Who The Folk?! Ari Binus

Meet an illustrator who was educated at Boston University and now continues work on his storyboards and graphic novels. He’s illustrated children’s books including Around the Shabbos Table by Seryl Berman and Hayyim’s Ghost ” by Eric Kimmel. From the beginning of his fine arts career, Binus dabbled in voiceovers for commercials to find his niche in illustration. Learn about him in this week’s Who The Folk?!

Are you originally from the Twin Cities area?

No, I’m originally from Boston actually. So we’ve had family that has lived here before but I’ve been in Boston pretty much my whole life.

After looking through your illustrations, I noticed a theme of heroism. Do you think this is something you gravitate towards in your work?

I love heroics and superheroes. One of my biggest creative influences from when I was a teenager was the Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller and Batman Year 1. They’re both Batman stories. They were very cinematic, graphic novels and his work has had a lot of impact on things that have come since then. It had a huge impact on me. There is definitely an influence with superheroes and drama.

How would you describe your work?

My freelance life gets weirder and weirder as it goes. Basically, I did a few children’s books which were all Jewish children’s books. Then I’ve sort of got interested in doing storyboarding which is basically taking a script for a story or a commercial and then breaking the scenes of the script down into camera shots. It’s designing where to put the camera, what the shot will look like and tying together from shot to shot. It’s almost like a comic book of a movie. They take storyboards and turn it into an animatic.

This is really interesting where you’ve gone with your career. I saw you studied painting at Boston University?

I studied fine arts. Even at BU I was really interested in those graphic novels and Star Wars. I was actually a very bad student. I’ve become a better student. I guess it happens to all of us where you start to understand your mind better, your thought processes and what keeps your attention. Back then, I thought I wanted to act. I fell into doing voiceovers for commercials and thought that was what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life.

What made you move to Minneapolis?

Well, my brother is here. My fiancée, Jackie, and I were looking for a change from Boston. We thought Minneapolis looked really interesting so between those two things so we decided to move here if Jackie could get an internship. She’s been studying law.

And you’ve been here for a few months?

Yeah, about three to four months.

Did you work on a documentary called “They Played for Their Lives”?

Yeah, it’s a documentary about the Holocaust.

What was your process for taking such a somber subject and translating it into your drawings?

It’s interesting because that film is actually in a lot of ways one of the few uplifting Holocaust films. That was their aim. In the drawings obviously, there is going to be some somber stuff. That was a back and forth we had with the directors and producers because they wanted this to be different. They sort of felt given the topic that it was about hope and there are so many Holocaust documentaries on a somber subject. I was trying to point out to them that look I know they want it to be all uplifting but look the hope won’t mean as much unless they have the somber stuff to contrast it.

What are you working on right now?

Right now, I am writing a graphic novel that I am going to be illustrating. The author that came to me with the script, we ended up reworking it together and became co-authors. It’s taken about a year to create characters and a story arc.

Favorite Jewish food?

That’s hard to say because no Jewish food stands out to me.

Favorite Jewish holiday?

My favorite Jewish holiday is probably Passover. I think it’s fascinating but maybe I’m saying that because it is connected to the project I’m working on right now. I also really love Hannukah. I love the festive quality of it.

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