We spoke with Brett Bennett, he’s created an entire new world with his geeky mash up art. Bennett’s art manages to make you laugh, cry, and love all at once.
Q: Walk us through your process… how do you know to match Gizmo and Totoro or van Gogh and Mr. Potatohead?
The idea of Totoro shielding Gizmo from the rain came on a walk one day after 3 weeks of trying to answer the question of which monsters from different worlds might become friends.
Sometimes the answer comes from my wife, who came up with the idea of Mr.Potato Head lending Van Gogh an ear replacement. Other inspirations come from word play, such as my Star Wars “Lady and The Scoundrel” in which Han is the Tramp, Leia is the Lady, and the “I love you, I know” words between them are formed by the pasta they are sharing. So the process is being open to any good idea from any source.
Q: Which came first for you… the art or the geeky stuff?
Definitely art. Art history classes at the University of Washington taught me a lot about various art movements and leading artists throughout the years. Just like cartoonists should study real life before they exaggerate it by drawing cartoons, I think artists should study fine art and the artists before they start doing mashup art. Hope that makes sense.
Q: You’ve mentioned you are working on a web-comic, can you tell us how that’s going?
I’m currently working on a graphic novel- it will be black and white with pencil illustrations about the life of a black cat named Jack and it’s called “Jack Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”, and if all goes well, the book will be out in 2019. Between human and pet, there’s a real mystery and beauty in our differences. What common interests and needs do we share? How do we show our love to one another? What made Jack unique from other cats? How is a cat and a pair of humans able to become a family? What’s it like to live with a leash and be passed owner to owner? These are questions the book asks. But I’m most thrilled to have the reader meet this amazing cat named Jack.
Q: At what point did you feel comfortable enough to take your art out to shows?
When my wife had her first art show at Santa Anita Race Track four years ago. She proved it was possible to sell art and make money! And believe me, it’s always best to have a road to follow when taking a journey. So I saw how it was done and then started humbly down that road. We then learned together what to do (and what to avoid) as we attended art shows throughout the last 4 years.
Q: Any mashups you are currently working on that we can look forward to?
I’m working on a Revenant painting that deals with sweet, cold, bear revenge. After that I’m working on a Pan’s Labyrinth illustration for an upcoming book that I’m super excited about.
Q: Your art is generally funny but some pieces also tug at the heart, like Indiana and Kylo or Ms. Piggy and Kermit… when you start with a piece do you intentionally want it to hit a specific emotion?
Indiana Jones vs. Kylo was inspired by my anger of how Han Solo got killed by his son in the movie The Force Awakens. That was a pretty weak way to kill Han Solo off, am I right? The concept of Ms. Piggy and Kermit came from my own feelings about marriage- I want the viewer to understand that marriage is all about facing obstacles together. More cynical viewers will interpret the meaning as marriage sucks and that’s not invalid either (laughter). I like toeing that line in my work- between negative and positive viewpoints. It’s never really the plan to manipulate a reaction from someone though. Better to stimulate the mind in my view.
Q: Is there a specific universe you like to mash up? like do you love mixing Star Wars more than Pixar?
I lean on taking the Disney universe and adding black comedy. I call it “Dark Disney”. Other than that, any universe is game as long as there is some kind of distortion or new meaning I can add to it. It’s better to be open, avoid preconceived notions, and allow yourself to play with as many different combinations as possible.
Q: You did an “Animal Hero” series do you have other art outside of geeky mashups?
I was an animator awhile back on some videogames such as the Incredible Hulk and Gears of War 2, and I recently illustrated a piece for The Thing: Artbook by Printed In Blood in 2017.
Q: What do you love and hate about Cons?
What I love about cons is you get to see and hear what people think as they view your art. Hearing someone laugh or try to figure out the meaning or concept of a painting is the best. I love debuting new stuff the most though, it’s every artists’s dream to have an audience look at their work and cons allow you to experience that live. What I don’t like about cons is occasionally you’ll get placed to an obnoxious artist who will stop at nothing to sell, even if that means dangling their displays into your assigned area. Another pet peeve is people taking tons of photographs or video then walking away without buying anything. At least tip $1 so we as artists can continue to pay for the costs of attending the show.
Q: Where can our readers find you next?
They can find me next at WonderCon in Anaheim in late March, followed by Anime Expo in Los Angeles in July!