Friday, December 28, 2012

"SoCal, Thanks For Being So Gracious"...

A goodbye sketch!
Tomorrow we leave for 'da Bayou and so I thought this sketch was a fitting way to say goodbye to our Christmas vacation in SoCal and to thank all the wonderful people in my life here in California. Therese and I had a ball catching up with all our friends and their lives. I know we will wish we asked more questions about life in California and all that that entails.

You know, like... "Aw man, I wanted to ask him about his mom!" or "I wonder how her latest project is working out?" There's never enough time to remember all the questions you want to ask. I guess we'll just have to return again soon and next time, write down a better list of things to inquire about!

We thought today would be better spent just relaxing and getting "mentally ready" to return home. I pretty much just ate, cruised the internet and watched football...

I believe there's one last slice of pumpkin pie to put a final cap on today and the rest of our SoCal adventure.

Thanks to everyone for being so gracious. All the best to everyone in the coming year!

Copyright 2012-2013/Ben Bensen III

Monday, December 17, 2012

Number Seven in a Series of Collector Prints... Nixon Galloway!

A British aircraft for United?
The Viscount was the subject of numerous large orders including the United States when it was designed in 1953. Its smooth, vibration free ride, good operating economics and pressurisation contributed to its success. At speeds of 350 mph, it was the first turbojet engined aircraft and powered by Rolls Royce. The 48 passenger aircraft was purchased by Capital Airlines in 1953-54 for a cool 70.3 million dollars acquiring about sixty from the British based, Vickers-Armstrong, Ltd.

Capital Airlines, once the fourth largest airline, merged with United in 1961 making it the largest airline  the free world. Here, Nick must have preferred the Capital Airlines fuselage design to the United for visual as well as historical reasons. The Viscount flew for United for over thirteen years.

Copyright 2012-2013/Ben Bensen III  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"My Little Ski Buddy"...

Two bad ass skiers!
Just the other day, I was at Gus's having breakfast with friends when I noticed on the Weather Channel that recent California storms dumped many feet of snow as well as caused significant flooding in the rural areas. I looked up to television to see water rushing downhill in some small town and then another reporter was straddling the Truckee River also predicting your standard Weather Channel doom. When I looked up again, there was good old Warming Hut 2 taking in and shoving out happy skiers while yet another reporter continued his report in the falling snow.

I only heard "three feet of snow" in that report.

Someone, as it always seems this time of year, is "reporting" on the white stuff at one of the numerous resorts. I guess this can be considered newsworthy, though it appears more like a marketing device than anything else to me. But this time it was a bit different... it was at Mammoth Mountain.

The sport is so much more expensive than it used to be. Every year, I'd take the family to the mountains for a four day weekend or spend an entire week with my SoCal friends up in Mammoth. I sure do miss the snow and that part of California. The report of snow and the pics of that ski resort reminded me of a story I used to use to illustrate how open minded children are to what we preceive to be difficult. The first example that comes to mind, nowadays, is how quickly kids understand the computer. They don't seem to need any instruction on how to manipulate the software, be it on a laptop, an iPod, or iPad.

Anyone who has memories of my initial introduction could tell you how bad a ski student I was. Sartorially resplendent in a old turtleneck shirt, an Goretex Air Force jacket and my wedding suit pants because the pants were polyester and would stretch more than regular jeans, I became known as the"mogul killer!"

People followed behind me because for that first week of learning, I'd fall, slide downhill for a few football fields and take out all the slope's bumps! It took me a month of Sundays to give up the snowplow version of skiing. It was hard for me to overcome what seemed to be detrimental theories like, at the top of the hill, "point the tips of your skis... downhill!"

And then, worse yet, "lean forward!"

But my son, all of four years old, took to the white stuff like it was his best friend. On his first week trip to the slopes, we put him in a kiddie class so we adults could ski unencumbered in the morning when the snow is at its best. We would then have lunch and either send him back to another class in the afternoon or take him to the kiddie slope for some family fun. My wife was not so sold on the whole ski idea to begin with and she made sure I shared her same concern with our child.

