The obsessions we have as kids don’t always dictate who we’re going to become. At least let’s hope so—especially for the sake of my second-grade neighbor, Lori, who was so fascinated by pregnancy that play-dates at her house inevitably involved peeing on Popsicle sticks and stuffing pillows up our t-shirts. For illustrator Ana Benaroya, though, the drive to be an artist was clear from the time she was just a tiny Jersey girl with an addiction to superhero comics and cartoons. “I was more into looking at the comic book drawings than actually reading them,” says Benaroya. “Because of this I was very fixated on learning how to draw muscles in the proper anatomical way.” She now spends her days illustrating for books and magazines and designing tour posters, all in her signature style: pop art colors, Romanesque figures, visual irony and a self-proclaimed penchant for “awkward, muscular men.” While a collection of art books has now replaced the 200+ action figures on her shelf, Ana hasn’t forgotten her roots; browse through her work and see for yourself. Read our interview and see her work after the jump…
What do you like to listen to while you’re drawing? Well, I have an addiction to finding new music. I hardly listen to the radio anymore, so it’s up to me to keep my music library from sounding repetitive. My taste is pretty varied—and it totally depends on what sort of mood I’m in—that determines what I listen to. Some of my current favorites are: Patrick Park, Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head, Girl Talk, This is Ivy League…the list goes on.
What are your favorite children’s books? Was there a particular one that made you want to do what you do? When I was very little, my mom would always read to my brother and I—something I enjoyed very much. I remember I was in love with Aesop’s Fables; something about them was very powerful to me. But I don’t think there was a certain book that led me to being an artist—that was probably a result of comic books and cartoons. I was always very obsessed with superheroes. I collected action figures and watched Saturday morning cartoons all the time.
Are you still obsessed with superheroes? I think I am. I just love their colorful costumes, their muscles, their chiseled features! I don’t really collect action figures anymore—but I think they still really influence my artwork. My favorite when I was smaller was Spiderman. I think I liked the idea of him being a really dorky unpopular kid in high school. And Superman was a big one too. I loved his hair with that curl in the front. But overall, I just fell in love with the concept of the superhero—and how their world was so dramatic and cut into good and evil, black and white.
What artists/eras inspire you the most? I am very much into learning art history (I minored at college), so many of my influences come from that. Periods I love most are pre-Renaissance, medieval, the Renaissance, and Greek and Roman sculpture. Pre-Renaissance because I love the awkwardness of the figures. Greek and Roman because of all the muscular men. Put that together and you have the two things I love in my own art: awkward muscular men! I often like looking at masterpieces and reinterpreting them in my own style. But of course I also like to keep up with current illustrators and designers. Some of my favorites are: Jillian Tamaki, Christopher Silas Neal, Ray Fenwick, Luba Lukova and Seripop. Oh, and poster art—I love poster art.
If you could live in any era, what would it be, and how would you wear your hair? I would live as a cavewoman (preferably in a warm climate). Ignoring the true hairstyle of the time—I would let my hair grow really, really long—¬then shave both sides of my head so I only have lots of hair down the center (kinda like a Mohawk). I imagine with this hairstyle I would have a matching buffalo-hair jacket, leather pants and boots. I would live on a diet of beef jerky.