Sunday, September 6, 2020

"It's Hard To Lose A Player That's The Same Generation As You..."


 Good "sad day" Thursday, y'all.

Heard last night one of my baseball heroes, though I wasn't a big Mets fan, Tom "Terrific" Seaver passed away. Of all the instructional videos and books I've studied, his book,"The Art of Pitching" was my "go to" favorite. His book sent me to another book called, "The Seven Minute Rotator Cuff Solution."

I put into practice his exercise regimen for myself and used the many techniques he espoused to teach the correct form for pitching and to maintain healthy shoulders. (I had a slight tear in my supraspinatus.)

As a coach, I realized that having the knowledge to teach does not mean having the ability to get the information over to a student, or in this case, a player who wanted to learn how to pitch. Tom Seaver's book helped me instruct to the player the mechanics of throwing... anything, not just a baseball.

I honestly cannot say the kid got it, but it wasn't for a lack of effort on his part or mine. I now have a healthy respect for what all teachers go through and the frustration that comes from not getting the information across to the student. I do know that Seaver's book became my baseball bible.



Unfortunately, amongst the many books I have on the art, my hardcover book is nowhere to be found.

I might have given it away with the rest of our son's equipment, but probably not. There's a good chance of me putting it away for safe keeping somewhere... never to be seen again.

Rest In Peace, Tom Seaver... and Thanks!

First "on the mound" cup, y'all...

Copyright 2020/Ben Bensen III





Sunday, July 19, 2020

"A Different Kind Of Comfort Food"...



Good "Ouch!" Sunday Morning, all bodies.
I woke up really stiff this morning. It was a chore just to walk around until I spent some time on the floor stretching. Feeling like I'd survive, but feeling rather depressed about things, I decided that I'd go for some coffee and an apple fritter at the Donut Stop.
"Man, Sundays are the worse," Janis Joplin replied on one of her live albums. Apparently, she was on stage in a town that had "blue laws", but when someone told her it was now Monday, (I assume it was a real late Sunday night gig!) she hoisted her Jack Daniels and exclaimed,"It's Monday? It's Monday." Man, if ever you need a drink, it's on a Sunday, man. They're the worse... Here's to you!"
Seems like a lot of folks needed some comfort food too because I waited, 6 feet apart, in line for 25 minutes waiting to order my fritter.
It brings to mind a story I saw on YouTube a few months ago about comfort food.
A P-47 pilot was asked out in the field by the mess hall cook if he would do the cook a big favor. The aircraft could hold 100 gallon plus external fuel tanks under the wing pylons on each wing. Some of the times, the aircraft utilized a British style drop tank made of papier mache which was used to carry 150 octane aircraft fuel that would last about three or four hours before disintegrating if not utilized by then.
The cook took one of those throwaway drop tanks and fill it with 70 pds. of powdered milk, 20 pds. of fruit cocktail, 25 pds. of sugar and 3 gallons Cavallo apple brandy with some other spices, mixed it up and then strapped it back under one of the wing pylons.
The cook told the pilot to take the plane up to where it really gets cold about 35,000 feet where the outside temperature was about 45 to 50ยบ. The pilot swayed the aircraft back and forth and performed a couple of rolls to keep the ingredients mixed up pretty good.
When he landed the plane, with some assistance, the cook had the wing tank taken off the pylon, set on a table and cut up the papier mache tank with an axe and served everyone some "Tutti-Frutti" ice cream.
Now, that's some serious need for comfort food. And, another example of how great American ingenuity can be.
"Rock On, America!"
Third cup!

Copyright 2020/ Ben Bensen III

Saturday, July 11, 2020

"A Conversation About The Arts From A Nurse's Perspective!"



Last night, I fixed myself a great meal. It was a capellini style spaghetti with capers and anchovies, some fresh basil leaves, tomatoes and such. It was great. I finished off of half bottle of merlot which mellowed me out. I planned to watch the Broadway film version of Hamilton, but I never got that far.

