10 Questions featuring Nim Ben-Reuven
Inspired by the Proust Questionnaire, I'm asking letterers and calligraphers I admire to share their thoughts on success, frustration, personal experiences, and more.
First time I met Nim was on a type meet-up a few years ago. I had just started and suddenly found myself sipping cocktails with Nim, Eric Friedensohn, Ricardo Gonzalez, and I don't know who else. I was so new, I wasn't even following any of them.
Nim is not only an amazing lettering talent (seriously, his cartouches and flourishes? Beyond.), he's also talking about mental health, nihilism, and has a wicked sense of humor. And before I fangirl too hard, cos it would get embarrassing and he hates that shit, here are his responses.
What's your name and where can we find you?
What's your lettering / calligraphy background?
I'm a lettering artist who is mostly self-taught but have apprenticed with Tony DiSpigna in order to get the ol' fancy-noodles running. I've been scribbling for about 5 years now and do it more or less as my job now. I began lettering in order to give myself a meditative practice during which I could sit for hours and not think about the craziness of the world around me for a little bit.
When was the last time you surprised yourself?
A few seconds ago when I caught my own vacant, googly-eyed face staring back at me from the dark screen of my computer. Thought it was a goblin coming to steal my delicious brains.
What is your greatest frustration in the creative process?
My process is often laced with frustrations and failures, which inevitably lead to good things, I guess. So probably the entire creative process is frustrating for me but in a good way? Kind of like how difficult physical processes lead to feelings of elation after a good struggle. But sometimes there is no elation after the struggle, as I often dislike the finished product. This is convoluted way to say that I enjoy the frustrations involved in making things. Except for when I'm asked to brainstorm amongst a group of people. For some reason that is absolute torture to me.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Getting out of bed this morning. Not sure how I did it but I am deeply proud of that accomplishment. Thank you.
Who are your favorite artists?
Although I personally focus a great deal on lettering, most of my favorite artists are in other disciplines. I'm a huge fan of Becky Sloan & Joseph Pelling, the creators of the absolutely fascinating and bizarre Don't Hug Me I'm Scared videos. I very much like the paintings of Michael Sowa, the comic art of Edward Gorey, George Herriman (Krazy Kat) and Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes). As for written word: Naomi Klein and Yuval Noah Harari are fascinating heavy-hitters for me.
What is your motto?
"Guaranteed to Disappoint" - it may seem rough, but you'd be surprised how many lawsuits it gets me out of when clients are disappointed with my work and want their moneys back.
If you weren't a letterer/calligrapher, what would you be and why?
Before I entered this world of letters, I thought I would be the following, in no particular order: A musician, a housepainter, a syndicated comic strip artist, a mediator of police & community relations, a med school drop out, a therapist, and a homicide detective. My background is in Sociology with a focus on deviant behavior and mediation, which explains the more left-field professions. I wanted to be a famous musician because, let's face it, I think everyone does. A comic strip artist because I thought I was "funny" but didn't realize how practically impossible it was to become syndicated. And housepainting because that's what I spent a lot of time doing while I didn't have other work.
What's your ONE piece of advice to people starting out?
Seek advice from people who aren't in the design / lettering / advertising profession. Or at least people who are over the age of 45, with a considerable amount of life experience behind them. Seriously, we often look with wide eyes toward young, successful practitioners in our own fields for the secrets to creativity, motivation, etc. but these people (myself included) are still in the early stages of learning about this stuff themselves. What may have worked for a 22 year old who got famous on the 'Gram off of motivational lettering may come back and bite that same person in the ass a couple years down the line and shift their whole way of looking at the world. Try to immerse yourself in as many walks of life outside of the 'creative' ones as possible. But then again, refer to the first sentence and don't listen to me.
Anything you'd like to add
I promise I've got many more disappointing projects coming up in the near future to leave folks scratching their heads at how dark and self-effacing they are.