In Thomas Benenati's best works, the artist strikes a perfect balance between willful design and the randomness of
the more subconscious elements of intuition and impulse.
Long Beach-based Benenati dabbled in the arts for many years before devoting himself fully to paint
and pastels nearly ten years ago. As the artist within emerged, Benenati was closely studying art history
and steadily expanding his appreciation for modernism and contemporary art.
"No one really taught me how to make art," Benenati explains. "I do a lot of things they'll tell you not
to do, in fact."
For instance, Benenati will often blend pastels with his hands, leaving fingerprints in the work, or
even leave drops of blood from fingers worn raw by the process.
And in some ways, those are the elements that excite him the most. "I like seeing evidence of the work,
the energy and effort, as opposed to a purely polished look."
Early on Benenati worked primarily in oils. Now he has shifted almost exclusively to pastels, a medium he
prefers because of the immediacy and impact.
"Pastels are a very responsive medium, well-suited for making the world vibrate on paper," says Benenati.
Benenati draws most of his inspiration from the outdoors where he spends much of his time as a park ranger in
SW Washington. Sometimes he will pull over and make some quick charcoal sketches on his way home, or he may
just jot a few sentences in a notebook, just enough to jog his memory when its time to paint.
He might pull several different elements from multiple scenes, or may render scenes wholly from memory, while
always trying to preserve a powerful sense of place and emotion.
His works often defy the typical compositions of more traditional landscapes. Benenati can assert the intimate
details of apple blossoms or the deep purple of grapes, while creating dimension and expansive space with a
subtle mastery of depth, shadow, and light.
In a work titled "Warm Alders of Baker Bay," bare tree trunks crisscross the foreground as crisp, almost brittle
branches jut like calligraphy into a deep blue sky that is fluffed with clouds that float over a strip of
clay-like land over a warm expanse of open water.
Benenati always lets the creative impulse speak and yet never seems to push too hard. As a result, his works
never appear rushed or flippant.
Ultimately, for Benenati, it simply always comes back to seeing the world anew, and seeing the world as a
"At my best moments, I examine the world around me and see it in paint rather than the wood, rock, and water
that really surround us."
Thomas Benenati's Work at RiverSea Gallery
Click on the following thumbnails to see bigger pictures.