A Child’s Innocence, Watercolors by Benjamin Roman

May 5 - June 30, 2013; June 9, 4 pm: Artist Talk

Growing up in the Bronx under the watchful eye of a very protective grandmother, Benjamin Roman Jr. and his sister had a lot of time to while away indoors. He would fill hours sketching scenes of his apartment, images from TV, whatever was in front of him. He enjoyed drawing, but didn’t consider pursuing art as a career until he enrolled in New Jersey City University and met his faculty advisor, Professor Dennis Dittrich, who was also acting President of the Society of Illustrators in New York.

“He encouraged me and inspired me to be a better artist,” Roman says. “He told me, ‘You don’t need a degree to be an artist, but there’s a lot you can learn here.’” In Roman’s final year at NJCU, Professor Dittrich encouraged him to try his hand at watercolors, a medium he had been avoiding because he’d heard it was difficult. He quickly fell in love with the medium, and only regrets he didn’t try it sooner.

A series of Roman’s watercolor portraits of children were on display from May 5 – June 30, 2013 in the Upper Gallery of the Museum in an exhibit titled, “Portraits of Childhood, Watercolors by Benjamin Roman.” The Museum invited the public to an opening reception from 2 – 5 p.m. on May 5, and again for an artist’s talk on June 9 at 4 p.m.

Roman earned a B.A. in Art Communication with a minor in Early Childhood Education, and has been an art teacher for kindergarten, pre-K and pre-school children in area schools for the past 16 years. He now teaches at Beyond Basic Learning, in Hoboken, and paints at least three or four times a week, working on commissioned portraits as well as paintings just for the sake of painting.

Naturally, as a teacher, he finds children a fascinating subject matter, but he also paints portraits of adults, and landscapes. He’s fascinated with the challenge of depicting in his subjects’ expressions the essence of what it means to be young and innocent. “To capture the warmth and heart revealed in a child’s face is my ultimate goal.”

One of his paintings, “Treasure of Innocence,” depicts a group of children in a grassy park, and hangs in the collections of the Union City Museum of Art at the William V. Musto Cultural Center. He’s also self-published two books of his paintings, as well as a book of poetry. Find out more about his work at benswatercolor.com.

Roman likes to work in layers, to give his paintings more detail and depth, almost like working in oils. He finds inspiration in artists as varied as Norman Rockwell, Mary Cassatt, Vermeer and Rembrandt. Though their styles are very different, they have in common the ability to tell a story and convey a moment in time that seems special. He’s also learned a lot about working with watercolors by studying the work of New Mexico-based Steve Hanks and Peruvian Rogger Oncoy. “Children are unpredictable, watercolor is too.”

This exhibition was made possible by a Block Grant from the State/County Partnership program for the Arts administered by the Hudson County Division of Cultural and Heritage Affairs/Tourism Development, Thomas A. DeGise, County Executive, and the Board of Chosen Freeholders.