Ben Childers said he figured it was time for a bit of change, so when he turned 70, he sold his studio in King George County, where he created fused glass art, and switched to painting in acrylics.
Working in acrylics is a departure from everything Childers has done before, including his work he’s done in glass and the oil paintings he’s been doing since he was 16.
“I normally do traditional still life, landscapes, that sort of thing, a lot of boats, but I decided that this year to tackle something brand-new, and it was to tackle acrylics,” said Childers, who retired last month as an economist from the Federal Communications Commission. “The acrylics lend themselves well to abstracts whereas the oils I’ve always used do not.”
Childers’ newest collection will be on display from Jan. 28 through Feb. 25 as the featured exhibit at Brush Strokes Gallery.
“Pandemonium!” presents paintings in bright, swirling colors that Childers hopes earn the name he, his wife, his brother-in-law and sister-in-law gave the exhibit.
“We wanted something that characterized the spontaneity, the juxtapositions of colors and shapes, and we tried to come up with a name. We had several, but ‘Pandemonium!’ just struck us as right. It’s kind of crazy and it’s kind of lighthearted and it’s kind of bright, and some of the paintings tend to be lighthearted and bright,” Childers said. “I think when people see the work, they’ll say, ‘Yeah, that title makes sense.’”
People who have visited Fredericksburg galleries will recognize Childers’ name from the fused glass vases, plates and bowls he created and sold around the area out of his King George studio.
Childers said that lately he’d taken to painting on glass and figures—that’s what sent him back to painting in general, but he wanted a new direction and a new challenge.
“I’ve always been scared of acrylics,” Childers said. “They just dry too fast. I started painting oils at 16, and nobody but Jackson Pollock was using acrylics back then. I was always quite happy with oils. They’re slow to dry, and you can work them for days, and they just suited me.”
Still, Childers jumped in, and in August, started painting the abstracts that comprise “Pandemonium!”
“Acrylics are very liberating because they’re very spontaneous and very free. You don’t draw things and paint in the lines or that sort of thing,” he said. “You’re ending up with a very fluid dynamic, and that you can’t do with oils, at least I don’t know how I could have done it with oils.”
The bulk of the pieces in the show are painted on old vinyl records that Childers said his wife, Ann, was going to discard.
“We haven’t had a turntable for 40 years. She finally decided she was going to throw them away, and I took them, cleaned them up a little bit, plugged the holes, and they worked out pretty well,” Childers said.
The paintings on the LPs run $85. Other, larger ones, on 24-by-30-inch canvases, are listed at $500.
Childers said he’ll give the proceeds he makes from sales at the show to the Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank, as he’s done in the past.
“This year, I made the comment, and my wife agreed, that we should just give them all the proceeds from the show,” Childers said. “It makes sense. I’ve got plenty. I’m retired and doing well. I’m not hurting, and some people are. Why not just give over the proceeds from the show? I hope it will be a lot of money, but you never know about these things.”
Childers said he still hasn’t quite adjusted to retirement yet, but he has more time now to work on art if it suits him.
“It’s as full time as you want when you’re lazy and like to watch YouTube,” Childers said of the creative process. “I’m still sort of wandering around bothering my wife, seeing what she’s doing. I’ve got to stop that.”
So Childers said he’ll spend some time painting and hanging out at the gallery where he serves as an officer.
“I get a lot of positive validation from working with the artists at Brush Strokes. It’s a great group of people. I can recommend that people come see all of the works at the shows, not just mine,” Childers said.
He’s also looking forward to the show’s First Friday reception. “It’ll be quite bright and quite spectacular I think. I’m looking forward to meeting the people on First Friday and enjoying it all.”