Ben Ashton on the secret to realising your purpose

What goes into being a successful artist?

And what is fundamental when it comes to making a living in the art world?

Today I’m speaking with Ben Ashton, a master of subversion. His art is both beautiful and challenging; a clash of past and future that merges classic techniques with new ideas.

GQ style called him a modern master, and his work, inspired by old master techniques, has been embraced by the global pop surrealist movement.

We talk about the power of patience and resilience to realize your purpose.

How necessity truly was the mother of invention – and the main creative idea – when Ben executed the “Fall in Love Again” official video by Rag’n’Bone Man.

We talk about the power of flexibility and networks.

How to live out your purpose… and follow your heart.

And pursuing and maintaining a brand that is truly authentic.

Ben talks of fighting against the traditional London art scene. And what that means. And then his route to feeling content.

And we end on a glimpse to what his next show is going to be about. Which is super cool!

This is a must listen. I was totally buzzing at the end of this one. The energy is electric. And it was SUPER FUN to record.

So throw on those running shoes or grab your favorite beverage. And get inspired, with Ben.

You can follow Ben on Instagram: @benashtonart

Watch the Rag’n’Bone Man video here.

And check out Ben’s YouTube here Www.YouTube.com/benashtonart

00:00:02:05 – 00:00:27:03
Philippa White
Welcome to the show, where we unearth new ways of looking at ever evolving lights around the world. Seen from a number of different industries, cultures and backgrounds. But there’s one thing that unites everyone I speak to. They all want to do their part to make the world better in their own unique ways. It’s a uniting passion. Whether they’re from the commercial world, third sector or public sector from the Global North or the global south.

00:00:27:15 – 00:01:03:24
Philippa White
My name is Philippa White and welcome to TIE Unearthed. Hello and welcome to episode 41 of TIE Unearthed. Today I have a really special guest with us, someone I’ve known for a very long time. His wife and creative partner is a childhood friend of mine and he’s one of the most talented people I know. GQ style called him a modern master, and his work inspired by old master techniques has been embraced by the global pop surrealist movement.

00:01:04:14 – 00:01:35:20
Philippa White
Ben Ashton is a master of subversion. His art is both beautiful and challenging a clash of past and future that merges classic techniques with new ideas. His current series, being inspired by the swagger portraits of artists such as Thomas Lawrence. He sends up the pomposity of contemporary discourse and the weaponization of nostalgia. As Ben points out, history tends to be cyclical.

00:01:36:05 – 00:02:00:09
Philippa White
So by drawing on the past, he’s able to provide context to art that reacts to current events. Now, today, we’re going to be talking about the power of patience and resilience to realize your purpose. We talk about the reality of living as an artist and what values he holds true that have helped him make a success of living out his passion.

00:02:00:23 – 00:02:31:06
Philippa White
We hear about working with his wife, Fiona, the joint projects they’ve worked on, and some very honest reflections he’s had from creating Rag’n’bone Man’s most recent official video. I think a lot of us out there wonder what it takes to make a successful personal brand. You know what has gone into it? Ben has created something truly extraordinary. And today, Ben shares the lessons he’s learned, pursuing and maintaining a brand that is truly authentic.

00:02:31:17 – 00:02:50:21
Philippa White
There’s so much goodness here. So if you’re looking to feel inspired as you wrap up your holidays and start truly living out your purpose in 2022, this is a must listen. Here’s Ben. I Ben, it’s wonderful to have you with us. How are you?

00:02:51:06 – 00:02:55:03
Ben Ashton
I’m good. Thank you. Thank you very much for having me. Well, it’s a pleasure to be here.

00:02:55:10 – 00:03:05:08
Philippa White
Yeah. Thank you for joining TIE on Earth. And tell me where. Well, I can see where you are, but our listeners, unfortunately, won’t be able to see because this will be on video. Where are you?

00:03:05:23 – 00:03:22:16
Ben Ashton
I’m in London. I’m in North London at the moment where I live and work in a very, very tiny studio where, yes, it’s it’s kind of like a glorified garage, basically. But, you know. Yes, you’re used to it in London. It’s fine.

00:03:23:01 – 00:03:45:00
Philippa White
And it’s amazing because for our listeners, I mean, I’m on Zoom, I’m talking to Ben over video. His work is extraordinary. And I’m looking at one, two, three, four, five. Maybe there’s one on the fridge there. I mean, there’s about six pieces of art that I can just see in this small little square. Your studio is extraordinary. I mean.