When Disney asked for a password, I got pissed and cancelled the whole scene. Maybe tomorrow, or is that today?

Anyway, Sunday morning, I got up and took Pierre for a long morning walk before either of us had any breakfast. After our quarter mile walk around the bird sanctuary, I washed a batch of clothes, gave the dog his flea and tick med along with his food, then, fed the birds.

I made a pot of coffee and a, what I call, my "monkey salad." It consists of a quarter of a fresh cut pineapple, a mango, raisins and one banana. I usually add a few roasted peanuts, but I ate them all up watching a ballgame from the 2019 year, the other night. Once I start shucking and eating peanuts, the game has lost all meaning until I finish the bag.

Anyway, I set it all up in order to have breakfast with the program CBS Sunday Morning. I used to like the program with Charles Karult and late Charles Osgood. Nowadays, not so much.

I finished my breakfast and split for a piece of sanity at Giddity-Up. I had hoped to have a cup of coffee and read my new book, but as luck would have it, I met my clay throwing maniac, Craig Mcmillin. I knew him as a mentor to our son before I ever knew him for a ceramicist par excellence that he is. He was delivering some new mug designs for sale at the coffeehouse.

I'm happy to say that two of my SoCal friends brought one of his designs.

Among other topics of discussion, I asked him about his beginnings as an artist/ ceramicist and just how he arrived at the decision that this was gonna be his gift to humanity. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip into his past to share his trials and tribulations along the way. For me, it was a 20 ounce cup conversation.

Craig was quite forthcoming, and I tried to be!

He had to learn how to turn his passion into a business to make it work... I think he's succeeded.

I was motivated to inquire about his "salad days" when one is young and inexperienced because one of the many nurses I have met along the way from one hospital after another, made the jump from a fine artist to a registered nurse. It seemed such a big jump from one side of the brain to another... if you believe in that sort of thing.

Nicole had finished her BFA in fine arts, but had no idea where to go after graduating. She was a ceramicist and knew that it would take a big investment in her career before she ever made a name or a profit for herself.

Drifting around from one idea to another, Nicole went back home to collect her thoughts. It took a year or so to decide that the best way to make a living as an artist was to get a Master's Degree and teach.

Her parents tried to help her with some decision. Eventually, she figured that if she had to back to school, that she might as well go back and get a degree in something more practical... like the medical field. Unlike Craig, who was determined to make it as a ceramicist, Nicole could not find any logic that, as a teacher, she would just perpetuate that familiar conundrum.

"Wow," I said. "That's a really big jump to go from the right side of the brain to the extreme left... Extreme, in my mind," I reiterated.

"I loved the arts, but I couldn't see any way to make it work for me," she said. It would have been such a big investment with no guarantees!"

I asked Craig what his thoughts were about Nicole's decision. We both felt that we had little or no options, but were determined to make it work. Nicole, in her mind, did have options!

Funny, the things that make us who we are, or who we think we are.

As Therese and I had done at St.Tammany Hospital with nurses like Megan Thibodaux, we grew to know and become friends with people we may never, ever see again... like Nicole.

As I was to tell her about my conversation with Craig, she made an announcement that not even her aid knew about.

"I'm sorry to say that today will be my last day here with you, Mrs.Therese and at Ochsner's. My husband finished his residency here and is being transferred to Michigan." It will be great because I'll be closer to my family though I will miss all the friends here at the hospital."

"Ya see? Therese said. "Women want to be close to their family!"

It was at that moment that I decided to do a sketch of her before her day was done. I politely asked if I could snap a photo of her and her partner, Claire.

They both agreed that it was okay and gave me a quick pose. By quitting time, I had them both completed. Both done in Prismacolor and in gratitude for a job well done, and one, to celebrate the move and time we had together.

First cup...


Copyright 2020/Ben Bensen III

Monday, June 1, 2020

"And Look Who's Coming Up!"



