July Spotlight: Brenda Benson

Featured member artist Brenda Benson takes us into a 3D color-rich Fabriana watercolor paper world. Intensely inspired by glass artist Chihuly, unsatisfied by her watercolor renditions of his work, she boldly did what no artist does: she chopped up her watercolor into geometric pieces, folded and glued them to a mat board, all in a passionate desire to carry the 3D feel of Chihuly’s work into her watercolor world.

Today, having won the 2017 national Watercolor USA award, Benson continues to create vibrant works of art, perplexing the viewer as to how she does it. So here, briefly, is the “how.” On graph paper, using pencil and color pencils, she creates the basic design/theme, and prepares a mat board with a grid—often 2” but Benson has used elongated rectangles, diagonals, and other grid-based options.

She then watercolors one side of her Fabriana paper, allows it to dry, flips it, and watercolors the second side in a contrast color or different value. She then cuts the painted sheet into rectangles, and using a scoring tool to fold both ends up, forms a square with overlapping edges. Now begins a second layer of creativity: she cuts designs and uses paper punches to enhance the underlying theme. Once glued to the mat board, she may add a third layer: scraps of paper, bits of jewelry, commercial stickers, bits of photographs—whatever the design seems to need. She’ll even tweak it with additional painting. Altogether, It takes about fifteen to twenty minutes to create one two-inch square. Benson explains, “My goal is to make an overall design that speaks from a distance, but when viewed up close, it becomes a journey for the eyes—an experience of discovery.” Visitors now can take that journey, perhaps seeing a touch of Chihuly in Benson’s creations.

An opening reception will be held Saturday, July 13, from 5:00 until 8:00 pm. A piece of Brenda’s work will be given away in a free drawing held at 6:00. This reception coincides with Hannibal’s Second Saturday Gallery Night.