There are artists, then there are working artists. Thriving in an already difficult vocational field, Ben Mann has met and overcome trials as a career artist, while staying true to both himself and his art in the commercial arena. He has truly earned his legacy as part the art scenes in both Skagit and Whatcom Counties.
Known in Bellingham for leaving his mark not only in commercial venues like Avenue Bread and Colophon Cafe, but also on a good number of schools, publications and charitable auctions. His emotive art is decidedly impactful, combining tradition with whimsy. Upon visiting his studio in Bellingham, I was caught by a piece of Ben’s depicting two children on a dock in the Bahama’s. Immediately I was absorbed by a childhood memory of growing up in Florida. While staring at the piece I could feel the warmth Ben was depicting. It is one thing to see an artistic image, it’s another to experience the feeling the artist meant to convey. Herein lies the true gift of the art of Ben Mann, its supreme integrity in terms of the raw, honest approach and feel.
How Ben Mann Creates
Ben has a unique method. He looks at a subject for ten seconds and then captures in his self-described “internal camcorder” all of the basic components of that scene. When he is looking at things in his hands, or some flowers, or the street, his his mind is already sketching what it is that he has captured, giving himself as an artist “the chance to look at this life on purpose.”
His approach and obvious talent, mixed with an understanding of what a client wants, is exactly what led him to gaining the honor of being chosen as the artist to draw the Tulip Festival in Skagit County this year.
“The opportunity for designing the SVTF poster was an exciting challenge—I was flattered and also glad to bring my 30 years of freelance art to the table,” Ben says. “Designing is one art, collaboration is another. I strive to dovetail my client’s essential contents with the easy flow of my established style. I understand business, and in this case the very sustainability of this agricultural phenomenon rides on successful merchandising. I submitted prints, was selected as one of three finalists, and then interviewed with a committee comprised of farmers and designers. The process was both familiar and exciting for me.”
Being able to understand and deliver what they wanted, was a big part of the committee’s decision, he adds. Twenty years of being a waiter while developing as an artist gave him business knowledge and helped him hone is natural people skills, which helps him be successful when applying for these kinds of commissions.
Skagit County Connections
For Ben, who lives in Mount Vernon, Skagit County connections run deep. “Long before I resided in the valley, my artworks had permanence at SV Hospital and seasonally at La Conner Brewery,” Ben shares. “Designing the poster for the Tulip Festival was a personal goal, as well as a chance to elevate my art’s visibility in a big way.”
Clearly enjoying his lifestyle as an artist, Ben reflects on his Skagit experience.“Skagit County is a special place that lends itself easily to serving as an artist’s muse,” he adds. My home is in Mount Vernon although my business is located in Bellingham’s historic Fairhaven district. I’m an artist 24/7 and for that reason, keeping home and work separate has always been at the forefront of my priorities.” Though he admits keeping them separate can be a challenge.
In the future, Ben has more classroom teaching and displays, partnerships with nonprofits, and special meet the artist events. Because of his expanding teaching ability he will continue to take on more elementary schools. He will also be continuing Open Studio, an event he does ever year that is similar to an open house. “Staging the latter is an exciting thing for me as well as for viewers who enjoy a backstage experience into the creative process and paint-spattered lair that energizes me,” Ben shares. “I also welcome studio visitors by appointment during the week and offer private paint tutorials to aspiring painters of all ages.”
A hard-working artist, indeed. In our valley of farmers, we definitely appreciate not only the beauty of our scenery and the art of the people that capture it so beautifully, we appreciate the hard, industrious efforts put in by such a dedicated and thoughtful artist as Ben Mann and are very proud to have him as a resident of our blossoming community. You can find Ben’s art locally at Il Granaio and Ristretto Coffee Lounge and Wine Bar in Mount Vernon, and at La Conner Country Inn where you can find his publications, art and calendars for sale. Learn more about him and schedule appointments for visits or lessons by visiting the Benn Mann website.