Meet the Others: Joshua Benmore
The Game Changers. The Rule Breakers. The Innovators. Discover some of the fantastic emerging talent showcasing their work at The Other Art Fair.
Joshua Benmore is an artist specializing in pop-inflected paintings and new media works. Among his works you will find a collection of Mickey Mouse-ear’d, flower-infused, lunar love goddesses alongside a neon Christ, desert wanderers, and bubblegum boys.
He often juxtaposes and subverts imagery using humor and emotion, and includes themes relating to politics, religion, and consumerism while referencing popular iconography and symbols. Joshua’s most recent work has begun to explore in greater depth his relationship with himself, his childhood, mental health, and the challenges this can bring.
Q&A with the Artist
Tell us about who you are and what you do. What is your background?
My name is Joshua Benmore. I am a visual creator from England specializing in pop-inflected fine art paintings and new media art pieces. My works are predominately filled with vibrant, color-filled imaginative concepts using oil and acrylic. I like to call my art ‘self portraits of myself – sometimes without the face’ because I feel everything I create is a direct mirror of myself or where I am in my life. It could be a painting of a field for instance, but it will directly hold something personal and deep from within me.
After studying Fine Art at school and college, I went on to study Fashion Photography at university because I was worried if I studied art itself I might feel confined or told what to draw (I find my art is always best when I have no boundaries or expectations). Art and creating is all I know and I’m so grateful that people have enjoyed my work and wanted to purchase my pieces. Art is literally in my every day, whether I make a quick mock-up design on Photoshop, or start a new painting; it gives me purpose and acts as a form of therapy. Art is an outlet to release my feelings and imagination. I literally love being an artist so much and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
What are the major themes you pursue in your work?
I am currently exploring climate change, mental health, and self-discovery. My work started with a collection of Mickey Mouse-ear’d, flower-infused, space age female figures. Floral embellishment, Americana, and pop culture symbolism has always found a way to interweave its way into my work, as well. I love including flowers in my work, because I feel they just have this gentle calming feeling which brings you back to nature.
There is a statement almost always being made in my work, but I don’t like spelling it out too obviously. The burning palm trees, for instance, have become a symbol for me as an artist. I like that my art shows enough that viewers start to question or think about the underlying message. Sometimes I will put personal details in the pictures, which allows me to have a deeper connection whilst still letting viewers find their own meaning.
Exploring sense of self, belonging, and nostalgia, are creeping their way into my work, representing a personal journey of content and encouragement—like a glimmer of sunshine. I want people to look at my work and feel a moment, a memory, a comfort.
Flowers will Grow Again by Joshua Benmore | $900
How did you first get interested in your medium and what draws you to is specifically?
I started with acrylic at school. I loved how acrylic dries quickly—I work pretty fast so it enables me to change and layer different colors and ideas in a short amount of time without having to wait around for it to dry. After years of using acrylic I found I felt stuck in a bit of a rut, like acrylic wasn’t giving me all I needed when painting. I then started practicing with oil paints, eventually moving onto a combination of both acrylic and oil depending on what I feel the piece needs. I love how oils are easier to color match and allow easier blending as well as seeming to give a fuller color depth. I think different pieces just call out for a different approach or method to use the medium. Figuring out how I’m going to achieve the desired outcome is something I usually spend a bit of time deliberating before I start a painting.
My fashion photography degree plays a part in my compositions and image-making. It also means I pay quite a lot of attention to the overall styling and garments in the image. Some people don’t realize but the placement of a bow, or the color or cut of a dress can really change the way someone reads a painting and the effect it has on the tone. I still use photography as a medium as some things cannot be achieved with a painting. Choosing the styling, props and location, as well as creating textures and unique narratives in post production, are exciting aspects of using photography. With photography you can get almost instant results, usually with unexpected surprises and outcomes with the ability to experiment. My self-portrait photo series was unexpectedly one of my most popular and well received collections of work. It’s crazy to me to think people all over the world have artwork with my face in hanging in their homes! What a compliment, right?!