00:03:45:13 – 00:03:50:03
Ben Ashton
There’s a whole lot of them, as is Kasongo. Yeah. So, yeah.

00:03:51:09 – 00:04:12:05
Philippa White
It does. It’s amazing. Ben. Ben and I have known each other for a long time, and his wife is one of my oldest friends. I’ve known Fiona since I was, I don’t know, seven, I think maybe eight. But Fiona and I go way back and as a result, Ben and I go pretty far back because we’ve been married for quite a while now, so.

00:04:12:06 – 00:04:13:07
Philippa White
Wow, yeah, yeah.

00:04:13:11 – 00:04:20:12
Ben Ashton
For a decade now we’ve just celebrated ten years, two years ago, I think actually. Yeah. Wow, it’s great regulations.

00:04:20:12 – 00:04:44:04
Philippa White
That’s great. And I mean, as a, you know, as we’ve just said, going into your house and your studio is just one of the most extraordinary ordinary places to be. It’s just so inspiring, you know, art everywhere. And I just think it would just be amazing for you to bring you more to life. I will go into your art and all that kind of stuff in a sec, but just tell us your story.

00:04:44:04 – 00:04:48:06
Philippa White
How did you end up in London and tell us your story?

00:04:48:06 – 00:05:13:17
Ben Ashton
Oh yeah. London, yeah. Well, okay. So I suppose I started my my learning about us in Oxford and then I think I did a year of foundation there. Then I went up to Newcastle and then four years studying there and then I finished my education down in, in London. So that’s when I actually came, came to London and finished at the state doing my M.A. there.

00:05:13:17 – 00:05:35:23
Ben Ashton
So I did, I don’t know, seven years of straight art education, which is far too much for any artist to do, I think. I don’t need any of it. And then, yeah, so now I’ve been living and working in London for over fifth. No, it’s about 14, 15 years. Yeah. That’s it. Yeah. It started to become quite a long time actually now and I suppose.

00:05:35:23 – 00:06:06:13
Ben Ashton
Yeah. But I do nowadays is how I am known is I’m a pop surrealist, which is something that I never thought I was going to be. I never had any intention of being. But due to sort of social media and the way that people hashtag you and your work on social media, I realized that in fact, there’s a kind of group of people that’s interested in the type of work I do, and it’s been quite an interesting discovery and I’m quite glad that I’m part of there.

00:06:06:13 – 00:06:14:19
Ben Ashton
They’re thing, you know, whatever their thing is. So yeah, that’s what I am now. Yeah, I’m a pop singer is.

00:06:14:19 – 00:06:34:00
Philippa White
Yeah, thanks to Instagram tell me it’s you. I mean, have you always been into art when you were young? Were you there drawing? Tell us just your your how did you even get into studying art and why did you why did you decide to go down that route?

00:06:34:00 – 00:06:57:21
Ben Ashton
Hmm. Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s kind of by default, really. I mean, my father’s an artist. My mum was a secondary school art teacher. She was head of all the that the entire creative faculty. And so she was the main breadwinner. I was brought up by my dad mostly, and because she was too busy making money, which is brilliant thinking mum and basically I was sort of taken around galleries.

00:06:57:21 – 00:07:16:13
Ben Ashton
I sort of grew up around this and I think I was just sort of jumping through educational hoops until I probably when I was probably halfway through my BA at Newcastle and I realized that actually that’s what I wanted to do with my life because yeah. And until that, that moment I was just sort of going with the flow of it all.

00:07:16:22 – 00:07:24:22
Ben Ashton
And thankfully as having parents that were involved in the arts, I saw it as a viable career that I could do.

00:07:25:12 – 00:07:25:20
Philippa White
Yeah.

00:07:25:22 – 00:07:49:14
Ben Ashton
Which, which is nice, which is because otherwise I well, yeah, because otherwise I, you know, I don’t think I would have gone down this path. You know, there’s a lot of people I think it way more of naturally talented, art wise. And because they had, you know, a different upbringing, they never pursued it. And a lot of people have talked to me and said they wish they had later on in life, they wish they had gone down that path.

00:07:49:14 – 00:07:54:23
Ben Ashton
So I actually saw it as a possibility. And so that’s why I pursued it, I suppose.

