We recently had the chance to sit down with Benjie Escobar at a bomb new ramen spot in Little Tokyo to discuss his current projects, what he’s been into lately, and what he has in store for POW! WOW! Long Beach. A true kid at heart (like most of us) Benjie stays in touch with his roots and aspirations through his multifarious artistic explorations. Benjie is involved in so many art forms it’s hard to keep up– he’s into restoring low rider bikes, illustration, photography, collecting odd stuff, and the ever so delicious musubi.
If you haven’t already heard about POW! WOW!, which will be taking place all next week, Benjie will be there painting a huge wall that will be his largest project to date. Even if you don’t know Benjie’s name, you’ve probably seen one of his designs on the internet or on someone’s t-shirt. Most recently one of his designs was copied and reposted all over the internet like Kim Kardashian nudes. The only downside was that he didn’t get much credit for his witty Venn diagram. Benjie being the humble and funny artist he is made a parody of his original design. Hopefully that one gets ripped off too and makes it to Juxtapoz’s instagram again.
What are some of your past and current influences?
In no order, going off of stuff I screen shotted on my phone: Horrible internet memes, self embellished clothing, iron on letters, Nintendo, my cat, pizza, burgers, musubi, gremlins 2: the new batch, people who can surf better than I ever will, UFOs, fairy kei, reformed Cholas with old photo albums, margaritas, luchadores, vintage local anything, American gladiators, pointy boots, multi colored hair, dragon ball z, pink or teal sweaters, flaming hot Cheetos, SGV dive bars, street fighter 2 endings, Japan, pastel cyber goths, the original point break, spaghetti, risograph, micheladas, tribal tattoos, and old Schwinns.
You grew up in Pomona, spent time all over the SGV, IE and LA., and you currently live in East LA. What keeps you in California? Do you see yourself in LA for the long term?
I spent some time in Texas during my teenage years, and ended up in Japan for a bit as well. LA is always home, but who knows where I’ll end up.
We’ve noticed you’re always coming out with something new or creating work for someone’s company or your own, how do you manage to keep up with everything? Is there anything you’ve wanted to pick up but haven’t had the chance to yet?
I have a ton of dumb ideas, and got tired of asking myself “what if I did this….?”. I’m trying to consolidate a lot of it, but my friends are enablers (just kidding, I just have a lot of talented friends that keep me inspired). As far as picking something new up, I’m really into vintage Schwinn bikes (stingrays, krates, stuff like that) as of recently from building low-rider bikes, and I’m trying to figure out a way to make some products I’d want for myself cheap enough to offer the public.
You’ve been designing for over a decade, do you ever get cold feet about a design?
Yes and no. I’m at a point where it’s all kind of reflective of my personality now (which is a place I feel really lucky to be at), and I know not everything I do will be everyone’s cup of tea. If it makes me chuckle or is something I really want to express, I’m usually pretty happy regardless if a design does well or not. I guess I’m trying to aim for a very specific point now, where as most designers will try to cast a really wide net.
Besides creating art 24 hours a day what do you like to do with free time?
Work on bikes, harass my cat, present my girlfriend with the stupidest scenarios ever, shoot photos, grab a drink with friends, and cook.
How does it feel to be apart of the Pow Wow all-star roster?
I’ve been a huge fan of what Jasper, Kamea and Amy have done with Pow Wow for a long time, so I’m beyond honored. To be honest, I’m a little nervous since it’s built up in my head a bit, but I’ll be fine.
Will East Los Masubi be making an appearance?
Yup!!! We got some plans to feed some people out there!!! We’ll be unveiling plans soon!
Any hints you can drop about the mural you’ll be painting for Pow Wow?
It’ll be really in tune with my other large-scale work. I’m really excited to work on a space about 7x times bigger than I usually do!
Your weapon of choice is?
Light blue Staedtler drafting pencils. Love those things, and Pentel brush pens.
Finish the sentence – Los Angeles is the land of…..
Dreamer transplants and annoyed locals.
Where is your favorite taco spot and what taco is a must have for you?
This is SUPER hard. If I had to choose one, I’d say the shrimp tacos from Mariscos Jalisco.
Where do you see the future of Benjie? (Hope we’re not getting too deep!)
More Art, more food, more shows, more pushing talented friends, more bike rides, more everything but, I really hope to get some sleep soon.