Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chronic Lower Back Pain and a Chiropractor's Advice... or "Are you one of those all or nothing kind of guys?

After thirty plus years of ignorance, I finally came to grips with my mortality and I don't like it one damn bit. It's not so much about the aging process, living with pain, being a tough guy or even the thought of what becomes of a person's heart, mind or soul once we pass on... to whatever or wherever.

I've been the recipient of a "tweek" or three doing, sometimes, the most simplest things.

Though baseball players come up with some of the most ridiculously lame excuses for contract violations or their on the field performance, I can really sympathize with Cubs great, Sammy Sosa, when he said he hurt his back sneezing! I have actually done that and it put me out of commission for days. Since that time I have had situations where I am about to blow my brains out with a back breaking sneeze but my brain somehow, I don't know how brains perform this feat, says,"Oh know you don't, nose. Not now, maybe later... I tell you when!"

The anticipation that your big sneeze buildup creates has men diving for cover as women and children run to any escape route. Then, all of a sudden, your sneeze turns into nothing or, at the very least, one of those little, dainty Betty Boop type disturbances like AAAAAH-AH-AH-AH...chu! If you are in public and you pull one of those unmanly, falsetto bloopers someone is bound to tell you later that you can explode your eardrum to bits and pieces by holding back your sneeze.

"Just let 'er rip, dude! Better than splattering bloody ear drum parts all over the walls... dude!' It is easier to just thank them for their concern of my welfare, than to use the Sammy Sosa card.

Nevertheless, I've hurt my back peeling potatoes, chopping onions, pouring oil into the car's engine block, vacuuming, making the bed, unplugging a lamp, popping off a bottle cap, putting on underwear, pulling off underwear, which is a real "right moment" killer, let me tell you! It never happens when you are in the gym trying to impress the guys with your strength ( nowadays, I don't know why you would want to do such a thing! ) or picking up fifty pound sack of live crawfish or pulling your 900 pound lawn tractor out of a ditch that'll hurt your back. It is the little things.

Well, then again, it is the little things after one has a real BIG little thing.

See, I hurt my back, big time, playing flag football in 1976. I know what'cha saying, 1976? And you suffered all this time, never once seeing a specialist or even your son's pediatrician? "What's the matter, no health insurance? Self employed, huh? Man, that's a drag!"

"Well, uh, actually no... and yes!" ( I'll let you figure the correct answer to the appropriate questions, it isn't hard. )

Shall I explain to you how it was the waning minutes of a six point game, with us in the lead, third and about five or six yards to go and I just knew the quarterback was gonna try something underneath in my zone, probably a crossing pattern and how I avoided that offensive guard pulling out, and, and sure enough, out of the corner of my eye, here comes the tight end, zooming across and the ball is thrown and I knew it , I knew it, and I jump up high and ...Crash!

I was the momentary hero because I intercepted the pass, but when I got up, I looked like a pretzel. Felt like one too! Fast forward to the last conversation I had with my chiropractor and new found friend, Fred Miller.

Fred has his practice on the Northshore in Mandeville, LA and was recommended to me by my wife who had injuries sustained in a car accident. He was recommended to Therese by my brother, who is a pain management physician and had been administering prolo-therapy to me and Therese for years. Fred is an athletic style chiropractor having run track and field and cross country in college and keeps himself in shape today playing tennis, mountain biking and running. 

The fibrosis or scar tissue ( ) surrounding my back that was really starting to affect my mobility and flexibility was being broken up allowing me freer movement.

"Ben, we've been working on you for the last two months, three times a week and I can't believe it, but your body has responded admirably... and after all these years,"

"I know, thank you. I plan to take this body with me when I die," I said. " I know what all the knowledgeable theologian's say, but I don't care, heaven or hell, it is coming with me... or I ain't going!"

Looking rather stunned, he continued,"It is a testament to the body's ability to heal itself and your dedication to stay in shape in spite of the damage you've done to it." ( Doc always has a subtle way of getting his point across! ) He continued, "I'd give us all a B+... but... "Ben, you're not getting any younger and you can't expect your body to do what you use to. For your back and the rest of your body, motion is lotion. I want you to keep on moving, but just try to do it with a little more moderation," he said. "If you don't learn how to tell you body when, your body eventually will!"

And then, he said,"I probably already know the answer to this, but let me ask you anyway, are you a all or nuthin' kinda guy?"

Well, gee, doc, I thought to myself, quickly, how am I supposed to answer that? Should I say no, being as succinct and "nuthin" as I could be. Or should I say, well doc, it all started when I was a little guy and my momma fixed me a pizza, and uh, I went ahead and ate the whole thing in one sitting and from that time on, I never could just, uh... And go on and on, ad infinitum!

I must admit I am as flexible as I can ever recall. I still awaken with dull back pain, but it quickly goes away as I continue moving in the morning. The prospect looks and feels great. I should have listened to my loving wife years ago to go ahead an get it all checked out. I really don't understand why I was so stubborn about something that has been so positive for me. All those years of pain and stiffness and... attitude!

But, I have learned my lesson. No more power sets of fifteen with the dumbbells or impromptu forty mile bike excursions. It will now be just twelve power sets and a "planned" forty mile bike ride instead!


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Flyin' High on Aviation Art...

I have just returned from the Air Force Art Program presentation of paintings, held Oct 20-24 at the National Museum of the USAF, Wright Patterson AFB, Dayton, OH. Seven artists from our group with their guests presented paintings, though only four artists from the membership attended the gala, by my count. Still, it was a pretty darn good turn out considering the change of venue. I have to admit, I never had any doubts about not visiting DC which has been the venue since I have been part of the program. Wright-Patterson, AFB? Dayton? No more DC Mall crawling, no more Virginia, no Brandywine, no more Georgetown?

Yes, but no more one night stands either. At the museum, our paintings will be on display at the Museum in Dayton until the eleventh of January. No more 24 hour shows at Bolling AFB which no one can see! Thousands can now see our artwork!

The proceedings this year were without incident. It began with a tour of the restoration hangar, just chocked full of airplane bits and pieces, all with a history attached. It is like a giant hobby store with models that are at a 1/1 scale. We then were given a tour of the presidential hangar, where there are many historical aircraft used by various presidents throughout twentieth century. The Museum complex itself is beyond any military museum I have ever seen anywhere. There was really not enough time to see everything in the entire museum, and I had over three days to see it. But, what I saw was grand.

At the invite of Mickey Harris, an artist that I have known for years but spent six days with at Barksdale, I received a special second tour of the restoration hangar to investigate further the restoration of the famous "Memphis Belle", B-17. Mickey, being from Tennessee, was instrumental in having the Belle sent to the museum for complete restoration and display. Our tour guide was Retired General Metcalf, ( the guiding force of the museum and the main man overseeing the restorations. ) who gave Mick and I the special treatment. His unique insights into the many projects and his own dynamic personality was well worth it.

This is the sixtieth anniversary of the Air Force Art Program. The presentation dinner was held Friday, October 22, in one of the main halls of the museum. A formal affair, we were seated under the wings of a B-52 and a C-124, where we given a very spirited and beautiful rendition of the National Anthem.  We were entertained with chamber music while we dined by Huffman Prairie Winds, which is a local group and a nice change from the U.S. Air Force Strolling Strings. The menu included seared Beef Loin in a Sherry sauce paired with a goat cheese stuffed Chicken Breast with a herb glaze over a a Potato Zucchini Cake. A mixed green salad with almonds, blue berries. strawberries and cherries mixed in a raspberry vinaigrette. For desert with coffee or tea, we had an assortment of tortes, mousse, white chocolate strawberries and such.

As mentioned in my personal blog,, the five hour ceremony ended all too soon and, in spite of my every effort to hold on to the good times, great art and good friends, we reluctantly left the museum with our plaques, seat favors and, soon to be, memories of a great night.

Of the many galas I have been a part of over the last thirty years, this one was my very own personal favorite.