00:07:55:06 – 00:08:18:12
Philippa White
And I think that’s what makes this conversation so fascinating, because in education, as you sort of growing up and obviously you’ve also got a son, right? So, you know, as you’re starting to I mean, hero’s still really little, but I’ve got young children, too, and I certainly don’t ever want to be one of those parents that’s trying to shoehorn my children into some kind of direction that, you know, you have to be a doctor.

00:08:18:12 – 00:08:37:22
Philippa White
I will never I will actually never be that person. But I think at the same time, as a parent, you want to know that your children are going to be able to be independent and be able to. Oh, yeah, money. And I certainly have no plan to fund my children. You know, just past 80 years old, you’re going to be getting a job now.

00:08:37:22 – 00:09:23:19
Philippa White
So but but I mean and also seriously, you know, I definitely do want them to be able to make a living. And so there’s that stigma, I guess, of, oh, gosh, you know, if you’re an artist, you’re just going to be like a starving artist and life is going to be very difficult. And what is so exciting, seeing you and Fiona, you both have been in art and working in as artists for your careers and I just think it’s so inspirational and this is why I was so excited to talk to you, Ben, because I think you and Fiona actually are perfect examples of perseverance and dedication and true off authenticity of what you do.

00:09:24:07 – 00:09:43:01
Philippa White
And, you know, if you build it and you focus on it and you have that determination, they will come. And I just think what would be really great for anyone who’s listening to this, what just to give people who who you know, maybe they are artists. Maybe this is something that some of your listeners or followers will be listening to as well.

00:09:43:11 – 00:09:56:00
Philippa White
You know, what do you see yourself doing most days and what gets you excited about getting out of bed? And maybe you could just give us a little insight to what your life is like living and working and making a living as an artist.

00:09:56:05 – 00:10:20:01
Ben Ashton
Yeah. So I mean, structure is, is integral to to I think many artists existence and it involves a hell of a lot of getting up and rigorously doing the same thing every day in order to get really good at it because it just takes so many hours to actually get it honed properly. You know, there’s a lot of craft involved, especially in what I do.

00:10:20:06 – 00:10:40:11
Ben Ashton
And so that’s that’s many hours each day if you don’t put those hours and you just simply won’t get good at the thing. But there’s so much more to it than that because obviously you can be very isolated as a as an artist as well, because you’ve got to put those hours in, you’ve got to be at home, you’ve got to be in the studio.

00:10:40:16 – 00:11:07:00
Ben Ashton
And so how do you how do you get out there? How do you get yourself out there to sort of promote what you do? Because no one’s going to know about unless you put out there. And so you have to be quite creative in your way of thinking in how to address that problem. And I think fear and I have spent most of our time sort of collaborating on ways in which we can do that in order to to make a living out of what we do.

00:11:07:00 – 00:11:33:09
Ben Ashton
And so, you know as well as doing the paintings, I do have a merch line. I have there’s prints. I you know, I’m working on a new merch line at the moment and you’ve got to keep those things rolling, all these plates spinning at the same time. But that’s fun. I get I still get to do what I want to do in my day to day life, which is something, you know, I speak to a lot of other parents of the school gates and they’re all making more money.

00:11:33:09 – 00:11:52:23
Ben Ashton
You know, it’s north London. You know, they they have nice houses and all the rest. But I get the awful feeling that they don’t really enjoy their jobs all that much. And I actually get to enjoy my job and probably, you know, and still make enough money to exist. So, you know, I mean, it’s so bad, but.

00:11:53:20 – 00:12:16:23
Philippa White
I mean, you’re doing extra and it’s funny actually listening to you talk because I can I can relate as far as having to make the decision of do I want to follow my passion and my purpose and what, you know, what speaks to me or do I want to take a box or fit into a box that, you know, convention or society has kind of created for me.

00:12:17:11 – 00:12:24:08
Philippa White
And I, I definitely have chosen the former, which is, you know, going down my purpose driven path.

00:12:24:21 – 00:12:43:23
Ben Ashton
And it’s and it’s really good for our relationship as well because we get to spend a lot of time around each other. I mean, it’s not probably not good for everybody in that way, but it works for us. We’ve we’ve always lived in a tiny space. We’ve always collaborated. If we weren’t doing that, I don’t think we we get on so well.

00:12:43:24 – 00:12:49:11
Ben Ashton
If we were spending vast amounts of time apart, it just it wouldn’t work. So, you know, it’s.

00:12:49:18 – 00:12:51:16
Philippa White
It’s made us think.

00:12:52:23 – 00:12:53:23
Ben Ashton
It’s work for us.

