Ben Willis

Artist Ben Willis investigates patterns through his use of layering, texture, and his technicolor palette. The end results are geometric abstractions that create a feast for the eyes. His latest solo exhibition, 'Candy Man' is the artists latest attempt to "consistently evolve his practice by
re-inventing and expanding his visual language."

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What’s your preferred medium to express yourself and you work? How did you come into working that way?

All of the panels I work on are handmade. I start with a variety of primers from traditional gesso, spray paint, acrylic paint, resin and collage. From there, it’s more of a classic way of drawing or working general to specific. A loose pattern is sketched on top of the primer followed by resin often mixed with a combination of flakes and pearls (glitter and dry pigments). I build up layers but feel like there is a lot more intuition and freedom involved allowing the composition to evolve on its own. It’s rare for me not to use a variety of media on any piece and I have always worked in layers.

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Where did you grow up and do you think that’s affected, at all, your vision as an artist? Does your current environment affect your work?

I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and I am sure in some ways it has affected my vision as an artist. Once I started to get serious about my practice it became obvious that I need to move on and explore other cities. Living in Arizona, specifically Phoenix where its sunny and warm about 95% of the time has certainly brightened and enhanced the colors I am using. Materials like resin and paint also dry extremely fast here which has really forced me to work a lot faster.  

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What was your dream growing up as a child?

I was really into sports as a kid and wanted to play in the NBA. 

What has become most important to you or your work at this moment in your life?

I want to create a visual experience that is both fun and satisfying yet leaves you hungry for more.  With all the fucked-up things going on in our world at this moment I believe there is some healing power behind this work that translates through my use of color, pattern, abstraction and materials. It’s important for me to make people think. 

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Is there any specific moment(s) or memory in your life that pushed you definitively towards the arts or to pursue your creative ambitions?

As far back as I can remember, my mother has always made quilts as well as crocheted various blankets and garments for the entire family. My father is very much a handy man and for all intents and purposes a wood worker. I hadn’t considered it much before, but would certainly be steering you in the wrong direction if I said my parents and up bringing haven’t played a role in my creativity. I think what really tipped the scale was my first college Math class. For a while there I wasn’t sure if I could make it as an artist but realized quickly that I wasn’t going to be something I hated. 

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Who or what would you say is your biggest inspiration(s) and how do you think they/it have influenced your work?

Meeting other artists and creators. Especially when I really form a connection with them or their work. It kind of gives me hope in a way. I have a tendency to be somewhat of a shut in and these connections really give me all the feels and validation for what I am doing.

What does your work mean to you? If anything at all?

My work has always been what I consider to be portraiture. It was quite obvious when I was only painting people but I would say my current work portraying a specific group of people or experience. It’s what keeps me going and I don’t ever see a point where I stop. 

What is your definition of ‘art’, even if it’s total bullshit?

Art is power.

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