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Artists Among Us - Ben Gresley-Jones

Passion, talent, training and a supportive network of friends and family: that has been the successful recipe for Rossland artist Ben Gresley-Jones. Having grown up, moved away and since moved back again to the homeland he loves, Gresley-Jones has taken advantage of his most recent move home to go all-in on his artistic pursuits and let his brush and hands guide him where they will. From humble beginnings as a kid drawing to skilled works of sculpture, line drawings, paintings and digital design, Ben is one artist among us who lives his life turned up to 11 and gives whatever he’s doing everything he’s got.

 
Often I start these types of interviews by asking what brought you to Rossland. In your case I’ll have to switch it up and ask, what brought you back to Rossland after growing up in the area?
 
Student loans [laughs] and affordable accommodations. No, seriously though, I love this area and I always thought I would have to move away from it to find work and do what I wanted to do. If I can do what I want in this area though that’s the best of both worlds.
 
I’m between jobs right now so this [full time artist] is something I’ve wanted to do but haven’t had the time for it yet so it’s a great opportunity to get me started and then when I do get into a job I’ll have that inspiration and local network to keep it going. My dream job right now is whatever job I can get in Rossland right now that helps fuel my creative forces.
 
Growing up in Rossland as a child, do you remember when you first had the inclination towards the arts or what first inspired you?
 
I think it was one of those “can you draw this cowboy” types of contest. My mom always had me drawing when I was young and trying to replicate things and put me in classes at the VISAC gallery and art classes in school, so it was supportive parents that helped first introduce it to me.
 
Since those first drawings give us a brief tour of your artistic life that has taken you from cowboy replication to some very impressive piece of art?
 
I first got a diploma at Selkirk in multi-media. I tried to get those course credits to transfer over but they didn’t so I did a four year bachelor of fine arts degree at UVIC. In amongst that I travelled to Europe and Australia and took a year off to move to Vancouver. I’ve bounced around a bit but I’m back now.
 
You’ve done many different styles of art in a number of different mediums, what are you working on currently?
 
Right now I’m doing sculpture and painting. My sculptures been limited as of late by the facilities that I have so it’s been mostly painting lately. When I was at UVIC where I learned what I was doing I was getting to use a lot of tools and machines I hadn’t used before so I got into using glass and doing welding and things like that.
 
When sitting down to do your next piece or just thinking and dreaming about what you might work on next, where do you draw your inspiration from?
 
A lot of it comes from seeing other people do good work. It makes you want to push yourself further. A big part that comes from going to art school and seeing what everyone else was doing and being inspired and building off of one another. We’ve got more than twenty members at the Rouge now too so I see already some of that spirit taking place here and I’ve only just been a member for a month and a half. Having a gallery like this is a really big step for a community to take the artistic abilities to another level just by working off of and being inspired by one another.
 
With your painting are there any particular themes you’re following lately or any particular subjects you’re interested in more than others?
 
With this gallery I tried to follow a bit of the theme in the gallery. When I was in school we practiced all sorts of mediums and styles so we didn’t have the time to settle into one specialty, which was good. The gallery has a real theme of the style of mountains, mountain towns and Rossland right now. What I really like doing is some geometric stuff which I haven’t done for the gallery. I’ve also done layered glass sculptures, ski chandeliers, geometric shapes, harmonigraphs and lots of different stuff.
 
Is there a Ben Gresley-Jones style emerging? What makes a piece of art a Ben Gresley-Jones original?
 
I work on precision, fine lines. It’s not very abstract; it’s well thought out.
 
I stretch all of my own canvass. My process from beginning to end is entirely me. A lot of people may just buy a canvas or get whatever to paint on. I think I take a very technical approach to it and have a hand in every step of the process. It’s very rewarding. I don’t yet have an identifiable style. At this stage I have too many ideas and possibilities in my head to nail down one specialty and pin it down. Usually realism is my thing. I’m not very abstract. I like bright colours and lately it’s been mountain themes since I’ve been back in Rossland.
 
I’d say that to be an artist is a bit of an undertaking so you really have to just go for it sometimes and right now I have the opportunity to pursue it and if people like what I paint that’s great. If they want to buy it , that’s better again. I only ever paint for myself. I feel like if I don’t put my heart into it, how can anyone get any feeling back out of it? There’s enough people in the world that someone will like what you do. You can’t do what you think people will like right, it has to come from the heart as cheesy as that sounds.
 
As an artist, born and raised in Rossland who’s now made the choice to move back to his homeland, do you have any advice for the up and coming artists in town?
 
I’d say that to be an artist is a bit of an undertaking so you really have to just go for it sometimes and right now I have the opportunity to pursue it and if people like what I paint that’s great. If they want to buy it, that’s better again. I only ever paint for myself. I feel like if I don’t put my heart into it, how can anyone get any feeling back out of it? There’s enough people in the world that someone will like what you do. You can’t do what you think people will like right, it has to come from the heart as cheesy as that sounds.
 
If you want to make it a career, apply for a job at Teck and cross your fingers [laughs]. No, seriously though, if that’s what you want you just make it work. I’m lucky that I have forgiving parents and have a really strong foundation there to come back to. It’s like everything in life though, until you try it, you’ll never know. If there’s something you want to do in your life and you’re passionate about it you have to just go all-in.
 
To see more of Ben’s work you can visit his website / gallery here