The creative life of Bren Luke: His inspirations and art practice

Written by Montana O'Neill

Working from his small home studio in Ballarat, Bren Luke creates intricate cross-hatched illustrations using pen and ink. In 1997, Luke graduated from Ballarat University with a degree in Fine Arts majoring in both painting and printmaking.

In creating his works, Luke draws inspiration from Albrecht Durer’s 16th century engravings, Japanese woodcut prints, alternative comic artists, architecture, 1970’s television and cinema, to name a few.

'Scene From Late Autumn' - Available here.

This week Luke took the time to answer a few questions about his art practice, career and what inspires him in his creative ventures.

Describe your workspace, what does a typical day in the studio look like?

I work from home and my working space is rather small, which is fine because I don't really need a massive studio for the work I do. Just a drawing board essentially.

I like to ease into my work: I'm not much of an early morning person. Before I settle in at the drawing table I like to plan out my day as much as I can, read emails and get any jobs unrelated to drawing out of the way.

A typical drawing session would be 10 to 12 hours a day, but I need to take regular breaks to stretch and loosen my arm, neck and shoulder muscles.

Describe your art practice, how do you develop the imagery of your work?

The bulk of my work is pen and ink drawing but I occasionally work on pencil drawings and paintings with gouache and oil paint.

I'd best describe the ink drawings as illustrative, representational and detailed, comprised of built-up line work, mostly crosshatched layers to create tone.

I tend to work from photographic source material most of the time and I usually develop the image over a few warm-up pencil sketches before committing to ink.

How has your artistic background in printmaking affected your artistic style and practice?

I don't have an extensive background in printmaking. I combined screen printing with traditional painting techniques when I was at university but all forms of printmaking interest me especially etching and engraving with intricate line work and Japanese woodblock printing using colour layers. I think that the use of colour layering has influenced me most at the stage when I colour the finished drawings to make prints of them.

I scan the ink drawing and work in Photoshop to create colour layers and repeat or rearrange the image and then I can make prints of the image using a large format inkjet printer.

'Peek Over The Ledge' - Available here. 

In what way/s does your medium limit/free you?

The colouring and layering stage on the computer frees me up in contrast to the fairly regimented and precise analogue method in which I draw but I enjoy both stages. While I'm inking a drawing I tend to be thinking more frequently of the possibilities for colouring and patterning, so those creative options are always freeing. I like that I can have a stand-alone finished black & white ink drawing and then expanding on that drawing for the colour prints.

'Hasselblad' - Available here

Is there an artwork you feel most connected to? If so why?

An old scrapbook of my late father's sketches and comics style drawings I feel most connected to, obviously for sentimental reasons. They're a lovely reminder of who he was and his humour.

I have a small landscape oil painting of some houses in Brunswick by Shaun Tan which hangs on my studio wall. His work is so unique and masterful at capturing a particular mood which is familiar yet otherworldly, which I really admire.

Browse Ben Luke's fantastic artwork here