Creative Catharsis

~Michelle Saleeba

From rifle sketches on deployment, to sketchbook doodles on planes, Ben Pronk is finding his artistic feet, and a sense of meditative calm in the process of realistic drawing. Working predominantly in portraiture there is an intensity and often an intimacy in Ben's work which is visually compelling. Combined with a sense of fun as he plays with medium, colour and symbol, you sense the release he gets from his creative process, as well as his enthusiasm for making art. A trip through Ben's portfolio shows an artistic awakening that is going from strength to strength.

Special Air Service Regiment veteran Ben Pronk talks to Army Art about his time in the Australian Army, drawing on deployment and the creative catharsis that he enjoys from artwork post military service
Ben Pronk

Army Art: What is your personal artistic journey?

Ben Pronk: I’d never really done any art at school or as a kid, however had always enjoyed doodling. I developed more of an interest in drawing during deployments – in down time I would keep a diary and do some sketches (I have sketched my rifle on every operational deployment I’ve been on). I’d always wanted to get into portraiture, but I guess I’d always thought that artistic skill was something that you were born with (and I certainly wasn’t), so hadn’t really pursued it. In my last job in the Army, I spent about half my life on planes and quickly ran out of movies to watch. Most of my work was classified and therefore I couldn’t really travel with it, so I had a lot of time to kill which was the perfect opportunity to get into drawing a little more. When I really committed to it, I was surprised at how technical it was, and really enjoyed the challenge of trying to get proportions and values right.

From a start point of working in pencil, I got into watercolours (also portable – I made up a little travel kit) and then got into some oils and acrylics, but I stayed with portraiture as a preferred style. Right now, I really enjoy ballpoint pen portraiture and am experimenting more with spray paint and stencils.