Well, you know how us guys are, right? I tried not to be that way!

I tried to protect his every move, up or down or sideways as he would ski up with me on the poma rope to the top of the slope. To be honest, I believe negotiating tow ropes are one of the hardest parts of learning how to ski.  But, once we got to the top of the slope, I'd release our son downhill with me skiing in front of him backwards just to make sure I could catch him if he fell or, worse yet, lost control of his snowplowing technique and go zooming downhill taking out little old ladies and ski instructors!

By mid-week, Brian seem to have the whole snowplow form down pat. It was always funny to see a group of little skiers cutting wide "S"'s with their skis pointed down hill in a "V" shape while their arms were outstretched with the ski poles dangling uselessly. You have to see it to believe how each leg is independent of each other negotiating each bump with an incredible suspension and all, in unison. It is truly amazing how, after being on earth for only four or five years, kids can pick up seemingly difficult physical tasks.

Well, it never once occurred to me that I was becoming a hinderance to Brian's advancing prowess. Basically, I was catering to the concerns of his mother more than anything else. By the end of the week, I think he had had enough of this parental unit anticipating his every move. Actually, he probably had had enough of all of this earlier in the week, but tolerated it because he didn't know how to nicely tell me what he thought. I don't know if he gave it this much consideration, but I often wondered if he thought since he'd only have one more day left to ski and he wanted to do it solo, he would have run the gauntlet and take up the challenge of telling Dad what he thought. I guess he figured it was now or never when, half way down the kiddie slope, he said as only a four year old child could...

"Dad, I really can ski better without you in the way!"

Copyright 2012-2013/ Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another Nick Galloway Watercolor for United Airlines...

Honest... what were they thinking!

In 1930, Boeing created the revolutionary Monomail, which made traditional biplane construction a design of the past. The Monomail wing was set lower, was smooth, made entirely of metal and had no struts (cantilevered construction). The retractable landing gear, some of the earlier models actually had fixed gear with skirts attached, streamlined the fuselage and the engine covered by an antidrag cowling added up to an advanced, extremely aerodynamic design. I think the angle Nick chose for this illustration perfectly depicts the plane's best aerodynamic advantages. I also like the warm tones on the underwing side of the plane... subtle, but a nice touch to the overall cool tones.
I read that a major drawback of the Monomail was that its design was too advanced for the engines and propellers of the time. The airplane required a low-pitch propeller for takeoff and climb and a high-pitch propeller to cruise. The plane was constantly being modified to accommodate all the new technology, but by the time the variable-pitch propeller and more powerful engines were available, the Monomail was being replaced by newer designs, like the Boeing 247. The aircraft must have been in the airline fleet briefly for they didn't even have time to paint on a United Airlines logo.

Another view. Passengers are loading into the plane via a step ladder, ha!
The Model 200, originally designed as a mail plane, apparently later, was redesigned to make the Model 221 a six-passenger transport. Both were later revised for transcontinental passenger service as Model 221A, which upgraded the passenger seating and hopefully the engine noise since the streamlined fuselage had been built for speed and not necessarily comfort. But, pity the poor pilot sitting in an open cockpit...
Honest, what were they thinking?

Copyright 2012-2013/Ben Bensen III

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"C'est La Vie," Oue Sera, Sera, and What It Is, Is What It Is!"

Mom Booga-loos it!
More than a week ago, I lost two good friends. One, Bernie David, was 67 years old and died quite unexpectedly while having minor heart surgery and the other, AnneMarie Burgard, fought cancer for over two years. She was 62 years old. Although Anne was very aware of her condition, she rarely spoke about the many chemos she must have endured unless the results of such treatments made it hard to disguise to anyone.

But, Anne was very cool about her condition accepting what she could, graciously answering the myriad of questions we all had to ask. Her faith and her family gave her the courage to continue the fight. Like my wife, Anne was a very intense and dedicated teacher, who was always talking about the trials and tribulations of her students. She really cared about them. Over the period of a year, she'd show up at our weekend breakfasts at Gus's in Folsom regardless of her physical and emotional condition and would eventually end up talking about her class.

