Ben Gore works across a range of mediums, as an illustrator and photographer, with his own publishing press (Blue Monday Press) and as a creator – and advocate – of zines. Gore’s work has a certain wit about it - from his drawings of a skateboarding Paddington the Bear, and a nihilistic Kermit the Frog declaring the meaninglessness of life, to his hip hop-inspired tarot cards and books. As an advocate for taking publishing matters into your own hands, he has written about how to get set up as a self-publisher, taking a helpful and pragmatic approach to doing it yourself.

What’s the appeal of self publishing your own work? 

Self-publishing appeals to me for a myriad of reasons. Trying to publish traditionally can lead to jumping through hoops while persuading a publisher why they should be investing in your work and getting a very small percentage of the profits. I’m able to create and publish work on my own timescale and without any editorial oversight. The success or failure of a project is entirely in my hands - I can market it in my own way, and I can keep a far larger percentage of the profits.

Your work spans a lot of disciplines – do you think it’s unavoidable to be multi-disciplinary in the current creative world?

I think it’s possible to still be a single discipline artist but you have to be at a very high level to maintain that. I just enjoy making things; I find it fun to experiment in different mediums and using a variety of mediums brings out different sides of me artistically. My illustration work is quite cartoony, fun and light hearted, whereas my collage and photo work tends to have more of a dark edge to it. I think switching your focus around with mediums can keep you on your toes and it keeps you learning. The composition techniques you learn making a collage might feed into your photography or illustration and vice versa. Making art is playing and using various mediums is like playing with different toys. It keeps it exciting and fun. I tend to burn myself out or get bored if I focus to hard on one thing for too long.


Where did you get the ideas for things such as hip hop cocktail book, tarot cards and colouring books?

Figuring out where ideas come from is one of the most difficult things about being an artist. A lot of the projects just come from putting a twist on a traditional form i.e. the cocktail book, colouring book, tarot cards etc. I like making work that is interactive in some way because I like there to be a function to art as opposed to just form so the buyer can use what I make in their own way. You can read your future with the Tarot cards, you can make the cocktails in the book, and you can colour in the pages in your own way. I find it hard to create when I don’t have rules set for myself, so the first step of a project for me is always setting myself guidelines. I’ll usually choose an end goal and set rules that I can work towards, and I think that’s where most of my ideas come from. It’s a case of figuring out a way I want to work and what that style might work with as an end product.

The Hip Hop Tarot cards came about specifically because I was reading about symbolism and came across a chapter about the Tarot. There was a card called the Hermit, who’s description reminded me of MF DOOM, so I decided to illustrate the card that way. I really enjoyed the process and decided to see which other rappers matched other cards. I quite like setting myself research for projects like finding the cocktails rapped about for the Hip Hop Cocktails book or figuring out the fight moves for the Grimemon cards series.


Why did you found Blue Monday Press, and what do you see as its role?

I founded Blue Monday Press originally as a way to put out my first photobook Second Adolescence. I wanted to create a publisher that I could use to put out my work. It’s grown since then into a platform to release art projects, merchandise, books, and as a banner under which I host exhibitions. I see its role as a way for me to put out my work, but also as a way to promote emerging artists through the collaborative exhibitions that I do. I’ve been involved in group shows for a number of years and I really like being able to provide a platform for artists to get their work in print or on gallery walls for the first time. I try and do at least one themed open submission show a year to help emerging artists get their work out there and realise that it’s possible to get your work in a book or a gallery.


How can zines reach people in a digital world?

I think it’s easy for zines to reach people in a digital world. As much as people enjoy endlessly scrolling through social media feeds, there’s nothing like the physical. The feel, smell and weight of a book or zine in your hands is incomparable to anything the digital can achieve. The digital world is fleeting but you can go back to a book endlessly. I’ve always loved books; I think they’re great ways to share stories or pictures. The digital world is fragments all these competing fragments shouting at you at the same time, but one book or zine is this special time capsule that is uneditable representing an artist or writer’s mentality at this specific time. No-one wants to look through all the people you follow on Instagram, but they’d love to look through your bookshelf.

See more of Ben’s work

Check out Blue Monday Press

Follow Ben on Instagram