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VISUAL ARTS

Filtering by Tag: KBR

Interview with Dutch-born Artist Arthur Benjamins on His Motor Sport Paintings

Kassandra Ramirez

By KBR

Dutch-born Arthur Benjamins has achieved acclaim in the United Kingdom as well as countries as far as Japan and Australia. He pioneered the use of enamel paints, which no other artist had ever attempted in motor racing art. His colorfully distinct photo-realistic style has caught the attention of the media and public from many corners of the world.

Arthur Benjamins is completely self taught, which enabled him to explore his visions without rigid guidelines set by specific tuition. He pioneered “Abstract Iconography”, where known and lesser-known iconic images are guided into a form of minimalism, a heartbeat away from abstraction. This style embraces portraits of musicians, actors, politicians, artists and racing drivers.

Arthur Benjamins had his first United States art exhibition in 2014 and now lives in Peoria, AZ as an artist with 1Pilgrim Studio. Benjamins shares his experience as a professional artist with the art community, giving further insight into the artistic perspective and process behind his notable motor sport paintings.

“No Surrender” - Arthur Benjamins

“No Surrender” - Arthur Benjamins

What is your story?

I was born in Holland in 1953, lived in Rhodesia for 6 years, returned to Holland in 1963 and moved to the UK in 1974, where I lived for 40 years. I became one of their foremost motoring artists from 1983 onwards and booked many successes through many exhibitions, countless magazine and newspaper articles, fine art prints, book covers and several television appearances. I am also totally self-taught – something that some self-styled 'movers and shakers' may find unattractive.

I now live in Phoenix, Arizona and from where I am now, I intend to build up my reputation as an innovative and contemporary artist in the USA and beyond In throw I ame full knowledge that I would never become a racing driver – I wanted to use a very specific – but very tricky medium that could portray all the bright colors associated with motor racing. I decided to use enamel paints – the same ones that I painted my models with. It was a complete revelation as that medium conveyed all that I wanted to. Over the years, this medium caused a bit of an uproar among the several established motoring artists, eliciting that they said they were also going to try that medium. To my knowledge, none of them did.

When did you discover you wanted to be a professional artist?

Knowing that a part of my father’s family were successful artists was certainly an ever-present spark. I was kicked into a sudden artistic direction. I was never a child prodigy like some other artists. I started late, possibly around my mid teens and the people around me treated my aspirations with indulgent kindness. I never developed a self-identity until much later.

What is your dream art collaboration?

 A Facebook artist I befriended some years ago, suggested a collaboration whereby we'd both repaint one of each others' images in our own styles. Our techniques and styles are poles apart, however, his forte is the female form in many guises – an art form that ticks all my boxes!

“The Green Hell” - Arthur Benjamins

“The Green Hell” - Arthur Benjamins

What visual artists inspire you in your work?

The Dutch artist who inspired me in 1968 was Jack de Rijk – an average artist who had serendipitously broken into motor racing art before it became popular. As a result, his works were featured on TV and various newspaper articles – many of which I cut out and still have. He hit the jackpot with his automotive art and his first large exhibition was bought out in one fell swoop by Ford. The very moment I saw him on TV, I knew exactly what I really wanted in life.


De Rijk passed away in 2005 and I regret never having contacted him to convey that he had single handedly steered me onto a path from which I had never deviated. Sadder, still – his online presence is marked by only a few images of his later art. To this day, my own role in motor racing art has mirrored De Rijk's, as I receive regular contacts from other artists who were buoyed in exactly the same manner when they saw my work at Racing Car Shows. Full circle! 

I am buoyed by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright, Willem de Kooning, Piet Mondrian, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline and various more. Not necessarily their art – but more of their own personal stories – their struggles amongst the myriad New York critics who ruled imperiously around the 40s, 50s and 60s. De Kooning, who stowed-away onto USA soil in 1926 and became highly feted in the the New York art world, only reached financial successes well over 30 years later! The other artists would also face equal hardships till their time came, too.

How would you describe your unique style?

 My motor racing style started out as very graphic. When I still lived in Holland, I began to produce in quantity and with the absolute minimum of detail, I set about to portray the technical aspects of the cars, which hitherto had never been attempted by any other automotive artist, whose styles had been marked by provocative slashes and blobs of random color – very popular in the 1960s – and which was considered to have an eternal life.
A few random European artists reigned fairly supreme in their own countries and I was fortunate to have met various other high echelon British artists and to have exhibited alongside them at the larger shows.

