The Man Behind the Rocks: Ben Kolb

Earlier this month, we here at the CVB, got the idea to include ourselves in the hidden rock phenomena. You know what I’m talking about, right? The rocks that people paint and hide; and then someone else comes along, finds it and takes a picture of the treasure they stumbled upon in the midst of an ordinary stroll… That rock phenomenon.

However, we knew that we couldn’t – and certainly shouldn’t – be the ones to paint these rocks. So we found local artist and owner of Nativibes Ben Kolb. We thought he’d paint a little logo on a little rock and voilà! But he envisioned something different …man painting at an easel outdorrs

After seeing these incredible renderings, I had to find out more. And I did!

Ben Kolb grew up in Marion County – Mannington specifically – and started drawing sometime when he was young. He said he found pictures of fish in a folder from his school-age years. And that’s where it started: projects and simple drawings. He just never stopped.

Although he’s always lived in Mannington, he has a passion for aboriginal cultures in the Pacific.

“I used to study aboriginal cultures and the way they fished and things, so I started carving the bonefish hooks like all around the Pacific,” he said.

As a job?

“I’ve always done something that has to do with art,” he said.

He’s worked as a tattoo artist and in logo design as well as t-shirt printing. Nativibes as a business wasn’t quite a consideration until after he bought the space. He just needed more space to store all his paintings.

“And then, once I started this and I needed to pay these bills, I started teaching the classes and realized how many more people I could affect through this place, too,” he explained. “Where it wasn’t just a place to store paintings, it was a place that kids who like this stuff could come or kids who just didn’t feel like they were good at soccer or football or something like that. They could come here, too. (And I also have soccer players and football players that come, too.) It has turned into meaning a lot more to me than the festival crowd – being here and helping these kids out.”

kids painting birdhouse

He offers classes for different age ranges every week. First through fourth graders can attend the Monday classes. Fifth through eighth-grade students can attend the Tuesday classes. And adults can attend the watercolor basic workshops on Thursdays.  Kolb is currently hosting Wicked Wednesdays, where he tells a classic story (The Telltale Lilac Bush, The Mothman) and has students paint based on the story.

For those unfamiliar with being artsy, Kolb encouraged that all students really need to do is show up because he said he is “only concerned with the students’ confidence and brush strokes.” (He added that he pre-draws the pictures for the watercolors.)

So with such an easy standard even for someone like me (you know, non-artsy, plain, simple), I had to ask next what he considered success in art. He was silent and thinking until he said, “It doesn’t matter. It just has to get out of my head and onto whatever I’m doing.”

As it pertains to the hidden rocks he painted for the CVB, he said he feels like he has a secret connection with whoever finds it. And that person, in turn, will have a secret connection with the next person to find the rock.

Art in community, he said, is what makes it fun.

“It’s what makes it not just a bunch of boxes where people sleep,” he stated.

What is your favorite form of art?

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