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After leaving School, I went straight into the army at 16, by 18 I completed my Commando training and served in 29 Commando regiment within 3 Commando brigade. In 2007, I deployed to Afghanistan with the brigade for a six months, as a young section commander at only 21 years of age, which of course had its challenges. On return from Afghanistan in 2008, I left the forces only three weeks later to concentrate on being a father to my son who had been born a few months before I had deployed. Because of my skill set I was needed in Afghanistan, so I didn't get my six months resettlement period which helps you get ready for civilian life.
More about My Story
Now a civilian, I found life very hard if I am honest, especially from going straight from fighting in a war to civi street, which is a very common story for a lot of ex soldiers. All I knew from being a teenager was how to be a soldier and part of a unit, when I realised everyone in civilian life was not like this I found it hard to fit in anywhere and couldn’t settle in myself or in any job. I was trained in heavy weapons which of course has no use on civi street. I went from job to job not really lasting anywhere and just had such a lack of fulfilment in anything I did. Life spiralled out of control and I temporarily lost the plot!
I thought after time things would go away and get better, but how wrong I was as things actually were getting worse. The issues relating to PTSD and OCD that I was experiencing caused me huge stresses with depression, anxiety, anger and not be able to settle or relax at all, this added a huge amount of pressure on my relationship and my wife Kerry who was determined to help me had reached out to combat stress for some help and support. Combat stress were at full capacity so I was passed over to Walking with the Wounded. After 3 months I was offered support but I was lucky that by accident my art got me through it. Not everyone has that which is why I support a recently discovered non profitable charity called Phoenix Heroes PTSD Veteran support. They offer almost immediate help and support to any veterans who needs it. Which is why I donate 10% of all website sales to this awesome charity.
How I got into art.... Going back a bit, my wife and I were up in the Lake District as we are massive outdoor lovers one of our favourite things to do is Climb Mountains. We find it so good to destress and feel close to nature. We loved doing this so much that we wanted to buy a picture for our home that represented how we felt and what we loved. After looking in some gallery’s I hit two issues, first being I couldn’t find anything that captured the mood and how I felt once had had climbed to the top of these mountains, and the price. I couldn’t afford any of the work in these gallery’s, as beautiful as the artwork was it was just well out of my price range.
On leaving the Lake District, I couldn’t stop thinking about how good the mountains made me feel and had such an urge to capture this somehow onto a still image. I looked at my wife and said I’m going to paint some mountains, she literally laughed in my face and said but Ben you don’t paint, my reply was yes I know but I will learn.
As soon as I got home I set to work, I went and bought what I thought I might need and started just messing around. After a few months I was starting to get quite good and was realising how obsessed I was getting with creating and more importantly how good for my mind it was, it really was incredible. I was getting so much stimulation and all negative and worrying thoughts I had from day to day life were disappearing. It became a complete obsession and I was finally able to channel my OCD issues in a positive way, for once it was put to good use! I felt like this was the missing piece of my life that I had been searching for, but never in a million years did I think it would be Art.
I threw every ounce of energy into Art, now working all day as a builder I had to find more time to paint. I decided to get up at 5 am every morning to paint for a few hours before I went to work and then all evening once I got home. After just 9 months my wife took three of my watercolour originals, to a local gallery without me knowing, and they took all of them. When Kerry told me I actually couldn’t believe it and became very emotional, I was ecstatic, the feeling I got from someone buying my pictures that I created was like something I had never felt. The gallery said to me if I was serious about making this a career, I should learn to paint in acrylic or oil paint, as it is more modern and commercial. Naturally, I was so keen to learn this so I wasted no time and started over again learning the process of oil painting. I picked this up quite quick and was soon entered into a local exhibition as a sideline artist for the main headline artist Rozanne bell. She was a massive name in the art world and I was so excited to meet her, when I got to the exhibition she said to me straightway did you paint this large seascape? I replied yes it; she said come sit down and let’s have a talk.
Long story short she said you are such a raw talent who hasn’t been painting long at all, let me speak to my agent about you as you should sign with him. I couldn’t believe my luck as the top UK art agent wanted to represent me. I was over the moon. I soon got in several galleries across the UK, which started selling my work really well, and wanted more. The buzz I was getting from people paying their hard-earned money for something I had created was just so overwhelming and I wanted to do this full time and take it further. I gave up the building job and concentrated full time on the art, I decided to become an independent artist and leave the agent after two years as I felt I could do more and wanted to represent my self. I will always be grateful to them for the opportunity.
This turned out to be a brilliant move for me, now I was in complete control of what I was painting and whom I was selling it too. I started to grow quite a decent size following via social media of people who loved my work and wanted to see more, these people were contacting me and we were communicating regularly making many friends and contacts who I was realising I could now help .
Once people knew a bit about my story, and me I was receiving so many requests for commissions and really special and personal paintings, asking if I could help and be able to do it. I decided to make this my thing, if I could take a moment in time, a special place, a mood, a feeling and put it into one image that says all of those things, it would be so special to the person, almost priceless in some respects, they could cherish it forever and pass it down through the family, or whatever they wanted to do. I was getting an amazing feeling from doing this, the response when I handed these special pictures over left many in tears as the emotion I had captured in the picture just came over them in an instant. This was what I was meant to do, the money almost didn’t matter it was the feeling I got that I had done such a good thing and made someone so happy.
I had started this journey as a way to help myself and focus my efforts on positive creation. Now realising that it also can and has helped many others along the way. That's why I'm setting up my art tutorials where I can help aspiring artist reach their goals and fulfilment but also anybody who has any forms of depression, anxiety, low moods or any desire at all to learn something new and positive. If I can help then I will.
I’m growing all the time and learning more and more each day. I look forward to the future and being part of other peoples creative journey. I have been given lots of help and support in various different ways on my journey so I now want to give back and help others with my free painting webinars.