THE ART PLUG EDITORIAL: KETNIPZ
WHO IS BEHIND THE BEAN?
BY JOHN OLDANI - MAY 21, 2018
At 18 years old, Harry Hambley has become more than just an Instagram sensation. The Cardiff, Wales native has established himself as one of the most popular webcomics on the internet, using positivity and comedy to build his brand. Hambley, better known as Ketnipz, signed exclusively with The Art Plug earlier this year, and is now known around the world.
“I was never really good at sports, so I spent a lot of my free time drawing and doodling,” he said. “I just liked how easy it was to pick up a pen and paper and immediately feel like I could make anything I wanted.”
But Ketnipz’s work was never just a hobby for him, he knew that one day his art would become his career - and now his signature “Bean” character has been shared by millions of people across social media.
“Even when I was younger I never really classed my interest in art as a hobby. I knew that the sooner I treated it as my livelihood, the sooner it would become just that,” Hambley said. “I started selling portraits to kids in school and through Instagram, even though my work was still at a very hobbyist standard.”
Hambley posted his first comic on Instagram in June of 2016. He has since grown his following to an impressive 500k+ followers, growing daily by the thousands, alongside his signature “Bean” character, a genderless bean promoting positivity.
“For the idea behind the Bean, I just wanted to make a character with a friendly face that could relate to everyone’s small, day-to-day hardships,” Hambley said.
His comics consist of relatable scenarios mixed with light-hearted irony and humor. Ketnipz wanted to create a character who spoke to his followers, giving them a quick outlet for a bit of escapism throughout their day.
“I think that people always look to cartoons for some amount of comic relief, especially during hard times,” he said. “During the Great Depression, Disney flourished as a company, and after the Second World War, Hello Kitty rose to fame.”
Ketnipz cited his inspiration from cartoons that he enjoyed as a kid. “I take a lot from the Moomins, Adventure Time and Over the Garden Wall. Sometimes I even find myself referencing Spongebob’s stylistics without even realizing. It’s probably all subconscious at this point.”
As the Bean's fanbase grew, Instagram took notice and linked up with Ketnipz to share his beloved character with their users. Together, they created a series of stickers using the Bean that could be shared by all Instagram users via their stories and posts.
“It’s pretty surreal having a company like Instagram (the company that you’ve based your whole livelihood on) reach out over DMs and ask to collaborate,” he said. “For a long while I was just lost for words. It makes you realize that you never know what might be around the corner!”
Ketnipz has enjoyed a successful start to his career, working with social media powerhouses like Instagram while building on the character that he created. He is also in talks with Snapchat, card companies and various publishers. Although he has established a strong platform to portray his work, Ketnipz wants to grow and meet the people who enjoy his art.
“As much as I appreciate Instagram for giving me a platform to reach people through my work, I feel like there’s only so much you can do creatively on social media,” he said. “There’s still a lot of value in interacting with an audience in real life, other than just online.”
Monsieur Marcel, a lifestyle art publishing company, will be releasing limited edition prints by Ketnipz in a series titled "Comfort Food" - featuring the Bean in various food dishes. Each print will be available in two sizes (11x14 and 24x24 inches). The 11x14's are an edition of 50 and the 24x24 inches are an edition of 10. They will be released on Thursday, May 24th at 10am PST at www.monsieurmarcel.net.
The next Ketnipz pop-up store will take place at 393 Broadway in New York City on June 1st/2nd, and will be a cluster of the artist’s most recent creative endeavors. Inspired by the idea of expression through customization and craft, the show will revolve around typical art forms, and how they bleed into everything else. It is also all about collaboration this time, as Ketnipz works with two separate companies to create unique items of clothing and artwork. Working with the up-and-comic denim repurposing company, AndAgain, both brands have come together to create 6 bespoke pieces of apparel, with a strong focus on re-imagining worn-out jeans. Then, through working with The Art Plug, Ketnipz will present 8 original pieces of art, along with a limited run of prints. There will also be a small line of custom t-shirts to celebrate the event, and donuts to celebrate National Donut Day.
“While the look and motive of the Bean character has already been established, I still feel like I have a lot to build around it creatively,” he said. “I’m now venturing into creating bigger work through different mediums, like paintings and murals - and putting more emphasis on the character itself.”
Harry “Ketnipz” Hambley has managed to do what so many others have tried to accomplish, and all before the age of twenty. In a world filled with negative images and toxicity on the internet, the positivity of the Bean and Ketnipz are a welcome breath of fresh air. Ketnipz will continue his quest to bring a little joy into the lives of people of all ages; on Instagram, through paintings, and other ventures.
“All I’m trying to do with my work is make a safe space for people, where they can laugh at their everyday problems, remember that they are not alone in them, and forget about the world for a minute.”
You can find Ketnipz on Instagram @ketnipz and join him in NYC on June 1st and 2nd for a pop-up at 393 Broadway featuring original artwork, limited edition prints and branded clothing. For more information visit www.theartplug.net/events/ketnipz-nyc-popup.