Ben Jones on Art as a ‘Thoughtful Combination’ of Dreams and the Senses
Benjamin Jones considers himself a lover of natural domains and all the experiences they offer. As a surfer and a hiker, art and nature serve as his “escape from the real world.” To most people, nature is the real world, but Jones finds an inherent spirituality within it: nothing else supplies his creative visions as meaningfully as nature does.
The South Carolina-based artist — who is trained in both analog and digital mediums — describes his work as a mixture of “the surreal and the tangible.” He values authenticity and meaning, carefully creating artworks that go beyond just “beautiful.” As much as possible, every piece he shares must try to express an insight, emotion, or some sort of human message.
The piece ‘No. 148 GROUNDING’ is an ode to the healing power of nature and art. It had been a meditative pursuit for him. Hopefully, he says, the viewer will feel the same thing.
You may purchase it as framed wall art here.
[Note: The interview below contains minor edits for clarity and brevity.]
Tell us about who you are. How did art come into your life?
I’m a 28-year old visual artist and graphic designer, as well as a recent graduate of Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture + Design. I call the beaches of South Carolina my home. The only thing I'm more passionate about than art is surfing.
Art has always been part of my life. As long as I’ve been breathing, I’ve been creating — it’s in my blood. Art has always stood as something pure for me, a place of serenity and solitude. Without art, I wouldn't be who I am today.
What does the creation process look like for you? How do you feel while you’re creating a piece, and after a piece is complete?
My creation process all starts with a concept. It is hard for me to create a piece without some type of deeper meaning. Art is subjective, so I always try to find a way where I can at least relate to what the piece is saying on a greater level than just visually. What is the piece expressing? I express both conceptual and visual emotions through my work in graphics, collages, and visual art. The heart of my work is driven by the thoughtful combination of dreams and reality, which manifests itself through textures, depth, and feeling in the work.
Creating a piece of art or design for me is not optional; it’s mandatory. Creating is how I meditate and release my anxiety. I have anxiety, and I find [that] if I skip a day or two of creating, the anxiety gets worse. Creating for me is a way to channel that anxiety into something beautiful. When I’ve completed a piece, I feel accomplished, and [I get] a release that I only ever get when I’m surfing.
Who are your biggest influences?
Some of my biggest influences are Chris Asheworth, David Carson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Kevin Parker, Carlo Scarpa, and my mates.
How do analog and digital creation differ for you? Do you find one more challenging than the other?
Okay, super stoked this question came up. The analog versus digital question is one of the more important discussions designers and artists need to be having. If you follow me on Instagram, then you know I’m big on the concept of combining analog and digital, from the process all the way to delivery. I was born in the early 90’s, so my generation is the last one to grow up without smartphones and easily accessible internet. We grew up doing more things by hand. I think that's a huge advantage today in the digital age, [but] the art of analog is slowly being washed away by digitalization. We are losing the human feel and touch of art.
I try to find a happy medium throughout the process to combine analog and digital. This creates a tactile piece, yet it wouldn't be possible without the computer to modify and fine-tune the piece.
I think that both analog and digital have their challenges. Digital can be tough [because you] stare at a screen for hours at a time, and you have all the problems that come with technology. Whereas analog is almost too open to possibilities — you could start a piece and never be done with it. And don't get me started on how much room the materials take up! That’s why I find it best to balance them out and use both mediums in my work.
As an artist who explores a lot of surreal concepts, how would you describe your relationship with spirituality?
By grounding the surreal with the tangible, a relationship is created through design conditions, allowing me to articulate my own imagination through space, color, structure, and material. By doing this, my work is neither separated from reality altogether nor is it tangible. [Instead], it is reinforced, inviting new, creative, and original ideas that are exposed through my creative process.
By exploring surrealism, I’m allowing myself to be open-minded to new concepts and ideas that might have not existed if I was “too tangible.” I also try to remain open-minded to new spiritual ideas and concepts — I believe in love and the Earth as a provider and healer of all things.
You always include the songs you listen to whenever you create a piece. You also shared that you have a “passion for the outdoors.” How do these sensory experiences ignite your creative juices?
I’m a very visual guy, so for me, Mother Nature gives me so much inspiration. That’s one of the reasons I love surfing — being in the water and harnessing Mother Nature’s energy to ride the wave. There are no better views in the world. I’ve also been a music fanatic for as long as I can remember, and it is definitely my savior sometimes.
Nature and music have always been my escape from the real world, as well as art, so just listening to music or catching a wave can inspire me at any point. They’re the sort of the places I go when I need to get away from it all.
Follow Ben Jones on Instagram here.