For pictures, please go to:
These pics are personal property of mine, Elsy and Andy Moratoya, Norm Siegel, or the United States Air Force. All artwork was shot or scanned at 72 dpi and no larger than eight inches wide or tall and is the property and copyright of all artists involved or the property of the U.S. Air Force Art Collection. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Knowing Full Well That These Moments Are Fleeting...

Knowing full well that these moments are fleeting, I tried to savor every moment. From left to right, Schmoe ( aka real name Norm "Gawd Forbid" Siegel ), Captain Mike Gregston, me ( code name: Curly ) and Larry ( he's got the curly hair ) Mickey Harris. Schmoe, Curly and Larry are three of the six artist team that invaded Barksdale, AFB in Shreveport, LA. The Stooges spent most of the trip learning how many ways there are to die, "Gawd Forbid" in a B-52 before taking off for a five hour tour over the Midwest, which included a simulated bomb run and a actual mid air refueling. All went well and we took some really incredible photos from the flight... And we didn't die!

Captain Mike Gregston was, for most of our stay at Barksdale, our host. He also helped me set up the photo shoot for one of my paintings entitled, "The Global Force Strike Command"and posed as the central figure in it. He also posed with my finished painting... without me!

Thanks Mike for all your help and to all the great folks at Barksdale, AFB including the crew: Zach "Samson" Miller and Mehul "Verde" Brahmbhatt, Schera "Charly" Bowden, Scotty"Shadow'' Sproles, Chris "Skype" Gregory and last but not least, PR man, Captain Tim Miller for your hospitality as well as protecting our right to be liberals, conservatives, independents and uh... Artists!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On to the Air Force Museum... SPIT, SPOT!

Well, my hair is cut and groomed, my face is shaven. I've a crease on my pants leg, my shirt is crisply starched. My shoes are tied and polished and match the color of my belt. My colors are cool and coordinated. My tie is straight and correctly fits my collar. My bags are packed and ready for flight. My briefcase has my orders as well as my formal invite.


Friday, October 15, 2010

I'm Not Sure I Know How to be a Friend...

I haven't heard from this friend of mine since I last visited Los Angeles in November of 2008.
I was there a week for the SILA/Air Force event at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood and coincidence being so"happenstancicle," he had just recently landed a job that was in a building directly across the street from the Renaissance Hotel, where I was staying.

Though we haven't worked together in years, whenever I get in town, I immediately try to get in touch with him to catch up on the biz, LA, our families and, of course, the Dodgers. It always made me feel good to hear his voice with a distinctive accent that sends me back to simpler time and to hear him say so genuinely, "Ben, how ya doin? What are you doin' back here in LA?"

The nature of what I do for a living makes sincere friendship, the kind I wish I had more of at this point in my life, nearly impossible. Whenever I am with a "client," I am not relating to them as a friend, but as a business associate. Most of my friends are just that and yet, it is so much more. This particular art director has kept me busy enough over the years to provide me with a pretty good income and, in turn, I'd like to think I helped him sell his ideas which kept his boss and clients happy and him, employed. This symbiosis is not unique to our relationship, the advertising business or any business. It happens all the time all over the world.

Still, Mike is one of the many clients that I have worked with together all day and throughout the night, seeing sunsets from large picture windows that overlook the expansive LA basin, sharing coffee and cold pizza on the roof top of a building as the sun rises, meeting crazy deadlines and sharing similar goals. Like the long lost uncle that one sees only at Christmas or when there's a death in the family, when the job is complete, I am gone and not seen until the "next debacle." It was so rare to set up and keep a lunch or dinner date with my art director and writer friends because we were always too busy or distracted. Therefore, I never got to know them well enough to really be able to call them friends. Sometimes, I felt I spent more time trying to set up a dinner date than the time I spent actually having dinner with that friend.

The big difference between Mike and all my other business acquaintance friends is that he is, like me, the ultimate New Orleans Saints fan. A tried and true"Who Dat," who was born and reared in New Orleans. He moved to Glendora, CA after high school and has spent most of his adult life in LA. Mike was constantly bemoaning the state of the Who Dat Nation long before that term was popularized. We would run down Wilshire Blvd. and catch a quick lunch at Sizzler or McDonald's and in horror, dissect the latest Saints lost and plan celebrations for the upcoming win... whenever that was. For over twelve years, we have spent countless hours wondering how great it would be to just get passed the "49ers and win just one playoff game. We conjured up all kinds of conspiracy theories which would explain our hometown team's inadequacies including everything from Mafiosos infiltrating the NFL to voodoo and
God 's Wrath. Certainly, it would have been blasphemous for us to even try to form the word, "Super" from our lips. Other creative colleagues at the agency would just shake their heads and laugh at our loser antics.

In our 2008 luncheon visit, which included subjects I have little interest in... politics and religion, we shared a glimmer of hope that the team would bounce back from its Katrina soaked losing ways and rebuild. Or, just give it all up and move to San Antonio or LA. In the following year, the Saints started to put it all together and with each passing nail biter, I hoped Mike would call me instead of the other way around.

I never received one call.

It got to the point where I surmised, that like me, he didn't want to put a hex on the team by changing anything, like calling his "best Who Dat friend" and boasting. I could not believe how great our season was going and as we got into the playoffs and I could no longer excuse Mike from sharing the joy.  Surely, if we win the Super Bowl, he will call me, but I got nothing so far, so why should I expect anything more? BECAUSE IT IS THE SUPER BOWL, MAN!

Maybe he is going through the same hard times I am and doesn't care to talk about it. Cool, I got it!
Well, damn if we didn't take it all and actually win the Super Bowl. The black and gold win the Super Bowl. Whoa!

I was on a trip for the Air Force in the sports bar of the Shreveport Hilton Hotel watching the game with fellow illustrators when I thought of Mike. Although my friends here at the hotel bar were mostly pulling for the underdog Saints, they really had no idea what we southern Louisianians have gone through the pass 43 years. But Mike would. He probably would have understood the strange schism between northern LOU-si-anians and the southern LOUIE-si-anians which is not unlike the NoCal and SoCal rivalries that include not only athletic, but social, political and religious differences. So, I shared with my friends and bar mates the shear elation of our victory and later that night celebrated over the phone with family and friends. I even got congratulatory calls from some of my SoCal friends... but no Mike.

It is now a new NFL season with a whole new excitement brewing as we try for the first ever "Two Dat". I will be there, but will Mike? Does it matter? Do I need his continued friendship after all these years? Are we too far away, now? Is all this concern too wussy? As one man to another, maybe I should tell him to "eff off" and just move on. Turn the page, it's a new chapter. It's not that important, is it?

One night, years ago while I laid in bed trying to either wake up enough to get up out of the darkness and do something productive or try to go back asleep, I got an idea. I get so creative when there are no distractions and no light, but like those floaters that bounce inside of one's closed eyes, ideas are all ever so fleeting.

Catch 'em while you can...just don't turn on the light.

Because of my strange AADD, which stands for, ARTIST ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER, I've gotten pretty good at writing and scribbling in the dark. Well enough to be able to read it the next morning. I had a thought for a painting so personal it would have little meaning to anyone but me, which, for a change, was perfectly okay. It was a very large canvas just full of colored and overlapping names in various styles and sizes acknowledging the people I love, of friends I needed, of teachers who inspired me, coaches who encouraged me and taught me value losing as well as winning, of the heroes and villains in my life, of people, who in some large or small way, affected me. If they come to mind, they are valuable to my life and therefore, valuable to this painting.

It would probably be a very large painting.

Well, even if I only produce the painting in my mind and whether or not I ever make the call to, once again, together cheer on the Saints... or tell him where to shove his fleur di lis, Mike's name will always be a part of my life and therefore, a part of who I am. In the end, it does really matter to me if for no other reasons than the selfish ones. Besides, it is probably as much my problem as anyone's because I find it hard to have people come into and out of my life. I expect more from me and my friendships than is ever possible here on earth. Maybe, most of my acquaintances don't feel the need to validate a friendship as often I might. It could also be that my definition of what a friend is, is too narrow. Maybe it's time to redefine the meaning and give it some space to grow. It's not like I am collecting friends like some do on social web sites though those sites do make it nice to reconnect with old friends and buddies. Maybe, after all these years, I just don't know what to expect from a friendship anymore. Or maybe, I just don't know how to be a friend.