00:12:54:24 – 00:13:27:11
Philippa White
Thank goodness. Right? Yeah. Right. What would be great to know, I mean, I just recently saw your the video that you did for Rag’n’bone man, but the most recent execution, which I thought was phenomenal and such a genius idea and beautiful execution of a song. And so for all of our listeners, you need to check it out on What’s It Fall in Love Again, I think is the name of the song by Rag’n’bone Man.

00:13:27:11 – 00:13:30:09
Ben Ashton
Yeah, for a lovely yeah, that’s it, that’s it. Yeah. And you’ll find it on.

00:13:30:09 – 00:13:47:04
Philippa White
YouTube but I think would be great. You know, you talked about having a merch line and you’ve got your paintings and you know, you did this video, you know, what are just some of the last five projects or something that you can just tell our listeners just to get an insight into your world?

00:13:47:10 – 00:14:10:14
Ben Ashton
Yeah. So it’s, it’s mixed. It’s, it’s kind of mixed up between the work that Faye and I do together and what we do individually. And, and those two things collide a lot as well. And I think probably one of the most important things that I’ve learned throughout my artistic career is don’t turn things down, things come out and they do come up quite randomly, then just take a chance on it.

00:14:10:20 – 00:14:28:18
Ben Ashton
Sometimes you’ll find it doesn’t work. Most of the time it does. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t really matter. You haven’t actually lost so much and so try and be kind of flexible in that and something that hasn’t necessarily come particularly easy for me because I’m quite set in my my ways when it comes to my work. You have to be in order to do it.

00:14:29:02 – 00:14:43:15
Ben Ashton
But when Sophie comes up with an idea very last minute to do this Rag’n’bone man video, you know, I had to do it in a week. And she was like, well, I’ve got an idea of a vague story arc, and I would just set up a camera and you’ll be painting and we’ll do some sort of time lapse thing.

00:14:44:05 – 00:15:02:07
Ben Ashton
And I was like, Okay, get closer to the day. I’m like, How are we going to do this like this? How is this going to work? And then halfway through the process, I was like, ready to give up. And then, but by the end of it, it turned out pretty well. But I was I was so frustrated throughout, you know, right in the center of the process.

00:15:02:07 – 00:15:24:03
Ben Ashton
And that’s that’s the thing. You’ve got to have that sort of determination and go, oh, you know, we’ll give it a whirl anyway. You know, so as far as projects, you know, we’ve worked on musical projects together, Rag’n’bone Man Metal Band called Bullet for My Valentine. We did all that stuff together. So all the stuff that Fiona’s doing creative direction for, we did a whole bunch of stuff for Daphne Guinness.

00:15:24:03 – 00:15:46:09
Ben Ashton
That was a little while back. That was crazy. I did record Bowman’s first album cover that was painted. So that was another another thing where, you know, he and I were working together on that. At the same time, I’m doing my own stuff. So all my solo shows and group exhibitions and, you know, the merch line, everything else that works its way on kind of my individual work.

00:15:46:09 – 00:16:08:19
Ben Ashton
And then she’s doing her photography and then occasionally we do these big commercial projects. But then I did this thing, it was last Christmas, this project that came out of nowhere for Canal Plus, and it was they wanted me to paint three posters for this period’s crime drama, and it came out of nowhere, and I earn a ridiculous amount of money doing it.

00:16:08:19 – 00:16:35:04
Ben Ashton
And that’s yeah. Which is like I, that really came out of nowhere. And the only reason why we actually got a decent amount of money for is because now we are now working with an agent who has just a friend of, of fees and he negotiates these things now. So I mean, we’ve neither of us are very good with money and it’s amazing having that guy help us out when it comes to, you know, these negotiations now.

00:16:35:04 – 00:17:00:06
Ben Ashton
But these things, these networks, these networks you build up and you can’t just get it like that. You’ve got to live for a bit within the industry. And, you know, if you keep sort of meeting and bumping into people and you get on with them and you’re nice and then I see you, then eventually you can start collaborating on things and everybody gain something when you do that, which is a wonderful thing that your network is so important.

