Ben Chandler, 57 has spent five of the six years he has been incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison. His favorite painters are Picasso and Michelangelo. Nevertheless, he likes working in color schemes that are impressionistic, giving them a more realistic look. He said that he enjoys painting still life.
“I painted Perfect Plate for my grandmother’s kitchen. I enjoy inanimate objects,” Chandler said. “My favorite subjects are scenic, anything that involves water. I’ve always lived by a lake or ocean.”
Chandler said that he started drawing in pencil at a young age. While in college, he took on photography and snapped more than 4,000 images. When he got to prison, he began oil painting.
“Some instructors would get upset with me, because I’d never follow the fundamentals, however, others liked the vivid color schemes I created,” Chandler said.
Solitude is a house in the forest that reminds him of an old home he used to pass on the way to a lake where he fished.
“When I lived in Temecula, the house looks like one that I always saw,” Chandler said. “It brought back memories and then I painted Solitude.
“The Car is something that I made on a gloomy day and painted where I wanted to be,” Chandler said.
He explained that painting takes him to places that he cannot imagine.
“I like people to see how precious it is to create something, to take the time to do something that’s therapeutic, to be in control of creating beauty, to use your hands to create something beautiful,” Chandler said.
Chandler said that he appreciates how art shows up in history.
“Art has been with us since the beginning of time. Cavemen painted on cave walls (about) things that happened in their lives. That’s beautiful because it tells a story on something that can be seen at any time. It will always be there to see.”
Chandler said that he never met anyone who could take pictures or paint who were bad people. “They’re always good people,” Chandler said. “You create from your own ideas at the moment.”