Snoqualmie Valley Artist Ben Washam: Spreading Joy Through Art During the Pandemic

Mid December 2020 this popped up on a Snoqualmie Valley Facebook group:

“On your mark…Get set… Artdrop

The Grinch in a pinch

Location: NB Library

Exact Spot: Outside

Happy hunting”

So, what is an Artdrop? The local artist who started doing these describes it as a novelty treasure hunt or art hide and seek. To make and hide art somewhere in public with clues found on social media.

The first few of these Valley “art drops” occurred just before Christmas when doodles were stashed around local parks, libraries and monuments. Social media posts on local Facebook groups included photos of the drawings and where they were hidden and clues to where they could be found.

When locals found his pieces, they commented on these posts with smiles, cheer, and thanks for brightening up their day. The artist has received many videos and pictures thanking him for his art, the adventure, and the break from their day to explore and have fun. These positive responses inspire him to keep doodling and give others a reason to smile.  He stashes art in Snoqualmie, Fall City, and North Bend and may (depending on our impending snow situation) do some Valentine’s Day inspired artwork drops.

So, who is this cheer spreading artist?

Ben Washam is a North Bend resident, artist and father who decided to teach his son about spreading cheer around the holidays. Says his sister-in-law Michelle, “The magic behind this story is that Ben is named after his late Grandfather, Benny Washam, an animator during the Golden Age of American animation at Warner Bros.” Looney Tunes characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Wile E. Coyote, Tom and Jerry and The Grinch are some of the elder Washam’s recognizable work.

His parents moved here from Southern California, where his father ran a successful farrier business shoeing horses for stars like Sylvester Stallone and Willian Shatner, for the love of the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Raised in the Valley with his siblings, Ben attended Carnation Elementary, graduated from Cedarcrest High school, and has lived in North Bend for the past seven years with his family.

Ben’s parents raised him and his siblings watching the Looney Tunes and popular pictures that his grandfather animated and directed. However, his Grandfather passed before Ben was born and though they never met, Ben carries his name and skilled artistic passion. Always the artist of the family, Ben has been drawing on and off as a hobby for thirty years.

Since the pandemic onset, Ben has evolved into a stay-at-home father for his six-year-old son, Miles. Like many others in the community and across the country, they are doing their best to navigate virtual learning, being active, and stay busy with at-home activities.

Ben has a tremendous appreciation and interest for art; He loves movies, concerts, illustrations, and animation. He creates the art for fun; he does not have a professional page, social account, or shop yet. He hopes to create an art page or account soon. His preferred methods are pencil, ink brush pens, and paper.  

Says Michelle, “He’s always been a “doodler,” and when entertainment became slim this winter, he thought a fun way to spread cheer to others (also feeling stuck inside and needing a reason to get some fresh air) would be to create a scavenger hunt, hiding his Christmas character drawings around town during the holidays for others to find and keep.”

The on-going pandemic has allowed more time for drawing at home. Says Ben, “I started sketching Grinch and putting my own spin on it. Instead of keeping them at home, I decided to give them out.” Later in his Grandfather’s career, at MGM Studios, he ran the animation department for the 1966 Christmas classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Fun fact, his grandpa animated the famous Grinch smile scene. Says Ben, “Naturally, I look up to his work.”

He was inspired by a creative artist he follows on Instagram and a distraction from the ongoing pandemic. He notes, “With most entertainment closed, kids out of school and going stir crazy myself, it seemed like a great opportunity to spread some much-needed holidays cheer and engage with the community. I thought other people could relate and would welcome a chance to get out of the house as well as participate in a little safe and socially distant treasure hunt.”

After that first artdrop, Ben says he received really positive feedback. So, he cranked out more for the holiday, saying, “cause it’s better to give than receive, right? I ended up doing 12 drawings, like the song.” He intended doing one a day, but the weather hindered that some days. Some days he would do 3 drawings in one day. No one knew he was doing it; he was making it up as he went along.

He ended the holiday season with another Grinch, and the wonderful, awful idea smile, as a nod to his granddad. A new holiday, Valentine’s Day, is coming up and weather dependent he is planning on doing another artdrop on Saturday the 13th. So quick, join the Snoqualmie Valley Facebook page and keep your eyes peeled for a post with a clue to an artdrop and a little Valentine’s Day cheer.

Comments

  1. Lloyd Vaughan says

    We watched evening magazine on 3/8 and loved the story of Ben Washam.
    My father was an animator with Chuck Jones at Warner Brothers with Benny Washam!! We would like to contact Ben and share our artwork with him – we have the same picture from academy awards!
    We live in Friday Harbor but could meet on the mainland.
    Lloyd Vaughan II.

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