Sally King Benedict

Maisonette Muse

Sally King Benedict

Sally King Benedict is an Atlanta-based artist known for her abstract faces and playful approach to color. It’s no surprise, then, that her innate joie de vivre extends to encouraging creativity in her six-year-old son, River. We caught up with Sally on the ways in which her own parents fueled her artistic passions, how those passions have evolved since becoming a mother herself and her favorite simple game you can play with any child, anywhere.

Photography Mary Catherine Brownfield
Interview By Liz McDaniel

At what age did you know you wanted to be an artist?

As a child, I was aware of my passion for making art and learning art. I knew it was a part of me my whole life, but committing to actually "being an artist" did not occur to me until right after college.

I read that your parents always kept interesting art and that piqued your interest. To that end, what are some other things parents can do to encourage creativity in their children?

Parents that notice something special in their child, should definitely encourage them outside of school. I think it is so important to take creative-minded children outside of their bubble during the early years. I have so many incredible and impactful memories of my mom (and my dad) taking my brother and me to gallery openings (she sold art at a great modern art gallery in the 90's in Atlanta...Macon & Co.), museums near and far (always when we were on vacation), art parties with crowds of people outside of the box and different from my daily normal. My grandmother also encouraged me as she had a passion for fashion and took me to shows and loved having me around when she visited with her great friend and decorator, Gordon Little. I had tons of sports and other things going on, but my mom always made the time to take me along.

I think as long as you get your kids outside of that bubble, it sets them up to always be open to any situation. That was huge for me.

And how did becoming a mother change or otherwise impact your work? Has the source of your inspiration changed?

Becoming a mother has definitely changed my "flow" a bit. Your child and family become your priority above all else, so knowing how to relish in your creative windows of time differ from before. The freedom to make my own schedule has changed to carving out the time as best I can to maximize the new studio "flow." The working time now feels more poignant, purposeful, and concentrated. I have to give myself a break about being away from the studio when "life" takes turns and when River needs me. Time is not all lost when I am actually not painting or working because I have more time to think and reflect. I am now forever inspired by my son and life all around vs. being a bit "inspired" by the things I may have conjured up before. I believe most of the work is done when I’m away from my paintbrush and with my thoughts and taking in the daily life surrounding me.

What does it mean to you to be an artist and a mother? How do those two roles complement one another?

It means a lot of emotion and constant learning on how to balance two passions that are both a piece of me. There is always the struggle of balancing both my son's and work needs while also leaving room for myself. I think they complement one another with the amount of flexibility you have to apply as a mother and the intuitiveness I feel as an artist.

You’ve said that watching your son paint has inspired freedom in your own work. Can you elaborate on that? Do you think children have this inherent creative curiosity or a lack of self-consciousness that should be protected? And how to do that?

My son's ability to not worry about mistakes (while making art) and his imaginative spirit always reminds me of something I took away from my college painting professor..."to never be too precious." I definitely think there is both an inherent creative curiosity AND a lack of self-consciousness with children that makes them the best artists around. This Picasso quote says it all: "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." Doing just that is a daily struggle and I try my best to not worry about what everyone else thinks, but when you are running a business, selling a product and selling yourself...it is hard to accomplish. It is a very vulnerable but also rewarding career that I feel lucky enough to still call it my passion.

What and who inspires you? Who are some of your favorite artists?

Living life one day at a time is what inspires me. Being present in the moment inspires me. Doing my best to fill someone else up other than myself inspires me. Seeing others be kind inspires me. Chivalry inspires me. My husband and son who inherently do all these things inspire me.

And just a few of my favorite visual artists are Ansel Adams, Sally Mann, Bastiaan Woudt, Austin Eddy, Jackie Gendel, Katherine Bernhardt, Mary Nelson Sinclair, KiKi Slaughter, Thrush Holmes, Elizabeth Peyton, Botticelli, Paolo Uccello and many more Italian Renaissance painters...Da Vinci, etc. Then there is of course Henri Matisse, Picasso, Helen Frankenthaler, Richard Diebenkorn, Andy Warhol and on and on...

Any favorite art projects or things that you do with your son? Have these evolved as he grows older? Any tips for parents hoping to encourage that deep appreciation for art early and often?

I love to sit down with him and draw the same thing from our imagination, then compare the two. We find it hilarious and not too serious, and it’s something that can be done anywhere. He also loves to direct me when I am working on my iPad pro...he starts to tell me a story and I start drawing...it can go on forever and it is so fun to create something like this in an animation-type program, because we can literally see it unfold at the end.

When we took River to the Yayoi Kusama exhibit and The High Museum, he just lit up. The lines did not bother him and it was incredible to see how the 3-dimensional installation work attracted him more than the 2-dimensional paintings. I think it's important for parents to encourage all mediums of art, not just the one you know best. I am now taking him to more performances where he sees the art come to life on-stage, and seeing a new side to him that he is discovering on his own.

Finally, what are some of your favorite activities to enjoy with River in Atlanta?

We love to go swimming together. It is an escape for both of us without electronics or distraction...it is where we can talk, relax and have fun. I love taking him to the Botanical Gardens, the BeltLine (particularly the skate-park). We love to drive around with the windows down and the music up looking at our "dream house,” I love to bring him to my studio on the weekends. We go see plays, go cheer on older cousins at their school races or performances...anything and everything he's up for, we do.

Sally King Benedict is an artist who lives in Atlanta with her husband and son. You can follow her on Instagram @sallykingbenedict.

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