“I've never hada problem with coming up with things,” says Darby, who radiates enthusiasticenergy. “I've never had an artist block. I have the opposite.”
What youprobably can't tell by looking at “Blown Out,” Darby's piece on this week'scover of CityBeat, is that a few ofthe objects in the painting actually protrude a few centimeters from thesurface of the canvas. His paintings are highly layered and textured and, whenyou see one in person, it's hard to resist the urge to reach out and touch it.
“I have a friend who calls me the‘Acrylic King,'” Darby says. “I've used acrylics so much in different,untraditional ways that I've come up with a bunch of different ways to usethem. I build up acrylics. I sculpt acrylics. I cover things with acrylics.There are no set rules. I make molds and pour the liquid paint into molds,which is how I make the three-dimensional objects. It's basically paintimpressions of things.”
Darby speaksquickly and excitedly, and he laughs easily, too. With the content of his work,it's easy to think he's just having fun and packing one-liners into his pieces.Sometimes, he is. Other times, though, he's holding up a mirror to the worldand showing the ridiculousness of things.
“If I reallypainted what I felt about the government or certain trends of humanity,” Darbysays, “they'd be really ugly. So, I think satires are a better way to get thepoint across.”
Darby sometimesgets caught up in the way paint looks on the canvas. He can start with aconcept but end up with a piece that is purely aesthetic. In most of Darby'spaintings, you'll see beautiful exotic flowers.
“I go on tripsjust to take pictures of plant life,” says Darby, who, with his wife and twokids, has lived in mostly verdant climates like those in Washington, Hawaii andSoutheCalifornia.
Darby's obsessionwith flowers can also explain the appearance of the mandala-like design in someof his works. He likes how it looks like a flower from afar but becomessomething different as you get closer. He wants to lead people into hispaintings, then surprise them.
“Chickens, whatdo they mean?” asks Darby, referring to one of his rubber-chicken pieces.“Nothing. Exactly; let's do it. Silly rubber chickens—some people can't getpast the fact that it's rubber chickens and it's still beautiful. I like toplay with them.”
A piece by Ben Darby will be displayed inTerminal 1 at the Lindbergh Field on Nov. 1. darbyarts.com