Artist Spotlight Series: Ben Steele

Last week while in Santa Fe my husband actually spotted this artist before I did and it was a great find.  I am totally enamored with the realist work of Ben Steele. The irony in the subject matter of these pieces just makes me smile while the painting style is beautiful.   He was kind enough to do an interview.
Helper, Utah
What is your training? 
I received my BFA from the University of Utah in painting and drawing, then furthered my education through the Helper Workshops, working as an apprentice under former University instructors who had retired to pursue professional careers.
 What inspires you and your designs?
 Everything. History, whether it’s art history or popular culture, is certainly a lead part of what directs my work, but ideas seem to come from unusual places so I’ve learned to never stop looking.
What is your favorite piece? 
The next one I’m getting ready to do! I get most excited by the possibility of what could happen next.
But if forced to choose a sentimental favorite, a painting called “Doubting Thomas” still stays with me because it seemed to spark more conversation than any piece I’ve done to this point and layers of meaning have continued to pour out of it that I never intended.
How has your area influenced your work?
I live in a small town in rural Utah, where several other full-time artists have relocated. Being around many traditionally-leaning peers in an environment that prioritizes art as a career has certainly influenced my relationship with art. From there, I get to incorporate some of my more modern sensibilities.  
What is your favorite restaurant in Helper?
 Being in a small town, the high-end restaurants are pretty much non-existent but there’s a great place locally called Marsha’s Sammich Shop where we sit in the back and chat with her while she cooks and share the local gossip. Otherwise, most meals are at home; my wife loves to cook and will experiment with just about anything. It also makes travel that much more exciting because we get to splurge on all the food choices we don’t have at home.
What is your favorite cocktail?
 Probably a white Russian in the rare event I have a cocktail. Beer is usually my drink of choice, if I’m not having my ultimate vice: a Coke.
How do you balance personal life and work?
 The balance is probably that my work and personal life aren’t always separate. I usually keep a steady weekday schedule in the studio but sometimes my kids and wife come down and hang out or an art brainstorming session breaks out at home over dinner. Really, it’s one thing.
 Dream trip?
 Traveling the US by car
Dream commission?
Where the only criteria was ‘Paint me the best painting you could ever paint’
Your favorite host / hostess gift?
 Not sure if I understand the question (which is probably a commentary on how lax our local social network is). A bottle of wine is the good ol standby but we get together with our local friends so often and so casually, we don’t have many gift formalities.
Who is your style icon or mentor?
 My mentor is David Dornan, the artist I studied with and apprenticed under. My style icon would be a blend of Rembrandt meets Andy Warhol with about a thousand other artists thrown in.
 Your favorite up and coming artist/ artists?
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 An industrial designer called Axle Dean Looslie; a young friend with an interesting mind.
What is your most treasured possession?
My house; it’s the ultimate work-in-progress art piece plus the place where I get to raise and continue making memories with my family.
What are you reading?
 The Art of Thinking and every Michael Lewis book I can get my ears on (I listen on audiobooks while I work).
What are you listening to?
 When I’m not listening to audiobooks, I like The National,
Metric, and XM Alt Nation.
Favorite Art /Design Blogs or websites?
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Please go to Ben Steele's website to see more and the Giaccobe Fritz Gallery in Santa Fe. I cannot wait to add a piece of his work to my collection. 

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