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Hannah Benbow is a young local animator who began exhibiting her art this year at Awesome Con and the Baltimore Comic-Con, where I spotted this Baltimore Sun interview with her. Benbow has also illustrated and published two children’s books and done lots of cat drawings. The Baltimore Sun may have discovered her already, but City Paper is now claiming her for D.C. Benbow’s a talent to watch.
For my day job, I am doing animation. I work for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. We make both 2-D and 3-D cartoons for kids, tweens, and teens about safety topics. Outside of work, I enjoy drawing cartoons, mostly of cats. I am doing a project this year where I am drawing a cat everyday, so there are lots and lots of cartoon cats. Next year, I have a couple comic book ideas I’ve had in mind that I want to start, so I’m very excited to transition more into comics and storytelling.
How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer, or a combination?
The animation work at my job is pretty much done completely on the computer. We work on Wacom Cintiqs so it really makes for an easy workflow. Our 2-D cartoons are mainly created using a software called Toomboom, and our 3-D cartoons we use a software called Autodesk Maya. The cartoon illustrations I do outside of work are a mix of everything. This cat project I’ve done this year has really given me the opportunity to explore other mediums, from new markers to new digital painting software. A lot of my drawings I draw out with pencil, then, if I’m going to color it, I scan it and digitally ink it and color it. Even though you can do amazing artwork with the technology these days, I’d still say my absolute favorite way to work is good old fashion paper and pencil.
When and where were you born?
I was born towards the end of the ’80s in the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I’m one of those “cool” millennials that everyone “loves.” Although I know I’m young in the field, it makes me excited to know how much I’ll grow as an artist in the future.
Why are you in D.C. and where do you live?
I moved to the D.C. area for college, and then after graduation, I found a job in the area and just ended up staying. Currently I live in Takoma Park. I really enjoy living in the D.C. area. Coming from living in the country, I don’t know how I survived before without 24-hour pharmacies and restaurants that solely sell cupcakes.
What’s your training or education background?
I attended the Art Institute of Washington of D.C. and graduated with my bachelor’s in media arts and animation. Currently, I am taking individual online art classes through a program called CGMA (Computer Graphics Master Academy). As an artist, you never stop learning, so I feel I’ll always be doing some sort of training or education in the art field.
Who are your influences?
Overall, I’m hugely influenced by Disney animation, mainly the Disney Renaissance era of the late ’80s-’90s. Individually, I feel my influences go back and forth between specific artists. One of the main ones is Glen Keane, a Disney animator mostly known for his work on the Disney Renaissance animations. Another one is Chris Sanders who is a story artist, and is mostly well known for writing and directing Lilo and Stitch.
If you could, what in your career would you do over or change?
Since I’m still pretty new to my career, I haven’t come across to much I’ve wanted to do over or change. I do wish I explored and pushed myself a bit more in college. Now as a professional artist, I feel I’m endlessly searching for new artists, trying out new styles, and finding references and influences for projects. In college, I felt it was always about just getting the assignment done and not exploring different art styles, or pushing my skill to the next level.
What work are you best-known for?
Currently my 365 days of cats project. As much as I’ve enjoyed it, I will be happy to start and develop other non-feline projects.
What work are you most proud of?
I’d say the work that I’m most proud of is a children’s alphabet book I self-published this year, Munch Munch Crunch Crunch. It was an entire year of working on and off on the illustrations and a good couple months of figuring out how to self-publish a book. Having a book is never something I thought I’d do, or even could do, so I’m very proud of this accomplishment.
What would you like to do or work on in the future?
I would like to work on more children’s book illustrations and comics in the future. As much as I enjoy animation, I’ve really fallen in love with telling stories through static illustration this past year.
What do you do when you’re in a rut or have writer’s block?
Usually I just work through it. I know my artwork isn’t as strong when I’m going through an art block, but sometimes just pushing through it sparks a new idea or drawing idea. Also searching online through sites like Tumblr or Pintrest for inspirational artwork really helps.
What do you think will be the future of your field?
I’m not entirely sure. Since I’m still new to the field, I feel right now I’m just absorbing everything I’m learning.
What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others?
Definitely the Small Press Expo—-it has such a great variety of art and talent. This past year, I attended Awesome Con, and Baltimore Comic-Con. I had a table at both so I didn’t get to walk around as much as I wanted to. The vibe from Awesome Con was really great, being that it’s such a new convention. It was nice too that I could just hop on the metro to go to it.