Then again, maybe it's just time to put on a game face and say, "Geaux Saints"... Two Dat!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hey Buddy, You're OKAY?

Two weeks ago, I went on a bike ride trying to get myself back to form. Originally, I was kinda training for a Muscular Dystrophy fund raiser, where you spend two days completing a seventy-five mile per day route for sponsors, complete with an overnight stay, free food and medics just in case you have any problems. My best distance, never mind the time it takes, was forty-five miles. I felt pretty good about my chances of participating... two months ago!

Well, on that day, I completed a thirty-four mile ride but not without some problems. Besides the normal dogs chasing me until I zap 'em with my trusty, never fails, sonic Dazor zapper, I ran into a pretty stiff north wind that brought a welcome cold front to the region. It gave the countryside a beautiful morning, but made my biking harder since, at least, half of this adjusted route ran north/south. Two and a half hours into the ride, my shoulders started to really ache and I could not sit up straight on the bike to relieve the pain because the wind was forcing me to continually pedal... or stop. So, I stopped for a five minute break, not once, not twice, but three times. Somewhere between stop two and three, my left quad cramped up. I had plenty of water, so I knew I was well hydrated, but nevertheless, the next two or three miles were no fun at all and I started to cuss myself and everything else I could damn praying it was only a cramp and not a pulled muscle.

Ben, it seems, no matter what you do, you always turn it into a job. This is supposed to be fun, I thought to myself. It didn't take too much longer before I was actually vocalizing my frustration to myself and anyone within hearing range as I continued to peddle. I also noticed my heart monitor registering a constant 148 bpm, but I only now had about eight or ten miles left to go. "What an ass!" Once again, you are turning this into another famous Ben Bensen slog!"

Slogging through this bike ride seemed a complete metaphor for my life. Slogging is what I define as doing something, anything with a negative attitude. You know, doing things that need to be done, but you just do it 'cuz you have to. You could put on a happy face and maybe it would make it better, but instead, you bitch, you moan, you acquiesce, you reluctantly get the job done. That's slogging!

As I continue peddling closer to the finish, I am now verbally abusing myself. " You shouldn't have taken such a long route... What made you think this was a good idea? Why do you continue to set such stupid, unrealistic goals? A true Capricorn. Butting my head up against anything just because it is there. It is not necessarily in the way. It is just there, so why do I feel he need to bust through it. What's on the other side making it all worth while? You're an idiot. No one cares whether you win or lose. Why do you turn everything into a competition... especially with yourself. "What a maroon, just get your cell phone, make the call and have Therese come pick you up," I said to no one, but me.

Slogging through a few more miles I finally make a decision."Okay, okay, I give up. I can't go on. But I am not calling for a ride home. I need to stop for a while... just a while. As I parked the bike along the side of the road, I started to feel nauseated. "Great, just what I now need... Upchuck City...Great!"

I found a shady area next the culvert, sat down and took the last couple of gulps from my second water bottle hoping it would help me not lose my breakfast. I then worked on my gimpy quad trying to unknot the damn thing and in the process ended up laying down on a bed of pine needles and pine cones. Once I dislodged the prickly cones from my back, I looked up to the beautiful fall sky and heard that breeze ( it was now not a wind but a beautiful breeze, at least, in my mind ) wafting through the pines. I laid there for about a minute watching a red-tailed hawk couple dancing high above me in the breeze and realized how strange it was that they were flying above me on a street named Hawk Road.

After five minutes or so, I remembered how once I hit the wall twenty-four and half miles out during my first marathon in Scottsdale, Arizona. I remembered how my gait turned into a walk, then a stop and start for another few hundred feet and then, I sat down resolving to return back on track to finish the last mile and a half to finish the race.

A car passed by and I waved him on by, and then another and then another. "Hey man, ready to give it up, you look spent!" " No, I replied, I'll be fine, thanks!" But, I wasn't fine. I literally hit the wall... Big Time! I remembered that try as I may, I could not get up. My entire body just seized up into one big knot and I wasn't gonna finish this race...

Just then, an old Chevy pickup circa 1970's drives by and stops at the stop sign.   A man with a red cap, brim turn up and a cheek full of possibly chaw says, "Hey Buddy, you okay?" Everything's all right?" I quickly sit up and tell him that I was fine and that I just needed to take a break. As he drove by, I laid back down because it made me feel less nauseous, but a minute later a woman in a blue compact stopped at the stop sign, turned left, and then, backed up to inquire about my condition. After the third car, not wanting to concern any more drivers stopping at that corner and fearing that, once again, as it did in my first failed marathon, my body would seize up, I decided to sit up.

A black lady in an Explorer inquired, a man in a pork pie hat driving a Jag, stopped to ask. Some mexicans ( or hispanics, from one country or another, ) stopped with a truck bed full of compadres to ask if I was okay. All in all, within twenty minutes, eight cars of completely different ages, styles and makes, with people from all walks of life, showed their concern for a total stranger's well being at the side of the road.

Rejuvenated by the rest and not wanting anyone else to show concern for my welfare, I got back in the saddle and slowly peddled off. With less than a half mile or so to return to Gus's in Folsom, where my car was parked, I thought, "Is this still a great country or what!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Global Strike Command final... Finally!

 Here is the final illustration for the Global Strike Command, the command which replaces SAC at Barksdale, AFB in Shreveport, LA. My hope is that it will be housed at the command headquarters' lobby there on base. It was shipped along with another large painting just a few days ago and its placement is now in the hands of the Air Force brass. Closeups of the unfinished portraits are included in an early post entitled, Barksdale Painting/ On the up side of downhill...

This piece has gone through many conceptual sketches, adjustments, photo shoots and soul searching. I have only included three conceptual adjustments for this blog. In the original Photoshop design, an airman mentioned that the cloud which holds the airbase's logo, the fleur de lis, looked like a mushroom cloud. I nearly fainted! Another concern, was the glow emanating from the globe cast a ominous shadow onto the main character's face even further highlighting an aggressive, "don't tread on me" stance. Again, not exactly what I wanted to convey. In a beginning home photo shoot, I posed myself in various illuminated stances, looking up as I am bent over the "world" in a protective posture. With a football helmet on, that pose would have made it impossible to even see the pilot's eyes.

Take the symmetry out, create an edge with only one or no bombers, include all the patches of the support groups floating in the clouds or show only four to represent the main ones. How to pose the hands to say what I wanted to say but avoid the insurance company's "good hands" idea. How many women to display and ethnic groups to use to represent which support groups. Political overtones I never envisioned started to pop up everywhere. Someone else mentioned that the design had a heroic, movie poster look, which I hadn't anticipated either, but didn't object to. In the end, after about eighty plus hours of planning and painting, I feel quite happy with the results. What do you think?
 A final pencil sketch from the fourth concept, me as bad ass protector, and a photoshop follow up. 
Here is a picture of one of the crew members and an excerpt from an email reassuring me that my illustrative interpretation of what these brave men and women do for a living protecting us met with their approval. ( Curly was my code name for the flight and briefings! ) Here's her comment...


Funny Zach "Samson" Miller and Mehul "Verde" Brahmbhatt and I were talking today about how we haven't heard anything in forever from y'all. We know that the big hoorah is in Dayton sometime in October and we were thinking we might be able to swing a trip up there. Can you email me the dates, events, etc. so we can start working that? Its so cool to see the finished product, I mean I was so amazed by your original sketches, but now after seeing your final piece I'm speechless. You have a phenomenal talent! Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I look forward to hearing from you in the future.


Friday, September 17, 2010

"Doin' the Bottom" and other topics...

