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Artistic vision stays true for Randall Bennett

Recalling what led to his passion for the arts, Randall Bennett is quick to crack a smile while talking about an incident with his older brother, Russell, that left a mark on his life.

“I can remember watching him draw pictures at a young age. I was just intrigued by it. Maybe a little too much. I guess I was bothering him a bit one day and he decided to jab a pencil in my forehead. The graphite tip of the pencil is still there today … so I have a permanent reminder of our passion for art,” Bennett shared with a chuckle about his sibling, a current art teacher at Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport.

Even though the brotherly squabble put a new meaning to “suffering for art,” the love of creating art never died for Bennett. To this day, individuals from all over the Tri-Cities don’t have to go far to see the artwork created from the Carter County native.

From capturing a special moment from the sideline at Citizens Bank Stadium to putting the last bit of color on a drawing, Bennett is quick to circle back to the fact he has a key support system from his family, that led by his wife, Jancey, and daughters, Cagney and Piper Kate.

“They have always been supportive of my art,” Bennett said.

Following the popular adage of “do what you love” is right down Bennett’s alley, who works as a graphic artist for Katz Americas in Johnson City. Never one to keep idle hands, Bennett also works as a photographer and illustrator.

But the journey to get to the present day didn’t come without extensive learning across the region. The East Tennessee State University graduate focused on graphic design but indicated the photography bug first bit during his days as a Buccaneer but stuck following his time away from the Johnson City college.

“Part of the requirements for the graphic design degree at ETSU was three semesters of photography,” Bennett explained. “This was just before digital photography came around. I kind of grew an interest for it there. It wasn’t until much later that I decided to make something of it. To get reacquainted, I took some classes at Virginia Intermont, which at the time was one of the top 10 schools in the country for photography.”

Graphic design and photography go together, Bennett added. Along with some of the self-taught technique developed over the years, Bennett added the background in graphic arts come in handy when dealing with post-production action, including color adjustments and making collage pictures.

LOVE OF THE GAME(S)

Bennett’s work varies, but fans of Elizabethton City Schools’ athletic teams are no stranger to his keen eye with a camera. From a young age, athletics just came natural for the Cyclone supporter.

“I played basketball, baseball and football all the way through high school … sports have always been a big part of my life,” Bennett said. “I couldn’t tell you how many drawings I did of Michael Jordan while I was in high school. After college, I had actually stopped drawing for quite awhile. Years later, a friend of mine’s son had a birthday coming up, so I decided to draw a picture of him playing baseball as a gift.

“They really seemed to love it, so I just felt the urge to continue with it and it has turned out to be a good decision. I’m glad I picked it back up,” he added.

As far as the eye for sports photography, it goes back to his daughters’ days on the diamond and on the soccer field.

“I think the sports photography stems from when my girls were younger and playing soccer and tee ball,” he explained. “It really helped me hone my skills to capture great action shots. Obviously the action of high school athletics is a bit quicker than that of a six-year-old, but I think I do alright.”

METHOD BEHIND THE MADNESS

Just like photography, a specialized method that goes into creating a specialized drawing.

“You have to start with images that are good quality to use as reference,” Bennett said. “The quality isn’t that great, then you run this risk of not capturing the likeness of the subject. I have had to reference multiple images to get accurate facial features if my main image is of a lower quality.”

Bennett is no stranger to various artistic resources but uses color pencils as the medium of choice for drawings.

“I always lay down the dark colors first, then layer the lighter colors on top of them,” he stated. “This helps me focus on getting the shading correct, which is very critical. I always start laying down the color on the face because it is the most critical part of the drawing. Getting the correct color can sometimes be difficult. Many times I have to blend multiple colors to obtain the color I need.

“Once the face is finished, the stress level goes way down,” Bennett added with a laugh.

JOTTING DOWN JASON

It is hard to pick out a favorite piece.

Bennett was quick to say he enjoys all the work he’s been able to do, but one piece that stands out the most involves a former NFL great and Elizabethton native.

“If I had to pick one that stands out overall, I guess it would be this latest one I’ve done of Jason Witten,” Bennett said.

Capturing the true essence of the former Cyclone, University of Tennessee Volunteer and Dallas Cowboy fell in line with Bennett’s artistic knowledge.

“The concept came about when talking to a friend about ‘mash-up’ images,” he said. “These are images that are done digitally where a professional athlete’s uniform will be partly his professional one and partly his collegiate one. I thought, ‘what could I do that could really make a statement and be totally unique using this mash-up concept?’ I quickly thought of Jason. And once I found the image I used as a reference, I knew it had to be drawn.

“I put more time and research into it than any other drawing I’ve recently done,” he continued. “I even had my sister, who is a teacher at Elizabethton High, send me a pic of the black football jersey from a yearbook from his senior year to make sure it was correct. That was a tough one, but well worth it.”

WHAT IS AHEAD?

From recognition at a national scale from his Witten work to local projects, the days never grow dull for Bennett.

“I have a few people that are interested in drawings for gifts of upcoming graduates,” he said. “I also have an ever-increasing list of drawings that I’d love to get just for my own collection.

“But if anyone asks to buy those, I’d definitely consider it,” he added with a grin.

The drive never stalls on the photography side, either.

“I’m always shooting high school ball games, senior sessions, group and family photos, all those different things,” he said. “I have a passion for both photography and drawing, so they, along with my day job and family, keep me busy.”

Bennett is also quick to thank God for the ability to create art and giving him the ability to continue doing it throughout his life.

To contact Bennett, call (423) 773-5704. Bennett can also be reached via Facebook at randallbennettphotography or on Instagram at @rbennettphoto.