American Artist: Benjamin Kelly

Colorado-based artist is keeping it real in many mediums. Sculpture, paint, pastel and watercolors fill his repertoire.

Fall Aspens on cigar box. Provided Benjamin Kelly.

What does being an artist mean to you?

It’s tough to put into words. Instead of a lot of flowery descriptive words, it’s “who I am” and “what I do,” so I function best when doing it. I achieve happiness and satisfaction on a deep, personal level.

How did you get started, and what’s the first work you sold, or were paid to do?

Getting started in art happened very innocently because many would assume that my father (Ramon Kelley) pushed it on us, but he did not. Growing up in the 1970s with my father being a world-renowned, successful artist actually caused myself and my siblings to push away from it because we were so immersed in that world due to my dad. But we were involved in drawing competitions (my brother Adam and I) and always had the latest art supplies we would steal or get from my dad. In our world we just playing with them not really appreciating that we were taking our first steps into the art world.

What is the medium you most enjoy working in right now?

Sculpture. Sculpting was my first love but once I was committed to being a professional artist, painting was what everyone was teaching, selling and buying. It’s so nice to be able to sculpt after so many years of paintings to come back to the comfortable arena of sculpting.

Which particular artist, or work of art, has had the most influence on the work you do?

I hate to just start throwing out names….for sculpture Auguste Rodin. For painting it’s Joaquin Sorolla. Out of respect and admiration of their command over their mediums.

How does your particular environment impact what you see and feel?

My immediate environment isn’t impacting the way I see and feel because of years of studio work, once you’re in the studio and begin working you are no longer in the immediate environment. It’s interesting while I’m working my focus is on what I’m doing but it’s worth noting that the strangest thoughts can drift through my mind and they can be just about anything. It’s almost like when someone is dreaming.

How do you know when you’ve completed something good?

That’s a great question because this changes a lot as the years go by with your art. so at first it’s total confidence “This is great!” And then you meet your first few critics, then you lose your confidence, and then after years of doing it you find the happy medium from how your audience feels to how you feel to what might be a “completed piece.” The grey area is that artists will traditionally work a piece to death and knowing when to force yourself to stop.

Did you ever have any doubts about going down this road?

No doubts when I finally experimented with other things. For instance, the showbiz bug bit me when I was a young boy and I pursued that vigorously in Denver, Colorado through theater and acting talent agencies and tons of acting classes. I also want to say that for me, college was to study other things just to confirm that art what what I really wanted to do. the day I graduated from CU, I came home and set up my first studio.

Is there another career you ‘almost’ chose?

The acting bit

What makes you smile?

Respectful young people with confidence. I love to see younger kids (like my own–19 and 16) become confident. I feel their pride. It helps the kid in me!

Favorite music for working?

Actually, it’s variety. It can go from Jerry Garcia Band, to flamenco guitar, to classic rock! Sometimes the music is an actual score for the painting or sculpture I’m working on. It’s very influential and important.

Favorite movie, and why?

Like the music, I love movies and always have. My family and I watch a lot of movies and it was important when my kids were young that they were shown the “classic catalogue” of films, from Star Wars to Scarface to Caddyshack and everything in between. Movies provide a backdrop of cultural and time-stamped reference to our real lives. It’s a Wonderful Life is great because in a real application it fits for each and every one of us rather than portraying ourselves as something superhuman or out of the ordinary, it’s the lesson that everyone’s life matters.

What’s you go-to post work meal (and beverage)?

By the end of my day, it would be untrue to represent myself as “healthy all the time,” because nothing relaxes me more than a good cigar!!

Anything else you would have liked me to ask you?

Not really a question from you to me, it’s more of something I’m running into the modern world of social media: The comment sections of posts of my work on FB can sometimes be eyebrow raising. I post for critique or a possible sale but at times I feel like we are in high school once again, and high school was over a long time ago! It’s funny/sad and perplexing all at the same time.

AND, website and info on how readers can hire/buy stuff from you?

My website is

Ben Kelley

Bio: Having grown up in a family of artists, Ben began drawing and painting as a child. After high school, Ben attended the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, where he discovered his love for figure drawing and painting.  After completing RMCAD courses, Ben began traditional college studies in English and Economics at the University of Colorado, Boulder.  While at CU, he continued his art and art studies.  Although he received a B.A. in English, his true intentions and motivations were to follow art as a profession. Ben had enough reverence for his father and the art world at large to first develop his own style, approach and eye for art before studying with his father.  It was at this time Ben began his intensive study of art with his father, Ramon Kelley.

Like his father, Ben is an allaprima painter, and the mediums and materials he uses are as varied as his subject matter.  Oil, pastel, watercolor and sculpture are the mediums Ben is most recognized for. 


Austin Galleries, Austin, Texas
Howell Gallery, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Saks Gallery, Denver, Colorado.
Sunset Art Gallery of Amarillo, Amarillo, Texas