00:17:01:03 – 00:17:45:08
Ben Ashton
So at the moment my work’s been taken to Miami Art Fair called Scope Miami with a gallery called Mortal Machine, and they’re based in New Orleans. And so that that’s going to be it this month coming December. So my work will be there in Miami. But, you know, I saw with Arcadia, contemporary New York, Rock La and see I saw show in couple of places in Australia now Bowen Art Gallery and HK I’ll be showing you know I’ve got a show in Munich next year I’ve got a show in Rome, it’s I and that’s all from social media and and putting my work out there and word of mouth and that’s what happens and it’s

00:17:45:24 – 00:18:03:18
Ben Ashton
there’s been many years where that wasn’t happening. And so I feel incredibly lucky that that is my life now. But there were many years of it being quite stagnant and it was mainly because I was just following this course in London as far as like an artistic direction where I was trying to cause the wrong type of gallery.

00:18:03:18 – 00:18:34:05
Ben Ashton
I think essentially I didn’t really know how to do it. And because you had to go to openings and pretend you weren’t, you as something you weren’t essentially. And there’s it’s like an old boy’s club in the art world, in London in particular. And I’m just not meant for that. And the way that social media has helped me is I can be authentic and continuously share all the time, all the different, you know, the progress of what I’m doing and the people that are interested just find you.

00:18:34:15 – 00:18:40:05
Ben Ashton
And that’s that’s so much better than me trying to go out and find the people.

00:18:40:06 – 00:19:04:02
Philippa White
Exactly. And I mean, just to continue my thought, because you’ve just also I think what’s so important is for anyone in whatever profession you’re in, to understand, to have that self-awareness of who you are and to have that offers authenticity and to to be true to who you are. And don’t try and again, fit into some kind of box and try and be something you’re not or what other people say you should be.

00:19:04:13 – 00:19:24:10
Philippa White
And if you are that authentic person, people will see that and then they’re going to be attracted to you. Yeah. And I think the other genius piece of advice that you were talking about before, when we were talking about having to be flexible and I think your your work, again, is extraordinary and it’s just must take so long.

00:19:24:10 – 00:19:47:10
Philippa White
And, you know, you’re in these incredible galleries, but then you have a project with Rag’n’bone man where your wife and creative partners like Och in an afternoon, we need to create this basically amazing painting and you’re like, That’s not what I do. That’s not my style. My style is like and it’s great because I can understand. I can I cannot totally imagine the conversations that you would have had.

00:19:47:16 – 00:20:13:11
Philippa White
I can imagine the pain that you felt. No, but this is this is it’s just extraordinary how art and how if you’re flexible and how you can kind of adapt, you know, okay, this is obviously one of my extraordinary paintings that’s going to be in the gallery or whatever. Yeah, but, but it is also an absolutely beautiful execution to a song for Rag’n’bone man that, you know, Ben Ashton was able to bring to life.

00:20:13:11 – 00:20:19:15
Philippa White
So think it’s fascinating. Actually, I think it’s fascinating in having to kind of wrestle with yourself to be able to do that kind of stuff.

00:20:20:01 – 00:20:46:07
Ben Ashton
So the interesting thing about that process of when I was right on the the underneath the brink of giving up and saying, oh, this is not working, is I decided to just put a load of color over the faces in that picture and that that came out of nowhere and probably out of desperation and, and decided to drag this out of the out of the frame and and it and it works.

00:20:46:07 – 00:21:01:12
Ben Ashton
And I was like, Well, that’s a fuck right? And because, you know, you don’t expect these things to happen, they just happen. It’s purely out of I’ve run out of ideas, how can I make this good? And and then I’m like, Well, I could probably use that.

00:21:01:12 – 00:21:19:19
Philippa White
I actually think that that makes it. I actually think that that makes yeah. What is so extraordinary is even the idea of the painting and what you did with that color, which is so interesting because that came out of desperation and like, oh my God, what am I going to do? And what’s so fascinating is actually, that’s the creative idea of that song.

00:21:19:19 – 00:21:36:12
Ben Ashton
Exactly. Yeah, yeah. Oh, yeah, I know. And it’s, you know, these things these it’s not when say is an accident, but it’s something that you wouldn’t necessarily do that you feel like you need to do just to save. Just don’t know because something needs to happen.

00:21:36:18 – 00:22:04:14
Philippa White
Well, we we actually talk a lot, a lot with time. And actually I’ve been asked to write a few articles on this is, you know, necessity is the mother of invention and how constraints can unlock new thinking, you know, and the obstacle is the way. And I think if were in a situation where there was not that much money, there was not that much time, and you didn’t have many resources and you had to figure out this creative solution to this song.

