23 Nov 2021Mont Marte

It was a trip to Mexico that ignited the creative spark for featured artist, Ben Ross (@benross_art) His laidback, surf-inspired, cartoony creations are full of bold colours, detailed patterns and jam-packed with personality. We spoke with the Mornington Peninsula artist on how he got into art, what it’s like to see his art on buildings and why keeping a notebook is so important to finding creative ideas.

Painter Ben Ross works in motion with cartoons painted on canvas in studio.

How did you develop your own art style?

My style developed in the wonderful world of Mexico, I was 8 months deep into a stint from the USA to South America and running out of money quickly, (due to a combination of Vegas and the extremely expensive hotel accommodation on the California Coast). I was sitting at a hostel bar, after a surf looking at the trip ahead, thinking ‘how am I going to afford this’?

I went on the web and found a place where you can make bids on jobs for some quick cash, so I started bidding. I heard back from a woman in London about making art for her yoga studio, she wanted me to draw caricatures in some yoga poses, I drew myself, she hated it, didn’t pay me and that’s where Bennie was grown.

I then went to Mexico where all of the soft pastel colours I use, were born. The beautiful people, the blue sea, the pink and orange skies, all born from Mexico.

So as upset as I was about not getting paid, I love you random yoga woman, for making Bennie grow.

Since being back, I try to draw as much as I’m feeling, so a lot of my illustrations grow from my background and surroundings. 

How would you describe yourself? 

I’m a super easy-going person, always up for anything. If I’m not working, (which is rarely never) you’ll find me either out in the surf, or at the local watering hole drawing. 

There’s really not too much to say about myself, I was a builder for 10 years, in the Navy for two and had a life in football before all this took off.

I love a margarita and I love a good chat so if you have the ears and are willing to put up with me, I’ll definitely spray a few stories. I read a lot, but most of all, I just love the ocean. 

Cartoon Benny walking in paint with coloured sunglasses.

When did you first get into art and why?

I first got into art when I was a little tacker, I used to draw all over those competitions that the local supermarkets had, I would take plenty and just sit and draw all night, changing the page as much as I could. I owe it to mum (having twins, as hyper as we were) and a baby sister, she would sit us down and make us draw and we loved it, we drew all the time.

It definitely took a back seat when I started my carpentry apprenticeship, but then Jake (my twin brother, who’s also a very talented artist) and I, would start a surf/art brand where we would be able to surf all day, and draw all night, even though it didn’t really work out like that.

Jake started his own art brand and has been kicking goals ever since. He gave me the passion to work for myself, I was falling into a very deep hole with the carpentry, I hated where I was and I was depressed, but two years later, here I am.

It wasn’t easy, and I would love to thank my family, friends, especially my fiancé for putting up with me through the beginning of this adventure. It wasn’t easy but we did it BABY.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?

Oh, you’re going to hate me, but every project I’ve worked on is my most exciting. Of course, when the bigger brands that I’ve known since I was a little boy, when they contact you, it’s super exciting, for them to want my art, it's a pinch me moment.

It's crazy to me, but then you go the other way and when a small business contacts me, I know that’s personal and emotional to think this person wants my art all over their business, it’s crazy, it’s raw and it's why I went through the tough times starting out in the art world. I love every single project, I love the people behind the business. Every single project is different and wonderful in its own way. 

Cartoon Benny sitting on a motorbike holding a peace sign with groceries.

Do you have a favourite artist that might have inspired you? Who and why?

I have a lot of artists that I absolutely love, down here on the Peninsula, we have a great collection of artists, to name a few: Josh Brown, Cam Stynes and Jack Miers are all unreal.

I will sound very biased, but I love my brother's art, he always amazes me. If it’s painting, I’ll have to go with Kantaro Yoshida, his colour palette is absolutely unreal, best artist in Australia I think.

We have a few here that are unbelievable, Mental Ben, is amazing. Internationally, Steve Harrington, in the US, he’s amazing, the way his mind works, just baffles me. My favourite would have to be Lucas Beaufort, he’s unbelievable, the way all of these people see life fascinates me. I would love to be inside their heads and steal all of their ideas, so if you’re reading this, send them over. 

Do you enjoy murals or canvas painting more? 

I enjoy both. Canvas are good in a way because I can smash them out, turn music on and drown myself out of life to get creative on a canvas, plus I can paint anywhere. Often after a surf I’ll set up the canvas down the beach and go to town.

But with canvas not too many people get to appreciate it. With murals, everyone gets to appreciate the art. I get to meet a lot of people, people that either work at the venue or people that walk past. Murals are a bit more challenging especially with all of the eyes on you. The only problem with murals, is that I love to chat and it’s really hard to get into the vibe of painting when you’re talking all the time. 

Ben Ross standing in front of a painted mural of Benny.

How does it feel walking past a building, knowing you did the art on it?

Oh, the feeling is unreal, it’s almost like you’re a proud parent, just looking at your creations, I often walk past buildings and think to myself, geez my art would look epic on this, picturing what it would look like in my head.

Then when you actually see your creation on a building, where someone has paid you to paint your mind on their building, it’s an epic feeling. A lot of the time I’ll grab a few beers, go and sit at a few of my buildings just to bask in the glory. 

What’s your favourite Mont Marte product?

My favourite Mont Marte product, geez that’s so hard to pick one, I love all of your brushes, they hold so much paint and the lines I’ve painted with your brushes are just unreal. They are so clean and smooth, something I don’t get from many brushes around, I also love your canvas, they hold the paint really well too.

It’s hard to go past your Abstract Expression Brush, I use them on everything, the lines I can get with those beauties are unbelievable, brick, canvas or colour-bond. It’s always so clean. 

Cartoon Benny laying on sunflowers.

How do you come up with your art ideas on the day?

It's pretty crazy, but for me, someone that’s always reading, creating and listening to music, I see opportunity everywhere. Every time I see something or hear something, I just need to draw it. That’s why I highly recommend, you always carry a notepad with you everywhere you go and if you start writing down your mind, before you know it, you’ll have a creative mind that looks for opportunity out of everything you do. 

Cartoon Benny surfing with a bowl of noodles and fish with sunglasses.

We hope this month’s featured artist Ben Ross and his cartoony alter-ego Bennie have inspired you to create.

Show us what you create and share your projects with us! #montmarteart or tag @montmarteart on Instagram or Facebook. Or check out more of our featured artists here.