AnneMarie at a polo event in May!
Somehow, she had us all believing that she would somehow survive this terrible disease. The last time I saw AnneMarie she was having breakfast with the gang, but had a hard time speaking. What I heard her say was that on Monday, she was going to the hospital for three days of testing.

The news, at first, was very encouraging, but as the days grew into weeks, eventually she would relapse to the point where she was sent to stay at her mother's home in New Orleans. I guess we were all in denial.

Bernie, was a retired oil man, who traveled extensively while employed with various oil companies. Being financially set in retirement, he taught himself to play the accordion, Cajun style. He was also very much into his heritage and discovered not only his Cajun roots, but also his M'kmac Indian roots and celebrated it every chance he got. He loved giving seminars about Indian life in Acadiana as well as Nova Scotia and Acadia. As one would expect, Bernie loved entertaining and making people smile which naturally brings the many stories of his life like playing on the steamboat, Natchez, playing on a street corner in the French Quarter, playing at crawfish gatherings in Acadiana, or playing at the local library.

Mom, Bernie and me at Bastille Day celebration.
One evening, Bernie saw us having dinner at Gus's, which we rarely do. He said he was concerned about his lack of breath whenever he did something strenuous. A week later, he told me that the tests had found a nodule on his lung and a clogged artery that would need attention.

"Ben, what it is, is what is, you know? I just wanna get all this behind me and play my music. That's the most important thing for me, at this time of my life... to play my music!"

He went in for surgery on October 8 and never returned home. Bernie passed away a day before Anne did.

A week ago today, I took my mom and met my wife at a Mexican restaurant. The deaths really had me in a funk, and the rest of the week did not go so well either. It was time to chill out and maybe get drunk, if that's what was called for. Though I'm not one for losing control of myself, saying so was my way of acquiescing... to everything!

After ordering another double margarita, my wife questioned my decision to have another.

"C'est la vie," I replied. That's what Chuck Berry said the "old folks say!"

 "It goes to show, you never can tell!"

And, you can't. It was a beautiful evening with a nice, cool breeze. We had dinner and a few margaritas, but really had not much else to say to one another other than compliment the food. Basically, we just sat and witnessed the sun setting down on a wretched week.

Good riddance, I thought.

Having finished our dinner, as we left the outdoor patio, and walked back into the restaurant, a solo musician was playing his version of Richie Valens," La Bamba" in two thirds waltz time. I laughed and told my mother that the guy was playing a very familiar song but in waltz time. She suddenly decided to dance a kinda of jig as she shuffled her way to the woman's bathroom. My wife gingerly escorted her, as I walked out to the car which was conveniently parked in a handicapped spot just outside the entrance door and waited.

"When I was just a little boy, I asked my mother what would I be?"

Hearing the opening lines of that song, I closed my eyes and slumped down onto the hood of the car. How strange it was that two of my friends were gone and my eighty-eight year old mother is dancing her way to the restroom alive and kicking. How do you make any sense of all of this?

What was it? Good genes? Maybe. Moderate life style? No way, not my mom. Drinking? No! Smoking? Well, actually yes. She did smoke until I promised to stay in college if she stopped smoking! But, smoking all those years didn't seem to have an adverse affect on her.

What is it? Luck of the Irish? No, she's French!

As I was struggling to figure this all out, trying hard not to embrace all those religious cliches about death, despair and destruction, the words of the song that the mistral was playing became more poignant.

"Aw man, this is all too much," I said as I sat up from the hood of the car. And when I did, I noticed my mother was booga-looing her way to exit the restaurant with Therese holding her arms out to catch mom should she lose count on her "waltz time."

"Man, the human spirit," I thought, "it's never gone in people even when they are. It kinda lives on in all of us!"

 I opened the car door for my mother, and smiled as I heard the third chorus of the song...

"Will I be handsome, will I be rich? Here's what she said to me..."

