Hailing from Denmark, Rasmus Benjamin is an artist who came from a humble genesis and has built his way up to great creative heights. He is a believer in putting in the hard work to see amazing outcomes in his craft. For the last seven years, Rasmus proclaims that he has been working from the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to sleep at night. He bears his art with an unending well of joy and doesn’t view his job as a job. In fact, he disclosed that even if he were to win the lottery tomorrow, he would continue to create more and more art because it is his greatest labor of love. We had the honor to interview Rasmus and learn more about his artistic whims in this tell all.
Speaking towards your origin, tell us about your upbringing. What brought you into the art world that you live in today? What was that like for you growing up?
Yeah, actually, I had a grandmother, and my grandmother has always been into art, so I started painting. I started out as a graffiti artist when I was eight, and basically, I had a pen in my hand my entire childhood because when we were driving to vacation down in Europe at that time, there were no iPads and no iPhones for entertainment. So literally we were just bored as hell in the back seat. But many hours of staring out the window inspired me to do graffiti. All the bridges had some kind of pieces attached to them. I was very inspired by that. And then my grandmother gave me a book and a pen.
My creative career started on the highway down in Germany somewhere when I was eight. Painted graffiti on paper for about ten years. When I was 18 or 19, I discovered Photoshop and Illustrator where I started creating small logos and web designs. At that time, I didn’t know what to do with my life. I had nothing but my creative skills and I dropped out from school with no education whatsoever, just wandering around.
Then I found out that I could educate myself as a graphic designer and I started there. I educated myself as a graphic designer with more specifics in Photoshop, logo paints, and web design and so on. That got me a job at an agency. At that time, we were like five people. It was a smaller agency, and I was there for six years. And when I stopped, it was around 30 people. So, it became a big agency, and it was a very brave trip to be on as a graphic designer because you keep moving from smaller customers to big customers.
And during the last year I worked there, I wanted to create some posters for my new apartment at that time. That was about eight years ago. I made some posters to hang in my kitchen and I put it out on Facebook. People kept asking me, “where do you buy these posters?” And I said that I make them myself. More people were asking me about these posters. I thought, okay, maybe I just should start a small website because I could do it basically by myself. I put around 800 USD into my new company and it was put toward prints and a credit card deal with the company so people can pay with Visa and so on.
How did the company do starting out? Tell us about its early successes.
The first month I think I sold posters for about $150. And then I put it into advertising on Instagram, on Facebook. At that time, it was Facebook that was the big one. But a month after, I sold for around $600. But I just kept pushing ads and so on. And around nine months after I started, I sold for like $55,000 a month. At that time, I still had my job. I still had it because I didn’t know if I just got lucky. And I kept my full-time job at that point. But I kept making the same kind of money each month.
I thought, okay, we are actually a business here and I quit my job to go full time on it. It’s been five years since then. 85% of my orders today is from outside Denmark. I only started with Danish orders, but I had an order from the UK. And I thought, okay, wow, if I can send one to UK, I can send to the Netherlands and I can send to Germany and so on. I just started to advertise in different countries around the world. I also had to pack all these orders.
The first 20,000 posters I sold, I packed myself, and sent them out to the whole world. At one point I was like, okay, this is 80% working with shipping and sending mail out and tracking out and entering people online and so on. So, I had to rethink the whole thing. I used a year and a half to create deals around the world with local print houses. So today, I print locally in most of the world. So that I’m only thinking about making designs for the process.
After the printing situation was sorted out, I had a lot of time, so I started to make some paintings. With my growing followers on Instagram and Facebook account, I thought maybe there are people there that could use some original art pieces. The setup is just amazing because I have so much time to create and just be creative. I’m able to come up with new ideas and new installations or new paintings or new posters, whatever it may be. I’m basically 95% creative and with the 5% left I’m answering people on Instagram, Facebook, email and so on.
Tell us about your design and what your aesthetic would be described as. What led you to land on this style?
In my style, you can find plenty of hidden messages. You can also find colors, or some that are just for fun. Or even just black and white ones. But I don’t think I have a specific design for my art. It’s because I have been a graphic designer for so many years that I have worked with different types of companies. Some are more creative than others. So my brain is used to working in so many different ways. I think it affects my art in that way. People will think, “now he’s creating a horse coming out of the walls” or “now he’s just making a poster that looks like it took him like five minutes to create” or something like that. But I don’t want to make only one style because if you see many artists today, they kind of die a little bit in the big picture because they can’t develop themselves further due to the same repeating style. You have to come up with something new. And I think I’m good at coming up with new stuff.
Your style seems to be always evolving and never static. Would you agree?
Yes. If you know me as an artist, sometimes you can see some creative soul. Most people will find something in my store that say, okay, this is actually cool. And I can see in the customers I have around the world that people are so different. My buyers are so different.