A few months ago I painted a picture of little girl with a straw hat, referenced for the Junior League's October fund raiser, which auctions off paintings at the annual Harvest Cup Polo Fest. I asked my wife, Therese, if she wanted to attend again this year or not. If she wanted to go again this year, I had just three days to do a painting to qualify for free admission to the festival. Tee said she loved the festival last year and since we only live across the highway from the polo grounds, it would be a nice way to spend a weekend. So, I gave myself four hours to complete a painting not counting the search for something interesting to paint and the time it would take to frame it. Four hours complete!

Well, it took me five hours to paint the little girl and another hour to frame it. All tolled, I spent about six or so hours on the entire project. The artist in me abhors that approach to my art, but the businessman in me and the many years of deadline training demands it. It is a match that is made in hell, but it has served me well in my career. 

Strangely enough, the mother of the little girl that I used for the painting, saw the picture in an insert bio, along with other artists who donate a picture, in the local magazine that promotes the event. She wanted to know if I was willing to sell that painting instead of auctioning it off at the festival. After reassuring the mother that I was not sure I could get the painting back to sell, we settled on a price.  I asked the event coordinator, Shawna Hunt, if I could trade that painting for another because I had a buyer for the donated painting. She said, "Of course, what ever we can do to help local artists... that's great, you can just trade one for another and still qualify to get free admission to the polo event."

I thanked Shawna for being so flexible and told her I would pick up the "little girl with the straw hat" painting and bring another painting to the "Meet the Artists" event. Only problem was, I didn't have another painting I felt worthy of donating to the cause, so once again, I had three days to complete another painting. Actually, I had as much time as I needed up until the festival auction in October, but I wanted the chance to have art patrons see both paintings at one time. So, I made a pot of CDM coffee, rolled up my sleeves and dove in for two days.

This painting entitled, "Doin' the Bottom" was done in acrylics on a 16x20 canvas from a photo I took about three years ago while having beignets and coffee at Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter. The businessman in me told me to tell everyone that the unframed painting was completed in 16 hours.

The artist in me just hopes you like it, ha!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"The Heart, Mind and Soul of an Arctic Warrior"

 Here's some closeups of the Tuskegee B-25 crew which I drew and painted from a picture I took in the lobby of the 477th Squadron building at Elmendorf. It was a strange combination of sepia and aged yellow paper which kind of inspired me to paint with this palette.

Center image here depicts best the title of the painting, that is, the heart, mind and soul of the Arctic Warrior. There wasn't much Inuit displays or monuments in Elmendorf, AFB or the city of Anchorage, but the Anchorage airport had a wonderful and educational gallery of images that inspired my use of totem pole images to quickly say Alaska. We did attempt to visit the local native museum just full of displays, but the day we had some time of our own, the museum was closed.

 Sketches for the final "approved" in my head after five or six tries. It would be a sign of real dedication to say that I sketched out a bunch of ideas on the plane, but these sketches are the ones I centered on for the final and they were done while waiting to give blood at a local blood bank.

 And here is the final piece completed over the Labor Day weekend and first started sometime in early May. It turned out to be almost exactly what I wanted it to be which is very rare for me. I was constantly trying to not pull out the airbrush to create a more ethereal, airy feel. I wanted the painting to be a bit more graphic and yet gritty. The spray painted "477th" logo to left was originally painted but because I wanted to stay true to how it might have looked in World War II, I actually cut a stencil and then used an old spray can of white.

For those that care,
This is the painting I have started that represents all that my visit to Elmendorf, AFB entails. In a way, it is the culmination of our trip, that is, to take the information and pics of the 477th Fighter Group and depict what the Air Reserve Unit at the base is all about. For further information and actual pics, you can go to: You can read an article about our trip to Alaska at:

The painting depicts the old WWII world of the 302nd and the 477th on the left and the new, high tech world of today's warrior. A laser beam runs from the heart of the airmen to the black bomber crew of the Tuskegee group. Included with the six crew members are the five aircraft the group used for training and battle. The large red empennage (the stabilizing surfaces at the tail of an aircraft. ) represents the squadron's painted red tail so the American bomber crews would recognize them as "little friends" in their P-51 fighters. In front of the red tail is an angel's wing with a white glow that surrounds the wing, the pilot and the totem pole wing of Elmendorf. I am hoping this will read as the soul of the warrior.

To the right of the pilot, is a greenish yellow laser beam running from the top of the helmet, housing the human and eskimo eagle head, through and around the totem pole wing, the F-22 empennage with the new squad numbers down and across to the mountainous background of Elmendorf's main runway. The beam stops and sort of surrounds the aircraft as it takes off, representing the mind, human and computerized, needed to perform the task of defending our nation's interest.

The Heart, Mind and Soul of an Arctic Warrior!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hey Reggie, Where the Hell Are You?

Well, it has been a while since I have posted something on this blog and I was trolling around for inspiration when I ran across a website called Reggie Scanlan Photography and sure enough it was the
Reggie I know and played with in the early years of the seventies. We were just a garage band struggling to find our musical ways. When he joined up with our band, he was gonna be our bass guitarist but had to borrow my cousin's Fender bass and amp to play it. And, he refused to sing... not even harmonies. To my knowledge, I believe he hasn't sung a note all these great years with the Rads. Thirty plus years later Reg is still making a living as the bass guitarist for the New Orleans band, "The Radiators".

Reg has played with some of the real legends of New Orleans music like Fess, 'Saint, Booker, Dr. John, Spencer Bohren and many others. We'd get together whenever the Radiators came to San Francisco or Los Angeles. It was always a treat to see him and the guys in the band. Most of the time when I would come home to New Orleans to visit, we'd get together at the "Dream Palace", "Tips" or the "Maple Leaf Bar."

Nowadays, now that I actually live near New Orleans, I never see him mainly because my bar hopping and musical forays have flown away on the wings of a bird especially since Katrina. This is a sketch I did of him in his and my "Maple Leaf" days. The pics I found on the internet all show him in quite the same bass guitar pose. Funny... and I wonder if he still has that hat, ha! Hey Reggie, where the hell are you?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Barksdale Painting: On the upside of downhill!

These are portrait closeups of a painting for the United States Air Force. The painting is something I have been working on off and on since April. It has been a while since I painted portraits in oil like this. I am about three quarter finish with the entire piece which needs to be at the Pentagon by the end of August. What'dya think?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

So What's All the Fuss About... A Day in the Life of an Illustrator!

I've just been informed by the Junior League that I have three days to do a painting to donate for charity... if I wanna get in free to the Polo Festival in October! I know I can do it, but do I really wanna?
So here's what I wanna do.

I really don't have anything to make a giclee from that I think is worthy of my signature, though I agree with Laurie that Sonya's idea is the best. My answer is that I have given myself four hours to paint a picture while my two air force paintings are drying. 4 hours starting from what is now 12:15 pm. CST. Then, I will photograph it for the magazine and post the painting on Facebook... And, that's what 'dey git! So, let's get it on!

Well, it took me five and a half hours, instead of just four, but now all I have to do is pop it in a frame on Friday and drop it off. Therese and I enjoyed the polo festival so much last year, that I decided I'd do a quick painting to get in free this coming October and get a write up in the local magazine.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

GraphicGumbo3: Kinda freaks me out...

GraphicGumbo3: Kinda freaks me out...

Kinda freaks me out...

I sent this email to my good friend and great paper sculptor, Leo Monahan. Here's what I sent to him:

I am sitting in a local library and found two wonderful posters for a client, BWI booksellers. The one poster is of a knight in shining armor with his jousting lance atop a armored steed all in aluminum foiled paper and set atop a black background. It must be yours. Then, as I crane my neck around the door I see another beautiful paper sculpture set atop a black background. Same client in a similar frame, but this one has a fiery yet very colorful dragon complete with mouth breathing flames and gorgeously set with with that splat technique of yours on the colored scales.  It all was so beautifully crafted and probably designed to be a companion piece. Was it?

