If someone asked you about Vine, your first reaction would probably be: “Oh that app with the funny six-second videos?” Sure, Vine is home to a lot of great creators making hilarious content, like Aaron Chewning and Victor Pope Jr. But if you really explore Vine, you will find a vast community of creators making a whole range of content, and supporting one another. Enter the talented Mike Bennet.
Mike Bennett, is a popular artist/animator on Vine. The Pennsylvania-based Viner posts fun animations of his own original artwork, as well as familiar art from Disney and Nintendo. In the past year his artwork and presence on Vine has lead to exciting opportunities, like collaborating with other Viners for a series of Vines such as #CloudWatching and #MikeGetsTheGroceries. Mike was also featured on Comedy Central’s late-night comedy competition @midnight, an opportunity he credits the Vine community for making happen. Mike attributes his success to this Vine community, which aside from supporting his art, just recently banded together to help pay for his dog Maggie’s vet bills. He says the support is “endless…it’s so great. I haven’t been able to network with artists like this level without Vine. It’s just completely unexpected.”
Mike was extremely generous to take the time to talk to CreatorUp on the phone about how he became an artist and integrating that with Vine, building a community in Vine, how the app has allowed him to evolve as an artist, and why Vine can be “a scary, weird, and awesome place.”
CREATORUP: Can you tell me a little more about yourself, like, how you got into drawing and how did you learn?
Mike: I have an obsession with old Disney animated films, like any other kid does I guess. I would watch them countless times. 101 Dalmatians my mom told me that I wore out the video tape and she had to replace it because I watched it so many times. So I’m sure it’s rooted there at some point, because my ultimate goal someday would to be an animator professionally. I started from there and was drawing comics all the time as a little kid to the point where I was asked not to because I wasn’t paying attention to the teacher. I have boxes in my parents’ attic of old comic books that I used to draw and all sorts of things, so, I don’t know, I don’t think I have much of a choice in the matter.
You have a certain style, how did you discover your it?
When you start drawing as a little kid, everything kind of looks the same. As the years passed, I started slowly realizing which cartoon shows and comic books I appreciated and why. I loved Courage the Cowardly Dog, Dexter’s Laboratory, basically everything on Cartoon Network. I see a lot of styles and colors from their shows in my drawing. But, I don’t know, it’s another one of those things where, sometimes it just clicks and you know what works for you and what doesn’t. It’s kind of hard to explain I guess.
Yeah, it comes a part of you in a way.
Exactly! Now it’s so weird, because I’ll sit down and draw something and I don’t even really know why I do certain things the way I do and I think about it too much. If I try to think too much I get myself all baffled and confused even I don’t understand what I’m doing, it just happens.
Cool. And so how did you discover Vine?
I did a podcast, a couple friends and I hopped on the podcast craze. I was sitting down and my friend Jeff asked me if I had heard of [Vine], and my reaction was kind of like, “you mean like the plant?” I had no idea! I didn’t realize it was the six-second videos I kept seeing on YouTube, that they were stemming from somewhere. I checked it out. I tried to do that sketch comedy you see all the time, it’s not really for me, and then I remember I drew Wreck it Ralph. I broke a glass at work, I did a video of “Wreck it Ralph” breaking a glass and it was the first time I used a drawing in one of my Vines and it actually brought me success so I kind of I stuck with that and it kind of worked for me.
Branching off of that, a lot of people use Vine to project themselves, so you chose to project yourself through your art and cartoons.
Yeah you fall back on what you’re comfortable with. You know, you’re supposed to take risks in life, and it’s another situation where it works, it works, and you just got to roll with it.
How did you establish yourself in the Vine community?
I took the cheap route. I chose people who I respected and thought were cool and I started drawing people and tweeting them out and letting people see it. I would remake Vines using Illustrator versions of the people who I liked on there. I think that may have been before the revine option was around. So I guess just word of mouth. And then the revine stuff happened, you know, that obviously helped. It was kinda of doing drawings favors for people without them asking.
Once you got that audience and you started becoming your own, how did you hold on to that and expand on it?
Oh that’s easy, the community. Some people will be on Vine and pay for followers, they pay for revines, but the real secret is just to make friends and keep friends. You know, talk to people, respond to your comments, even if you don’t know the person, they’re is still a person behind every comment. Which is, ultimately one of the coolest things that came out of this. Any success I’ve had with my art is kind of shadowed by the friendships I’ve made and people that I’ve actually gotten to visit. It’s a pretty cool experience.