So you tend to incorporate some hidden messages in your work as you’ve stated. What can you tell us about those? What inspired you to do a little storytelling through these hidden messages? The themes, what can you tell us some of the themes?
I have a theme called ‘The contrast’. For example, I have an image where a bunch of poor kids are standing outside a Louis Vuitton store taking a family photo. Then I have one with a homeless man walking with his bag and meanwhile, a Rolls-Royce is passing by. Another creation I’ve made where I show the contrast is with the Chanel bag that has a knife going through it. I want people to know that it’s only a material thing. Don’t cry over a bag. Never cry over a bag. Never cry because you can’t have it or you just can’t afford it. People that can afford it, need to be more privileged about it. You need to have food on the table every day and you have money to buy a bag for $10,000 – So be privileged, and remember that you are only one heart attack away from dying.
I want to get the message out there to people that you have to be grateful when you’re here, because one day it will be over. And it will be for all of us. For me, I now have material things, but it’s not my number one priority. It has never been. But I think it’s fun to have the money to do different kinds of creative things. So with that, I’m also feeling very privileged. Such is the contrast in the world that we are living in. Not because I want to say no one can’t be rich or no one can’t be poor or something like that. That’s not up to me to judge, but I just want to present the world as it is because it’s a fact. It’s a fact. People are living beside each other, poor and rich.
Clearly, you’ve broadened your range as far as the modalities that you express your art in. You have your digital, the NFTs, and the graphic design. And then I see you have these sculptures and the paintings. So I want you to just tell us about how your skills have translated across those different modalities.
When it comes to the graphic designs, I can do many more things on a computer than I can by hand. And my hand paintings are usually abstract because I love to create something that is powerful on the wall. I did a few paintings where I am making the lines clear, but I think it takes too much time to create it. And I’m not necessarily happy with the result after. But I like to work with different materials and different kinds of painting and just put it together and see how it works out. Sometimes I just put down a blank canvas and say, okay, let’s see where it goes. Sometimes it looks shitty, so I let it dry and paint it over again. I think it’s a process as an artist to let yourself be creative and do the things in the way you want to do it, because many people sometimes ask me, “can you make me a painting with my own ideas” and I have to say, “no, I don’t want to do that because I think it takes away the creative freedom in making art.”
When it comes to these ideas, when you have an idea in your head, how do you go about bringing it to life and whether it be a graphic or sculpture? Like, do you have a certain process that you like to go about it, or do you just kind of do it and then you refine it after? What’s your approach?
Actually, the best ideas I have are always coming at night, like two or three in the morning. Sometimes I have an idea that can make me sleepless for the rest of the night because I want to start right away. I end up feeling like I want to do it right away, but I’m also tired. But the ideas come much at night because it’s when I leave my phone at the table, turn my TV off and my computer is off. And it’s just me closing my eyes and the thoughts just start exploding in my head sometimes. What I do when I have the ideas is, I always send myself a mail with the subject. So that the next day, I am able to remember that idea because I had a couple of times where I didn’t write my ideas down. It bothers me so much when I know I have a great idea, and the morning after I can’t remember it.
You have such an eccentric personality to your art. So then what does it mean for you to put that kind of art, your kind of elements up in domestic places, like homes, offices where people are occupying their daily lives? What does that mean for you?
As I said, a big percentage of my art ships to places outside Denmark. Many of my creations like the paintings actually are not dry yet before they are sold. When I start a new project, I think about how this could look extra cool in the living room or another room in my own apartment. And when it’s done, I’m taking pictures of it and usually a customer wants to buy it right away. So it’s out the door almost immediately. It makes me proud that people want to buy my stuff and think they want to hang it on their walls. Especially since a good amount of my paintings are valuable enough so that they will not be stored in the basement. I think most people who buy my stuff can see it in their living room or they can see it in the kitchen or somewhere where they usually hang it up because they want to look at it. So that also makes me proud. I love to send out my art to the whole world.
You talked about how diverse your customers are, especially with most of them outside of your home country. Could you tell us about how this brings a sense of community to you? How do you feel connected through your art to a community around the world?
I think it’s great to have a big community, but honestly I’d rather have only 1000 people that is actually interested in buying my art and are wanting to interact with the artist I am, rather than 100.000 followers that are only passing by, onlookers. I want to create art because I want to get in people’s homes and have an effect on the interior of their homes. And as I said before, I just like to create, and I like to be creative. In fact, I’m in a position where I don’t have to do anything else than just be creative and create some different funny projects. That’s a privilege in itself.
What words would you give to yourself or to your future self?
I’ve been doing the same thing for the last twelve years, but maybe I want to give myself a hug in the future and tell myself that I have been doing okay. You are only alive once and you don’t know when the fact of life is over. I think it’s so important that you like Monday because if you like Monday, you’re very far in life. Go out there. All that matters is that you are happy.
All images with courtesy of Rasmus Benjamin