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BW on BW

Ben Wilson sketches Boise Weekly

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Editor's Note: The Josh Ritter poster was not created for Record Exchange. It was commissioned for a Music from Stanley event at the Egyptian Theatre.

For the past six years, artist Ben Wilson's often quirky illustrations have been gracing the pages of Boise Weekly.

When Wilson realized he'd created around 150 illustrations for Boise Weekly (in addition to several covers), he decided to add 50 of those original graphite drawings to his current exhibit at Basement Gallery, which runs through the end of February.

Wilson said he enjoys the more difficult BW assignments the most. "I see the Weekly illustrations as good exercises," he said, "and the ones [in which] I don't know much about the subject help me hone my skills. I like being pushed to do something new."

Wilson's work starts organically, with paper and pencil, and is finished digitally on a computer. He usually adds design elements to his drawings, but occasionally he takes something away, too. An original drawing he created for a Josh Ritter concert poster for Record Exchange had Ritter holding a leather whip. In the final version, Ritter is holding a conductor's wand instead. Wilson likes showing pieces like that side by side because they tell a story, much like a BW illustration of Doug Martsch—a favorite of Wilson's and of BW staffers.

"I like this one because I tore a page out of my sketchbook, which I don't usually do." He wasn't going to use the drawing and said he made several others. "But I kept going back to that one. So I tore it out of my book and glued it to another piece of paper so I could add more to it. It also has the tracklist of [Built to Spill's] new album at the time because I was listening to it for inspiration."

Wilson can only remember one time that an illustration didn't work. His assignment was to draw an image for a story about golf on the cheap. He didn't quite get the gist of the story.

"I sent in an image of a golfer with a mullet wearing a Ted Nugent T-shirt," Wilson said. "But that's not quite what Leila [BW's art director] was looking for. I think she ran a photo instead," he added, laughing.

One of the earliest illustrations Wilson did for BW is Barbecue Sauce. In it, a man stands cooking at a grill. A cat, high on a little catnip, is perched on his shoulder, trying to catch a butterfly. Wilson is fond of that drawing for sentimental reasons: It was his first assignment for a BW main feature story. "It's one of my favorites because of the memories associated with it."

Basement Gallery, open Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 928 W. Main St., 208-333-0309.