( I had the good fortune to spend some time with Leo years ago when he had a design studio that, for a time, created ads for the NBC nightly news and the local affiliate, KNBC. The place was a buzz with activity all geared to meet one deadline after another. Messengers came in, messengers went out and it seemed Leo was always on the phone. I assume he made his "fortune" doing the ad designer thing, but I was amazed at how, amongst all that hustle and bustle, he was deftly cutting one ply Strath with an X-Acto knife and shaping the form to depict whatever it was in his mind. Amongst the phone calls and press checks and what not! "Leo, you ever cut yourself with that blade?", I asked. "Only occasionally," he replied.  I told him a story about how I had a habit of sliding pencils atop my ears for later use, but had to force myself not to do that anymore when I once, it only takes once, absentmindedly slide an XActo knife between my ear and scalp. It wasn't a nice feeling, but now I completely understood Cezanne's madness after that experience. Those were my airbrush/retouch days. )

I am amazed and a little freaked out as I say to myself, "Wow, that's a Leo Monahan!" And I know him. He is a dear and close friend and colleague. It must be nice to be nationwide with your work. To me, there is always something weird when you see something that is viewed in another context. Like, seeing your first, real up close and personal aircraft that you built from a kit or drew many times as a kid. There's a childlike exuberance that overcomes one no matter what the age. "Wow, that's the real thing, whoa!" Can I touch it? Can I get closer? Another example would be fans actually meeting a famous actor or sports hero, live and in the flesh.

Anyway, feeling vulnerable and disconnected from all I knew in my thirty years as a Los Angeleno, I took special pleasure in seeing the printed version of something created by an artist that I knew! A chill races up arm as I sat and stared at the poster. I think to myself, man, I will never get to that pinnacle of success. Thirty-five years in this business and nothing that will outlive me, I say, as I get up from the my seat, pull up my slacks and flush the toilet. "I can't even make it on the walls of a Louisiana library men's room!." C’est la vie!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

You Idiot... You're on Vacation...

The other morning, while returning from the local cafe, a dually, Ford 250, was hauling up my back, then passed me at about the speed of sound on little state highway 40. I chuckled to myself, "He must be in a hurry!" It reminded me of a time when I was visiting friends in Los Angeles sitting in traffic on the 405 freeway. After living in LA for almost thirty years, one understands that there is no good time to take that freeway. Leaving one friend's home in West LA for a two o'clock luncheon at Van Nuys airport with an aviation bud of mine, Mike Machat, I left in what I remembered to be plenty enough time. But, I sat in traffic to get to the freeway and then, crawled up the hill and slogged my way back down into the valley.

I was gonna be late. I didn't even have an recollection of how to get the restaurant. Now, I'll have to call Mike and beg his forgiveness, geez! Five lanes going downhill to the north, everyone jockeying for position, cutting in front of me, cutting in front of anyone, just to sit and slog. At least, I'm driving a rental car with an automatic transmission, I thought impatiently to myself. I finally get off the freeway with five minutes to spare only to sit in another traffic jam on the boulevard. When I discovered the traffic light was out, I lost it!

I JUST LOST IT..."What the f*&@!!k", I yelled, "Let's get going... What IS the ^%^&$# problem?, I said, foaming at the mouth, veins busting out of my head, eyes bulging, pounding on the steering wheel. After about thirty seconds into choking the life out of my steering wheel, I realized, "Wait, wait, I don't live here anymore... I'm on vacation!" There's no deadline, there's no, "You'll never work in this town again". I don't have to dive into an ad agency just in the nick of time, worrying that they just might not like it!"

You idiot! You're on vacation!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Kinda Freaks Me Out...

 I sent this to my good friend and great paper sculptor, Leo Monahan. Here's what I sent to him: I am sitting in a local library and found two wonderful posters for a client, BWI booksellers. The one poster is of a knight in shining armor with his jousting lance atop a armored steed all in aluminum foiled paper and set atop a black background. It must be yours. Then, as I crane my neck around the door I see another beautiful paper sculpture set atop a black background. Same client in a similar frame, but this one has a fiery yet very colorful dragon complete with mouth breathing flames and gorgeously set with with that splat technique on the colored scales. I am amazed and freaked out as I say to myself, "Wow, that's a Leo Monahan!" And I know him. He is a dear and close friend and colleague. It must be nice to be nationwide with your work. A chill races up arm as I think to myself, I will never get to that pinnacle of success. Thirty-five years in this business and nothing that we outlive me, I say, as I get up from the my seat, pull up my slacks and flush the toilet. "I can't even make it on the walls of a Louisiana library men's room!." C’est la vie!

Monday, June 21, 2010

"C'est la vie," say the old folks,"Goes to Show, You Never Can Tell."

Well, it all started in October, 2008 when I decided to rearrange my studio to make it more efficient. Like everything else in this world, things must be adjusted to accommodate new ways of thinking, working, and living. Without realizing the implications of my actions, I pulled the plug on my four month old 20"Mac monitor while the Mac G5 was asleep. At the time, I was more involved in placing it in its new environment to see how ergonomically it would meet my needs... and my aching back! Two days later, when I had everything in its place right down to the sharpened pencils, I turned on the computer and there was no picture. What! What's gone wrong now? Hey man, this thing is brand new... hardly used... touted by the trades as one of the five best monitors of 2008. What duh, uh!

You'd think the obvious solution would be to bring the monitor back while it was still under the one year warranty, but that would have been way too easy. I replaced the new monitor with the old monitor that was supposed to be replaced... by the new kid on the block.

The Ilyama 1600 was the pride of the class of 1995 and I loved that monitor. It just continuously performed, seldom needed color correction, and had survived the move from South Pasadena to Folsom in 2001. It was the old cathode ray style monitor that actually dared you to pick it up and move it. It weighed a ton, so until the final move to Louisiana, that puppy stayed right where I originally put it... for years! If you were gonna rearrange the studio, you adjusted everything around the position of the Ilyama. Now, with the new monitor disabled, I dragged the behemoth back into place in front of the Mac monitor and hooked it up once again to the computer. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, the Sugar Bowl, the Super Bowl, King's Day, St. Joseph's Day, St. Patrick's, Fat Tuesday, all partied down in a town that can find any reason to party. Heck, New Orleanians would party about there being no reason to party. Oh, the concept of it all!

Anyway, it was that time of the season, here in south Louisiana, where the cold air meets the warm, moist, spring time breeze wafting through from the Gulf of Mexico and "BAM" without a warning all your peripherals are fried! Amongst the smelly debris, which phone men and insurance investigators swear they can detect permanent damage with their nose, was my "double monitors." Phones, modems, three printers, one UPS unit that didn't work and a Wacom tablet, a keyboard, and a host of USB hubs, were all fried including our $500.00 Australian Fisher/Pickel washing machine. The lightning strike, which was made worse by the disconnection of our house ground plug outside near the utility box, also fried the computer motherboard inside the washer. Luckily, the insurance plan covered just about everything including the Mac monitor, which the investigator assured me, was a victim.

Well, who am I to tell him any different?

Nine months later, an associate to the investigator, dropped off equipment I had long written off as junk including the Mac monitor. It was discovered that the Mac still didn't work, but was not destroyed by the lightning strike, so they returned it to me packed like it was brand new. Oh boy!

Fast forward to just a month ago, when I decided to clean the garage in preparation for two large 3"x4" paneled canvases I was gonna paint for a client, and in the process, throw away a lot of stuff that we no longer needed or was in disrepair. On a whim, I decided to check out the monitor, just to see if it worked. It didn't... dead, gone, kaput! Good riddance!

Only, it sat in the car for two weeks... aggravating me, eating at my guilt, Catholic and otherwise, a brushed aluminum albatross creating drag from the trunk of my car as well as my psyche. Okay, okay, there's probably a million Chinese starving to have a chance to just see if it was repairable. So, I made a reservation at the local Genius Bar last Saturday just to ease my mind. Whatever it is, if it cost me money to fix, well then, the Chinese can have it.