When The World Was At War, We Just Kept Dancing (Last Flame Edition, Limited Edition of 15) by Joshua Benmore | $810
How has your style and practice changed over the years?
When I first started creating my pieces, they were mainly pop culture portraits of close up faces. I loved painting these, and it taught me a lot about proportions and faces, however as my practice has developed I found myself feeling like my work wasn’t really saying anything, going anywhere, and wasn’t moving forward. As an artist, I think I wanted to feel like I was constantly evolving and improving. I wanted my art to have a deeper meaning, purpose or connection to people and I feel like I have finally found that balance. If I do paint a portrait now I usually try to push it further than just a portrait by layering different textures or details on top. An example of this can be seen in one of my newest paintings ‘a postcard to the sky i was under + the flowers i picked’. Of course with time, my technique has improved which has allowed me to be able to paint more complex scenes and take on bigger challenges. When I look back at some old portraits I see how flat and lifeless they look, but as an artist you need these things to be able to see how far you’ve grown.
Can you walk us through your process? How long do you spend on one work? How do you know when it’s finished?
My process usually starts with making a folder or Pinterest board of all different images, fonts, cut-outs, or things which give me the vibe of the piece I want to create. Then I will create a general mockup in Photoshop in order to start to put it all together until I feel it says what I need it to say. This allows me to play around with colors, layers and placements of compositions.
I will also usually curate a specific playlist of songs, which I feel will influence the painting. It’s kind of weird, but I feel like songs can have a dramatic input on how a painting comes together as I feel I hear colors and that songs can remind me of the element I aim to capture. If I’m in the studio and my painting isn’t going right, sometimes I just need to stop and change what I’m listening to.
As I’ve gotten older, my art has definitely become more planned out and specific. Although this has helped me streamline my ideas, it’s something I’m trying to loosen as sometimes I’m trying to make a piece look like my mockup rather than letting it come naturally. With my newer work, I’m trying to keep that focused intent and at the same time bring back some spontaneity of mark making. Sometimes I will get a rough concept or phrase in my head to use for a painting, and will do a quick sketch of my idea, which is usually terrible. It’s funny because my sketches are so terrible and people laugh when I show them because you would think I had no talent as an artist. I also like to tidy my studio before I start each painting which helps my headspace.
Some pieces can take a day and some pieces can take a week or more. I think you have to trust your instinct when it’s finished to be careful not to overwork it as sometimes you can end up ruining it.
What series or project are you working on next?
So I have about 7 project folders on my computer for this year full of mock-up ideas for each series. There are over 100 designs, so unfortunately due to time constraints a lot of them probably won’t ever see the light of day. There are, however, two projects which I would be quite excited to talk about and let you in on!
T first is a little series called ‘The House.’ I started preparing the first piece a few days ago—the defining central and biggest piece in the project. It is influenced by mental health issues—trying to directly acknowledge what’s affecting and holding you back, then trying to find a way to find strength in letting yourself feel free. I have used a ‘house’ as a metaphor for that feeling of being enclosed and trapped in your mind by the mental health condition whether it be depression, anxiety, etc. This is where I add a more personal and almost autobiographical tone to my work, and why I like to call most of my work a self-portrait—even though this series focuses predominantly on a female figure. The message also links not exclusively to mental health but may even be a relationship holding you back, needing to change your location or just to feel inspired to thrive.
The story goes through photos of the rooms in her house, contemplating, and facing her feelings leading to ultimately burning down this house and finding happiness and freedom. I understand that everyone’s experience with mental health is different, but this series aims to inspire that moment of letting yourself realise you do deserve to be happy. There was a point when I just felt like ‘surely I can’t feel like this forever’ and knew I had to change something. Creating art has helped my mental health hugely. There is some important imagery in there, too. Depression is often referred to as ‘a black dog.’ In my upcoming work I have chosen to illustrate the ‘black dog’ with a type of fox—this helps push the narrative visibly whilst also putting a physical face to the condition. This may help it seem less like an unknown shadowy figure and more of something that happens to live besides you and that you can conquer. I want to be careful not to belittle anyones own experiences and keep the inspiration loose. My designs them self are very colourful and dreamy still and allow a illustrative easy viewing tone—to on the surface be able to invite viewers in and not alienate anybody.
