOL to me and my business partner Sheena is about having the opportunity to make/do something for yourself and having a space that gives other people the opportunity to do that too. From renting a studio space to create and booking a show in our gallery to getting custom signage and screen-printed goods to take your brand/company from idea to reality, we work with brands and companies of all sizes. We’re also in the process of setting up a coworking space for creatives that will include access to screen printing equipment and other amenities like our sunny upstairs desk space and tool library.
Are there any similarities you’ve noticed in being an artist compared to a skateboarder?
They can both drive you a little crazy, hah. Skateboarding can be so creative which really attracts me to it, from trick/spot selection and how they do the trick, everyone has their own style like with art. Then there’s the filmmaker and editor which is a whole other side to it, the Atlantic drift videos are the perfect example of all aspects being good.
It’s hard to force them both, which can be tough if it’s how you make money!
Does skateboarding inspire your craft in any way?
I think it does but in a more subtle way. Skateboarding has been a part of my life for over 20 years now and I think it always will be. I think it comes down to the freedom it gives you to make or do something however you want. I get psyched being in new cities skating around and exploring, seeing new landscapes and architecture is always inspiring to me.
What are some ways you overcome those pesky creative blocks?
Do something else then come back to it, let your subconscious do some work, haha it can be tough… but working with different mediums can really help too giving you natural breaks from a certain thing you may be working/struggling on. Going skateboarding, cycling or walking is always a good one, having a balanced life really is important. Looking at artists or things that inspire me and some people come with their own designs, so those natural breaks help too.
Who are a few of your favourite artists currently?
Locally Andrew Young(@drewstuff), Tyler Keeton(@tylerkeetonrobbins), Scott Sueme(@scottsueme), James Knight(@fourhundredml), Katie So(@ghostmeadow), Dobell brothers(@Dobelldesigns), John Lennig(@bigtopsignarts), Kalvin Valko (@kalvinvalko), Olivia Di Liberto has been killin it(@chillvia), Matthew DeWetter(@no_omens), Victoria Sieczka(@badbloodclub), the list could go on, hah.
Internationally I really like Margaret Kilgallen, Evan Hecox, Stephen Powers, broken fingaz crew, Jed Palmer and too many paint slingers and other influences to name but those are some current favourites!
Do you have any goals for the future?
Yeah, lots of those hah… building Slice of Life up and hiring some staff to enable me to work on my personal stuff more is the most imminent. Travelling and skateboarding more has actually been something that’s become very important to me in the last year; I was diagnosed with bladder cancer last year and luckily caught it early and have it under control, but it really gave me a new perspective on things. Slowing down and enjoying the moment more is something I’m working on too.
Any advice for people wanting to start making art / becoming an artist?
Create, create and create some more, Mess around with all sorts of mediums, you never know what you will discover. If you’re going to school for it, take full advantage of what’s there and use all the facilities you can. Network and meet people, curators, gallery owners and other artists, brands that interest you. The more everyone’s connected the more everyone benefits – it helps to have all the friends/connections you can.
Where can people find more of your work?
In person at Slice of Life, sliceoflifevancouver.com or @sol.signs for now. My personal website (solsigns.ca) is being worked on and will be live soon!