I told the Apple rep my whole story, much to his displeasure and then told me it would cost $300.00 just for the labor. I winced and whined and tried to cajole him into, at least, looking to see if he could make it work first before I committed it to the junk pile. So, he opened the box that it originally came in and saw the monitor just as beautiful and pristine as ever, lovingly repackaged with even the original tape that held the white cover sheet over the "glass". "Wow," he said, "It really looks like you barely used it! When was the purchase date?" I rolled the box over to show him the shipping date of 8/22/08.

He walked back behind the big, white door and returned to hook up the monitor to see if indeed it could be fixed or not. As he wiggled and swiggled and USB'ed his way into the connections, he told me to hope that the monitor would not fire up. With restless anticipation, we both waited for the little white MacBook to boot up and switch the monitor on. Thirty seconds after the Apple chime, which always sounded to me like the opening chord of the Beatles' "A Hard Days Night", the monitor sat quiet, motionless, and dark.

"Mr. Bensen, my manager said we will fix the monitor free of charge since it is obvious to us that it was barely used and would ordinarily have been covered for one year after purchase." "How does that sound?" Smiling, while trying to hold back the tears of joy, I replied that that,"sounds fair!" "Sir, please fill out this form and we will deliver the monitor to your studio in seven to ten days." I thanked him as calmly as I could as he walked off with my monitor and I, with my empty, well kept and original box.

It just goes to show you that sometimes you're the Louisville Slugger and sometimes you're the ball and as the old folks say,"You never can tell!"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ain't It Always the Way...

What is it about life that just when you find the right bolt to fit, you can't find the nut. Or, you got the left shoe, but the right shoe is under the bed just far enough away from your reach that you can't get to it even though you can clearly see it. Hollywood has made these "Murphy's Law" exasperations a staple in those horror films, where the monster is coming to do you some serious hurt and you can't get to the gun just out of reach...until the last moment. And, how many times does the car not start when some ghoulie is trying to rearrange your vin number. Yes, we've all suffered through this kind of thing from time to time. Sometimes, you can deal with it and sometimes... well, you make a spectacle of yourself.

In my effort to save money, be "green" and make the best use of my trips into town, I loaded newspapers and plastic bags in the trunk of the car, took my dry cleaning with me to drop off and then, went to a chamber of commerce meeting, where I was to report on the local "artist at events" agenda. After the meeting was over and everyone completed their parking lot conversations and drove off, I remembered that I had, the other day, purchased two Dole pineapples at the grocery store with one gone horribly "wrong." If I could find the receipt, well, then I would be able to return it, exchange it or get reimbursed for wayward fruit and really win the "Green Award" for the day. It all felt so right, so I opened the trunk and dove into the myriad of plastic bags, hoping to find the receipt.

I found receipts for the laundry, receipts for other groceries, receipts for fast food, receipts for hardware, receipts for office supplies, receipts for this, receipts for that, but no pineapple receipts for $2.89. Of course, by now, I have plundered, ripped and trashed what seemed to be scores of plastic bags and they are starting to scatter all around my car and with a little breeeze, all over the Chamber's parking lot. "Come on Ben, this just isn't worth the price of admission," I said to myself, but I just couldn't stop now after having gone through, at least, a hundred plastic bags. Well, damn! Now, it is about the principle of the thing. I just knew that pineapple receipt was in one of those bags somewhere in this car and I was not going to let these plastic bags "rip me off", or deter me.

Just then, the president of the chamber drives up in her very uptown wheels, gets out of the car and asks,"Ben, are you okay?" Sweaty, red faced and flustered, I replied, not wanting to let on that this plastic bag massacre was about saving $2.89,"Oh, I am fine... How's it going at the chamber?" Grateful that she didn't ask me if I was gonna clean up the parking lot, she turned toward the front door, and continued walking and mumbling.

Well, now you've done it. You've embarrassed yourself, made a mess of the car and the parking lot and you have only one more plastic bag stuffed with more plastic bags to search. "Gawd, what an idiot you are!" This is ridiculous. Yeh? "Well, guess what?" I said to myself," I'm gonna continue this foray until I am totally satisfied that it is not here and never ever was." No, you're not, I thought to myself. Oh yes, I am! C'mon Ben, give it up, man! You are... not... gonna....... find........ it...

HERE IT IS! I told you. I told you I'd find it. You see, persistence pays off, I told you. Two pineapples at $2.89 a piece. Yes!

Vindicated at last and feeling quite the hero, I cleaned up the parking lot, stuffed all the plastic bags back into the trunk and drove off victorious. It was only when I stopped at the first traffic light did it all dawn on me. "Damn, Murphy wins again!" Why did it have to be in the very last bundle of plastic bags? The very last. Hundreds of bags. It could have been in the first bag or the thirtieth bag or surely in the seventy-fifth bag, but no. No, no it had to be in the very last one. Geez, what a loser!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Come Uppance...Is that one word or two?

Well, you just knew it was gonna happen. Late last week, in the early morning dew, while I am putting out garbage for a pick up, I heard very familiar and intense barking. First thing I thought was, there goes Pierre harassing those box turtles as they try to mosey their way into the morning sun. The walk from the front of the house to the back is about 75 or 80 yards, so there was a lot of barking going on before I got back to the house. Suddenly, the next sound I hear is a yelp and then silence. I had a private chuckle and walked over to see what was the matter. Pierre kinda pawed the front of his face and sneezed a time or two. Ten feet behind him, scrape ploppin' its way toward the front pond was a rather large turtle. I could tell from the shape of its shell Pierre tangled with a "snapper". I got closer to check the turtle out and it gave me a big hiss!

"Well, okay, be like that," I said and turned back to see if any real harm came to the pup! Though I saw no sign of nasal damage, Therese later said she saw a little chunk taken out from Pierre's sniffer. A couple of days later, I took the dog for a "pull" following him following his nose, when he came to a stop. Now, with slack in the leash, I notice Pierre was very cautiously sniffing at a small granite rock that was just the size and shape of that green attacker. He never got really close to what he obviously perceived to be another snapper and I think for the first time ever, doubted the effectiveness of the nose. "Hey Pierre," I laughed, "It's just a rock, dude. Guess you got your comeuppance!"

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dawg the bounty hunter

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Friday, May 28, 2010

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, but also remember...

On our way back from Barksdale to enjoy the Memorial Day festivities with our Merrywood gang in Folsom. Please, while partying down, remember who gives us our freedoms. It is not the preacher man, or the media, nor the politicians or lawyers, but the vets who protect our speech, religion, press, due process,  the right to assembly and many, many more! So, hoist a cold one in their honor!

Monday, May 24, 2010

TJ... A chip off the ole' Chumps!

Congrats to my nephew, TJ, for making the 2010 All-District AllStars in his junior year. Tony worked hard to accomplish this. He began the baseball season on an off note, when the previous coach placed him in left field and wouldn't let him bat. His dad finally persuaded Tony to ask the coach if he could sit and talk w...ith him. When he coach obliged, Tony asked him if he could have a shot at playing his usual and best position of shortstop. The coach said no at first but then let him play for one game. He did so well, really showed the coach what he can do as a shortstop, so much so, that he switched the players for the rest of the season! He let Tony play his shortstop position and the sophomore that was playing shortstop played left field for the rest of the season! Tony also excelled throughout the season in his batting and has really grown as a player throughout the past year, so congratulations, dude!

The Tortoise and the Hairy...

The last time Pierre, our three year old cocker spaniel, barked continuously for over ten minutes, it was because he had found a large water moccasin hidden in the big leaves of our magnolia tree near the front pond. But that's a story for another time.

So, I left the studio to see what was the matter this time and found Pierre just confounded by a box turtle that entered the garden to munch on some clover. He was so put off by the turtle and wanted me to come by to see and explain to him why this rock smells different and moves. I never saw the turtle's head come out of its shell in all of the twenty minutes I was there laughing at Pierre's antics and clicking away at his frustration. It was hilarious watching him try to figure out this whole scene. Every now and then, he'd raise his head to look at me with a puzzled stare as if to say, "What's up wit dis! though he wouldn't let me get close enough to it to give the turtle a breather.

