Benji Lowclass is an illustrator and graphic designer who M.C Eshered his craft into a ticket to get west. He wears a Northside patch with reverence to the general direction of big nature, where for Southern Ontario kids the awe first begins. Out the big back gate, to the countryside, to the campfires, the Milky Way, and a lake lush Canadian Shield.
Originally from “O-Shwiggity Shwa” [Oshawa], he cut his teeth under Toronto’s Reactor Art + Design, an illustration oriented design house responsible for classic hits such as the Steam Whistle Brewing logo. With some valuable industry experience, a desire to escape the big smoke and an introduction from artist and mentor Mark Kowalchuk, founder of Art School Skateboards, he connected with local Someone Collective, makers of lifestyle apparel and a collective for artists, athletes and musicians. After some persistent correspondence, Revelstoke became home base and a viable work place for his screaming hand.
Raw, old school, hand-drawn, punk, hippy, snow, skate, prison, tattoo, outlaw, biker, outdoorsy, bush-art, Canadian. If you’ve seen his collage work you’d agree, these are all flavours in a Lowclass Art piece.
In his words: “Lowclass represents the under dogs, the working class, less is more, don’t look up — look around.” Perhaps it’s the perspective of an artist hard at work, paving out visions to get their own voice, skills and experience.
“Do you know horse grass? The green bamboo looking stuff that grows by the river?” Benji is describing Equisetum, sometimes called snake grass or horsetail grass. He shows me a selection of T-shirts hanging in the Someone Collective storefront that he’s had a hand in and singles one out where the artwork was inspired by breaking apart Equisetum nodes and re-arranging them to build shapes and letters. The result is the “Culture T”, a collection of three symbols and a font style which runs down the sleeves inspired by a puzzle piece of nature.
“I keep things organic, creating most graphics by hand before bringing them into the digital world. Pencils and Sharpies are my go-to but I’ll use whatever I can find. One of the things I love about art is that you can create a masterpiece on the back of your empty beer case and a piece of charcoal from the smouldering fire, no rules.”
At times there is a playful sketchbook energy to Benji’s work that he achieves by taking chances but often final projects round themselves out after a great deal of shaping and reshaping lines and negative space. His graphic design background and experience pushing paint through screens onto T-shirts gives him a good sense for what makes a clean design ready for print.
This April he travelled to the World Ski and Snowboard Festival in Whistler and showcased his work in the State of the Art pop up exhibition. When asked to participate in the LIVE ART show, he partnered with FRESCO ONE a graffiti artist from Prince George and rolled a 36-foot school bus into the yard to perform a colab mural for the crowd. Mural and collaborative work is not something Benji shys away from and more live art performance is something he hopes to say yes to — if you are looking.
“Driving the Bus was Sam King, Owner of Ride The Vibe who performs freestyle shows with his trials dirt bike. A bunch of us piled into the
Bahalabus Bus’ packed to the teeth with art and other supplies and hit the road. The festival motto ‘PARTY IN APRIL, SLEEP IN MAY’ was bang on. It was a blur of snowboard parties, events, concerts, shredding, art collaborations, Old Mills and PBR.”
Downtown Revy you can spot his hand in the fresh letters hanging above Nico’s Pizzeria or Tantrum Ride Co. The finest dagger shirt in town belongs to a Wasted Youth piece made for Society Snow & Skate and more. Current projects also include T-shirt designs for The Hemp Trading Company, the UK’s most ethical menswear brand and EKUMENIK, a Canadian designed and Balinese constructed menswear line driven by “an alliance of boarders and lifestylers.” Lowclass contributions pepper these monthly issues of the Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine as well.
During the week you can find Benji at Someone printing T-shirts in the back. Follow, inquire and connect:
This story first appeared in the June issue of the print Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.