"Que sera, sera, what ever will be, will be,"

The future's not ours to see, "Que sera, sera, What will be, will be..."

Copyright 2012-2013/Ben Bensen III

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Number Four in a Series of Collector Prints... Nixon Galloway!

The Boeing "247"

The Boeing 247 was a prototype for the modern airliner, for it was a clean cantilever low-wing all-metal monoplane of constructed with twin-engine powerplant, retractable landing gear, and accommodation for a pilot, copilot, stewardess and ten passengers. The design introduced a new feature for a civil transport aircraft by being equipped with pneumatic de-icing boots on  leading edges of the wing, vertical, as well as, horizontal stabilizers to prevent accumulation of ice from reaching a dangerous level. The plane's top speed was about 200 mph with a cruising speed at about 133 mph.
Sixty examples of the Model 247 were ordered right off the drawing board to equipping the Boeing Air Transport System, which soon became United Air Lines! Below, is a picture of one of the few surviving and flyable museum pieces. It apparently was the aircraft from which Nick modeled his painting from.
One of a few aircraft still airworthy!

Copyright 2012-2013/Ben Bensen III

Monday, October 15, 2012

"Silly Me... I Haven't Yet Figured It Out!"

Illustrated design for a audio/visual convention.
Still working on my new, old website. In it is a section I call, "Potpourri" because it has a little bit of miscellaneous stuff that doesn't always fit other disciplines. I found this set design I created for a design firm for an audio visual convention while going through my sample cd's. If my memory serves me correctly, it was a twenty-four hour turnaround and the art director's "vision/scribble left much to the imagination. In a way, those type of instructions allows for more creative thinking. I was pretty happy with this overall design and I asked the client if they were happy with the piece. I requested a photo of the finished set on location, since I would not be a part of the actual construction... if indeed, they were gonna use my design to build the actual display.

Silly me.

It is a real conundrum to do what I do when I draw "stuff." Inevitably, it involves so much more than my illustrative skills, yet when looking for work, people assume you're an illustrator/storyboard artist and not much more. Someone please tell me, is this illustration just a drawing skill or much more? What about the concept? Other than the art director instructing me to "make it urban," in the process of drawing these things, one has to create that environment and design it to fit within the limited space of a convention center. Company logo notwithstanding, what about signage and the many urban icons added to create a mood to market to a certain demographic. Are all these things expected as a part of the process and then, only later, to be forgotten. 

To this day, I am convinced that illustrators, for the most part, make the best visual communicators, that is, graphic and package designers, set designers, painters, art directors, photographers, etc.

An art director at Saatchi and Saatchi, once told me that my problem was that few people understood how to use me! She said,"Ben, it is a marketing problem only you can really solve!" 

She was right... and I feel, I still haven't really figured it all out yet!

Copyright 2012-2013/ Ben Bensen III

Friday, October 12, 2012

Number Three in a Series of Collector Prints... Nixon Galloway

The first all metal aircraft, the Ford Tri-Motor.
Here's Nick Galloway's rendition of the "Queen of the Airways" which is what United Airlines deemed her. Her majestic "reign" lasted from 1926 when it first came into service with the airline till about 1933 or so when newer and faster twin-engined aircraft replaced her.

Nice angle Nick picked to show all three Pratt and Whitney "Wasp" engines which produced a top speed of 150 mph and a cruising speed of 122 mph. If I remember correctly, the plane was still being used by the government as a mail carrier for many more years and today, there are still quite a few flying as museum pieces at air shows.

Copyright 2012-2013/ Ben Bensen III

Monday, October 8, 2012

"Wonderful Wooden Waterfowl"...

Just a sample of the wooden carvings!

My mom is a 88 year old going on 8 and she loves being around people especially those folks that are involved in all kinds activities like art and sports. She loves baseball, she likes "Psycho Killer" and "Born in the USA" and she loved to dance. Unfortunately, her main partner passed away years ago.