00:22:05:04 – 00:22:13:10
Philippa White
And it’s amazing, isn’t it? Because that’s what you’re when you when you actually are put to the test anyone that’s actually sometimes. And so the best things kind of come out.

00:22:14:08 – 00:22:26:11
Ben Ashton
So this is why, you know, you should never really turn these things down. You never know what’s going to come out of them. It’s something I learned. I get very angry in the moments, but you feel I tell you all about that. So yeah.

00:22:26:11 – 00:22:30:03
Philippa White
Where do you where do you go for inspiration then? Who inspires you?

00:22:30:18 – 00:22:57:20
Ben Ashton
Well, actually, so, you know, normally I would go for a walk around galleries, you know, during the you said that that’s my sort of meditative thing that I do. I walk around the national portrait and the National Gallery and I have a certain route. I do round. It’s, you know, it’s quite bizarre. It’s sort of meditative. It’s I stand in front of the same paintings that I’ve always stood in front of, and it somehow makes my brain work in a in a certain way.

00:22:57:20 – 00:23:18:08
Ben Ashton
I relax into a place. There’s something about the smell of it and the atmosphere of it and going and watching things that have been there for a really, really long time, centuries, and they’ve always kind of been there. And there’s something in that, that it calms me and makes me feel centers. And I can I think about the next the next step and it’s a good, good place.

00:23:18:13 – 00:23:52:12
Ben Ashton
But over the pandemic, very, you know, things have been shot and now now they’re starting to open up. But the Internet is a wonderful place for all things. My entire index of historical portraiture is is there in various places. And I spend a lot of my time just scrolling and scrolling through things and picking things up and and trying to react to what’s going on in the world and sort of using that link to art history to maybe subvert that.

00:23:52:13 – 00:24:05:07
Ben Ashton
The original meaning of some of those old portraits, to make some sort of commentary on what’s going on, especially in England at the moment. So yeah, that’s what I’m I find myself doing and that’s where I find my inspiration, that moment.

00:24:05:09 – 00:24:21:02
Philippa White
Well, now, what advice would you give our listeners? I mean, actually, until now it’s been full of advice, but is there any other advice that you would give our listeners that if they’re trying to live out their purpose or thinking about following their heart?

00:24:21:07 – 00:24:51:11
Ben Ashton
Well, I think probably set yourself up. Some manageable goals would be a good place to start, but also trying to figure out what you want to do at all is quite an interesting thought experiment. It’s knowing exactly what you want has always been a very, very difficult thing for me. But as soon as you actually put it into words and say it out loud and go, I’m going to do this usually takes you a couple of years to manage it if you really try, but you’ve got to break up those things into manageable tasks.

00:24:51:11 – 00:25:15:20
Ben Ashton
And so, you know, for me, I was like, Oh, I want to be in an international show, I need to show some stuff in the gallery. And two years on I, you know, manage that and then you’ve got to then go, okay, so what do I want to do now? Because you can never stay stagnant. My route to I don’t know if it’s happiness or being content is to always be striving for something and to never feel like you’re stagnant.

00:25:15:20 – 00:25:39:14
Ben Ashton
So you’re, you’re just treading water. And so that’s been a thing for me. So then you need to work out what that next goal is. Never stay still. And I probably would say that this finding your network thing is, is so, so very important. The ones that you can really connect with, that you can find support from then and you and you can actually support them back.

00:25:39:14 – 00:25:57:24
Ben Ashton
And it is that community that the proper rail community that you need to find because you can no one ever does anything on their own. You always needs, you know, lots of people to to be in on something, I think to actually make it happen. And also, if you’re nice to people, they’ll be nice to you. I’ve noticed that same thing.

00:25:57:24 – 00:26:22:19
Ben Ashton
So, you know, there’s no point in burning any bridges. You’ve got to always, whenever you’re working with anyone, make it as nice experience as possible because it’s just so mutually beneficial. I feel like people will promote the idea of dog eat dog and I’ve got my own kind of philosophy and I think it’s so bad for society as a whole and civilization generally.

00:26:22:19 – 00:26:38:16
Ben Ashton
I think it’s very, very important that everybody helps each other out as much as possible. And so, yeah, that’s that’s my ethos and that’s Fiona’s ethos. And I feel like we work with nice people as a result and that’s nice. So awesome when I spoke to them and we all succeed together. It works. It works.

00:26:39:00 – 00:26:40:05
Philippa White
It’s how it should be, isn’t it?

