London Artist Ben Jeffery Ignited His Dream With A Friendly Competition
Like most kids growing up in Northern London, Ben Jeffery picked up his first pencil at a very young age and began to experiment. Almost immediately he could feel it in his hand and in his heart; he loved art and wanted to create as much as possible. “I used to get really excited when I got an art project in school.” said Ben. “I couldn’t wait to do it and bring it back to school the next day.” Picture after picture, his personal collection kept growing and friends and family were fascinated with his drawings. Their reactions showed Ben he truly had a gift but it wasn’t until high school when a random conversation with his friends turned into a life-changing challenge. It was then that this young artist found a confidence in himself that would lead him on a lesson-filled journey where he would discover his own style and his own place in the United Kingdom art scene.
“My friends and I always talked about art and one day, out of nowhere, we decided to have a contest.” said Ben. “Let’s see who could draw the best portrait of Michael Jackson by tomorrow.” Jeffery went home and immediately got to work. The next day when he arrived at school to show his friends, people stopped him in the hall because they were amazed by what they saw. “People kept passing my portrait around the school and it created quite a buzz.” For the first time in his life, people who didn’t know Ben very well were praising his work and it got him thinking maybe he had a future as an artist. After that experience he continued to draw more and more people; switching from celebrities to film stars and moving on to self-portraits and family portraits. All the while, his family who was filled with creative minds continued to push him and inspire him to follow his artistic dreams.
Ben’s ancestor John Varley was a famous watercolor painter, his grandfather was an engineer and his father is a chef so the creative boost has always been there in the Jeffery family yet still Ben needed to find his way on his own. After getting a degree in Illustration at Southampton Solent University and an internship at a Mayfair art gallery, Jeffery got a job as an art consultant at a Kingston art gallery where he learned to sell other people’s artwork. “That really opened my eyes to the business side of being an artist and I eventually decided to take six months off, create my own artwork and see how far I could go.” Ben said. Soon after he began showcasing his work, Jeffery was discovered and signed by a publisher named Buckingham Fine Art and his portraits, landscapes and seascapes quickly began going up in galleries all over the United Kingdom.
Today Jeffery is in his fifth year as a professional in the art industry and his commitment to his craft is boldly clear even during my interview with him. During my talk with Ben, he had me on his speaker phone while painting his latest creation called “Web Slinger”, a Spider-Man portrait the Westover Gallery in the United Kingdom has requested. “They recently contacted my publisher and requested seven of my portraits in all so I need to get them two Spider-Mans, one Batman and three or four Jokers. I hope you don’t mind if I paint while we’re talking.” said Jeffery. Ben talked me through his creative process while he was painting Spider-Man’s face saying all of his portraits start with a sketch done in marker and continue with the acrylic paint that he uses for shadows and block colors. Then he goes to work on the details and tops it off with quick drying oil paints. “I really need to get these to the galleries quickly and it usually takes me about 14 to 16 hours for each piece so I’m very strict about my schedule.” Jeffery said.
Over the years, it’s clear that Ben has developed a great work ethic but getting to this point in his career is also the result of learning a few valuable lessons along the way. “For me it all starts with doing what you love for a living.” continued Jeffery. “I was fortunate that my parents always instilled that in me from a very young age and I always knew that art was my passion. Truly loving what I do has allowed me to enjoy every aspect of my career.”
While loving what you do is a good starting point, Ben believes that a lot of his happiness as an artist is centered on his choice to constantly change things up. “You need to do whatever it takes to keep everything fresh and not get bored because if you do have a creative job like an artist, it’s going to show in your work if you’re unhappy or bored.” Over the years Ben has regularly switched from doing portraits to seascapes to landscapes to murals; all in effort to keep his creative edge sharp.
Enjoying his work and experimenting with different art forms is important to Ben but understanding the business side of being an artist is ultimately why his work has gone from his room at home to the walls of several art galleries. “You really need to pay attention to people’s reactions and see what they love.” said Jeffery. “Be versatile as a commercial artist and create what people want instead of limiting yourself to one certain art form.”
As our interview winds down, Ben was continuing his work on “Web Slinger” and I asked him to name me the piece of art that he’s most proud of. Through the phone, I heard his paint brush dip into water as he gave his colors a quick break so he could think. He told me about a giant 20 foot by 23 foot mural that he painted called “Eau Rouge” which is an exact likeness of Spa Circuit where the Formula One race in Belgium is run. Then he paused and gave me one more; “the portrait that I did of my grandfather.” Jeffery continued. “He’s gone now but I’m just thankful that he was able to see it. My family loved it so much that we hung it in the church at his funeral.” Very fitting words from an artist whose near and dear family has watched him grow from a young boy experimenting with pencils into a young man whose masterpieces are now seen in galleries all over the United Kingdom.