Willis and Sellers Art Gallery to hold grand opening Saturday

Published 10:00 pm Monday, March 13, 2017

Tryon artist Ben Sellers (left) has teamed up with Charles Willis (right), who is hoping to get into real estate, to open an art gallery in the Shops of Tryon at 112 N. Trade St. in Tryon in the former Birdie’s Boutique location. (Photos by Michael O’Hearn)

TRYON – Ben Sellers and Charles Willis have combined their professions of art and real estate and are hosting a grand opening of Willis and Sellers Art Gallery in the Shops of Tryon at 112 N. Trade St. on Saturday, March 18 in the former Birdie’s Boutique location.

Sellers recalled going to culinary school in Charleston at Johnson and Wales University, before it closed, and began looking for a hobby to do on the side.

Ballpoint pen sketches of Robin Williams and Gene Wilder are just a few of the art pieces done by Sellers in his gallery. Sellers said he wants his art to “knock your socks off” and aspires to have his art in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. (Photos by Michael O’Hearn)

“I just started painting whatever, never had any formal training. I would just take pieces of plywood and whatever I could get and cheap buckets of paint,” Sellers recounted. “I just got better and better at it and it evolved from a hobby into a habit and I became obsessed with it, coming home to work on paintings just to take my mind off things.”

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Born and raised in Tryon, Sellers said trying to balance being a chef and creating art became something he could not juggle at the same time. Sellers moved back to Tryon in 2012 and said a friend of his who had suddenly passed away inspired him to open his own studio.

“It just became something I could not do well together. The cost of living is much higher down there than it is here, and I missed my family and mountains,” Sellers explained. “After about 10 years of living in Charleston, I decided to move back this way and continue to paint. It’s quieter here and offers more seclusion so I can hone my craft.”

Willis was also born and raised in Tryon and, before becoming a real estate agent, said he would run horse shows up and down the East Coast in addition to working for a company building four-wheel drive vans in Fletcher, N.C.

“I came back to the area about four or five months ago and wanted to do something different,” Willis recalled. “I wanted to continue to push myself and get into real estate because it has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. My office is going to be based on property management and short-term rentals.”

Hoping to one day open his own real estate business, Willis recalled wanting to become partners with Sellers to gain an office space and said it would be “ridiculous” to have nothing hanging on the walls of his office.

“I could not afford all of Ben’s art to hang on my walls, so this is the best compromise to do it to get his (Sellers’) name out there and showcase art not just from him but a variety of art,” Willis emphasized. “We try to keep this art local to the area or from close friends to us. We want to showcase a lot of good art.”

Artists who want their art showcased at the Willis and Sellers Art Gallery can visit Sellers’ website at bensellerspainter.com or find him on Facebook or Instagram. The gallery can also be reached at 843-509-7665.

“My friends, family and surroundings inspire me, as corny as it sounds. I want to knock your socks off with my art, and I want people to look at it and think ‘how did he do that? I cannot do that,’” Sellers explained. “One of my biggest inspirations is artists who have made it and have art in the Smithsonian. I want to have art in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and I want to do that in my lifetime.”