Frames from a storyboard I created to celebrate, for a client, this storybook ending! 
Well, Good "new month" Monday Morning, all bodies.
Ah yes, June 1st, the beginning of hurricane season. Oh joy!
It's not been a very good month for me. In fact, it really hasn't been very good since November. On top of everything going on with the quarantine, the riots and Tee's illness, I lost a childhood mentor and just two weeks ago, I lost a friend in the Pentagon to Covid 19.
My de-stressing respite lately is Vin Scully's Dodger baseball. Apparently on YouTube, there's about thirty of the many games he's done over the years and I've seen just about most of them. But, the one game that couldn't be scripted by Hollywood or any fantasy writer is the first game of the 1988 World Series. Nowadays, the game would be suspect as a left wing conspiracy or a media manipulation that's just too crazy to believe.
But, the game has since become legendary in the baseball world, and the Gibson's home run is considered by many as one of the greatest home runs of all time!
The thing is, that up until the fifth inning when Kirk Gibson is seen limping around in the dugout with his jacket on, did I realize I was watching "THE game". Because the game was streaming on YouTube, I could jump back to earlier sections of the game to get the full effect of the fact that Franklin Stubbs would be substituting for Kirk Gibson in Game One because Gibby was gimpy! He was injured in the playoffs with the New York Mets, and no one knew exactly how bad the knee injury was and how long he'd be out.
"Oh man, I said to myself, this is THE game!" I don't ever remember watching the whole game.
In the first inning against Oakland pitcher, Dave Stewart, Mickey Hatcher hit a two run homer. It was the first home run Hatcher had ever hit in his entire Major League career up until this game.
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, Tim Belcher, could not find the strike zone until Jose Canseco walloped a grand slam answer in the very next inning. The rest of the game was pretty much a pitcher's dual with only the Dodgers scoring another run to make the score 4 to 3.
Oakland had many opportunities to put the Dodgers away.
From this point on, the bottom of the ninth with two outs, I was very familiar with because I had, on three occasions, created storyboards about the magic of that last at bat for local clients like Great Western Bank.
To this day, I could not believe the roll of the dice manager, Tommy LaSorda took having Mike Davis, after being walked by Dennis Eckersley, actually steal second base. Had Davis been caught, the game would have ended with the "A's" winning 4 to 3.
With the roar of the home team crowd, and Davis on second base, I got a lump in my throat and even though I had seen and drawn this scenario many times, my eyes started to well up.
Therese looked over to notice I was, once again, losing it to a baseball game. I covered my mouth as to somehow mitigate the sounds of my sobbing, but when LaSorda inserted Gibson as his pinch hitter and Vince Scully exclaimed, "And look who's coming up", I totally lost it and started crying.
After game was won and I'm exclaiming that "Baseball Is Life" a couple of times, I wiped away the tears. Calming myself down as I re-entered the living room, Therese stated, "You never cry. After all these years of trials and tribulations, I've never seen you cry... except at baseball games!"
"How come?"
First cup...

Copyright 2020/ Ben Bensen III

Friday, May 22, 2020

"Thoughts About Baseball in 2020"...




I miss all the sportstalk radio stations I used to listen to in Los Angeles when I lived there twenty years ago, or so. But, there was a segment on NPR about the prospects of there ever being a season in 2020.

Being a big Dodger fan and not having a Major League team here in Louisiana... we actually lost our affiliate AAA minor league team with the Miami Marlins a year ago, I was curious about a few adjustments that would have to be made for the game to survive the Corona virus.

My first thought was about the handling of the baseballs throughout the contest.  It's bad enough that even before the virus, balls were discarded even if the ball was considered scuffed having grazed the dirt or the plate from the pitcher's hand. I can't even imagine a ball leaving one hand and then, going on to another's hand and then, another's hand as would be in the case of a double play.

How simple minded of me to just consider what is generally known as being one third of the game. That is, the ball, the glove and the bat!

