Friday, September 30, 2011

Gary Hoover... He Will Surely Be Missed!

I received some sad news. I received an email from Bill Robles, the talented court reporting illustrator for  CBS, telling me that an old friend and SILA member, Gary Hoover had died. Apparently, Gary had called Bill a little over a week ago, and had a long conversation about the good old days. He was, according to Bill, his usual very funny self.

Gary had a stroke last year, and was not the same guy after that. He had chosen not to speak to any of his friends for over a year, including Bill, who he was close friends with. I'm sure you all remember the great times we all had with that very talented Gary Hoover, especially, for me, at the many Air Force trips during the 1980's and '90's. I knew him when he was connected with the Group West Bunch and was doing a lot of paper sculpture like Leo Monahan, Jeff Nishakawa and Chris Butler.
He was a talented artist and a friend, and will surely be missed.

Copyright 2011/ Ben Bensen III

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Thoughts About a Great Art Store That... "Aint 'Dere No More!"

Look what I found!
I found this tag on a sketchbook from long ago. It sent me back to a time that now seems so foreign in so many ways. To all my Los Angeles friends, this can bring back some incredible memories though people in LA are accustomed to change with buildings torn down, businesses bellying up, and cultures and traditions uprooted. It is, sort of, the price one pays for all that "upward mobility. 

No looking back!

But to me, 1850 miles away and ten years gone from my SoCal life, finding this sent me back to that other world, in another life, so far away, like it was all a dream. But living in Louisiana, I felt no guilt wasting time and ruminating the past in all its "sunny SoCal glory!" 

I also found, while attempting to clear a path in the attic for the electrician to rewire my garage, in a box of some hard as a rock Windsor Newton goauche tubes that I had purchased at Clinton Art Supply on LaBrea in Hollywood, and again, a flood of memories came bursting forth like the jazz music that mellowed out from the store radio. Though I don't remember his name, the mustachioed attendant behind the Letraset counter would ask if you needed any assistance. Can you imagine what a business press type was back then? Clinton devoted a whole wall to the product, at one time! Always hassled, and aggravated trying to find a parking spot on LaBrea, the store had a calming effect even though it was usually against my best interests to chill out there.

I also included in that "stash from the past" was a box of about a dozen or so of "Daily Reminders" that I am just dying to page through. But that's another subject from another time, for another time!

In retrospect, it was always "Daniels" where I spent a whole lotta hours and also, a whole lotta money.  The building seemed to beckon one like a great big invitation to explore. Besides having a knowledge- able and helpful staff, they had just about everything a professional artist could ask for including art and design books and magazines. I once asked one of the regular salesman if I could order the then out of print book,"Creative Illustration" by Andrew Loomis and he was kind enough to send me to the Hollywood Bookstore where I might find a used copy. I used to huddle back in the stacks sifting through CA's to steal an idea or just get inspired. I'd spend hour upon hour there sometimes meeting colleagues and artist friends that I hadn't seen in years. 

To me, it was like a great Parthenon of art where new things could be discussed or discovered and the "latest" seemed to appear only moments away, just around the corner! I loved it.

Many times, when working in the Mid Wilshire or MacAtthur Park agencies, one could phone in a order of supplies and get it delivered, or you could run in and purchase some markers and get out in time to have a burger and a large lemonade at Casey's on Sixth Street. In the seventies and early eighties, H.G. Daniels served not only the major ad agencies and design studios, but also Otis and Art Center schools.

I guess there are many reasons why a scene like Daniels ceased to exist. There was talk in the ad community that some people were being mugged late in the evening as they left work. I actually had my Honda Accord broken into after hours while working at Ketchum in the Mid Wilshire area. It didn't take long for trendy agencies to move further west towards the Miracle Mile, Santa Monica or even, Orange County. Vagrants, bums, and people of questionable integrity roamed the neighborhood surrounding Daniels. The parking lots now had to be lit and security guards escorted patrons in and out of the store. It got to be a little bit scary to go there late in the evening, but I suspect the big killer of Daniels was the coming of computers. Who needs to learn how to use a ruling pen, or paint a straight line, or draw with an ellipse guide, much less have to purchase these tools? I'm not sure exactly when H.G. Daniels closed its doors forever, but I am sure its closing negatively affected not only the art community of downtown LA, but entire neighborhood surrounding it.

