“Storytellers" Exhibit Artist Q&A Series Four

We are pleased to offer our fourth in a series of interviews featuring artists whose works are on view in "Storytellers," our current in-gallery exhibition at Art Saint Louis on view through September 10, 2020 (open M-F 8-3, Sat. 9-2). If you can't make it to the Gallery to see the show in-person, we offer a complete Facebook album featuring all 49 of the artworks in the show along with accompanying information and artist's statements.

For this week's post, we are pleased to present interviews with artists Benjamin Franklin and Aidan Patrick Welby.


About the artist: Benjamin Franklin is a British artist, creative director, and business owner living in St. Louis, MO. He grew up in a small town in Nottinghamshire, England and studied art and design at West Nottinghamshire College and completed his education in graphic design at the University of Humberside, graduating with a First Class Honors. He was accepted as a member of the Society of Typographic Designers and The Royal Society of Arts through his recognition as a designer. He is the founder of Yank and Limey, Inc., a branding, design, and marketing firm. He also teaches graphic design with an emphasis on identity/branding and typography at Washington University in St. Louis.

Benjamin Franklin. “Cornfield No. 2.” 2020. Oil on Canvas, 30”x30”. $3,350

Roxanne Phillips: What is the biggest point of inspiration for your artwork?

Benjamin Franklin: My inspiration comes from dramatic and compelling scenery. I grew up with English skies that never tire the eyes. I’m an avid hiker and am most content when outside. I might be scaling a Colorado 14er or hiking the Yorkshire Dales but the entire time I’m in search of a painting, watching the colors change, absorbing the lands shapes and watching the clouds’ personality shift. The more expressive the land is, the more I want to paint it.

If my paintings take you away from your current mindset, take you to a place of escapism and connect you back to the outdoors, a moment that you want to relive then I have achieved my goal.

Benjamin Franklin. “Hay Bale No. 1.” 2020. Oil on Canvas, 30”x30”. $3,350

RP: What was it that first prompted your career/activity as an artist?
BF: I was an avid comic fan and used to get a paper comic delivered weekly called The Beano, I’d draw the characters and develop my own. I also recall a school assignment around the age of 9 where we projected a bird image onto the classroom wall which I traced and painted. I received praise and encouragement from the teacher, from there I began to draw birds regularly. I continued to draw and paint knowing that it could be a career. Whilst watching a TV show they promoted a career guide which I sent off for. It was in this guide that I learned about graphic design, from there I focused on making this my career and focused my studies with an emphasis on art and design.

Featured in "Storytellers" at Art Saint Louis: Benjamin Franklin. “Plowed Field (Nottinghamshire, England).” 2019. Oil on Canvas, 30”x30”. $1,850.
Artist's statement: “If you don't know where you're from, you'll have a hard time saying where you're going.” ― Wendell Berry
“Painting the English landscape, particularly my home county Nottinghamshire, reconnects me with a land that is now so very much a part of my past. But without it, I couldn't appreciate the lands I now explore.”

RP: What is it about your preferred medium that you enjoy the most?
BF: Oil painting can be slow, but its challenging, malleable and very expressive. I’m not afraid to scrape paint on or off. If it dries and I’m not happy with the result I simply add another layer. Texture and depth is a magical element of oil painting so I build up layers (Impasto technique) to create depth to my work. For finer details one simply thins the oils, which I rarely do.

RP: What is it that you are most eager to convey through your art/ how do you want the viewer to receive or interpret or your art?
BF: That my work is unique. I have zero desires to replicate the work or style of another artist, therefore what I create comes from the heart. If my paintings take you away from your current mindset, take you to a place of escapism and connect you back to the outdoors, a moment that you want to relive then I have achieved my goal.

STL artist Benjamin Franklin.

RP: What do you find most challenging/rewarding about the creative process?

: Like life, the creative process is an unknown journey. Not every painting is a joyous experience but typically through determination, continued commitment and hard work the end results are satisfying.