She also likes birds. She will sit for hours color commentating on the daily actions at all my feeders especially the hummingbird feeder since it is so close to the breakfast nook window. It only seemed natural to get her out of the house and bring her to the Louisiana Wildfowl Carvers and Collectors Guild Show at the Castine Center in Mandeville, LA last Sunday.
With a coupon from the newspaper, we only had to pay two dollars a person to enter and the incredible and varied art that was displayed there was well with that price of admission. The vivacious and witty Mamere stopped and talked to all the artisans there as she "oooh-ed and ahhh-ed" her way from one display to another, teeter-tottering her way through the tables. Displayed were hundreds of actual decoys complete with tethered line and a lead anchor at the bottom. They were quite utilitarian in function and sparsely painted to resembled certain duck species native to the bayou. There were also others that also seemed functional as decoys but were quite detailed in their rendering of a specific species.

Mom stopped to "interview" an elder wood carver whose approach seemed really old school. He used a standard box cutter to do most of his carving from the tupelo gum blocks he had surrounding his station. When I asked him about its use, he said that he never could get his carving knives sharp enough to make the cuts he needed to make and a box cutter could have the blades easily replaced. Mom noticing the mess he was creating with all the wood shavings asked, "Do you have to clean all this up yourself?"

Looking up momentarily, he responded rather tersely, "Only at home!"

As she continued conversing with the man, I was sure it wouldn't take long before she had him trading carving secrets that he probably wouldn't divulge to anyone else. I slipped away quietly to check out some of the other displays secretly hoping that mom wouldn't accidentally knock over half a table of decoys. Upon my return, ten minutes later, they both were yucking it up pretty good and I was please to note that were no damaged decoys or destroyed tables.

We spent almost two hours cruising the auditorium amazed at all of the incredible works many of which were carved as dioramas. Here are a few samples:

There was also an auction on this day, but we came too late to experience that.

It's just as well... with these beauties, I might have been tempted to actively participate, ha!

Copyright 2012-13/ Ben Bensen III

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Number Two In A Series of Collector Prints... Nixon Galloway!

Second In A Series... Convair 340.
Here's a moody piece by Nixon Galloway of a Convair 340. It was a post war design that stretched the series"240". It had a cruising speed of 275 that was attained by two Pratt and Whitney R-2800's which if I'm not mistaken, powered the Hellcat, Thunderbolt and Corsair fighter aircraft. The plane carried about forty or so passengers in a pressurized fuselage which gave it the ability to fly higher over weather conditions... a big deal back in the fifties, ha!

 Maybe, that's why Nick decided to illustrate it this way. The wing reflections intimate a wet sky.

On a personal level, I actually got to fly from LA to Modesto and back on a Convair 340 when I was picked up to interview for a designer's job at Gallo. I am sure that there are those who'd say why not a corporate jet, but being an aviation freak, I was ecstatic to be flying in such a classic. I, also, was pretty impressed with company's professionalism which made me feel like the professional I am. In hindsight, it was a very nice visit as I was "wined and dined ( excuse the pun! ) and put up for two nights at a local bed and breakfast. Although I got the grand tour, I didn't take the job because I had illusions of becoming a great American illustrator and didn't want to be out there stranded in a town with just one client... Gallo!

Although the Gallo family was then, a bunch of loons and quite difficult to work for, looking back, I often wonder what could have been.

For me, in this case, hindsight isn't 20/20. It is "340!"

Copyright 2012-2013/ Ben Bensen III

Friday, September 28, 2012

"Man, 'Dat Bass Is Buddah!"

A sketch I did when we were both young!

It is so strange how things happen. There's this program on the local public radio station that talks about music and the behind the scenes stories that I occasionally listen to on my way home from the gym or running errands. I don't go out of my way to listen to it, but when I do, I always enjoy it.

When the global news at noon ended and this program called, "Music Inside Out With Gwen Thompkins", came on, I said to myself,"Ya know who they should interview especially all he has been through of late and a real behind the scenes guy? They should interview"... and then the moderator came on and introduced my old friend, Reggie Scanlan.

And a chill ran up and down all over my soul...

