The other day, I found myself working next to a graphic artist named Ben Biondo. I determined two things about him within a couple of hours. One, he works crazy fast. Two, he’s crazy good.
I clicked around on Ben’s website–kind of covertly, because, God forbid I should flatter someone with my interest–and it revealed an intriguing story. He’s an artist discontent with past output. For awhile, he was updating his site with new work almost everyday; he’d finish something and throw it up there like a note dashed off and magnetized to the fridge. It’s all narrowing in on something. Something I needed him to explain.
We talked and I saw why certain people get good, while other people’s work stays stagnant and dissolves. I’m convinced, in many cases, this is determined by mental illness. Here’s a guy who won’t stop working. He works to relax, to celebrate the things he loves, to tell little, visual jokes. His early work is big and beautiful, layered with details; it’s paint in the real world–the sort of thing you wrestle with for a whole semester of art school. But that kind of piece can’t support the compulsion of an artist perfecting his craft. He has to finish something and move on. It’s neurotic.
When Ben articulated all this to me, I’ll admit to being a bit disappointed on at least a couple levels. I know I’ll never be as precise at my craft as he is at his. I’m just not focused enough. That’s the first sense in which I was disappointed–if only I had Ben’s particular brand of insanity. Here’s the other thing: what his work is focusing in on is purely aesthetic–he refuses to concern himself with high concepts. Ben doesn’t care if his pictures speak truth to power or grapple with one’s growing sense of mortality. He just doesn’t give a shit about any of that noise. I wish he did. He’s talented and if he ever wanted to jump in the deep end, I swear to God he’d make a splash.