Ben Brown was born in Kitchener and grew up in Waterloo. His passion for art was nurtured by both of his parents — especially his dad, who was an architecture student at UW in the 80s. Brown recalls being exposed to visual culture early and often, from watching his dad’s favourite movies to visiting galleries and markets. “From before I can remember [I was] putting in thousands of ‘reps’ into my drawing techniques as I practiced for hours each week at the back of [my] church. The art I create varies, but at the moment I’m loving the versatility of oil pastels” Brown said.
One of Brown’s greatest interests is exploring philosophy — so much so that he might end up with a philosophy minor. At this stage of his life, Brown looks to philosophy and literature for the right questions to ask as he stares at a canvas. “In high school, my art was too diluted with concerns of marketability and validation,” Brown admitted. “I’m creating the best work of my life now that I’m aiming instead to make a ‘comment’ on (and continuation of) the parts of art history I love, in my own small way.”
Spending more time in nature is the biggest element shaping Brown’s art right now. That’s involved hiking and trail blazing around both Ontario and Nova Scotia, where he’s lived during the pandemic, and taking reference photos. “I’ve found there is so much to learn in that stillness, that solitude, something we’re all experiencing to a certain extent right now,” he said.
The part of the artistic process Brown enjoys the most is the human connection that is born from creation. “Despite what I said earlier about validation, it’s always exciting when ideas that are so personal to me end up striking a chord with someone else. When I get a message or comment, especially from those who aren’t artists themselves, it feels like I’m getting to know that person better, in a way I never would have otherwise. It’s like a little gift I wasn’t expecting, a new way to deepen relationships.”
One of Brown’s favourite pieces is a painting he did of Yosemite National Park in California. “The saturated color and light take me right back to the day I hiked there,” Brown said. He likes to think of his work as tools he provides to the audience to more easily recognize beauty in the mundane. “I work in a type of impressionism that I consider close to print-making, where I take an image and exaggerate certain qualities, bringing a kind of striking attention to little blips of color and form in the world,” Brown explained. “What I do is just a way of perceiving detail with patience. Vision and image are much more interactive than people realize, and if you just sit with it for a second, you’ll be amazed at what’s being missed”.
Like all artists, the pandemic has affected Brown’s work and left him craving community.“I would love if putting my work out there a bit more now would be a way to join my local art community. I don’t love commissions, but collaborations is something I hope to do a lot more of,” Brown said.
Brown’s goal for 2021 is “To continue producing as much work as I can while resisting complacency or getting caught up in greed. In essence, I want to develop good habits now that I can build on, and hopefully create more longevity for myself and avoid burnout.”
To view more of Brown’s work, visit his Instagram @brjbrown.art.