Give a listen... it's good stuff!  ( If nothing else, you'll love his accent, ha! )

Podcast @

Copyright 2012-2013/ Ben Bensen III

Monday, September 24, 2012

One In A Series of Collector Prints... Nixon Galloway!

Nixon's DC-3
I've been so busy doing things that really don't pertain to making a living as an artist. So, I thought that this would be a nice way to stay motivated and, at the same time, share some of my favorite artist's work.

In my line of "art," when the artwork is no longer needed to help sell an idea, it gets filed away for a couple of months and then, usually, but not always, is thrown in the dumpster. I have picked up some really nice storyboard art, sketches, and comp work from the likes of David Arkle, Larry Navarro, Rod Dryden, Ray Cadd, Jim Auckland, Chris Turner, Mike Barry, Shannon Hogan and some older and more stylistic art from guys like,"Woody" Woodcock, Ed Lunquist and a host of other really fine illustrators.

I'm told, by my illustrative compadres, that some of my work has also been saved from the giant garbage bags signed, "Basura!" I'm flattered!

And, many of these are not printed or digitized pieces, but the actual art.

Anyway, here's one in a series of twenty or so printed pieces that aviation artist, Nick Galloway, painted for United Airlines. It was a "collector's series" of water colors Nick was so famous for.

With a few more to be posted, this one is one of my favorites...

Copyright 2012-2013/Ben Bensen III 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

"Chrissakes, It's Laughable!"

Visible blasphemy?

With all the turmoil that has occurred lately over religions making fun and poking each other's "heros", and artists making statements that aren't exactly endearing anyone to defend any side, I have always harkened back to this illustration which was done by Fred Berger for an article in Playboy sometime back in the seventies. Playboy, how appropriate you might say. What would one expect from this icon of every horny, young baby boomer drooling alone in his dorm room. Indeed, what would you expect!

It is very well rendered in a classical style probably with charcoal on a colored newsprint looking paper. Although I am not sure of it, I would expect the art director for the magazine, Art Paul, probably had something to do with it. As art director, Paul supervised the design of the magazine for thirty-plus years. Early on, he commissioned many local Chicago artists and photographers to illustrate the magazine. During Paul's years at Playboy, the magazine won hundreds of awards for excellence in graphic design and illustration. Paul has been credited for helping create a revolution in illustration by insisting that graphic design and illustration need not be "low" arts but could, when approached with integrity and emotional depth, and in a spirit of experimentation, be as "high" an art as any.

I kinda liked that!

The piece is reminiscent of a figure drawing class, but what I love most of all is the treatment of our icon of Christianity. In all my years of Catholic education, standing, kneeling, sitting, crawling, and yawning at the myriad of images of Jesus, portrayed as part God, part man, I have never ever before seen him portrayed this way...


I'd like to think Jesus loved a good joke even if it was a bawdy one or one at his own expense.

I don't know or remember if there was ever any fallout over such a concept. Maybe the art wasn't as global or viral an event as the latest film on Islam is. Still, I wonder if anyone at Playboy got death threats for such blasphemy. No bomb threats, or hit men with contracts to kill the artist, Fred Berger, who obviously over stepped his artistic license and didn't realize that freedom of this kind of expression comes with a heavy price. Maybe, his hands should be chopped off for drawing such art or his eyes plucked out for seeing God in such a disrespectful manner.

Without waving the flag too vigorously, the freedom to be free and express that freedom is what I love most about being an American artist. 

I don't presume to understand the inner workings of any religion or foreign policy and it is not my intention to promote one way to think or live. I don't even think this blog spot warrants validation or clarification on any level by me or anyone else. I just think Mr. Berger's art illustrates the humanity in all of us, male and female...  and in all of our Gods.

Doing otherwise, sadly, only makes me laugh!

Copyright 2012-2013/ Ben Bensen III

Friday, August 24, 2012

"A Million Tears Ago"...

This was my older sister's '45 circa '63/64...
Well, I belong to three music Facebook groups and I occasionally drop by to see what's up. Mostly, it's my generation growing nostalgic through all the good music we had the good fortune to grow up with. Turbulent times, for sure, but the music somehow helped us all cope with it all on top of all those raging hormones.

