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Gallery Space: Coloring Outside the Lines

Chavilah Bennett has never been afraid to do her own thing. For that, she gives much of the credit to her unconventional upbringing.

“The fact that I was homeschooled absolutely changed the way I see things,” says Bennett, her long, blonde hair spilling over her shoulders, as she sinks into an overstuffed, leather couch at Travonna Coffee House. Her lips curve into a wide smile as she surveys the eclectic array of paintings that adorn the walls through inquisitive almond-shaped eyes. “I grew up without a lot of peer pressure to conform or to be a certain way. I didn’t have a lot of the influence from kids my own age. Because of that, I have always been more free to pursue creative things.”

The German Village resident is one of six siblings born to an American mother and a British father who met while touring the U.S. with a traveling theatre company.

Bennett, now 25, credits the freethinking childhood her parents provided her with fostering her early interest in art.

“I spent hours playing piano and writing my own music or walking around in the woods and writing poetry. I was free to do that kind of thing because I didn’t have to be at school.”

Bennett first began to see art as a potential career option during her junior year of high school. “I started going to a public school that year. It was a career technical school where I got to study art for half the day,” she explains.

After graduating from CCAD, she went to work for s77, a motion graphics studio in the Short North that has, among other things, assisted in the creation of music videos for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam.

“The creative things I do on my job definitely influence my personal art work,” said Bennett, who also draws in her home studio.

Her medium is as variable as her subjects. “I like to be open to a lot of things, but my absolute favorite is colored pencil.”

Bennett’s visually stunning creations are a reflection of the way she thinks.

Her outside-the-box style is displayed in its essence in her latest collection of portraits. “I was drawing people,” she explains, “but I was doing it in an unconventional way. I was using the paper as much as the pencils to create the effect I wanted, making use of the negative space.”

Her process is as distinctive as her style. “I start with the mood that I want to come across – the emotion, the lighting,” she said.

The early freedom to connect with emotions in a spontaneous way continues to find expression in her art.

“My whole life was a learning experience. I had the freedom to go on adventures and do interesting things. If I hadn’t had that, my art would not look this way. It’s a part of who I am.”

For more on Bennett’s work, visit www.chavilah.net.