- Associated Press - Sunday, April 24, 2016

MANNINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - Some artists create their work by looking directly at another item.

Mannington native Ben Kolb uses all his senses while painting memories.

“You end up painting the smells and feelings of everything while you were there when you paint from memory,” he said.

Growing up in Mannington and graduating from North Marion High School, Kolb doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t painting or doing some kind of artwork.

He said there was no defining moment of when he knew he was an artist. It just happened.



“There are just some of us that have to put things down on paper,” Kolb said.

In the late 1990s, he started taking his art talent on the road and began attending festivals in the area to show off his work of mushroom and bone carvings.

Soon after that, he and his wife Chelsa had three children - Adia, Gable and Khya. Having kids meant fatherhood would become his priority.

Now that his kids are a bit older, Kolb said his passion for art is still with him.

“Only in the past few years have I taken artwork more seriously,” he said. “And in the last five years they have started helping me with my art and going to festivals.”

It’s not all work for Kolb and his family at the festivals, which include the Cheat Fest in Albright and the Wine and Jazz Festival at Camp Muffly. He said there may be an hour of work when setting up their stand and another hour of breaking it down at the end of the day, but in most cases, Kolb and his family like to camp out at the festivals.

Some of his creations include hammering brass and silver and bone art. For the paintings he mostly uses watercolor, oil and acrylic paints. The size of his paintings range from a greeting card to a 5-foot canvas.

His work, which is on display at Nativibes in the Mannington Train Depot, shows buyers and visitors his memories and imagination.

“I do a lot with fishing and the outdoors,” he said.

When Kolb starts his paintings, he said he likes to create his work from memory and relive the moment. Being an avid backpacker and fisherman, Kolb will take in all the sights, sounds and smells from a trip and bring it to life on a canvas later on. In a lot of his paintings, his black lab Griffin can be spotted.

“I paint from memory, and a lot of people don’t do that,” he said. “Some use photographs, but I think then you’re tied to the reality of the photograph, but when you’re painting from memory, it forces you to be more in the moment and to remember everything.”

The composition of each painting is important to Kolb. He starts by looking at a canvas from every angle and continues with a series of sketches with charcoal. He’ll then repeat the process of looking at the canvas at different angles. Then he starts painting.

Once a painting is finished, Kolb doesn’t use ordinary frames. Instead, he creates custom frames from wood found near his home or other locations.

“Really if I see something like a tree that has fallen, I’ll see if I can use that for the framing,” he said.

There is no specific time frame for a painting of Kolb’s to be finished. According to him, it depends on if he’s listening to Jimi Hendrix or The Beatles.

But no matter the music in the background, Kolb said he just enjoys using his talent.

“Really the climactic moment for me is when someone likes it,” he said. “You knew it was there, but when someone else sees what you see, it’s a good moment.”

Kolb’s artistic talents go further than painting. He spends hours hammering out brass and silver to create body jewelry and accessories. Those pieces sometimes show up in fashion shows.

“We’ve gone as far as Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland, for fashion shows,” he said.

Seeking Stars Art is a parent company of Nativibes and has helped Kolb show off his art at different events.

Kolb said Nativibes started a few years ago with the purpose of bringing “positive vibes” from festivals and combining it with his love of studying native Aboriginal culture. He said the culture of lands in the Pacific Ocean used to use bone as fish hooks and other tools, so he started to do the same.

“Then I turned to necklaces, and Nativibes grew out of that,” Kolb said.

Nativibes landed at the Mannington Train Depot with the help of Mannington Main Street.

Becky Williams, with Mannington Main Street, said Kolb wanted to help renovate the train depot to serve as his location for Nativibes.

“Ben came in October as a place to showcase his art,” Williams said. “He made it into something that was further than what we expected. He took the shell and finished it the way we wanted and more.”

With a physical location in downtown Mannington, Kolb holds several art classes for 5-year-olds to adults 18 years old and older on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. The gallery at the train depot is open from 5-9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

For more information about Nativibes, visit www.seekingstarsart.com.

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Information from: Times West Virginian, https://www.timeswv.com

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