Geneva Benton is a digital designer and illustrator based in North Carolina. Her work has appeared in Imagine FX, Advanced PhotoShop, and Crossed Genres. She provided art for this week's story, "Beyond Sapphire Glass" by Margaret Killjoy. This interview was conducted by text chat in August 2015.
Tory Hoke: Your figures and your color palettes are expressive but gentle—and incredibly appealing. What has gone into developing your style?
Geneva Benton: That is a tough question. I admire a lot of artists that have that "gentle" look to their art, and I try to capture that same gentleness, but keeping it colorful. It never comes out exactly the way I want it, but that could be what makes it look "expressive." To me it does not feel gentle enough, and I'm still working on that.
Tory Hoke: What is it that keeps you striving harder to capture that aspect?
Geneva Benton: Because of the emotion that some artists can evoke! I envy that and really want to capture that. Honestly, I would like my style to be a bit more cartoonish in terms of emotions and action, and I am not yet at that goal. I'm sure once that "goal" is reached I still won't be happy with the emotion or expression, so it's like a never-ending rabbit hole. It's like never being truly satisfied, and that's what I love about art as a whole. You never master it, and you probably never fully master what it is you exactly want to do in it, style-wise.
© 2015 Geneva Benton "Allovegator"
Tory Hoke: That's a fascinating contradiction—between your gentle, smooth, curvy, breezy style and the hard effort it took (and is taking) to get there.
Geneva Benton: Yes, it takes a while! I am twenty-two now, and have officially dedicated myself to drawing for eleven years. It doesn't look like it would take eleven years! But some artists are much faster or slower than others and make their own paths.
Tory Hoke: What artists would you say are masters of the form you aspire to?
Geneva Benton: Benjamin Zhang! He is my number one favorite artist. He has mastered color and shape and emotion in a way I can only imagine! And Xavier Houssin, or Xa on the Internet, his work has interesting anatomy and that cartooniness that I want mine to have. Also Julie Dillon, Escume on DeviantArt, Lorelay Bové, and so many others!
Tory Hoke: So much of your art tells a story; the moments give a sense of where the figures have been, and what's on their mind. Where do these stories come from? How much do they evolve as you work?
Geneva Benton: To be honest, a lot of the things I draw don't have a story per se, or I don't think of a backstory for them. I just draw something because I feel it is cool at the time. Sorry if that sounds very shallow! For "Beyond Sapphire Glass," that one made me think "what kind of symbolism could I put in the art and have it actually mean something?" And that was very fun to do.
As for adding more "character" to the character, I don't set things in stone while working on the art, and if there is too much empty space, I add things that could pertain to them. Maybe that is why it might feel like there is a story?
Tory Hoke: Interesting! Maybe so. Those elements that fill in the frame feel so organic to the character. Forgive me—I'm looking for the title—your cover with the girl and alligator on the bus stop bench?
Geneva Benton: "Allovegator"! So much puns!
Tory Hoke: Yes! The love letter, the parasol, and even the pink drool from the alligator—they have a precise, intuitive logic.
Geneva Benton: Thank you!
Tory Hoke: And "Arc en Celia"'s hot air balloons.
Geneva Benton: To be honest, the air balloons were filler!
Tory Hoke: As you say, but such precise and correct filler! That's even more intriguing to me than a back story.
Tory Hoke: What inspired this series?
Geneva Benton: I don't know! The first one, "Cosmiss," was because I wanted to draw cloud hair. I guess the second and onward are more adventures in drawing cloud hair.
Tory Hoke: Oh my, "Dawne" is so cute.
Geneva Benton: Thanks! For some reason—the "Dawne" art—people really like it. I'm not sure why. But it makes them happy and that makes me happy. It somehow exploded to over 60K notes on Tumblr, and I'm not sure how that happened, but I'm super grateful for the exposure.
© 2015 Geneva Benton "Dawne"
Tory Hoke: Glad it brought you some recognition! Hard to say what will catch fire with people, but it makes sense that "Dawne" stood out. The palette is cheerful but gentle, and really unusual. And the way she's tipped back in frame, plus the angle of her head and arms, keeps the eye traveling around the composition, over and over.
Geneva Benton: Neat! Never thought of it like that.
Tory Hoke: What is the art scene like in Asheville, NC? Have the landscape or views of nature there influenced your work?
Geneva Benton: The art scene here is booming! It is mostly crafting, nature photgraphy, and mixed media, so I haven't really gotten much into it. There is a neat contemporary museum called Zapow that has a lot of interesting artists though! The nature has definitely helped. I am a homebody, and I don't see as much nature as I should, but it's nice to turn your head in every direction and see fresh, flourishing nature.
Tory Hoke: What would you like to see more of in contemporary F/SF art?
Geneva Benton: More ideas explored! I'm not sure what kind of ideas, but just less of the same-old, same-old. Also of course diversity, but I'm happy to see that it is creeping in more and more.
Tory Hoke: Heh, slow creeping but steady, I hope.
Geneva Benton: Hope so!
Tory Hoke: What's your dream project?
Geneva Benton: My dream project? Hmm. Working with a fashion brand. Drawing their mascots—or general models—that are wearing that brand's clothes. For some reason I think that would be just the coolest.
Tory Hoke: Any particular brand that would be the most exciting?
Geneva Benton: A brand like either Burlington Coat Factory or Black Milk clothing. I think those are actually just stores rather than brands, but the types of clothes they sell. Burlington because the clothes are family-like, but sometime chic and cute and wholesome. Black Milk because it is chic and trendy, but in a nerdy and alt (but not super wildly alt) way. So either a casual or chic nerdy brand, ha. I don't know if opportunities like that exist, but here's to having one like that in the future.
Tory Hoke: What's next for you?
Geneva Benton: I am going to Anime Weekend Atlanta in September, and maybe Asheville Comic Expo in October. I started a faux magazine cover series called "Magical Girl Monthly" out of serious nostalgia for this girl comics magazine that used to come out called Shojo Beat. I made a prototype art book that people seem to really like so going to print more of those and see what happens. Hoping to work to a point of freelance being a more major stream.
© 2015 Geneva Benton "Magical Girl Monthly"
Tory Hoke: Makes sense that "Magical Girl Monthly" was inspired by Shojo Beat! The art and graphic design are on point.
Geneva Benton: You know what Shojo Beat is? That is so awesome; you are one of the very few!
Tory Hoke: Only passing familiar. But it seems like cultural literacy for all good art geeks.
Geneva Benton: Yes!
Tory Hoke: Here's to a fun and productive time at Anime Weekend Atlanta, and to more freelance work flowing your way.
Geneva Benton: Thank you! Thank you for taking the time.