 There's a song created and made even more popular here in New Orleans by a musician who lost everything except his bass guitar in Hurricane Katrina. The song is bittersweet tune entitled, "Aint Dere No More!" where the locals all lament the loss of stores, restaurants, businesses, neighborhoods and, to an extent, a culture that once was such a part of our lives as New Orleanians.

Accidentally seeing the price tag on an old sketchbook reminds me that the Daniels I knew and loved ain't 'dere no more! Like so many things in our lives, nothing more needs to be said.

Copyright 2011/ Ben Bensen III

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Good Things Come In Small Packages"... Nummer Fünf!

Some of Brian's German Models made over the years!
As you can tell from the picture, Brian and I started making models around the time he was eight years old or so. Over time, we built just about every German aircraft except the FW190 and as of today, we still have three or four models stored away in the attic... never opened. The Focke Wulf "Condor",  the He-111, the Dornier Do-215, JU-87, Me-109 in the many variants, the Me-110, the Me-210, the Me-163 Komet, the Dornier Do-335 (push/pull design), and even the Blohm-Voss "Sea Dragon were the many planes that built or bought and never finished. "All of these models, except the Me-262, pictured in the upper right hand corner, Me-163 Komet, and the Dornier Do-335 were built mostly, by me and then airbrushed to the little art director's wishes. He'd pull out a picture from my files or from one of my aviation art books and tell me how he wanted it to look.

The Me-262, a reissued kit from Lindberg, was built and painted completely by Brian about four or five years later.

A Cub Scout friend of his was really enamored with all things German from bratwurst and sauerkraut to BMW's and warplanes of WWII. Tim and Brian would construct these outlandish, unaerodynamic aircraft out of Construx pieces where everything that wasn't the fuselage or wings was a bomb, a rocket or a machine gun.

I used to tease them both about their designs and both of them would beam that childish smirk of, "Yeh, we know, but it's still loads of fun" as they attacked and crashed into one another with Construx pieces flying apart.

After a fierce battle in the skies of South Pasadena, the plane that most resembled a plane, won!

Not wanting to have Brian get the wrong message about the Germans and the Nazis, I introduced him to some German culture and history through books and television in hopes that he, as an eight or nine year old, could understand the difference. Naturally, taking care to not present a thorough history lesson to a child, complete with all the horrors and atrocities, it didn't happen over night, but eventually, he did have better grasp of the war and its many complications. I probably was a bit too zealous, for after a while, it was like trying to speak to him about the birds and the bees. He'd listen to me preach and respond by giving me, with all the worldliness of a twelve year old, a roll of his eyes and a smirk, replying in exasperation...

"I know Dad, I know. I just like this airplane, that's all... And, the cool way we can make it look with those paint schemes and your airbrush !"

Ah yes, flattery will get you everywhere, kid!

Copyright 2011/ Ben Bensen III

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bernie... You're the Best!

Sketches from pics of Bernie
If Bernie could play the horn, I am sure he'd still be reticent to toot it but...
"Today I am gifting..."
"Going to play musique for a friend of mines Momma.. She is way into her 80's.. She got married at 14 and stayed with the same man till he passed away... She used to come and listen to my musique in Folsom... I always asked for a 14 year old to stand up so people could realize how it was... She can't get out and so I am going to her house and play for her today. Her birthday."
I stole this post from a friend of mine I met a few years ago at Gus's. I hope he doesn't mind! His name is Bernie David (pronounced,"Da-veed"). Bernie's a retired oil man that lives on a large farm north of Folsom and has many stories to tell, but the best thing about Bernie is his musicianship. He plays accordion and sings, in Cajun French or English, all kinds of tunes... Maybe even, "Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida!" At the drop of a hat... spare change is greatly appreciated, but not necessary!
I suspect there are many people today that are retired and, like Bernie, want to be a contributing part of someone's life and make the world a better place. The deal is, Bern does it every time he pulls out that "squeezebox" and hollers a Cajun, "Ah-eeeeeeeee!" What a great gift God has bestowed on him... the power to make people, old and young, smile, and maybe, kick up their heels a bit...joints willin'.
Yes, Bernie... today, you are gifting!

Copyright 2011/Ben Bensen III