I subsequently learned that MLB, in their infinite wisdom, has created a 67 page diatribe on the new rules of the game. Consider, because I didn't, no spitting, no sunflower seeds, no high fives, or head first slides, keeping one's distance in the dugout, in batting cages, on the bases... during the National Anthem! Then, of course, consider team buffets, club house showers and hot tubs not to mention after hour dinners, night clubs, airline flights from one city to another and staying in your hotel quarantine till game time.

Of course, non of this matters, really.

As usual, in big time sports, especially in baseball where there is no salary cap, the season will but an asterisk in the annals of baseball lore because of the almighty dollar.


"Root, root, root for the team,
If they don't win, it's a shame...
For it's One, Two, Three Billion dollars,

In the ole ball game!"

Copyright 2020/ Ben BensenIII














Sunday, February 16, 2020

"From The Walls To The Pentagon"...



In May, 2018, through the Air Force Art Program, three long time participants who are also members with the American Society of Aviation Artists (ASAA) were invited to document Air Force life at Edwards, AFB in Rosamond, California. Scott Gandell, Doug Castleman and myself were to meet fellow artist and retired NASA test pilot, Colonel Mark Pestana at the West Gate Visitor's Center bright and early Monday, the fourteenth of May, to receive our orders.

A little bit about the Air Force Art Program, which officially was started in 1953. At that time, the Air Force turned to the Society of Illustrators with it’s headquarters and museum located in New York for assistance in organizing the program. SI/NY had long been recognized as the focal point of illustration since its’ founding in 1901.

Creating a Chair position on the Board of Directors, it quickly organized some of the nation’s most prominent artist/illustrator members for missions around the world, including our nations’ conflicts. Today, there are nearly 10,000 works in the Air Force Art Program and the Society of Illustrators has been joined by other organizations and independent artists to continue documenting Air Force personnel, equipment, locations and activities. 

I've been a member of the program since 1978 and was appointed Chairperson for the Society of Illustrators/ Los Angeles in 2002 and remain the Chairperson today even though I now currently live in Louisiana. 


Earlier that month of May, my wife and I flew into Los Angeles to visit with friends, throw an alumni party, and attend an ASAA seminar where, in Palm Springs, I spent a week learning the finer points of aviation art and where I connected with Mark and Doug. Ten days later, with all that seminar taught us, we were primed and ready to tour all that Edwards had to offer. With sketch books and cameras in hand, we visited flight lines, dry lake beds, F-18 simulators, control tower, museums, a complete tour of the advanced multirole fighter, the F-35, the officer's club, NASA hangars, and test facilities. It was a full tour of the base and its operations.

In our spare time, Mark drove us out to the desert in search of the many crash sites from days when test pilots flew and died by the seat of their pants. We found the crash site and memorial to the four crew members that died testing of one of the two early flying wings, YB-49. The YB-49 was a turbojet-powered flying wing design further developed at Northrop, and the progenitor of today's, B-2 Stealth bomber  The two YB-49s actually were both built after World War II when jet power was still at its infancy. The second of the experimental aircraft stalled during a test flight, went into a high speed nose dive and crashed in the desert on July 5, 1949. Walking the site in silence, there was a slight breeze that created, for me, an eerie feeling. 

In another desert drive, this time with a NASA museum historian, we visited the burned down ruins of Pancho Barnes "watering hole" ranch site. Pancho Barnes was a famous 1930's female aviator who loved being around and entertaining aviators. The mysterious cause of the ranch's destruction is still under investigation and the makeshift "ranch" was a major highlight in the beginning of the movie,  "The Right Stuff."


  

But with all the tours, static aircraft displays, literature, history and talks, I still hadn't found a reason to paint. I needed a real reason that would justify these great four days. To be honest, here is so much excitement in each department at the Armstrong Research Center we visited that it just made my life seem so dull and almost impossible to decide which subject to paint. 

