Benjamin Edmiston is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. He received his BFA from Tyler School or Art in 2003 and his MFA from Brooklyn College in 2012. Edmiston’s work has recently been seen in New American Paintings Northeast edition #104 and ‘The Art of Collage’ Contemporary Collage in Modern Art.
My latest suite of abstract paintings is born of collage. Cutting, tearing and otherwise manipulating various papers, I construct compositions by moving disparate elements around on the canvas. Instead of gluing these to the surface, however, I reproduce my ‘paper sketches’ in paint. Featuring a combination of thick gobs of oil paint, swaths of flat color, and unpainted areas of canvas, my paintings bring a studied intentionality to the raw aesthetic and casual spirit collage.
Q&A with Benjamin Edmiston
Can you describe your working routine? Do you have a daily studio practice?
I usually like getting to the studio by 10am. I drink coffee, clean up and look at what I had worked on the previous day. I can jump back and forth between drawing, collage and painting pretty seamlessly, so that’s what happens until 6pm or so.
What are the ideal conditions for creating an environment that is conducive to creativity/getting in the zone?
Uninterrupted time is paramount. Ideally no phone calls, no emails, no visitors—I need large blocks of time to myself to be productive. It never works if I have 2 hours here or there, that just ends up being frustrating.
You mentioned that your work begins as a casually-spirited collage which informs the more intentional final painting. How do you capture the energy of the collage in the finished piece? What is your process for recording the collage stage of the work?
Yes, the paintings are built from what I call ‘paper sketches’. These are compositions arranged on a flat painting ground. Colored shapes of paper are cut and organized into a composition. These pieces are traced, and then reproduced in paint on the canvas. This process gives me both attributes of painting and collage. The compositions have a speed and immediacy found in collage; a lack of self-consciousness that translates to real and unflinching presence. Painting them allows me to utilize the diversity of paint as a material. Thin washes, thick globs, diverse textures are all at my disposal, making for interesting compositional pairings and color choice.
What element of the process of collage appeals to you the most?
Collage is not as intimidating as painting. Paintings can be a big investment, but collages can be clunky, clumsy, dirty and perfect. Collage works for me how drawing traditionally gets paired with painting. The stage in which things are loose and being discovered.
I remember following your work a few years ago—your recent work feels much more minimalist, with an emphasis on simple and very abstract forms. Do you feel that that is the case and if so, can you describe the evolution?
Yes, a few years ago my work was much more figurative and focused on detailed narrative. I am still fond of the old work and see a clear line in how it evolved to now. I think I got to a point where I wanted the work to be very clear and stripped-down. In getting to that point, things needed to be edited. I found that I could achieve the same sensibilities/ the same mood with color and form.
Do you have any advice for recent grads or emerging artists who are interested in exhibiting and getting their work out there?
Be patient with yourself and your work. Having and developing a career in art is a long process. Dedicate yourself to doing it for the long haul and let the chips fall where they may.
What do you find to be one of the most challenging aspects of being an artist?
Paying off your student loans.
Are there a few artists that you are looking at currently?
To name a few: Jesse Littlefield, Nick Aguayo, Shirley Jaffe, Romare Bearden, Stuart Davis, Karl Wirsum, Keegan McHargue, Tal R, Richard Tuttle, Stanley Whitney, Matt Connors, Johannes Van Der Beek, Patricia Treib, Jockum Nordstrom.
Has your work been influenced by other disciplines that aren’t rooted in the visual arts?
I’ve become increasingly interested in architecture, furniture and textiles. I think the underlying structure of these is the draw.
What do you listen to while you work? Any music or podcasts we should check out?
I’ve been on a Yoko Ono kick lately. ‘Season of Glass’ is a great record.
Anything else you would like to share?
Thanks for your interest in my work.
Thanks so much for taking the time to share your work and talk with us!
To find out more about Benjamin and his work, check out his website.