Newcomer Brendan Benson Takes 'Digital' UK Championship By Storm

Jan 3, 2024

Teaming up with Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty (@adultswimeurope) for the first time, IWS players were tasked with not only illustrating News Headlines supplied by HUFFPOST but also incorporating a subtle reference to Rick and Morty, marking the Series’ 10th anniversary.

IWS has a policy whereby at least 20% of the rostrum at each tournament must be new blood; this year’s UK Illustration Championships however witnessed almost 40% of the field populated with fresh talent. One of these new players would leave a lasting impression and become the eventual winner as our champion Brendan Benson (@benson.ink) wowed judges and fans alike with some of the most consistent performances seen from a DIGITAL newcomer since Killer Napkins (@killernapkins) triumphed at the Illustrated Masters in 2022.

What went down? See below:

Day 1 / Round 1 saw two top-tier newcomers face off as Benson got stuck into French talent SYKOSAN (@sykosan), scheduled as the tournament’s opening digital head-2-head and billed as ‘One To Watch’, this clash was to be savored.

Both players (unknown quantities on the IWS circuit)  quickly got to grips with HUFFPOST Headline: “Three Signs Your Co-Worker Is An Energy Vampire”. The fanbase were in for a treat as it became clear both artists had prepared hard for their IWS premier. SYKOSAN kicked things off as expected with his unique brand of Manga influenced illustration as he depicted an overbearing self-obsessed colleague slowly sucking life from her co-worker and their pot plant!. Brendan however appeared to be in full-flight as he compiled a brilliant opener with smart use of shadows to build an intelligent dual narrative showing an energy vampire draining and depleting his helpless victim.

In what would be Brendan’s top scoring entry and the highest overall Digital score at this year's UK Illustration Championships he successfully navigated the RND 1 minefield winning 45.75 V 40.

Noticeably buoyed by his Round 1 win, Brendan moved into the QTR Finals, sizing-up an equally formidable newcomer in Lei Melendres (@leimelendres), who also had an impressive Rnd 1 opener tallying a comprehensive victory against IWS veteran EEZU ONE (@eezuone). 

Grappling with HUFFPOST Headline: “Gen Z Are Giving Up Their Career Ambitions During The Cost Of Living Crisis” Lei kicked things off depicting a Gen Z employee and accompanying laptop being viciously crushed by a bearish trend-line while their creative aspirations were also vaporized in tandem …

An ‘in-form’ Brendan Benson crafted an equally impressive entry, compiling another succinct piece of narrative depicting a sizable ‘dollar tattooed’ devil armed with a giant knitting needle, intent on deflating the aspirations of a helpless Morty. Two impressive illustrations from two exciting newcomers as Brendan (forced to rely on his social vote) secured the victory by the smallest of margins closing-out the battle 37.5 V 37.25.

Day 3 (as always) presented the opportunity for one of our four remaining players to move into the final. This Semi-Final would prove Benson’s toughest challenge yet as an insurgent Mr Matt Zan (@mrmattzan) growing in confidence had successfully navigated himself into the Semis after dispatching reigning UK Champ and Scottish powerhouse IMIRE (@createdbyimrie). 

As they battled against Art-Haus HUFFPOST Headline: “Titanic Director James Cameron Had This Strict Requirement For Extras In The Film”, Matt, widely experienced with the IWS framework appeared to be on a roll. 

However, despite his superb QTR Final victory Vs IMRIE, Matt appeared to be slowing as it became clear he’d given himself too much to-do (despite cleverly including ‘height compliant’ Tiny Rick). In the meantime Brendan ramped up the narrative and headline interpretation showcasing a Titanic themed fairground: ‘James World’, marsheld by Mr Poopybutthole, the man responsible for overseeing minimum height requirements as a dejected Morty and jubilant Pickle Rick look on!

Winning the judges scorecard alone was sufficient as Matt, despite securing the social vote was knocked out handing Brendan the win with scores tabulated @ 43.5 V 43.25.

As the ‘Champ in Waiting’ marched into the final, HUFFPOST headline: “The Horrifying Reason Why You Shouldn’t Hold In A Sneeze” set the stage for a mouthwatering crescendo as Benson once again geared up. His opponent; a vastly experienced, confident and battle-hardened Tonyboy (@tonyboy_____) also entering the final after an impressive albeit energy sapping Semi-Final victory Vs unforeseen tournament front runner IAREUGLY (@iareugly12).

Both players with the customary 60 minute preparation window between Semi Final and Final, (unique to IWS’ tournament framework) decided to depict Pickle Rick as their centerpiece.

Tonyboy sticking with his neon green colour palette, a bold move which had served him well in the previous round, kick-started proceedings working at lightning pace as it became apparent he intended to animate his piece. Brendan however who’d consistently logged high scores across both Interpretation and Narrative judging criteria played to his strengths as he once again flexed, delivering a decisive narrative, clearly showcasing the unfortunate results of ‘holding a sneeze’. He cleverly advertised ‘Rick’s Pickles’ in a bold portrayal showing Pickle Rick accidently dicing himself into burger-friendly segments while struggling to contain a sneeze!

As the 60 minute battle came to a close, in contrast to Tonyboy’s animated sneeze and snot covered Pickle Rick successfully bypassing the users handkerchief, Benson, as anticipated, scored more heavily across both Interpretation and Narrative, delivering a significant bodyblow to his opponent and in doing-so securing himself a historic win without relying on the social vote (won convincingly by Tonyboy 63% V 37%) as final scorecards wrapped @ 43.5 V 42.75 respectively. 

Congratulations to UK Illustration Championships 2023 (DIGITAL) Winner Brendan Benson for such a consistent performance across three challenging days of Live tournament illustration.

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