Studio Visit: Trudy Benson and Russell Tyler

Trudy Benson and Russell Tyler are a married, power-painting couple. I first found out about Trudy maybe 3 years ago. My friend friend showed me her work via the internet and I was very impressed.  A couple months after that I went to New York and got to check out her show at Freight + Volume and was blown away.  Recently I got in touch with Trudy to see if I could come visit her studio- I took the opportunity to check out her work and as well as Russell’s.

 Trudy is represented in New York by Mike Weiss Gallery and Russell is represented by Ebers Moore in Chicago. They are both known for their gloopy, thick, abstract oil paintings.  Russell has recently started doing abstract stuff which differs from he previous work which includes animals, monsters, and creatures.  Trudy has been exploring abstract space for several years now.

On my way to their studio in Dumbo, I spotted this Neckface piece..

When I arrived at their studio they gave me some Guinness and I was hit by the lovely smell of oil paint.   We chatted a little about their painting processes and upcoming shows.

The first studio of the two that I went into was Russell’s.

I first found out about Russell about a year ago when surfing Beautiful Decay.

Russell told me about having to balance his time between working a full time job and painting. It seemed so difficult to make the amount of work that he makes and work a full time job, but he told me he is sometimes able to make a painting a day.  I remember an interview with Francesco Clemente in which Francesco said that the ability to quickly make a painting is a quality of a great painter.

Russell’s work is inspired by 8 bit Nintendo graphics backgrounds, cartoony colors, and sci-fi games.  He likes early computer graphics, and textiles from the 80s.

Stairway 2 Heaven

When you get to see their studio you really get to see the artist.  You can see how they think and how they sort of chill out. You see traces of their down time, you see their creative moments, their garbage, and everything else that comes from meeting a real person.

This piece is called “Night Watchers”.  Russell said the landscape was inspired by two places where he spent a lot of time. He was inspired by both the palm trees of Hawaii and the pine trees of Seattle.

Here Russell and Trudy show us two older works. That’s “Wolf Face” on the right.


After we checked out Russell’s spot, we meandered into Trudy’s studio.

It was pretty impressive to see how much Trudy and Russell feed off each other.

Walking around Trudy’s studio was a bit like being inside of a funhouse-  the floor was uneven and her large, colorful paintings had jaggedy patterns that were disorienting, especially when you got up close to them- they were almost like optical illusions.

Trudy had a granny sweater chilling on her metal chair in her studio. Granny sweaters are good.

We talked a lot about Trudy’s innovative techniques of masking off areas, and paint application. Some of the paint that was taped off was thick, and reminded me of Laffy Taffy- she uses a lot of fresh candy colors..

Trudy’s thick and gloopy caulk-like brushstrokes contrasting with her precise, airbrush marks make for some really interesting moments.  James Kalm once said its almost as if she rehearses her marks before she lays them down.

Trudy told me she uses all sorts of brushes, rollers, taping methods, etc. She layers her paint to create a very unique sense of flatness.  Varying your marks always makes for interesting paintings. Her mark making brings out dimensions on the surface that allow for the subject to escape the flatness of the space.

As you can see a lot of her paintings were on buckets, this was about a week after Hurricane Sandy. Russell and Trudy got super lucky, not a drop of rain got into their basement studio.

Going hard in the paint

Next to Trudy’s painting I got a glimpse into the secret process of her work. These are little studies she makes using computer programs like Microsoft Paint. She takes these and replicates the same sort of geometric and rigid digital mark-making technique in oil paint.

I love when you can see an artist’s rough drafts and ideas all sketched out.

It was getting late, so I decided to go… :( Thanks Trudy and Russell for being my first studio visit!  You can see more of Russell’s work at Fouladi Projects right now in San Francisco and also at and Trudy’s at

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  • nitra

    she uses cheap paint

  • serve

    hi hater

  • gregorylent

    can these works sell?