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Meet Ben Silberstein

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ben Silberstein.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I really liked to draw when I was a kid, but kind of fell out of touch with art for all of high school and the beginning of college. What got me back into art was dealing with mental illness during my junior year. I felt like I had no identity and that I had been living a false life in some way. I started drawing again as a means of therapy and realized just how much I still loved to do it. By senior year, all the walls of my room were covered by drawings I had done.

After graduating, I kind of had art in my back pocket – I very much enjoyed drawing and photography, as well as editing photos and creating digital art with Photoshop – but I didn’t think it was feasible to do it full-time and it had nothing to do with what I majored in. I moved to Los Angeles, not for art, but just to start a new life. I was well aware of the abundance of creativity in the city and hoped it would inspire me. I started out as a real estate appraiser in 2015 at a really big corporation. It paid the bills and gave me a means of sustenance but it gave me little to no fulfillment. I couldn’t really look myself in the mirror because I didn’t respect myself for what I was doing. I ended up quitting in autumn of 2016 and decided to take a big risk in pursuing art on a full-time basis.

About a year and a half later, I am still here in LA and still making art. I have been quite fortunate to take part in a number of art-related events, exhibitions, and even recently a live painting competition. I’ve met some really amazing people. There have been difficult moments and periods of doubt as well. A lot of the experiences have been surreal, but overall I know I am trying to live my dreams right now and I can’t wait to see where the journey takes me.

Please tell us about your art.
Mostly I draw and make digital art. Those are my primary means of expression. I view drawing as a very natural outlet for any anxieties or emotions I might be feeling at that moment, or generally anything that has been on my mind. I like to think about interpersonal relationships and their nuances, and I still very much focus on either my own mental health or mental health in general. It is very important to me to send a message out into the world of ‘I have been where you are, I’ve felt what you’re feeling and you’re not alone,’ mostly with anxiety and depression. I try to reach anyone struggling with those issues.

Digital art is less of a direct emotional outlet for me but is really an incredible tool for visual expression and animation. Photoshop opened my mind really fast. I have experimented with fashion (clothing design), landscapes, portraits, etc. Using layering and various filters/techniques, it is possible to create interesting, unusual, and often surreal visuals. I often feel that my digital art is more striking and evocative than my drawings.

Regardless of the medium, I want people to look at something I made and feel something. It is important to me to elicit an emotional response of some kind. I am not picky about what type of response I get. I also do my best to leave metaphorical fingerprints on whatever I make. I try to express myself as honestly as possible and not try to propagate any style except my own. That idea is very important to me – not to try to impress anyone or emulate someone else’s work, but just to do my own thing with complete honesty and sincerity.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing artists today?
I think the challenges facing artists today are related to sales and exposure. There is a really big difference between getting people to like art and getting people to buy art.

That’s something that has tripped me up to this point. It’s hard to tell who is out there looking to “collect” and who is simply trying to interact with artwork. This is especially true at live events, and it leads to occasionally awkward interactions. I have experienced when an artist is pushy about trying to sell something and it is uncomfortable. But being really passive doesn’t help either, so it’s kind of like splitting the difference and hoping for the best. Needless to say, I haven’t made a sale at a show yet, which illustrates that there’s still a lot for me to learn.

The exposure side of things, in my opinion, is more difficult. For artists who are trying to grow, exposure is mandatory, and this need is commoditized. The fact that artists need exposure to survive is essentially leveraged against them. On principle, I really have issues with that. People and organizations pat themselves on the back for providing a “platform” and “support” for artists while simultaneously reaching into their pockets.

That’s not real support, in my opinion. It forces artists to make a calculation that is essentially impossible and more likely than not causes them to lose money with nothing to show for it. This forces artists to find another channel to get exposure without being punished for their pursuit. Social media is a partial solution to this problem. It gives some level of control back to artists and offers an alternative to being exploited.

Hopefully, in the future, the often backwards norms of the marketplace for artists are overhauled a little bit to give emerging artists more of a fair chance.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
There are a few ways to see my work. I have a website that also has an online store: www.bribenestlesin.com. It used to serve as a personal showcase for everything I made, but towards the end of last year, I started selling t-shirts, socks, and phone cases through it. I also post on Instagram every day to show things I am working on or have already made (@bribe.nestle.sin). In a literal sense, people can see my work at certain events and shows in person as well! I will have a few pieces on display in TeaPop DTLA for the month of March and will hopefully have another show or two.

If inclined, people can support my work in a few ways. My online store is the most direct method. There are a lot of different items available for purchase, with clothing being the most popular. I also enjoy doing custom work for people and collaborating. I have been commissioned a few times, something I am grateful for, and always get excited when I see someone messaged me wanting to work with me or wanting to make a purchase. I sell prints of most anything I’ve made: drawings, digital designs, paintings, etc.

A lot of the time, someone will DM me saying “I like this one, can I buy it?” and because I have a high-quality photo printer, I can personally print, ship, and sell to anyone. So I welcome these messages! I would say most of my sales occur that way. Anytime someone wants to buy something I made, it really makes me feel wonderful. It helps remind me that what I’m doing is resonating with people.

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