I guess the dog figured a bird in hand is better than one in the bush because there was no hesitation when I said the magic word,"Treat"? Once indoors, I escorted the turtle back to the pond where it could escape to should Pierre sniff him out again!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Feeding the bass...

Feedin' da bass!
It is that time of the year, where it seems I am the caretaker of many of the animals that grace our home. The hummers need to be fed once or twice a week. The cocker spaniel, Pierre, gets his medicine in the morning, fed twice a day and he lets me know if I am late. Then, there's the bird feeder, where it seems, every other day, a four or five cup serving of seeds and peanuts keep the birds happy as they feed their new families. Titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, house finches, jays, cardinals, sparrows, and woodpeckers all await my visit around 8 am.

But the strangest recipients of nature's bounty, with a little help from me, is our bass and perch. This time of year, japanese beetles attack the yard and porch lights with an insane vengence. They hit the windows, bounce off of flood lights and if you allow it, will practically fly into your hair, shirt and pants. The beetles are very destructive to pine trees, so instead of spraying to control them, I capture twenty or so of the insects, put them in a glass container with holes punched into the top, and feed them the following morning to the fish. This will continue throughout the month of April into May.The fish follow me all around the perimeter of the back paddock pond joistling for position and chasing each other out of their territory. They practically jump out of the water as if begging for a bug or two. Wild!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

By Request/ Charlie Brown's JukeBox Discography

1. I Can’t Stop Loving You / Ray Charles     
2. Georgia on My Mind / Ray Charles
3. Detroit City / Bobby Bare
4. Wolverton Mountain / Claude King
5. Only Make Believe / Conway Twitty
6. Young Love / Sonny James
7. Last Date / Floyd Cramer
8. He’ll Have to Go / Jim Reevess
9. Stranger On the Shore / Acker Bilk
10. Born to Lose / Ray Charles
11. Still / Bill Anderson
12. Moody River / Johnny Burnette
13. Abilene / George Hamilton IV
14. Liberty Valance / George Pitney
15. El Paso / Marty Robbins
16. Your Cheating Heart / Ray Charles
17. Crazy Arms / Ray Price
18. Oh Lonesome Me / Don Gibson
19. Faded Love / Bob Wills
20. I Can’t Help It / Hank Williams
21. Cold, Cold Heart / Hank Williams
22. I’m So Lonesome… / Hank Williams
23. I’m Sorry / Brenda Lee
24. Hello Walls / Faron Young
25. Crazy / Patsy Cline
26. I Fall to Pieces / Patsy Cline
27. Sweet Dreams / Patsy Cline
28. She’s Got You / Patsy Cline
29. Funny, How Time Slips Away /
Willie Nelson
30. Only Love Can Break a Heart / Gene Pitney
31. All Alone Am I / Brenda Lee
32. Sixteen Tons / Tennessee Ernie Ford
33. Strange / Patsy Cline
34. Stronger Than Me / Patsy Cline
35. Think It Over / Patsy Cline
36. Together Again / Ray Charles
37. Your Cheating Heart / Ray Charles
38. You Don’t Know Me / Ray Charles
39. Tip of My Fingers / Bill Anderson
40. The Night Life / Willie Nelson
41. King of the Road / Roger Miller
42. Dang Me / Roger Miller
43. Dixie Fried / Carl Perkins
44. Memphis / Carl Perkins
45. Memphis / Chuck Berry
46. I’ve Been Everywhere / Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys
47. Take Me Back to Tulsa /  Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys
48. In the Summertime / Roger Miller
49. Engine, Engine No. 9 / Roger Miller
50. Chug-A-Lug / Roger Miller
51. Honky Tonking / Mel Tillis
52. That Little Ole Winemaker Me / Mel Tillis
53. Honky Tonk Blues / Hank Williams
54. Wasted Days and Wasted Nights / Freddie Fender
55. Before You Stopped Loving Me / Asleep at the Wheel
56. All Alone Am I / Brenda Lee
57. Wichita Lineman / Glenn Campbell
58. 500 Miles / Bobby Bare
59. A White Sport Coat / Sonny James
60. Only Love Can Break A Heart / Gene Pitney
61. Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young / Faron Young
62. One Dying and a Burying / Roger Miller
63. San Antonio Rose / Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys
64. Kansas City Star / Roger Miller
65. Do-Wacka-Do / Roger Miller
66. Make the World Go Away / Eddie Arnold
67. She Thinks I Still Care / George Jones
68. Cattle Call / Eddie Arnold
69. Alley Cat / Brent Fabric
70. Ghost Riders in the Sky / Vaughn Monroe
71. Together Again / Buck Owens
72. The Mule, Old Rivers and Me / Walter Brennan
73. I Really Don’t Want to Know / Eddie Arnold
74. North to Alaska / Johnny Horton
75. If You’ve Got the Money… Lefty Frizzell
76. Raunchy / Bill Justis
77. The Battle of New Orleans / Johnny Horton

Ron Boyd and some friends wanted me to post the discography of Charlie Brown's JukeBox and because I've done it so many times and then, like a goofus, I trash it... for one reason or another. So, for all those who care here's a quick solution to the problem. I hope this suffices!    

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Once again, the Weather Channel predicts the end of the world.

Yes, it is tornado time in the south when the cold westerlies slam into the warm, humid, air streaming north from the Gulf of Mexico. Most of the time, it is the heart of the midwest, that bears the brunt of Mother Nature. But the Weather Channel takes it to new heights. Chicken Little has nothing on these "professionals."

I know it sounds funny because most people like Southern California weather. I lived there for thirty years and never got use to the "perfect" weather. There are between my son, my wife and I, many reasons for having left LA, but one of my many reasons was that it never rained enough. I missed the drama of a coming storm, the details of which I will leave for another blog at another time. It far outweighs anything silly hollywood can concoct, but unfortunately, hollywood lives at the Weather Channel.

When I moved back to the bayou, I was impressed, at first, by their timing. It is cool to track a coming storm on the radar... it kinda adds to the drama. But one too many times I took them at heart and really "battened down the hatches" for nothing. Gusting winds 25 to 59 mph, golf ball size hail, heavy rain, two to three inches with localized flooding and lightning. Don't stand next to the windows, turn off all electrical appliances, except the television, including computers and their peripherals, phones, cellphones, battery operated devices! Uh oh, this is the big one!...........................................

Nothing! Nothing close to the Nostradomus's Armageddon they were predicting! Geez, and here we go again tonight! Hide your women and children!

Friday, April 23, 2010

No gaps in our conversation... incredible!

So, we hadn't spoken in twelve years, and after the initial LinkedIn and Facebook pleasantries, we got on the phone to talk some trash, catching up on who is where, what is what and why come? I believe we spoke about forty-five minutes or so. We talked about the internet, Google, web design, growing old, and not wanting to hang up our rock'n roll shoes. We used to send each other cassette tapes of songs that we pertinent to our world at the time. Other than the fact that he liked Frank Sinatra, I felt Ron gave good tape. I still own and play his. That's right. I like tapes, but suffice it to say I have many albums in as many "formats" as you can imagine. 45's, albums, 8-track, cassettes, cd's, dvd's, iTunes, ipods, earpods, nosepods, throatpods... you name it, I've probably got it five times over.

But, I kinda lost my enthusiasm when Katrina flooded my mom's home with eight feet of water and she lost everything including all her photo albums and momentos. After that, collecting anything just seemed stupid!

A week later, Ron sent me an email saying he was sending me two cd's of current music and mentioned that he read somewhere that it was a sign of great friendship when there are no gaps in a conversation. You know, no idle or awkward moments where two people run out of things to say and struggle to avoid the embarrassment! How could there be any lulls in our conversation? Besides not seeing each other for so many years, we are both blessed with the "gift of gab".

My Country Music Education... Charlie Brown's Jukebox.

A few years after I made the original Charley Brown's Jukebox,  I had a few "fans" ask me to do a
"CBJ" 2. Technically, there are some songs in number 2 that I had acquired since the first tape or just couldn't fit on the original discography, so it didn't harm the "concept" of the original tape. The "juke box" now has 79 country tunes in it, which would amount to three cassette tapes. 

