Raw, relatable and downright real – Ben Tallon’s weekly podcast Arrest All Mimics has been drawing in listeners for some time now, so we thought we best find out about the award-winning illustrator’s influences behind the podcast. Covering his journey as a fresh grad to where he is now, Ben reveals how his personality is reflected in his work, as well as the power social media holds for budding illustrators and designers nowadays.
Tell us a little bit about your podcast Arrest All Mimics?
“Arrest All Mimics is a weekly podcast providing valuable insights, ideas, advice and stories from people in the creative industries. It’s very informal, conversational in nature. I wanted it to feel accessible, like you might be listening to two people having a conversation in the pub, which is literally how some episodes have been recorded. People like honesty because there’s so much polished social media material, but everyone in this business has a unique journey and it’s important to hear the different extremes of that, both positive and negative.”
How did you come up with the name?
“Names are the hardest things to come up with. It took days of procrastination. When I released my book, Champagne and Wax Crayons: Riding the Madness of the Creative Industries, my editor derived that from the manuscript. I’d written about the post-graduation crash landing into the real world, asking where was the champagne and fast car lifestyle? This time I was on my own, but I knew I wanted this show to be about original thinkers and creative innovation, so I figured Arrest All Mimics would be a thought provoking title, if a little subversive.”
Is there a need for a creative podcast channel?
“Maybe you’ve hit on something there. I see many people asking after creative industry podcasts and I wonder if there might be a central hub waiting to happen? It certainly might help to put everyone in the same room, so to speak, so we can see how each show differs from the next. There’s a wider issue here too. Often it can be like the school disco, everyone hiding in a corner, afraid to mingle, but when it happens, everyone enjoys the experience and I think community is overlooked in the arts.”
What’s the reception been like to Arrest All Mimics?
“It’s been wholly positive. I was very aware from the start that I had my limitations as a broadcaster. My illustrative style, writing and public speaking are all underpinned by a human, relatable aesthetic, so this had to follow suit. People seem to love how raw the show can be. I find myself deciding to leave in the more accidental and playful incidents.
“The broad range of regular and chance listeners has delighted me. Students, art-directors from global companies and just people enjoying these characters I corner for an hour with my microphone. This was never for any one demographic, quite the opposite. My hope is that I can create an archive, a body of work that people can access any time, for any reason and refresh with forward thinking, inspiring ideas and reminders that none of us have the dream life that we often project online.”
How does the podcast work alongside your design and written work?
“It varies from week to week. I’ve just gone from my quietest spell to date with one commissioned project in 8 weeks, to my busiest, 7 commissions in a week. During the 8 weeks I racked up a nice range of interviews, edits and approaches to guests I’d like to feature. Now, I am able to turn around my client work and fine tune the episodes I have ready to go each week. The thing is, this freelance lifestyle, whilst unpredictable has the huge benefit of flexibility, so it works well however busy I am.”
What was it like coming out of university – did you have a plan?
“It was tough. There’s no set path when you end 7 years of full-time education. The mates I had who’d studied graphic design were returning to work at the companies who’d given them a placement on a good salary. With an illustration degree, 99% of the industry is freelance. That means it’s 100% over to you and that felt daunting. I didn’t know how to write an invoice, let alone steer the ship alone. I lost confidence, sitting there at a B&Q garden table in my bedroom or the kitchen table, neither of which I dared call an office. The first six months were a grind and only when I hired a former stable after some mechanics had moved out, with four other creative graduates did I rekindle some passion and motivation. It’s about surrounding yourself with a wide range of people to keep the fire going. It took me almost two years to find the origins of the style I’ve become known for today. Everyone has a very unique experience after graduating from a creative degree. In episode 4 of Arrest All Mimics, Miss Led, one of the leading illustrators in the world, told me she had an 8-year spell after university during which she did not pick up a pencil. That’s an inspiring lesson.”
What’s been a favourite project of yours?
“Faces of Evil was a series of hand painted set designs for a moody photo shoot with the villains from WWE. It was the main feature in two separate issues of WWE Magazine in the U.S, which blew my mind. I read that magazine as a child and would cut it up to make my own VHS covers for the events that my dad’s mate would record for me, since we didn’t have Sky TV. The creative director and I have become good friends and he’s been a real mentor to me, always going above the call of duty to develop my style. In this business, such relationships will define you and that’s why it’s crucial to treat people well.”
How did you find your creative personality? Do you feel your work reflects who you are?
“100% and in many ways, it’s highlighted parts of it to which I gave little value in the past. As time has gone on, I see a common thread through everything I produce, in any media and thanks to Champagne and Wax Crayons and Arrest All Mimics, I understand what it is about my creative work that people connect with and that’s not exclusive to me as a person. All I’ve ever done is project my personality in my work and it’s been the right path for me. That doesn’t work for most people, but I guess I live the work I do, so for me, it’s the right direction.”
Which illustrators have inspired you?
“That’s a question I often recoil from because now, in my 8th year, I am drawn towards the wonderful melding of technology, science and art we see more and more. I’ be lying if I said I wasn’t and won’t always be blown away by the sheer beauty of the work of Ralph Steadman and Quentin Blake. Blake was a childhood wizard and Steadman showed me that illustration didn’t have to and absolutely should not be about faceless blokes in suits climbing ladders into money trees. Danny Allison, now a close friend was perhaps the most important. He guided me through the dark corridors of those early months with constructive criticism, selfless advice and leading by example. With no paid work and nothing to my name apart from £1k savings and blind hope, that was pivotal. I recommend hearing his story in episode 1 of Arrest All Mimics.”
How influential do you think social media is for illustrators just starting out?
“It’s a fantastic tool, if we avoid the very real danger of existing solely on it. I’ve made countless inroads and contacts and just recently, a great commission came in from my Twitter activity. But most important is the striking balance between face time and digital presence. Ten minutes over a coffee can jump start you, missing 50 odd emails in the process – without a face behind the avatar, you remain one of millions trying to do what you’re striving for. But the human touch is golden. I always remind myself that social media must be used to strengthen existing relationships to be at its most powerful and effective.”
Listen to all the podcasts by visiting www.soundcloud.com/arrestallmimics
Read more from Ben Tallon right here.