It’s the 25th anniversary of the Chatham Artists Guild and as one of it’s founding members, Vidabeth Bensen has “been there’ and “done that.” And after 60 years of making art she is still doing “that.”
An accomplished Screen Printer, Vidabeth says she has been pulling ink thru original hand-cut stencils ever since her Brooklyn College days when she was asked to make posters for her actor friends in the drama department.
Japanese landscapes, Kabuki players, (more actors), and Nature have played a vital role in the evolution of Vidabeth’s imagery. While living on Okinawa in the 60s she found a Japanese calendar that inspired her to revisit printmaking. During her 27 years living and working in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East Vidabeth sketched and printed while raising a family, working as a graphic artist for USIS in Morocco and for the US Army in Germany. When the family moved to Japan in 1981 Vidabeth returned to teaching high school art.
Now she gratefully culls some of today’s original works from those hundreds of sketchbooks stored in her attic (or from a dried up stem of an heirloom tomato recently plucked from her kitchen and carried up to her second floor studio. “I never know when something will strike me. I am always looking and listening.”
Recently Vidabeth skillfully paired one of her prints with its original sketch for her 2017 calendar (now SOLD OUT.) In addition to images from Japan, prints made from sketches of Germany, Italy, Morocco and Korea also populate this work. Seen together, these synergistic images allow us viewers an opportunity to experience the witnessing eyes of a master printmaker. Makes one wish there were more than twelve months in a year!
Vidabeth says September is the best time to get in touch to purchase her next calendar project – one of her more popular offerings!
Other printing methods are woodblock, linoleum, lithography, and etching. Vidabeth’s expertise is in serigraphy, i.e. screen printing. Her prints are made from original hand cut stencils applied to a screen stretched over a frame. Ink floods the area when pulled over the frame. The stencil blocks out some areas and allows paint to come through other areas. The artist manipulates positive and negative space by repeating this process again and again until she arrives at a singular original image. Her methods may seem a bit low-tech, but from them come some mighty fine HIGH ART!
“Art is my life. What I do is pretty physical so my level of production has changed a bit. This results in many more limited editions.” Being able to take advantage of modern printing vendors to print calendars is unique to this time in Vidabeth’s life. It is very important to note, however, Vidabeth still hand prints her cards, Tee shirts and many original works of art! Her business is houseoflifeprints.com. Her studio is located in Fearrington Village. Her Color and B/W prints range in price from $5 -$500.
When asked, Vidabeth easily comes up with these words of guidance for any artist just starting out, ”You have to like what you do. And if you like it, no matter what anybody says, you have to stick to it. Also draw everyday and develop a thick skin.”
When asked about her feelings around the time an artist must spend alone making art, she said, “I was a caregiver for many years and my art was my salvation. Even after 60 years of screen printing, I am most fortunate to be able to walk up a flight of stairs to my studio and block out everything else while concentrating on the excitement of creating a new print!