Many lament that the talent of our community leaves. Look around and discover the talent of people that do live here like the artist Ben Kern. Ben not only creates beautiful art, but he often chooses to depict scenes from Marion County. This is just one reason Marion is fortunate to have Ben Kern as part of our community.
Born in Marion County, Ben grew up near Waldo, surrounded by farms. He attended Waldo Elementary and went on to River Valley Junior High and High School. Today, he lives in one of Marion’s downtown lofts.
Ben discovered his first art ah-ha moment at age 4 or 5. He shared, “I felt a connection with an image and realized I could make my own images.” His early creations were drawing cartoons, cars and busses, and houses.
His training is a mixture of formal classes and being self-taught. “As a child, I learned by myself. I was fascinated with art and stuck with it in spite of having no guidance or lessons,” Kern said. Then as an adult, he attended OSU Marion and majored in Fine Art. Ben went on to attend evening classes, after work, at Columbus College of Art and Design, where he focused on commercial illustration and the business of art. Recently he has studied computer-based graphic design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh online.
When asked about his favorite medium Ben replied, “I have the most experience with pencil on paper, but love a number of other mediums including ink, watercolor, acrylic, oil, charcoal, modeling clay, wood/resin. Recently, I am creating most of my new art by sketching/drawing with a stylus on a Wacom Cintiq screen and using graphics programs to create print-ready images on a wide range of items.” But despite this variety of mediums, Ben sketches every day with a pen or pencil on paper.
Kern’s style is illustrative, sometimes leaning toward cartoonish, and sometimes towards realism. He has dabbled with and occasionally latched on to other styles such as Impressionism, abstract expressionism, pop, as well as mixing genres and styles. This is all in a quest to discover something new….” to play and explore where his favorite art comes from.”
Ben finds inspiration everywhere. It can be, “hiding in plain sight waiting for us to find it. Just this week, a trip to some shops and galleries caused me to pause and imagine some new possibilities… Walks in nature are always good for finding inspiration. Looking up at the ever-changing and always beautiful sky is a constant source of wonder hiding in plain sight.”
Ben is a full-time artist though it hasn’t been a straight or easy path. About two decades ago he worked in other fields, while also publishing, doing commissions, and showing his art. About ten years ago he went “full-time” with a few starts and stops along the way. His works can be found in several places, including downtown in Marion at The Guild. It currently features the art of twenty working artists from central Ohio. Over time it has evolved from a retail shop to more, including having lessons, small group workshops, and as a meeting place for artists to share works or seek advice and inspiration.
Ben is involved in the Marion community. He contributes time and artwork to fundraisers and events including Downtown Marion Inc., the Eco Center, Christmas parade floats, and more. Ben shared, “I am always humbled at how many of our neighbors here collaborate to make these events happen.”
Ben’s favorite Marion memory happened recently at the protests for racial justice in Marion. “I saw Marion people standing together in solidarity … standing up for a common human cause. I saw how peacefully they faced angry screams and taunts of some passersby. I felt the strong sense of community here, and it inspired me to see from another view, to look for the inspiration hiding in plain sight, to not be neutral but to stand with those working to find constructive ways to facilitate progress. I witnessed how my community reacts in a difficult situation, and I feel optimistic about our future because of it.
Ben Kern’s sense of loving where he works and lives is evident every day. That is the MarionMade! spirit.