My pioneering use of enamel paints was viewed with considerable surprise and possible suspicion by other artists and patrons alike – but which was never emulated by anyone else. Modern acrylics have a much shorter drying time, allowing me to work with increased spontaneity and have almost similar traits of enamel paints which are sadly covered by stringent USA Hazmat regulations.
The mid 1980s saw me move towards a pioneering photo-realistic style, which hit the mark in Great Britain after I had moved there in 1974. It would be up to around the end of the millennium that I would discard this and return to my first love – the graphic style.

“Grand Prix Homage” by Arthur Benjamins

“Grand Prix Homage” by Arthur Benjamins

What is the hardest part of living as a professional artist?

Becoming a professional artist is all good and well if you can support yourself independently from your art.
Many artists would take these logical steps. When I lived in the UK, I deliberately remained an engineering designer up to the point where 'age-ism' began to rule supreme and much less experienced people became the 'new world'. 
However, by that time the UK had shown to have fallen irretrievably behind as the motoring art leaders. That decline started with the late 1980s recession from which it never recovered.
By that time I had pioneered my “Abstract Iconography” - a genre which portrays known and lesser-known icons and iconic images and reduces them to a point where they exist a fraction away from recognizability.
The UK was a hotbed of embarrassed looks and curtailed small talk, party-time conversations when I answered that I was a professional artist. I might have well told them that I had some kind of venereal disease, such were their stunned reactions.
I am happy to say that the reactions in the USA are diametrically the opposite. The fact that I'm a professional artist elicits genuine interest.

Give us insight into the production of your last project. What was the biggest highlight of the process?

 One of the most recent exciting automotive art projects was to introduce an aspect into my work which I had never considered before. The germ of the idea came to me when looking through one of my books on Roy Lichtenstein's early work, whose generic use of comic-and-strip cartooning featured predominantly and would re-nourish my own love for drawing cartoons – something I hadn't done for over 40 years. This new project also fits in beautifully with my graphic predilection towards simplification, abstraction, even.


With the Indianapolis 500 coming ever closer, which I have always loved, I multi-angled my idea into combining that race with the hope and dreams of all racing drivers – to drive and win at the Indy 500.
I would choose a hero of my own, calling him, Mike – after my own middle name, Michael. Mike is sitting in his race car and dreams of winning that race, his finger pointing upwards and with a heroic smirk and dreamlike eyes gazing into the middle distance like so many had done before him. I would call my painting, “Believe And Achieve.” Through this painting, I had weaved myself into motor racing greatness after all.

My following project is to make a range of smaller paintings, combining strip cartoon ethos with biting humor and satire. My other recent painting, “The 1000 Mile Hell”, was to embrace famous races and depict them into “what-if”, projects of which the possibilities are limitless.

“The 100 Mile Hell” by Arthur Benjamins

“The 100 Mile Hell” by Arthur Benjamins

What are you favorite colors to use in your art?

Living in Arizona, I have to painfully endure the enduring love affair with a gamut of brown hues from which too many refuse to move away. Very few of those people don't realize that their own south-western style homes can happily live with art that doesn’t follow the rules they think they need to follow. There isn't a color I would not wish to use, only the relationships between colors I wish to address. Red is the color I like to spice up images with. Always add a little red to any image and it will become more appealing to potentials. To that effect, Johannes Itten's “The Elements Of Color”, is a highly recommended book on the relationship between all sorts of colors and their hues. It is available on Amazon.

What is your favorite element about creating?

 If there isn't a mold that fits you, make one that does. You can follow a trend trying to cash in on it, hopefully making money in the process. That doesn’t mean you'll be a good artist – just a copyist – and there are plenty of those about.

It will take some time for you to find your own style and that journey can be as you personally direct it. In the beginning you will partly or completely follow in another's footsteps up until the point you move away and find your own corner or niche. The main element of finding your own way is the utmost need to create something – whether it's existing or new. I remember an occurrence many years ago when I was drawing up a Sci-Fi painting where weird beings are climbing out from a precipice and making their way towards the viewer. A friend happened to be looking over my shoulder wondering what I was doing. The very moment he saw what I had drawn, he muttered something and fled the room. I was somewhat alarmed at first but that turned into deep satisfaction when I realized what my work could actually do!

A famous artist who made his name when he painted the first Star Wars poster and remains prodigious, told me that he paints because he 'wants to get it right'.  The reasons for creating something are many fold and cannot be put in a paragraph or two. My own personal reasons are that I wish to speak through my work – not as in a message as I have stated before – but to shake up the viewer – to get them to think and ask themselves questions – to elicit responses, whether they are good or bad.

 

Interview with Sabree Garcia, Arizona Artist Who Creates Art by Recycling CDs

Kassandra Ramirez

By KBR

As global warming becomes more prevalent in our environment, I often wonder how and when humans will evolve toward an environmentally friendly mindset. Constantly involved in the local art scene, I was blown away when I discovered Arizona artist Sabree Garcia’s unique art form. Garcia helps fights global warming in her own beautiful way by creating art pieces made with recycled CDs.

