Benson-Cobb Studio

Carol Benson-Cobb in front of her new canvas wallpaper collection. Portrait by Chet Photography.

Carol Benson-Cobb is one of those rare artists who uses both sides of her brain. The creative side nudged her into the world of abstract art at an early age, and she's been painting professionally for 20 years. But her organized, business mind has steadily propelled her into the kind of success that many artists only dream about. Known for custom colorization, the Dallas-based artist is a favorite of interior designers who commission her large-scale works for residences and commercial projects through her wholesale company, Benson-Cobb, founded in 2012. Her success has been staggering. Last year, the company grossed $1.6 million in sales, she says. Top retailers, such as Calvin Klein Home, which recently tapped her to produce a custom collection, are taking note of her beautifully-rendered abstract works and hand-crafted framing. She's also done limited reproductions of original pieces for Neiman Marcus and Williams Sonoma Home. Large-scale reproductions of her own original works have become a staple of her business. While her originals fetch tens of thousands of dollars, her reproductions go for a fraction, depending on size and customization. "I’m a reluctant manufacturer," she says of the scaled paintwork she creates on canvas and paper. "No one is doing it with the kind of quality I want, so I do it myself. I look at it from the end result and work my way backwards. I'm more interested in how it looks than how much it costs." She has a new showroom in the Dallas Design District and a workshop/studio north of Dallas in McKinney. Unlike most artists who reproduce their work, Benson-Cobb maintains total control, from conception to printing and framing. "Usually the artist is not involved, they just license their work, so they can’t manipulate, can't custom frame, can’t sit there with a designer and create a project based on an original painting." In October, she added another layer to her booming art business, launching her first lines of upholstery fabric and wall coverings at High Point. Textural with the look and feel of an artist's hand, her original works are interpreted and reproduced onto canvas wallpaper and yards of exquisite Belgian linen. See them at her showroom and the retail store Napa Home.
Benson-Cobb's hand-printed artwork on Belgian linen
Carol Benson-Cobb in her studio, surrounded by work samples. Portrait by Chet Photography.
She was an artist before she ever realized it. "I was a rebellious teen and into the Punk scene," says Benson-Cobb, who was born in Dallas and grew up in a small north Texas community. She was first introduced to art while visiting a friend from California whose mother was an artist, and they used her studio one day. Benson-Cobb came back home, picked up a paintbrush and hasn't put it down since. "My bedroom wall as a kid had huge murals of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe," she says laughing.  "I wanted to be an artist, but I had no idea how you made a living at it." She eventually learned to paint formally as an adult while living in Arizona, where she was raising her family. "I sold my work online, and it grew and grew." Her main clients were interior designers looking for artwork in custom colors and sizes, and she even painted furniture. "My studio was on the edge of a canyon on a 365 acre ranch," she says. "It became my inspiration." Her abstracted landscapes sold like hotcakes. "Once I started painting abstracts there was no turning back," she says. "Abstract art literally changes the tone of a space in a way that other art doesn't." Change the colors, the scale or the frame, and it changes the mood, she adds. She began bringing her paintings to market in Dallas about eight or nine years ago. "The first one sold out completely," she remembers. In 2008 she relocated from Arizona to McKinney to be closer to Dallas's growing design industry, setting up a studio in the historic downtown square.

Benson-Cobb could barely keep up with the demand for her work. "Even if I painted 30 original paintings each month, it would still only be 30 paintings," she says. To meet requests for volume, she began researching ways to reproduce her original works using a large art printer. "No one was doing it on the level I wanted," she says. "So I did it myself." After much research, she bought a large scale printer for $250,000 in 2008 and went into seclusion, experimenting until she learned how to master the technology and technique. "That was the turning point," she says. "

Benson-Cobb canvas wallpaper collection
Carol Benson-Cobb in front of one of her artworks.  Portrait by Chet Photography.
Benson-Cobb's studio in the Dallas Design District.  Photo by Chet Photography.
A rack holds Benson-Cobb's new line of Belgian linen fabric samples
Artwork at Benson-Cobb's studio. Photo by Chet Photography.
Benson-Cobb's recent foray into wallpaper was a natural progression, she says, and the result of experimenting with new ideas on her printer. "I took my canvas and turned it over, ran it through printer on the gesso side. It was such a cool look." It took her two years and a global search to source the right printer to carry out the quality and scale required for wallpaper. Then she experimented with printing on fine Belgian linen. "Once I saw it printed on linen, I fell in love with it."

Up next: Benson-Cobb is working with Vanguard Furniture and Williams Sonoma Home on licensing designs across their brands, including fabrics by the yard. Late January 2016, she's headed to Paris for Maison et Object, where she'll be meeting with manufacturing companies about a potential reproduction line in Europe. Making her artwork accessible to more people has always been her priority. "I've always wanted to be relatable as an artist, to create art at a price that most people can afford. And I'm controlling my work every step of the way. It's a pretty great place to be."

Carol Benson-Cobb at her studio. Portrait by Chet Photography.