In Conversation with Ben Crase

Ben Crase is an American figurative painter. Originally from Butte, Montana, Ben is now based out of San Diego, California. Ben paints primarily with oil and oil sticks. Through his use of colour, texture, and off-kilter composition, Ben seeks to evoke an emotional response from the viewer – one that may feel vaguely familiar and rooted in the past.


His most recent work focuses on figures from the Old American West. Being acutely aware of the USA’s not-so-perfect past, Ben acknowledges this in his work. Although Ben wants his work to be positive, he is compelled to share his own frustrations associated with this destructive and violent history. This ultimately positions Ben to depict the ‘good guys’ of the era. There is an old American saying, How The West Was Won, Ben feels a more accurate statement could be How The West Was Lost.


A warm welcome to our stable of artists Ben!


Otomys: Your career path is unique! What does a golfer and hairdresser have in common?

Ben Crase: I always joke it’s a natural progression from golf to hair – ha! Although they seem quite different, both require working with your hands, understanding technique, discipline, and attention to detail to name a few. I’ve always believed that the only two things I will focus on are art and sport.

Otomys: Who and what has most influenced your pathway? 

Ben Crase: My Dad. I remember him saying ‘find something you love, try to become the best at it, no matter what that is, someone will pay you for it. Even if you’re juggling balls.’  Those words have resonated with me strongly, I’ve only been able to do things I feel a passionate about, I try to become good at them and I think the thing that feels the best about that is the genuine nature of it all. 

Otomys: What qualities and behaviours have you valued along the way which have led to your success now as a painter? 

Ben Crase: Great question, I think from golf I learned to be calm and remain focused on the present moment. This has helped me not get ahead of myself with my painting and the need for attention to detail has helped tremendously with hairdressing. There’s a phrase I learnt while training, ‘Once you think you’re done, you’ve only just begun.’ I think of that often, it helps me hold myself accountable.

Otomys: You’re a master of the language of colour; the richly layered oils and oil sticks of light, hot or deep hues are most expressive. Can you give us an insight into the meaning and emotion that colour holds for you? 

Ben Crase: I certainly do not consider myself a master but thank you very much. I’m not a trained artist, but ever since I was very young, I have been going to museums and galleries, so this was my art education. Much of what I saw made me feel alive and inspired. I think you could argue that the value of life could simply be to feel alive. In my painting I use colour that creates that sense of feeling alive, that feeling of inspiration and motivation. So, the painting process for me becomes a layering of colour until I reach that point. 

Otomys: Am I right in guessing shades of pink may be your favourite? 

Ben Crase: Ha!! I do love shades of pink, but I don’t think I could ever say it’s a favourite. I use so many colours but pink seems to be a staple. With regards to the pink hats, for me they symbolize equality and a sense of empathy and understanding.

Otomys: Are your portraits vested in a physical likeness or emotional relationship to a character?

Ben Crase: I think more of an emotional relationship. I haven’t painted anyone in particular for my figures, it’s more about the overall feeling in the work. I’ll sketch a figurative pose until it feels right, I’ll paint their faces over and over until I get that look that gives me that feeling that this means something. That ‘meaning’ will be different for each viewer. 

Otomys: In a few words what is your response to the following words?

Ben Crase: New normal: confusing. Music: biggest inspiration, I couldn’t live without music. America: although I am grateful for where I live, disingenuous. Why art: it’s always been art. Going forward: push push push to be better.
September 28, 2020