A great talk with the talented Mr Jeff Benitez.
Jeff Benitez is a fascinating Phillipines based artist, but as his photo may indicate collecting toys is his other passion. He explained to me, "I love toys. I collect all sorts of lines especially the ones I grew up with like Transformers, Legos, Marvel, Micromachines, Gundams, Dragonball Z, 80s toys, and comicbooks." It was a great pleasure to have a quick chat with him and I encourage western publishers both here in the UK and America to hire this extremely talented gentleman.
Paul: How did your love of art begin? Did comics inspire you to become an artist?
Jeff: Since I was 1. In grade school I often competed in art related competitions and my school always put me in interschool art contests which I usually would win. When I was in high school a friend of mine introduced me to X-Men comics and Marvel trading cards. Thats when i get hooked with comicbooks. The first comicbook that I bought was an Infinity Gauntlet no.1 and X-Men no.1 by Jim Lee, after reading them I told myself that I wanted to be an artist.
Paul: As an artist would you say you are self taught or have you had any formal art school training?
Jeff: I have 2 years in the advertising arts but I shifted to architecture when I was in college. I had acquired some in school but I am mostly self taught by reading and studying movements in comic book pages. I will always love Jim Lee, Joe Mad, Art Adams, Ringo, Humberto Ramos, and Ed McGuinness. Those were my inspiration pursuing my art.
Paul: How would you descibe yourself now? Would you say you are an illustrator or a comic artist?
Jeff: I have worked on a lot of comics before but mostly independent ones here in the philippines. I also did my own comics and characters and have published quite a few, but my professional job now is doing sketch cards for major companies and directing a company as well for sketch cards. My passion is helping other artists share their talent to other people and the world and that's what I have been doing these past few years. I am handling almost 70 artists in our company and drawing sets as well. So above being an illustrator and a comicbook artist I love to uplift artists that I can help and inspire the next generation of artists as well. That is my passion and that is my calling I believe.
Paul: I apologise, living in the UK I am not terribly familiar with the comic scene in The Phillipines. Could you describe it at all?
Jeff: We had around 5 to 8 comic conventions before the pandemic. Right now we have only around 3 to 4 per year but it is steadily normalising. We have so many creators that make independant books here we are blessed. A lot of creators sell them typically at conventions, but now they are pushing them digitally. Yet, it is far more fun going to conventions and meeting creators and asking for signatures and photos.
Paul: What are you working on currently?
Jeff: I am doing tons of Marvel sketch cards and other properties as well as directing art for Typhoon Productions which is a sketch card company from China.
Paul: I'd like to end by asking about your toy collection. You mentioned you have a reasonable collection. Which would you say is your proudest item in your collection?
Jeff: Its really hard to say because I love all of them passionately. But one of my proudest are my comicbook collections and books. I think i have around 10,000 pieces. I also love my Marvel toy collections ranging from Hottoys, Marvel selects, legends, and Iron Studio statues. I am still building my house and when I am done I would ike to show you my collections as well.
Jeff: Lastly I am also intimately in love with my 80s toy nostalgia collections. Remembering my kid days and envying my peers with their collections, when I got an opportunity to buy them now I always make sure I get them. I usually haggle the prices to get the maximum discount as well as bulk buys to maximize the amount of toys I can buy from a seller. If you are really passionate with collecting you will really find the best value of the things you love the most.
Paul: Thank you Jeff, it has been an absolute pleasure.