According to Sabree Garcia, “CDs take 1 million years to decompose” and recycling CDs into art makes her “feel like a mini superhero.” Luckily, I was able to land an artist interview with Garcia and learned more about her environmentally friendly art creations.

Sabree Garcia and “Yin Yang” by Sabree Garcia

Sabree Garcia and “Yin Yang” by Sabree Garcia

Interview has been edited for clarity

How would you describe your style? When did you first start creating recycled cd art? I would say my art is very bold and modern. I started creating recycled cd art in February 2019 when I was asked to create a public piece to contribute to a yoga event supported by downtown Tempe In Phoenix, AZ. I would claim after my third cd art piece I became a professional at it. I create what I love and what I would buy if it wasn’t me creating it.

“Cactus” by Sabree Garcia

“Cactus” by Sabree Garcia

Are there any visual artists who inspire you? What inspires you about them?

 My inspiration for my CD art came from a childhood best friend’s mom. She decorated my friends room with reverse CDs. I am also very inspired by all local AZ artists, especially mural artists, and graffiti artists. They show me that there are no limits with art.

Do you have reoccurring themes or messages in any of your work?

 I would say my most recent creations are based on things I love: music, yoga, cacti, and most importantly recycling! It feels good to put plastic to good use and cause.

“Zen” by Sabree Garcia - Available for purchase

“Zen” by Sabree Garcia - Available for purchase

What does art mean to you? Do you dabble in other mediums?

Art, to me, is my inner child. It allows me to be free. In a sense, it is also very meditating and helps me with unwinding. Art is endless when it comes to explaining it, and thats the amazing creative part about it. I also dabble in other mediums. I am currently a mural artist assistant, and on my free time I am a freelance graphic designer. When I am not doing that, I am painting.

What was the biggest highlight of the creating process? What is a dream for your art?

Biggest highlight I’ve had as an artist is hearing honest feedback. Everyone seems to love them: old, young, men, women, and children. Knowing my art leaves them happy and in awe makes me happy. My dream would be taking my art to more states and expanding the use of recycled materials.

Sabree Garcia and “Boombox” by Sabree Garcia

Sabree Garcia and “Boombox” by Sabree Garcia

Do you feel like other artists should consider making art with recycled materials?

Yes, who doesn’t love free? And saving this planet, it is such a good feeling. You can make what some people consider garbage into something beautiful.

What is the hardest part of living as a professional artist? Do you have any tips for aspiring artists?

 The hardest part is knowing your worth. And how valuable time is. Tip for aspiring artist —nothing is free and as my mentor Bacpac has said, “there are no short cuts. “

Interview with Self-Portrait Photographer Natalie Wheeler

Kassandra Ramirez

By KBR

A key element to growing as an artist is discovering artists that differ from your aesthetic. Artists all around the world are constantly expressing their emotions differently, with their own personal techniques and inspirations. In an attempt to grow as an artist every day, I am always eager to learn more about the creative process of the succeeding artists around me.

Last fall, I had the incredible opportunity of showcasing my photography at Connect, an art show put on by Raw Artists, and had the pleasure of sharing a display with photographer Natalie Wheeler. I was immediately grateful for Natalie’s kindness when she let me borrow a lighting for my display, but was further inspired by her work when she handed me a business card with one of her thought-provoking images.

Photo by Natalie Wheeler

Photo by Natalie Wheeler

While Natalie Wheeler has experience in various photography styles, her niche is undoubtably self-portraiture. With a much darker aesthetic than myself, I decided to reconnect with Natalie for an interview about her photography process and share with the art community.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

How would you describe your unique style?

My photographs are just a representation of what I see and how I feel.  I take photographs of what moves me and that’s a very big spectrum.  I am often drawn to dramatic light and shadows-and the feelings evoked by those juxtapositions.  Perhaps that’s why my style tends to be on the moody/edgier side. 

Why are you a photographer?

I am a highly visual person, with a deep need to express myself artistically. Looking back, it seems very possible that I could have wound up being a visual artist using mediums other than photography.  I suppose it’s the confluence of having the tools I needed at a time in my life when I was ready to give it my all.  There are many other artistic pursuits I dream of taking on, like learning to play the guitar and piano, making ceramics again (something I fell in love with in high school), but until then, my main instrument is my camera-- maybe it is my purpose.

When did you first become enthralled with photography?

I started getting more interested in taking photographs when I got my first smart phone in 2009.  I soon got hooked on the Hipstamatic app that allows you to mix up different film and lens combinations. That outlet became an increasingly important vessel through which I could focus and unleash my creativity.  Then, I got my first DSLR camera in 2010. Really I just wanted a camera that would take better pictures of my children, who were toddlers then. At the time, I had no idea that photography would become the primary vessel through which I would develop my craft as an artist. 

