Student Artist Spotlight: Ben Derlan

Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Allnutt

Senior Ben Derlan is currently one of many students working on his St. Mary’s Project (SMP) at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM). As the midpoint of the semester approaches, SMP students are working on editing and refining their projects. Working closely with this semester’s art SMP advisor Carrie Patterson, Derlan is focused on finding ways to merge his interests together to create a unique art project that will present a distinctive expression of his chosen subject matter.

Derlan’s project is primarily composed of paintings; however, his interest in art is rooted in drawing and sculpture. His interest in art began with comics and cartoons when he was young. Then, in high school, his interests shifted more towards music, leaving art behind for the most part.

Art came back into the picture, however, during his time at SMCM. Derlan became interested in visual art and sculpture during a class titled “Figure Sculpture,” taught by Professor of Art Lisa Scheer. This course taught Derlan how to sculpt and also how to portray life in a unique form with clay.

The summer after his sophomore year, Derlan worked with SMURF, now called SURF, where he worked on a project based on finding sustainable lighting for Boyden Gallery. During this time, his interest in art continued to grow, and he worked on various art projects that expanded his artistic perspectives.

For his SMP, Derlan is composing various styles of paintings to create one series of images that will inform the other. Derlan is investigating how painting interacts with your body. He says that “these projects use subject matter to create and express.” His first series of images are figurative paintings inspired by artists like Francis Bacon. Derlan aims to investigate how paint works on the canvas, looking at how marks are made as well as the physical action of making marks on the canvas with the body.

His human body series also focuses on this ideal; Derlan is examining how an artist uses their body to paint, such as the act of painting a small part with your hand and watching how it becomes part of a whole abstract image. He concentrates on small details of the human body and expands the image to fit a large canvas.

The next series Derlan is including in his SMP included projecting film onto a wall, and painting the images while the film continues to move. The images are constantly moving overtop the canvas, which allows Derlan to overlay still images to create new ways to view the film.

One of the films he intends to use a video presented through a press release in the Yemen Strike. The press release states that there was a video retrieved in the strike that depicted a terrorist explaining how to make bombs. However, it was later discovered that the video was uncovered over ten years ago. After this announcement was made, the video was removed from online sources. Derlan wants to investigate the impact of the removal and deletion of images. “Once the images are deleted, they’re gone. Images can come and go, which can dramatically change how we think about politics.”

Taking this political angle in his project is not something that was intended; however the SMP is being driven by various subject matters that inform each other.

Derlan has been interested in architecture for a while because he aims to “do something good for the world and do art while doing it.” Architecture, he explains, would allow him to do something good for society while using his artistic skills. However, as a senior, he is becoming more interested in working for non-governmental organizations. He wants to work for something that will eventually “[change] our life style for the better.”

This semester, the art SMP advisor Carrie Patterson has been pushing the art students to stick to a schedule of getting work done. Derlan appreciates this guidance, saying “you get what you put in, especially for visual art.”

If you would like to learn more about his project or to schedule an open art studio visit at the Art Annex, please contact Ben at