You collaborate with a lot of people, and a big one that you just had was the series where Viners were looking at clouds in the sky, and the clouds are cartoons you’ve drawn. How did that come about, how did you do that?
I guess, maybe a year ago I did a series of Vines where I drew faces on a bunch of food store products…
Yes! I remember that!
Actually fun story, I got asked to leave the grocery store because they thought I was some weird guy taking pictures of grocery store products….but yeah it was so cool to reach out to people who I hadn’t talked to yet or to people I talk to on a daily basis, and have them do voice work for me. Then I put a face to the voice once they sent me the audio file. I thought that was really fun, but then, I was sending the script to them at that point, so I thought, it would be fun to challenge myself instead. Basically I sent an invitation out to a bunch of people and said: Hey! Here’s what I want you to do, go lay in your yard, look up at the sky, and tell me what you see even if you don’t actually see it.” That gave me a challenge where I had to actually animate what they were telling me, whether I wanted to or not. Which was really fun. That was more or less of an exercise for myself that people like to watch, I guess.
Yeah, it worked out!
It worked out on both sides.
What advice would you give to people who want to reach out to other Viners who want to collaborate?
Again, I have a very positive experience with Vine, and I’ve never had any negative interactions with people, so just remember that all these people…you know I wait tables and bartend for a living, I live in a town with people just under 5,000. And I’m not the only one like that, just because I have a decent fan base and everything, there still is a real person there. It never hurts to talk to someone. Nine incidents out of ten they are going to respond or talk back. Just because you see someone doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk to you.
How is the cartoon and art side of Vine different than the rest of Vine?
There is a weird respect for the art side of Vine. Vine as an app seems to appreciates the art side of Vine. If you look at the editor’s pick page, nine times out of ten it’s going to be a very well filmed art-style Vine or something that happens where you’re just getting your camera out and catch something cool. They have a good respect for that. From the money making side of Vine, a lot of companies seem to appreciate artwork and original material over comedy. Which is, again, acceptable on both ends on Vine.
There seems to be this community of art cartooner Viners.
Right, and I love it so much. We all talk, which is awesome, and we learn from each other. We all have common ground on Vine, once you get past that a ton of these artists are now friends because of a platform that was given out for free on a phone. Now it’s like…I have conversations with people where we don’t even mention that word, we don’t mention Vine the entire time. It’s just: “Hey let’s have a little critique with each other. How can we all get better?”
It’s so hard to think of a time before Vine, because it’s made me evolve as an artist so much. So it’s cool.
Basically, when I started doing Vine I was doing entirely paper cut-outs. Everything that I had done was miniature paper dolls with moving mouths and moving parts. It started evolving over time, I started to figure out ways to add special effects. The hard part was I was doing it all behind the camera and with my own two hands. Everything I shot was usually audio recorded on the Vine app. There’s a respect for that on Vine, and there’s also a disrespect for anyone who uploads [as opposed to those who film straight from the app]. But once the app allowed you to upload, I decided I was actually going to try and teach myself animation digitally which I’ve never dabbled in before. It works for me, I don’t necessarily see as good of a turn out on my actual account, but when it comes to building a resume, I don’t know, it’s cool. Again, I wouldn’t have done it without the app. It was just a step that I took because I really wanted to see good reactions from the community and everything. Which ultimately ended up being positive. It’s such a drive from waiting to see what people say about what you do.
What do you hope for the future?
Well, I’ve had some major success…the @midnight situation was unbelievable. Thanks to the support of everyone who supported me, I got to go on @midnight as their “@midnight Vine intern.” I got to be on for a night, it was amazing. Again, I live in a small town where there’s not really a whole lot of culture here. It’s small town Pennsylvania. So now I know that I do need to operate at some point, and get closer to a city and start making things happen. You can only do so much from your computer. At the very core of it, if I think about it, if I end up moving, it’s all because of the motivation the Vine community has given me. Which again, is weird to say aloud! I don’t think I would have realized what I had to do to make things work without it.
It’s definitely unexpected, but it’s a cool turn.
So cool! And I don’t if I will personally ever have an experience like this again. Another social media platform could pop out of nowhere but you might not have the luck you’ve had like I and some of the other people did. You know, which is also really cool because that’ll open you up to whole other group of people. It’s a scary, weird, and awesome place.animating, animation, art, collaborating, community, Interview, Mike Bennett, Vine