My photography is very personal and reflects my journey in life. I have always had a deep need to express myself artistically, but it wasn’t until I reached my thirties that I fully committed to that need. Now I can’t imagine living my life any other way.

When did you start experimenting with self-portraiture?

 My process into self-portraiture from lifestyle and documentary photography happened very organically. At first I was just testing out different lighting environments and taking my own photograph for bio pictures, but a bigger shift towards self-portraiture started in 2016, when I started taking self-portraits as a means to explore my inner landscape.  I found the process to be very cathartic, healing, and helpful in so many ways.  It seemed as though I had finally found the voice I had been struggling to find my whole life.  

What is the biggest challenge of being a self-portrait photographer?

The biggest challenge in self-portraiture also feels like the greatest gift.  Sharing the parts of myself that are so vulnerable, exposing deep-seated, life-long fears has been difficult.  It was more so when I first started than it is now.  But it is sharing my work and standing behind it, and who I am as a person and an artist, that has given me a level of self confidence and self acceptance that I don’t think I could have attained in any other way.   

From a technical perspective, setting up your camera to take a photograph of yourself when you can’t be behind it or holding it to focus means you have to find and set the desired focal point in advance. I either place an object in my stead—where I will be when the shutter releases or focus on something close enough to where I will be to achieve the focus. I don’t get hung up on perfect focus though, because sometimes “creative” focus can make an otherwise ordinary photograph much more emotive. 

Photo by Natalie Wheeler

Photo by Natalie Wheeler

Another other tricky part is using the ten second timer, getting to where I want to be in the frame, in the pose, and holding on to the emotion—and keeping all in sync for when the shutter goes. Oh and dealing with tripods…it’s hard to find a good one, and there has been a lot of sweet talking and occasional swear words trying to get it to cooperate!

Give us insight into your creative process.

Creating my self-portraiture requires I take time away from everything and everyone else completely—so that I can focus entirely within to make my photographs.  This is a crucial part of the process for me, and logistically it poses a challenge because it’s rare that I have moments of solitude when all the other forces (light, inspiration, ideas) align for me to create.  

It’s also important to push through feelings of frustration and discouragement when the creative pieces don’t fall into place right away.  When I begin, I usually go in with at least one or two ideas/emotions that I want to convey in the photograph.  More often than not, these ideas morph into something else—sometimes only slightly, and sometimes to a large degree.  As I’m working, I look at the back of the camera’s LCD screen and make modifications.  I might even end up moving to a completely different area—I’m constantly changing the perspective---it’s all very fluid and dynamic as I go along.

I have learned to be patient and trust the creative process. Being open to the process and its challenges is what sustains me, enthralls me, and helps me to grow and develop as an artist. 

InThisBox.jpg

 

Who are some of your biggest inspirations in photography right now?

Oh! Well, there are so many!  I will narrow it down to a few artists who have created self-portraiture, but this is very far from a complete list. I love the work of the great Francesca Woodman, Robert Maplethorpe, and Vivian Maier.  

I am very active in the self-portraiture community on Instagram and I am constantly inspired by what people are creating.

I help run a self-portrait hub on Instagram called @theechoesinside with the talented Michelle Pellachini, Tuyen Nguyen, Fiona Seaburn, and Cindy Knight.  These ladies mean the world to me and their talent is other level.  We feature inspiring self-portrait artists Mondays thru Fridays.

What is your dream photo shoot/location?

I love creating self-portraiture in old hotels.  I shot my first old-hotel self-portrait at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba in 2016.   Then I did a two series at the Hotel Vendome in Prescott, Arizona, and Hotel Congress in Tucson in 2018. I hope to explore many more places like this in the future!  In general though, I find new places are almost always inspiring to me.  I love creating art as I travel.

Photo by Natalie Wheeler

Photo by Natalie Wheeler

What can we expect in the future from your art?

I want to continue to push myself out of my comfort zone and travel to new places to create self-portraiture.  I am also starting to photograph others in a similar style to how I create my self-portraiture in what I call “moodoir” sessions.  You can read more about that kind of session here: http://www.actnaturallyphotography.com/moodoir-sessions/

What is the message you hope to share with your visual work?

The intent and messages behind my self-portraiture are at the core of my being. I can only hope that I leave people feeling inspired—this is a lofty goal indeed!  It’s not important to me that the messages in my art come across to others as I feel them or see them. One of the many beautiful things about art is that people will often see more of themselves reflected in artwork than they will of the artist—sometimes it might even shed light on parts of their being they didn’t know were there before.

Visit Natalie’s Website for her full portfolio!