Artist Scott Benites Captures the Corners of Bloomingdale
I love it when readers turn me on to something they've seen in the neighborhood. That happened not too long ago when Terence Hanrahan shared that he'd encountered a young painter, Scott Benites, right outside his building and snapped a shot of Scott at work and sent it to me. You'll see Terence's photo of that painting at West End Avenue and West 102nd Street when you scroll down.
Knowing about Scott led me down a fun rabbit hole of discovery and to an appreciation of this rising artist who cites the work of Edward Hopper and Edouard Manet among his influences.
Scott kindly agreed to let me post some of his local cityscapes and to talk to me about his fondness for painting "en plein air," his training, his drive and passion for art, and, very happily, his first gallery show.
With a hat tip to Terence and gratefulness to Scott, I give you now a brief interview with the man who loves our corners bathed in a certain light: Scott Benites.
To see more of his work, jump over to his website: scottbenites.com. Better yet, read on and click through for information about attending his show on March 7, 2019.
Caitlin Hawke: Why did you pick the corner where Terence Hanrahan met up with you?
Scott Benites: I was born and raised on the Upper Westside, and I was always inspired by the cityscapes and, specifically, the architecture of this city. Last summer I planned to create a unique oil-on-canvas cityscape collection. What better source than to paint the scenes in 'plein air'.
After doing my first plein-air painting of West 96th Street and Columbus Avenue and receiving so much positive feedback from the neighborhood, I figured I should continue to paint local sites because it was so much fun. My plan was to first paint every avenue, and then to continue down the city blocks to create a unique collection.
Caitlin: I love the originality of that idea. It seems, though, that you have a particular fondness for positioning your easel at the southwest corner or west side of the street looking toward the northeast corner of intersections. True?
Scott: Yes, it is true. Painting from a distance allows me to draw the preliminary sketch of the buildings' perspective. From this distance, I can see the light of day play on the forms of the buildings. I can also determine the composition of the painting. I strive to capture the strong contrast of light and shadow of the block. That contrast of light adds a dramatic feeling to my work.
Caitlin: Do you have any special connection to this neighborhood of West 102nd and 103rd Streets near Broadway?
Scott: The entire UWS is very special to me as well as to my family who also grew up in the same neighborhood. My main subjects are Manhattan buildings from Riverside to Central Park. Every time I complete a new plein-air cityscape painting, I become completely moved and inspired to create more, as well as to connect with other artists and admirers from around the neighborhood.
Caitlin: Can you tell me a little about yourself?
Scott: I am a born and raised Yankee, and I have been interested in the arts since I was 16. I knew at that age that I would commit the rest of my life to the arts. During my teenage years, I participated in a MoMA afterschool program where I had my first exhibition and met mentors who guided me to the best art colleges and exposed me to the galleries and salons of Pablo Picasso and other well-known artists whose works hang at MoMA.
I credit my artistic 'discovery' to my high school graffiti friends. They inspired me in 9th grade with their black book sketches and lettering. After one of my close friends passed away at 19, my desire to pursue the arts in a more professional manner grew.
I am 27 now, and a passion for the arts is still a burning desire for me. It was a struggle to complete my bachelor's degree; having to attend three different colleges. My burning desire is what pushed me to persevere when my financial circumstances restricted me in any way. If I was short on money, art is what set me free.
Over the past two summers I have sold over 80 paintings.
Scott: I am excited to have my first show in the New York Art Gallery -- NYA Gallery -- in Tribeca.
Over the last five years, I’ve been desperate to exhibit my work in a New York gallery. I would send numerous emails to galleries all around Manhattan and, after two years of waiting, I received an acceptance letter from NYA Gallery. I knew it was my destiny because I’m a New Yorker and what better place to show my work then in my hometown. The grand opening for the white wall gallery at 7 Franklin Place is March 7th. Anyone is welcome to RSVP at this link.
Caitlin: I can see from your website that you paint a lot of exteriors but also note there are portraits. How would you characterize your style?
Scott: My work explores the style of realism. Most of my works reflect the four seasons of the city. You can see in my paintings how the stores change their window displays and how the figures change their attire to fit with the feeling of the seasons and temperature. Selections of my works reflect my favorite season, the Christmas holiday.
Caitlin: Do you draw inspiration from any particular artists?
Scott: Many. But my top five include Edward Hopper, Norman Rockwell, Fairfield Porter, Rackstraw Downes, and Edouard Manet. I love their painterly approach to life drawing and the form.
Caitlin: I take it that your career as an artist is gaining momentum. What is the ideal way to balance your artistic goals with the pressure of high cost of living in NYC? As a young NYC-based artist, what do you want to tell our policy makers to preserve your ability to remain here?
Scott: It is my burning desire to be successful as a visual artist. My artistic career has been my number one priority for the last 10 years and it's now off to a great start. My ideal way is to run my own online business, selling latex original giclée prints to my fans and supporters to fund my work and continue my collection of plein-air cityscapes. To make it, I also currently work for a museum in Soho called the Color Factory.
I'd like to sell my works to private collectors and museums. It is extremely challenging for an artist to afford living and working in NYC at my age. To be successful as a visual artist, you need to have superior skill, discipline, and the right connections and people skills. Learning essential business skills throughout the artistic curriculum is a valuable asset in a young artist's career. This is something a lot of art schools leave out. The artist is then forced to rely on a gallery to help with painting sales and logistics. Many artists have to learn this on their own the hard way.
Affordable housing for artists, I would say, would be the best thing to advocate for.
Caitlin: If someone wanted to buy your work, where would they go?
Scott: All of the artwork that you see on my website is for sale, and available in four different sizes. Visit my website: scottbenites.com.
Caitlin: Thanks for your time and your beautiful work depicting Bloomingdale, our neighborhood. And here's to a hugely successful show in March and to more paintings of northeast corners bathed in beautiful light.