For instance, the research, design and testing of a manned supersonic X-plane designed to fly quietly over the continent with minimal or no sonic booms seemed a great idea, as was the robotic designs for future use in space. Research for the feasibility of growing plants in space at the International Space Station provided me with some interesting ideas. Also, there was the advancement of infrared technology in astronomy, drone and UAV's technology. Mapping the globe, investigating wind and ocean currents at the surface and how it effects the weather, global climate, ocean fisheries, oil spills, and forest fires also brought some cool images to pursue. 

So much going on that it was too much to digest to put into one or maybe two paintings.

Over my "career" as an Air Force artist, I've entered, with or without an liaison, many an air base gate. The guards there are a courteous, smartly dressed, but rather intimidating maitre'd's, so to speak. Usually dressed in camo fatigues, they are bristling with gear strapped to their person. Flak jacket, intercom, holster and pistol, "go to hell" sunglasses, billy clubs, ammo belts, and all kinds of intimidating equipment and topped smartly to the right side of the head a security forces beret... All to welcome you.
And, rightly so!
But, on our last day of the tour, we stopped to show our identification cards and was greeted by a female guard dressed in the standard security forces outfit.
Now, maybe the other guys did or didn't notice, but I sure did.
As the the guard returned our I.D.'s to Colonel Pestana, and crisply shared salutes, I noticed this guard was wearing a bit more makeup. Certainly understated, but noticeable to someone like me who kinda overdoses on all the testosterone that exists among the sights, sounds and smells of airplanes.
I even had to voice my observation to the guys.
"Gee, I guess I should've awakened a bit earlier this morning to apply my face before breakfast," I said with no response!

It all came to light when our schedule was a bit adjusted. Greeted by museum curator, Tony Moore, and apologizing for the crazies and being late, Tony mentioned, as two F-15's and one F-16 screamed across the sky, that today, the base was being invaded by a Hollywood film crew shooting scenes for the new film,"Captain Marvel."

It suddenly appeared to me why the front gate security guard was so, so... so feminine!

But the best was the "shakeup" at the base Burger King when two F-16 exploded pass our window and across the runway with their sonic booms. It was all for show, Hollywood style, but having experienced, on our stay in Palm Springs just two weeks earlier, a rather potent earthquake just down the block in Ridgecrest, CA, breaking the sound barrier pretty much broke up our lunch.

Colonel Mark Pestana was barely moved!
Returning home, a bit dejected, I started surfing through my imagery. I stopped at the photo of four folding chairs, some water bottles and clipboards parked out in the shade under a vintage aircraft. The aircraft was historic as I was about to find out in my later research, but so were all the varied aircraft baking in the desert sun. Exiting the NACA hanger after a tour and a presentation of the many tasks UAV's perform, I notice four soldiers now having lunch in those chairs and flying their drones up and down the tarmac. I remember asking if it was okay to snap a few photos of their luncheon activities. I was concerned that there might be some "classified" considerations they might have that they may not want recorded.

It was at that point that I knew what I was gonna paint and how I was gonna present the idea. I just wish my brainchild had occurred when I was out there in the desert instead of at my studio. I certainly would have taken more reference photos, then. The title of the painting evolved as I was researching the plane in between my storyboard business. Though I returned to Louisiana, after thirty years of living and working in California, I continued my freelance art business at my studio in Folsom, LA. But the more I looked into the old bird, the more settled I was with the title and the concept.

I had done this scene once or twice before discovering that certain planes in museums are there for their historic accomplishments and not just a generic display of that design. Sometimes, the Sherlock Holmes type research is as much fun as creating the painting.

On a return trip, years ago, from a USAF gala reception at Andrews, AFB, the military aircraft stopped at Wight-Patterson, AFB in Dayton Ohio for an impromptu overnight stay. To entertain the AFAPO artists before dinner, we were taken to a hangar where aircraft scheduled for reconstruction or refurbishment were stored. I was like a kid in a candy store because the hangar had many aircraft I read about and built models of as a kid.

