Designing under the name Never Sleeping Inc. is the whimsical, multi-talented artist Ben Chlapek. At first glance, Chlapek’s illustrations may appear as mere childlike cartoons, but upon further inspection they reveal humorous, and often dark, undertones.
While studying graphic design at the University of Missouri in 2006, Chlapek discovered poster art and was instantly drawn to the process of screen printing. And though he has an inherent love for music, Chlapek says that he’s not musically inclined. “Personally, I still can’t get a good grasp on sitting down and creating a song, but I can create a piece of art in minutes.” Designing rock posters and unique album artwork for musicians was a natural fit.
Chlapek’s drawings begin with simple pen and ink renderings in his sketchbook. They are then digitally converted and minimally edited, finally making their way onto screens for printing. Generally, he uses completely original drawings and text, though from time to time, a found image or texture may be incorporated into his work.
The design process tends to vary depending on the project. Coming up with an initial concept can often be tedious. “Sometimes it takes weeks of thinking about [an idea] before I can actually see it in my head and put it down on paper,” Chlapek says.
The artist’s visual influences include the satirical and darkly humorous work of cartoonist Saul Steinberg, Where the Wild Things Are writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak, and contemporary fine artist Marcel Dzama. The subtle sketches and delicate linear quality are what stand out most within Chlapek’s pieces, often existing in juxtaposition to his playful imagery or text.
Recent clients include internationally known bands such as Iron & Wine, Feist, The Mountain Goats, and Snoop Dogg. However, Chlapek also produces a large array of posters, fliers, and album artwork for indie bands across the Midwest. Moreover, he is involved in a variety of other artistic endeavors. Chlapek self-publishes short books, zines, postcards, greeting cards, illustrations, and logos.
His poster art tends to incorporate a wide array of pastel hues, neutral tones, and detailed text, whereas his other illustrations are often brighter and louder in appearance. All of his artwork, however, contains similar cartoon-style figures, simple yet sophisticated structures, and a hint of cynicism and wit.
“I think the creative process is different for everyone,” Chlapek says. “It comes down to not worrying about being good, and just creating something you are proud of.”
At present, Chlapek has his hands full with a variety of projects. He is working on artwork for The Hush Sound’s upcoming singles, and he is busy with illustrating new zines and multiple animation projects as well as gathering material for a solo exhibit in November.