Charley Brown's Jukebox was about living in the home of jazz and R&B and being exposed to country music only through this bar that I visited as a twelve and thirteen year old kid ordering lunch for my dad and his two  other "employees". The food was always good, but the service was slow, so I got to hear lots of tunes.

As you remember,  programming the tape was a pain. It was the research and juxtaposition of songs in a mini concept that was so much fun. The physical act of placing it on tape was tedious and too much like what I do for a living. Many of those songs were of the "crying in your beer type". After all,  Charlie Brown's bar was barroom that was dark, moody and kinda smelly with lots of patrons leaning over their beer as they confide with the bartender, who very well could have been Charlie Brown, himself. To a teenager, the smell of red beans and rice or poor boys and stale beer, the sad songs, mostly in minor keys, and the sights of people, who became a fixture there everyday, made those songs all the more intriguing and added a little something to it that many people today just don't think much about. Ron, it's guys like you that understand and appreciate those times so well, that make life so rich... thanks!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Air Force artists document Reserve fighter group in Alaska...

Well yes, Steven Walker and I had a ball. Neither of us have ever been to Alaska. Our Air Force guide, Major Lisa Reaver was great and showed us all around Elmendorf, AFB and Anchorage. Eventually, Steve and I are gonna post our pics though many of them will be aircraft or airmen working on the base. One evening, after we put in a good days work, Lisa took us to meet some of her friends at a place called Humpy's in downtown Anchorage, where they play this trivia game amongst the restaurant customers. Ten rounds of 8 or more trivia questions between about twenty different teams ( tables ). The game, the food (lots of salmon) the microbreweries and the Air Force camaraderie were all there to make a great "end of the day" party.

The weather wasn't bad for Alaska. It snowed just about every day and it was naturally cold especially on the flight line and tarmac. BRRRRR!

David Bedard, the writer (in the picture is just right of me!) who interviewed us for an article he was writing about our mission, always wanted to be an artist or illustrator, so Steven and I got to answer a lot questions about the biz of commercial art. He was an excellent interviewer and really did his research before interviewing us. It's a shame that he could not expatiate further in the paper on what it is like being an artist, but the story was written to, naturally, highlight their mission. Now, I've kinda called myself out and am really gonna have to give the 477th squadron of the Air Reserve a nice painting.

You can read his article about our mission in the "Last Frontier"at: 

On the last day of our stay, Lisa somehow found out that I still make model aircraft ( we spent some time in the interview talking with David about our influences and naturally I mentioned Jack Leynnwood ) so as a going away present the commander of the squadron presented us with a F-22 Raptor kit to take home. Whoa!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Are you drawing me? Yes, but you moved!

One of the few successful sketches to come out of our trip to Alaska. There was a contingent of reserve servicemen on a weekend training session serving the native indian population in rural Alaska. They're training for when disasters strike like the recent earthquakes, the tsunami and hurricanes like Katrina. While they were waiting for the C-17's to load, our group was waiting for transportation back to 477th headquarters. After wasting thirty minutes, it dawned on me that this would be a great time to pull out the sketch pad. I spotted this female sergeant lugging a sixty pound pack looking for a place to "hurry up and wait". After ten minutes of me staring at her, she politely inquired,"Are you drawing me?" Minutes later, our van came to pick us up and as I quickly gathered my belongings and sketch pad, she came over and asked me, if, when I finished with the sketch, if I could email her a copy. Flattered, I replied, "Absolutely!"

This is the tightened version of the two field sketches!

Friday, April 9, 2010

The T-38 Talon...

Last, but not least, is this beautifully rendered trainer circling to land somewhere along the SoCal coast in the evening light.  I asked the owner of this print if he knew whether or not this was done in color. Can you imagine how nice that would have been. Just recently, I was on an Air Force trip to document an Air Reserve fighter squadron receiving the amazing F-22.  The guide and liason, Major Lisa Reaver, knew that I was a model maker and that I still enjoyed that hobby. As a going away present, she and the acting 477th commander presented me with a 1/72 scale model of the F-22 Raptor, a kit moulded outside the U.S. but sporting the classic "Revell" logo in the upper left corner of the boxtop. I can think of no better way of saying thanks and goodbye than that!

Another "Snark" illustration

 The illustrator that gave me this photo of Jack's work thought this was for a aerospace company, but I remember it in one of the many brochures advertising Revell's models. It is amazing to me how big that industry was back in the fifties and sixties. Note the basic and very large computer chip!

Snark missile...

I am not sure this is a Revell boxtop that Jack painted, but I have never seen this piece and I remember making this model when I was a kid in the early sixties! Maybe it was for the aerospace industry!

More about Jack Leynnwood...

 I was born in New Orleans the eldest son of six siblings. I came out the chute with a baseball glove in my hand though I was not as good as my father, who could have had a career if not for the war. I lived between two airfields, one civil and one military. It was a big influence on me. I learned to paint trying to make my model airplanes to look like they did on the boxtops. I went to high school on an athletic scholarship and met my wife to be there. As most kids of the sixties, I was in love with rock 'n roll and played guitar in a garage band for about 4 years. It was, and still is, my first love. I married my high school sweetheart in 1972, graduated from USL in advertising in "73 and starved in New Orleans as a freelance illustrator. 

Therese and I left home in 1974, to attend the Art Center College of Design, where I met one of heroes, Jack Leynnwood who made a name for himself painting model boxtops for Revell, Aurora and other model companies. Jack was a real renaissance man. He was a professional jazz musician, pilot, and WWII vet, fighting what he called "the Desert War"... in Arizona! He was a big influence on me and I took every class he taught. As a teacher, he demonstrated every day how to paint the things you needed to learn to paint in order to make a living in the crazy world of illustration. He was not against theory of art or the history of art and commercial art, and was willing to expound on those subjects, but in the cafeteria, at lunch or during breaks... not in class. Jack got me hooked up with an aerospace company for my first job out of Art Center. I worked there for three years while working on my freelance career. I left to concentrate on my freelance career as a storyboard illustrator, art director and designer. The four photos of Jack's art were given to me while I was employed at General Dynamics by a colleague who worked with Jack at Northrup! 

   In 2001, we decided to cash out of LA and move back to Louisiana. We now live in a small town north of New Orleans on a 5 acre ranch still serving the ad community not only in California, but nationwide. Please check my website and LinkedIn for further details on my client list. I worked on a variety of clients from entertainment and automotive, to consumer products and sports. You name it and I have probably done it! You can see my work at: and the various links therein.

Thoughts about a friend and teacher...

    The main reason I stayed at Art Center...
Some former students from ACCD and I got into a discussion about teachers on Facebook when I mentioned how Jack helped get me a job at General Dynamics in Pomona one year out of school. There is so much to tell, I don't think there is enough room here to tell it. I own a Jack Leynnwood and though I never had the guts to ask him to sign it, you'd know immediately that it was his! Once, he conducted another class in between his daytime and evening class to correct one of my original paintings for an assignment. He asked me if I was interested in bringing back to class the model F6F I had built especially for the assignment and asked the ten or so students if they would like to return after his dinner break to see him "fix" my illustration. He said that if Ben doesn't mind me painting over the original as an added lesson, we can extend the class. 

As you might have guessed, everyone showed up one hour later to see Jack completely change my piece. When it was finished, ( it took all of about two hours, maybe less ) we all stood there agape! Jack profusely apologized for making so many adjustments. I can honestly say that for once in my life, I was totally speechless!  I had the painting framed as soon as I could afford to do so and the 12x12 painting hangs proudly in my living room wall. 

That is just one of many stories I can share with you about Jack. He was never afraid to expose his artistic flaws to anyone because he knew pulling out the paints and demonstrating was the best way to teach visual learners like us. More than likely, there weren't too many flaws to begin with. Jack was the best.

Copyright2014/Ben Bensen III