Learn more about Benjamin Franklin: www.benjaminfranklin.co.uk and www.instagram.com/benjaminfranklin_fine_art/ and www.facebook.com/BenjaminFranklinFineArt  

Aidan Welby. “Halted Rhythm.” Granite, Steel, Hardware, 10’x10’x1’.
About the artist: Aidan Patrick Welby (b. 1997 St. Louis, MO) is an American artist making sculptures, photographs, and writings in conversation with the landscape. His upbringing in St. Louis, Missouri—The Gateway to the West—has instilled a sense of critical exploration into his practice. Welby reconsiders the constructed nature of place-history, often challenging contemporary land use as it derives from and deposits communal identity. Created in context with its site, Welby’s work surveys the cultural geology of a region to participate in 21st-century dialogue regarding American myth and its relation to environmental impact in the Anthropocene.

Roxanne Phillips: Describe your artistic process/technique.
Aidan Patrick Welby: As a student of the American landscape, my work is born from place. Through literary and field research, I attempt to define a region by its folklore, geology, governance, and industrial practice. These objective fields become the foundation for the subjective poetics with which my work speaks visually.

Aidan Patrick Welby, St. Louis, MO. "Anthropogenic Monuments." 2019. Partially Erased Western Postcard, Mineral Core, Bronze, Ink, 5"x3.5"x1". Not for Sale.
Artist’s statement: “The Anthropogenic Monuments series seeks to define and champion distinct moments of geologic impact born from human civilization. The first twelve monuments aim to reconcile the competing goals of environmental protection and mineral extraction happening on American public land. A majestic Western landscape is adorned with bronze and yet partially erased to reveal a core generated from mineral prospecting. An essay on the reverse uses a tone of traditional Transcendentalism to challenge issues of contemporary land use and extractive industry.”
RP: What is the biggest point of inspiration for your artwork?
APW: I suppose what inspires me is the possibility of creating a dialogue which may eventually enable systemic change in the way we collectively participate within our environment. What drives these conversations is the discovery of ecologically destructive patterns so tightly woven into our communal identity so as to often go unnoticed. Living in the Anthropocene means attempting to escape that very title—pursuing a perspective which decenters humans as the “chosen species” and instead recognizes our role, and responsibility, as the apex predator and planetary steward alive within but a single moment amongst a geologic infinity.

Aidan Welby. “The Great Divide.” Text from Homestead Acts, Homesteader Diaries, Fine Silver, Douglas Fir, 144”x54”x4”.

RP: What was it that first prompted your career/activity as an artist? What is the best thing about St. Louis for your art practice?
APW: I was born just 15 miles southeast of the great confluence, the collision of the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers, East and West, yesterday and tomorrow. These rivers serve as major lines of topographic division, but so too present a natural resource, and even further hold historical value as sites of early passage, embodiments of exploration and discovery. These themes are the foundation of the city’s identity, and yet today resonate as naive and anglocentric.  I was raised to view these as a historical construction of the American experience, and this distinction between tale and reality—author and audience—and the relationship between time and place are constitutional to my practice.

Aidan Welby. “Split Estate.” Granite from Public Land, Plexiglass, 30”x30”x12” each.

RP: What is it that you are most eager to convey through your art/ how do you want the viewer to receive or interpret or your art?
APW: Beyond conveying the research and site-specificity within each sculpture or writing, I am always trying to create work which speaks directly to a local citizen and yet might offer some truth to larger society; to initiate conversations that engage both the tourist and the purist; to construct compositions that balance the vernacular with the universal. I believe this diversity of practice is what creates the most resonant work, and the most engaged viewership.

Artist Aidan Welby. 

Learn more about Aidan Patrick Welby: https://aidanpatrickwelby.com/

Roxanne Phillips is an artist and art educator based in St. Louis since 2001. She earned a MFA in Printmaking & Drawing from Washington University in St. Louis and BFA in Painting & Drawing from University of North Texas. Roxanne is an adjunct art instructor at Washington University in St. Louis and has worked with Art Saint Louis since 2017 as Administrative Assistant and Installer. From 2018-2020 she was Master Printer for Pele Prints. Her works have been featured in numerous exhibitions throughout the St. Louis region including at Art Saint Louis, Crossroads Art Studio & Gallery, and St. Louis Artists’ Guild. Her work is currently available at Union Studio in St. Louis. She has served as exhibit Juror for several regional exhibits & art fairs. Roxanne is past Board member of St. Louis Women’s Caucus for Art.