Ben Corn Brings “Bertha” to Skull & Roses

“Like most kids I started out with a crayon. My parents always supported my creativity. I was that kid in class that could kind of draw effortlessly,” artist Ben Corn explained. The tattoo artist and designer from Norco, California discovered the music of the Grateful Dead thanks to a path laid down by his music afficionado mother. “My first hand-me-down records were from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Motown greatest hits and early Willie Nelson. My music tastes have been all over the place. The Grateful Dead found their place in my life along the way.”

For nearly thirty years, Ben has made his living doing tattoos, specializing in big, bold bodysuits. His biggest influence in that style is artist Filip Leu and other tattoo greats like Greg Irons and Jack Rudy. “I was originally a tattoo collector and early on I would draw designs for friends to go get tattooed professionally. I just didn’t want to mess people up. A local artist named Roger Blankenship (RIP) from Mira Loma, Ca., saw some of my art and offered to apprentice me. I shortly dropped out of college pursuing an art degree to teach and began my life as a tattoo artist. I consider my career started a year into my apprenticeship, so I’ve been tattooing professionally now since 1997,” he said.

On the side, Ben takes on freelance design projects. “I have done a lot of t-shirt designs over the years. I worked alongside the Kottonmouth Kings for years doing merchandise and a couple album covers for them and their side projects,” he said. He also creates designs for his own merchandise, like shirts, hats, baby clothes, pins and other cool items, which are for sale on his site, Drawing from psychedelia and influences like the poster giants Rick Griffin, Stanley Mouse, and Alton Kelley, and illustrator Steve Nazar, he brings the counterculture vibes to his artwork in beautiful homage juxtaposed with his own imaginative details.

For Skull & Roses 2024, Ben created a t-shirt design that will be available for sale at the festival this April. Inspired by his tattoo sensibilities and the classic Bertha image, he uses Procreate to bring his design to life. “The design process involves me finding time between tattoos and family to sit down with my tablet and work out my ideas,” he explained. 

Ben greatly admires the Dead art canon and appreciates playing his part in continuing the legacy. “Recently I was lucky enough to get to design an officially licensed tapestry by Grateful Dead Productions,” he shared. He loves the Pigpen era, and admitted Workman’s Dead is always on rotation. His favorite Grateful Dead song is “Easy Wind.”

IG: @bencorntattoos

Photographs by Monica Corn

Trina Calderón is an LA-based writer, proud to be a part of the sunshine daydream of the Grateful Dead.