George Kieffer

Joe Benjamin

by Joshua Heston

Pen and ink artist, Joe Benjamin, is not only extraordinarily talented, but also one of the nicest of folks you'll ever hope to meet.

He and his wife, Janice, moved to Branson from the Quincy, Illinois, area in 1993, when Joe was invited by Silver Dollar City to become a full-time craftsmanship demonstrator.

“They liked the black-and-white art that I did, the old-time scenes,” he remembers.

Those old-time scenes have set Joe apart. Many folks make a point of collecting his meticulous renditions of mills, old barns, and beloved Silver Dollar City landmarks like the Wilderness Blacksmith Shop.

“Several others have done artwork of the Wilderness Church because it is a landmark,” Joe explains, “But I don't think anybody has done work like this to the extent I have. I’ve drawn probably 15 or 20 buildings on park.”

“The homestead and the church were actual log cabins that were moved into this area. They were taken apart log-by-log and rebuilt; to me, that’s a great goal for Silver Dollar City to take the time for that.”

Pen and ink drawing, the slow process of creating an image from tiny dots and dashes of ink, is not a dying art, notes Joe, but rarely do artists of this medium work in such scale.

“Most of the work I do is in 16x20 inch size and each picture can take anywhere from 50 to 100 hours to complete. The way artists are now, they’re looking to find something fast. I do this because I enjoy it; and I‘m never a hurry-up artist!”

Joe is not the only one to enjoy the art.

This correspondence course graduate of Norman Rockwell’s Famous Artists’ School is the recipient of no less than 17 Silver Dollar City craftsmanship awards, including Best New Heirloom Product and the Living Treasure Award.

“I've been a real stickler for detail,” Joe notes.

December 31, 2007

plate 1. Joe Benjamin.

Joe Benjamin

plate 2. Five of Joe Benjamin's 17 Silver Dollar City craftsmanship awards. Photo credit: J. Heston

Joe Benjamin

plate 3. Sullivan’s Mill, Silver Dollar City. Photo credit: J. Heston

Joe Benjamin’s Silver Dollar City Awards:

Best New Product Award & Best New Heirloom Award (both voted on by the visiting public): 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, & 2007

Living Treasure Award: 2003

Silver Dollar City's Craftsman Hall of Fame: 2006

©StateoftheOzarks.net2007, December 31, 2007

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