00:26:40:07 – 00:26:41:06
Ben Ashton
Yeah, I think so.

00:26:41:06 – 00:26:58:21
Philippa White
Yeah. And I think it’s really, you know, the showbiz artist world, like you said, the old boys club. It can just not be like that. And how wonderful. Yeah, you are so true to your values and what is important to you and who you plan to work with and spend time with.

00:26:58:21 – 00:27:25:09
Ben Ashton
Also, you know the art world prides itself on exclusivity. I mean, that’s how they sell things for ridiculous amounts of money. And, you know, I don’t know how down I am with that, to be honest. So I try and make it so you can collect my work in smaller ways and work on paper to make things cheaper. So my work isn’t so astronomically expensive for the canvas and the panel ones, and I don’t like the exclusivity of the art house and I feel like everybody should enjoy art.

00:27:25:14 – 00:27:52:08
Ben Ashton
And the social media has allowed people it’s democratized it so brilliantly where everybody now feel like they’ve got an opinion on art and modern art and what’s going on right now. Instead of just reading stuff in the newspaper and going, Oh, yeah, oh, what? Later. Nonsense. The only art that they put in the newspaper is stuff that’s like heavily conceptual things that you need to read an essay on it to actually understand what it’s all about, like a like turning on in a gallery.

00:27:52:12 – 00:28:11:20
Ben Ashton
And then everyone is outraged that, oh God, that’s what modern art is all about. And what a load of rubbish, how elitist. And it’s like, that’s not what I should be about, you know, it’s not. And there’s plenty of artists not not like that. And not that there’s a problem with the artists that are like that. It’s just it’s a different it’s a different client base that they’re heading for.

00:28:11:20 – 00:28:15:19
Ben Ashton
I suppose it’s like, you know, there are many parts of the art world.

00:28:15:21 – 00:28:41:04
Philippa White
And I think what’s so beautiful as well. And you obviously you live what you’re talking now. I mean, on Instagram, if you guys go to Instagram, if you’re not already following Ben, you’ve got your tutorials that you give, you know, your lies that you know and you in fear, Fiona, are chatting and you’re explaining. I watched one just the other day of the glazing and the blue glaze over the orange background and how you can push the oh yes, background back.

00:28:41:04 – 00:28:58:14
Philippa White
I don’t paint, but if I did paint that is just really nice just to sort of get like, God, okay, that’s really nice. And you spend the time to just help people just understand how to be better painters. And I just think it’s just. Yeah, it’s just wonderful what you and Fiona together actually. Yes, I know that she really.

00:28:58:14 – 00:29:00:23
Philippa White
She’s the camera person in the background.

00:29:01:11 – 00:29:20:04
Ben Ashton
Yeah. She’s the one that suggests I do is in the first place, you know, but then I realize that in fact the conversations that come from that are really fun as well. You know, in the comment section people ask various other things and I realize that imparting knowledge that I’ve picked up on my own is actually is wonderful to give that to people.

00:29:20:04 – 00:29:25:22
Ben Ashton
You feel better as a human for doing that. I think you know what that whatever that is. Yeah.

00:29:25:22 – 00:29:38:13
Philippa White
So now we’ve come to the end of the podcast, but I would just love to know, you know, what are you working on at the moment? You touched on it a little bit, but what are you working on at the moment or what? Haven’t I asked you that you’d like to tell the listeners?

00:29:39:13 – 00:30:07:17
Ben Ashton
Well, okay, so what I’m doing at the moment with Fiona, because she’s the tech savvy, one out of the two is I’m designing some really hilarious merch because, you know, I’ve done this was a T-shirt line with Threadless. That was the last thing I did as far as merchandise. But now we’re doing like Homeware and Tables and umbrellas and bomber jackets and just all sorts of crazy stuff like that, you know, travel mugs and a coffee set and just it’s hilarious.

00:30:07:17 – 00:30:25:00
Ben Ashton
So, yeah, I’ve been having a lot of fun making the designs for that and so that that will probably be done by the end of the week. And then what have I got? So yes, I’ve sent the thing scoped Miami that’s happening this month, coming and then February we got a group show here where I painted a portrait of Princess Margaret.

00:30:25:01 – 00:30:46:14
Ben Ashton
All these artists are responding to the same age of Princess Margaret’s really bizarre idea for a show. It’s because this iconic photographer, it’s her daughter, has set up a foundation and a father’s honor when he dies. And we’re all responding to this one photo. Princess Margaret holding a cushion with it’s not easy being a princess written on this.

