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People Power: Whitstable artist Ben Dickson

PUBLISHED: 11:48 14 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:58 20 February 2013

Ben Dickson

Ben Dickson

Elvis, Henry Cooper, Harry Hills are all unmistakable characters for the focus of Whitstable artist Ben Dickson's black and white linocuts

Words by Diana Crampton pictures by Manu Palomeque


Father of three Ben Dickson grew up in the countryside near Edenbridge but moved back to Whitstable from Hackney about eight years ago "to give the children a better place to live."


His studio was in the process of being established when I visited, but the kitchen, his current working space, is large and airy, decorated with many of Bens works. These include a large woodcut of a huge bulldog, with a distinctly oriental feel. "I wanted to make a big, manly statement," says Ben.


The work, however, also refers to depression, or what Churchill called his dark days and there is an element of the British bulldog, but "more like a trickster dog, more aggressive, the depression coming out."


Ben has worked as a psychotherapist and has been particularly concerned with aggression. He has a postgraduate diploma in Art Psychotherapy following an education at Epsom Art College, then Goldsmiths College to study Art Therapy. He tells me: "To make a living out of art you need some accrued skill either from a natural attribute or from some training. To stand out you have to have something of note. Im going down the road of a crafted object, which is the lino cut."


Bens work is certainly notable. I had first seen his portrait of Harry Hills at Jo Jos, the popular Tapas bar in Tankerton.


Here in the kitchen we look at more works. There is a large depiction of a stag beetle and Ben explains that he is fascinated by its apparent clumsiness and aggression, yet his depiction shows only elegance of line.


He is working on a portrait of Somerset Maugham, having discovered that the writer had lived in this neck of the woods.


"Id like to be more like a South American revolutionary, doing peoples heads, rather than fish or landscapes." His interest in the portrait is reiterated. He would like to do more commissions for this genre which he will be actively promoting once his studio is established.


People are, above everything else, Bens inspiration. He admits to being fascinated by people, their "humanness: the things that make them a complete mess!"


He shows me a portrait of three men in high colour, done with PVA, acrylic and Windsor and Newton Indian ink, showing that his skills go beyond lino-cuts, which are on 4.5 mm lino.


Ben admits: "They are getting smaller. I want the ideas to come out, I dont want to be spending four months on one piece."


How long does a work take? "It depends. My Henry Cooper I drew it in a day, cut it in half a day. But the Ian Dury took a couple of months. The Elvis took months, I kept going back to it."


Ben has a distinct piece of advice for any young artist: "Get yourself a job as well. I still firmly believe after my experiences that everybody should be creative in whatever way. Everybody should be doing it for their own benefit and whatever comes out, comes out."


Ben will be opening his studio in October, in the East Kent Open Studios and I would thoroughly recommend that readers go along and view his striking works.

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