I love the feeling of nostalgia and I feel like a lot of things in my life whilst growing up have really had an effect on me. I love how you can listen to a song and it transports you to a feeling or place. This is something I am pushing with one of my other new projects which has the working title ‘Summer Land/Summer Wine’ (I’m not sure which yet). The inspiration is being fed from those feelings of being free and happy in summer, those fleeting moments of places you’ve been. Y’know like things you’ve seen briefly on a roadtrip whilst the sun sets, the textures in a song you heard whilst sitting by a lake, warmth, fire, friends, cosy jackets, reflections, girls, exploration , memories. All those things are what I’m trying to incorporate. I am aiming to ignite that feeling of summer freedom, evenings and travels, pulling that feeling of nostalgia and relatable moments through. I want people to see the pieces and feel comforted by their own memories with that warming euphoric feeling that nostalgia brings. So far my plans are very orange, yellow, red, brown and nature filled. I think it’ll be an ongoing project where I can continually add to it as I go along like an art journey or like each one is a summer postcard.
What is the best advice given to you as an artist?
I’m not sure of the best advice I have been given as an artist as I am pretty much self-taught. I do have some tips which I have tried to remember which really help my practice, though. Here they are below:
BLACK PAINT: I read somewhere to not use the colour black straight from the tube. Mixing my own blacks or even adding a colour in the black such as red or orange or green has really helped push the tones and eliminate harshness in my work which pure black can bring.
BLANK CANVAS: A big blank canvas can seem intimidating and scary. Just splashing a wash of colour on can help get you started. I usually try to find a prominent colour tone in the picture and do a wash before I sketch my idea out. Painting on bright orange or pink is a really fun colour to paint on top of. Underpainting, especially if you’ve got complex ideas can help get your mind around the colour tones of a painting. Using raw umber or burnt umber for instance can help figure out the dark and light tones. I think watching videos online of underpainting helped me understand the important effect it can have on your work.
DON’T COMPARE: Try and stick to yourself and don’t compare your work. Sometimes I find myself looking at artists, comparing myself ‘why can’t I paint like them? why can’t my work look like theirs?’ Ultimately that is their work and trying to replicate that just won’t feel true to you or make your soul feel complete. Everyone unintentionally has their own natural way of creating art; it is like everyone has different handwriting styles. It just happens without thinking about it and shows your own style.
FEEDBACK: Another thing is try not to take feedback of your work to heart. Some input from outside sources is helpful but remember it is just an opinion not a fact and doesn’t make the sentiment or quality in your work any less just because maybe one person doesn’t want it on their wall. I once had an art teacher tell me my work looked like something her child would make at play school. That work at the time was something I felt I needed to create and helped my artistic journey of getting to where I am now. Make what your heart tells you to make!
PROCESS/JOURNEY: I think I have to remember sometimes that I have my artistic license and the finished piece doesn’t need to look the exact same as my initial plan. The journey to the final finished work is something I’m trying to lighten up on myself and not be so harsh. The journey is just as important as the final outcome. Things you learn along the way are incredibly useful even if you don’t think it at the time. Art ultimately is about manipulating your chosen medium to look how you want it, keep pushing it until you get it there. Don’t expect something to look good instantly. Give it time. Keep adding layers and don’t give up . Keep trying to figure out a solution of making something look how you want. And finally it sounds boring but PRACTICE. It may not be obvious instantly but if you look back on your work over the years, you will see everything you do to create each piece of art lends itself to adding to your technique and knowledge of your skill. I know how to tackle specific things in my paintings now thanks to practice. Oh and have fun!
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