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Indy art veteran, Justin Vining, on what it's like to paint with Benny Sanders

"If Indianapolis had a 'Rookie of the Year' for artists, Benny would be the 2016 rookie of the year."


Justin Vining painting outside Milktooth - SUBMITTED
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  • Justin Vining painting outside Milktooth

Last August Justin Vining wanted to go out for breakfast. A friend of his was in from out of town and the two decided to dine at Milktooth. As they were sitting outside, a glare kept catching Vining's eye. It was light bouncing off the building nextdoor, filtered through the window. After the check was paid and his day went on, he couldn't shake the image. The next day Vining came back and asked if he could set up his easel somewhere (out of the way) to paint. The employee who brought out coffee and a pastry was Benny Sanders.

The two started chatting art. Sanders was fresh to the Indy art scene and needed to flex his plein air muscles. Vining was getting burned out on places to paint and needed new ideas.

In 2016, Vining made it a weekly practice to paint in nature, in the hopes of working on perspective. It began after the Broad Ripple Art Fair when Vining decided to spend one month painting outside. Eight months later, he is still at it. "I am a little bit a addicted and it's a bit of a problem," says Vining. "I can't stop painting outside."

Neither he nor Sanders could reign it in once they started. NUVO spoke with Vining about what the experiences are like.

Emily Taylor: How often do you guys go out?

Justin Vining:
I would say on a slow week one or two times, but last week I think we were out five times together maybe. Sometimes it's two a day. We went out this morning and might go out again. ... I could text him and there's pretty good odds he might be out painting. That's motivating. It's like if he is out painting, I want to be out painting. ... It's cool because I am pretty easy going and he is pretty easy going but we are both super disciplined. So it works well because he always wants to be out painting and I always want to be out painting.

Emily: How have you seen Benny improve?

Justin: That's a good question, it has. A very direct way, is less palate knife and more brush work, from a technical aspect. He hasn't really tried to any more realistic. ... I feel like he does a good job of using what we are looking at to inform the piece. But he is not trying to paint exactly what he sees, where I am. ... His work is a little bit more ambiguous I suppose, but he does a really good job of creating these landscapes, for lack of a better word, that are really mysterious and inviting to walk in. And I feel like there is a consistent level of mystery to his landscapes — where I don't think of them as specific places, as much as places. ... As he continues to paint, I think they are getting even more effective from a technical perspective. ... I feel like he is getting better at creating more depth, capturing more light and creating atmosphere. And I think he does a pretty good job of being experimental too.

What's interesting, is ... if Indianapolis had a "Rookie of the Year" for artists, Benny would be the 2016 rookie of the year. He kind of came from nowhere and is here, whereas I have been full-time in Indy for coming up on six years now. What's interesting is that we have similar levels of plein air experience. I mean I had a couple months start on him. ... I feel like it's good for me, and for him, to be learning with someone at a similar pace.


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