Tempe Artist Ben Willis: 100 Creatives

Categories: 100 Creatives

Dan Lam
Meet the artist.

Phoenix is brimming with creativity. And every other year, we put the spotlight on 100 of the city's creative forces. Leading up to the release of this year's Best of Phoenix issue, we're profiling 100 more. Welcome to the 2014 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today: 31. Ben Willis.

"I guess you could say I don't get out much," Ben Willis says.

The 31-year-old Tempe artist and 2014 Contemporary Forum grant winner divvies up most of his time between teaching and creating. "I teach painting and drawing during the school year, but until classes start back up I am working part time at Blick Art Materials in Tempe and locking myself in the studio during off hours," he says.

See also: Carley Conder of Tempe's CONDER/dance: 100 Creatives

Courtesy of Ben Willis
Willis's Adriene is pictured. At right is an Installation shot of the piece, which is oil on panel, 60" x 48," (2013).

Originally from Cincinnati, Willis studied art at Ohio's Miami University and moved to Arizona in 2010 to pursue his master's in fine art, which he completed in 2013.

And instead of leaving the classroom behind, Willis has kept one foot firmly planted there. This fall, he will teach at ASU, Phoenix College, the Shemer Art Center, and Tempe's Edna Vihel Center for the Arts. That'll be when he isn't locked in said studio.

"I am working on a new series of portraits based on long lasting relationships that will feature swimming, Willie Nelson, canyons, abstraction, road trips, the man bun, dogs, patterns, rivers, hiking, my Princess Bunnies, safety crews, the Bengals, yoga, and low carb diets."

When he emerges, it'll be quite the sight.

Courtesy of Ben Willis
Willis' Henry, Anthony, and Forrest portraits are pictured.
I came to Phoenix with T-shirts, shorts, flip-flops and I'm pretty sure I brought some underpants.

I make art because it makes me happy.

I'm most productive when I have coffee, music, and doors that lock.

My inspiration wall is full of... my what?

I've learned most from the passage of time. It's similar to looking back on other aspects of your life. Why did I bleach the tips of my hair? Why did I continue to watch Lost after the storyline had dissolved? Revisiting my artwork, however uncomfortable, shows me what I should have done and what I won't do again.

Good work should always... How about this instead -- good work can be anything. There is no single quality that defines it. Viewing art is a personal experience and there are a lot of opinions in the world.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more affordable art. Painters end up with rooms full of unsold pieces that once hung proudly in galleries with ridiculously inflated prices. We create this economy where paintings go unsold and potential customers end up with boring framed posters on their walls. I'm guilty of this myself, but there are times I aspire to be more like my friend Eddie. He once took everything in his studio and set it outside with $20 price tags. Minutes later a pizza delivery guy drove away with a 5-by-6-foot masterpiece strapped to the roof of his beat up Accord. All people deserve to own beautiful, original artwork. At this point artists with fragile egos and attachment issues are the barrier.

Location Info


Blick Art Materials

930 E University Dr, Tempe, AZ

Category: General

Phoenix College

1202 W. Thomas Road, Phoenix, AZ

Category: General

Arizona State University

University Drive and Mill Ave., Tempe, AZ

Category: General

Shemer Art Center & Museum

5005 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ

Category: General

Edna Vihel Center for the Arts

3340 S. Rural Road, Tempe, AZ

Category: General

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