I spotted, in a dimly lite area, this old fighter with rust spots, weathered metal panels and faded Air Force insignia. I was shooting with film that was being pushed to accommodate the lighting. I was so excited to see this F-84F Thunderstreak because I remember the Revell model that I built and the boxtop art from my then, art hero, Jack Leynnwood. By strange coincidence, I had just about every model boxtop I bought as a kid and later found that Leynnwood taught at the prestigious art school, Art Center College of Design. As a student there, I took every painting class I could get with him.

In my effort to paint perfection from three dark slides, I bought a "walk around" pamphlet on the aircraft. In that book was the details of the jet I planned to paint. Depicted, in one of the chapters, was the very aircraft being dropped from a bomber's bomb bay. This was that exact same aircraft that was being restored for this moment in aviation history. 

Here's the studio painting of the famed FiCon fighter F-84F housed at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. Property of the Pentagon. 

Investigating my new project, I found that this bird baking in the sun, was the second prototype, serial number 46-0066 of the B-47 Stratojet. It was designed in 1943 and was the second bomber, designated XB-47 to roll of the production line in 1947. It was the only prototype left that included a plexiglass nose and side windows for the navigator/bombardier. All other models deleted this option.

Before painting the work in color, I created seven or eight pencil drawings to decide how I wanted to tell the story. At lunch with a friend, I discussed my frustration with the angles I had in my head to best tell the story. Here's some of my napkin scribbles:



One of my main concerns was that the most effective approaches involved the twin starboard engine nacelle. A frontal shot showed the engine with a face that resembled Edvard Munch's, "The Scream!"

Once I saw it, I could not stop seeing it...


Realizing that my best view of the aircraft was the frontal from the port side, I redrew the seated soldiers and inserted them under the wing.

I then, enlarged the sketch and the transferred it over to canvas adding the many pieces that needed to be added to complete the story. I decided to paint the scene in grays to solidify the entire work. I wanted to make sure in adding color that I maintained that hot, desert, noon time light.




The finished piece, entitled "Taking Them Under Her Wings" was painted in oils on a 24"x48" linen canvas. The painting, which will be on display with six other paintings of mine at the Christwood Atrium Gallery in Covington through February, depicts what I consider under the watchful eye of the old bird, its approval of the new style of flight as the soldiers take a bite of their sandwiches and fly off with their remote control freedom. 


Copyright 2020/ Ben Bensen III
                                                                  

















Saturday, February 15, 2020

"It's That Time Of Year... "Gnaturally"...




Good "Gnaturally" Sunday Morning, all bodies.

Ah, nature's cycle of life. It's time for clover and dandelions and what is known as Carolina Geranium. Actually, the thistle plants and the "Geranium" are a bit early, but what the hell, the bluebird family is already setting up house and our silver maple tree is beginning to sprout stuff at the ends of each branch.

Everyone and everything is confused!

But, the purveyor of all flying aggravations to later arrive, is naturally on time. It is the "crane fly" or as we all called it as kids... GNATS!

They look like large mosquitoes with very long, spindly legs.

In the evening, just after sundown, they hang around doors just waiting to get uninvited in. Even if you don't turn on any outdoor lights, or make any announcements, they are there, attracted to all social events, crashing the party through the doors before you even notice.

Then, they proceed to crash and bounce into everything including your cheese dip, salsa, punch bowls and filled wine glasses. They don't have to get drunk to act like they are bumping indiscriminately into every body and everything. Of course, they later go incognito into your blinds and window drapes to sleep it all off.

If you are lucky, you might find one still hungover the morning after unless, of course, they've decided to dance, cheek to cheek, with a spider or two.

Come a month later, when you try to open the windows or adjust the blinds, hundreds of skeletal 'gnats, lovingly wrapped in a silken goo, will make it almost impossible for you to accomplish such a simple task...

Ah... nature!

First cup!

Copyright 2020/ Ben Bensen III