Behind the Paintbrush

Meet West Benson

A Kansas City artist is creating a new path after being given a second chance at life.

Wes Benson has been sober for six years now.The KC native remembers feeling hopeless, sleeping on couches, and having his focus center around getting his hands on a glass of vodka or oxycontin.

“I was really addicted back then, and then thanks to the help of many and the recovery world, I was able to get out of that rut and really start moving forward in a major way,” said Benson. 

He decided to end this chapter of his life once and for all by seeking mental health treatment and decided to trade booze for a paintbrush and the painkillers for a canvas. 

To Benson, this new chapter needed to tell a brighter story and his  lifelong passion helped him visually see it. The University of Kansas grad grew up drawing, and would routinely be featured on his high school and college newspapers. Even though he was certain he’d get into illustration, he ended up graduating  with a bachelor's degree in History of Art. His passion eventually took him to the east coast where he went on to get his masters from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. 

"Being an artist requires an almost psychotic persistence in order to carry on against the odds, it's rewarding but it's far from easy,” added Benson. 

The former Kansas City Art Institute and Park University instructor now paints exclusively with oils, creating representational works of art on subjects that he says are often disregarded. For example his latest pieces feature a crushed Diet Coke can and an array of gummy bears. The backgrounds are colorful and filled with vibrancy. 

"What they all share in common is light, which is, the number one component of everything visual,” explained Benson, “I'm trying to take an image and make it somehow better.”

His current portfolio showcases his versatility as an artist, from landscapes, pools, to profiles, each piece unique but always matching in dynamic color and mark marking technique. 

Benson says the secret and true challenge in being an artist is having a drive in creating pieces that outshine previous work. Currently, Benson’s  pieces can be found inside homes around the globe, fine art galleries in Leawood, magazines, and reality television like  ABC's Extreme Makeover Home Edition.

"If I'm completely satisfied with my work then I've stopped growing,” said Benson. “Five years from now my work should look better. That's the goal.

While his work continues to be recognized and praised, sobriety carries a lasting impact on Benson. Inspired by his own journey, twice a week, he runs an AA group that helps men get back on the driver's seat of their lives. 

“I'm very passionate about recovery, because drugs and alcohol affect way more people than most people, will let on or think or know,” said Benson. 

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