00:30:46:14 – 00:30:52:16
Ben Ashton
And it’s a really amusing photo and we’ve all been given it and we’ve all responded in our own different way. So that’s going to be a really fun.

00:30:52:16 – 00:30:54:18
Philippa White
Oh, wow. Cool. And where is that?

00:30:54:18 – 00:31:18:21
Ben Ashton
Yeah, that’s London Bridge. That’s in London. That’s like one of my only exhibitions in London for, I don’t know, eighties. Wow. And then after that, I think July it’s in Munich still a punk gallery, then another one in Rome. And then then I think I’m going back to Moscow for art life. And then San Francisco by the end of the year will beautiful bazaar is the magazine they put on a show in San Francisco.

00:31:18:24 – 00:31:39:08
Ben Ashton
And so that will be across at the end of next year. So I’ve got my entire year mapped out because you need to because otherwise, you know, it’s I’ve got two solo shows and that’s a lot of work that’s, I don’t know, 15 paintings each. So I’m the I’m the starts started. I’m just been doing a whole bunch of works on paper at the moment just to, you know, figure out what I’m doing for them for the next big canvases.

00:31:39:08 – 00:31:40:04
Ben Ashton
Because, you know.

00:31:40:14 – 00:31:57:18
Philippa White
And actually to that to that point, because, I mean, as I say, I’m not from the art world. Is this going to still be the same line of the art that’s behind you right now? Is it going to be that but just different portraits or are you going down another route completely?

00:31:57:18 – 00:32:03:06
Ben Ashton
This is it’s basically it’s still going to have an art historical sort of route in it.

00:32:03:06 – 00:32:03:13
Philippa White
Yeah.

00:32:03:20 – 00:32:21:02
Ben Ashton
There will still be portraiture involved, there will be other things getting in the way. So it would be the process of producing it. So it will look like there’s a fault in the mechanical process of making it. So I want it to look like it’s been made by a machine and the machine’s breaking down and so that’s yeah, yeah.

00:32:21:02 – 00:32:42:12
Ben Ashton
So yeah you have to say anyway yes it’s going to be an interesting progression. So it’s kind of almost like I’ve established this, this way of working and now I want there to be like, I don’t know, it’s glitching out and it’s breaking in some way. So that’s like the world seems to be at the moment. So, so I, I quite like to respond to it in that way.

00:32:42:21 – 00:32:44:07
Ben Ashton
So that’s, that’s my plan anyway.

00:32:44:07 – 00:33:10:05
Philippa White
Yeah. And I remember watching one of your videos for Fiona. I mean, because for the listeners, I mean the amount of work that goes into this art. And then she asked the really good question, which is so after all of that, is it not stressful to then create that glitch? I mean, just can you answer that? Because I just I can’t even imagine doing that after spending all that time the and the number of layers and layers and detail and detail and then you break it.

00:33:11:23 – 00:33:31:18
Ben Ashton
Well, yeah. I mean, I think it’s important it’s important for me to do that. I’ve spent a long time learning how to paint paints and learning how to paint things perfectly and all the rest. And after a while it can only go so far. And I’ve seen I’ve seen so much, so many beautifully painted pictures that are very realistic all over the place.

00:33:31:18 – 00:33:52:02
Ben Ashton
And yeah, that’s a that’s a sort of a nice kind of want for me to destroy something beautiful after I’ve done it. I don’t know what it is now, but it never used to be like that. I think it’s just the way that I’m probably responding to everything now. We’ve got a beautiful world and we’re happily destroying it continually.

00:33:52:02 – 00:33:56:11
Ben Ashton
So, you know, may maybe it’s something to do with that. Maybe it’s coming out in that way.

00:33:57:03 – 00:34:20:13
Philippa White
Well, then it has been such a joy to speak to you. Thank you so much for taking the time. You are an inspiration to Fiona. Both are really extraordinary. Yeah, I just love talking to both of you and I love your work, both of your work. And thank you for joining me. And you’ve definitely inspired the listeners because this has been an absolutely fantastic conversation.

00:34:20:17 – 00:34:21:04
Philippa White
Thank you.

00:34:22:01 – 00:34:28:01
Ben Ashton
All. It was my pleasure. Yeah, that’s that’s really lovely to hear. And, you know, I very much enjoyed this.

00:34:28:08 – 00:34:30:00
Philippa White
Good. Until next time.

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