I know, back then, all I did at sock hops was stand in front of the guitarists trying to steal their chords. I remember Roger Bertrand with the Radiants, bowled me over when I first heard his lead on the Beatles,"Got To Get You Into My Life." That fuzz tone was like something I never heard before. I later saw and heard him perform the intro to Vanilla Fudge's, "Keep Me Hanging On!" It was flawless and I was hooked. I never really lived up to my own expectations as a guitarist. Life got in the way... and I allowed it to!

I am certain, though, that most of my high school friends thought I was shy and to a certain extent, I was, but I also know that I couldn't even trust myself and would probably do something adolescently stupid that would have, if not entirely embarrassed myself, gotten me into some real trouble.

But, I could dance! I had to. My older sister would have it no other way. And that's how I got my great rock'n roll roots... from Adele!
Big sister... all grown up!
When she tired of dancing with the door knob on the door to her room to favorites like Fats and Elvis and Buddy Holly, Chuck, Bo, Jackie, she would play slow tunes by Irma Thomas, the Inkspots, the Platters, and especially Sam Cooke, she'd beg me to dance with her. Occasionally, we'd dance the foxtrot, the cha-cha, the twist, but mostly, it was slow dancing... just swaying to the music!

We grew up together, and at that innocent time in our lives, I guess we just needed each other's touch. I learned a lot from "Dell" as I called her. She helped me grow up in so many ways! It was a million tears ago!

And, it was one of her favorite songs... to slow dance to!

Here's the actual song that a high school friend found for me... Thanks Susan!

Copyright 2012/ Ben Bensen III

Monday, August 20, 2012

"This Life Is The One That Counts"...

Well, at least, it got me thinking!
During our 40th anniversary, my wife and I visited our hometown New Orleans and visited places we, nowadays, barely know exist... like City Park and NOMA. As an artist, I really don't visit enough gallery openings or visit shows and exhibitions as I should probably because I go into those events with preconceived ideas of what it should be. But, we were intrigued by the opening show of paintings and sketches of legendary chef, Leah Chase, who really is an icon of New Orleans as well as a reknown Katrina survivor and the owner of the restaurant "Dooky Chase's." The show was quite interesting in that it was of paintings done rather small in oil on wood. I don't believe any of the illustrations were any bigger than 8x10 inches. The painter, Gustav Blache, spent a year or so in Leah's kitchen documenting her daily routine of food preparations, cooking, greeting customers and sharing good times. I believe, this visual story started a couple of years after the hurricane wrecked Leah and her husband's long time establishment at the foot of Orleans Avenue.

But there was so much more to see since it's been such a long time between visits.  NOMA has quite a few famous paintings in its possession and I spent much time studying the brushstrokes of a large Singer Sargent portrait, but I was struck by the above "painting" and its subhead. I had to, later, look up the exact definition of the word, Theodicy, which is loosely defined as," the vindication of divine goodness and providence in view of the existence of evil.

Gottfried Leibniz, a German philosopher, coined the term 'theodicy' in an attempt to justify God's existence in light of the apparent imperfections of the world. You know, trying to explain why Beelzebub exists and why he is around every corner creating mischief.

Anyway, the subhead,"This Life Is The One That Counts" really struck home with me because it so capsulizes for me how I have attempted to live my life. I seem to not dwell, or even acknowledge, any after life, a subject which seems now to abound amongst all my aged friends. Being raised Catholic, I often wondered why I have never really embraced any or all of the tenets a good, God-fearing, French Catholic from New Orleans should.

Or any faith, for that matter.

 But this artist, and I don't even know his name to give him his credit, said, in one visual, all I have struggled to define in my life and the way I live it. Just keep reminding myself and feeling good about the discovery that, "This Life Is The One That Counts" and everything else should fall into place.

I love it, you know, no sermons, no philosophical diatribes, no self help pamphlets or books, no religious icons, confusing trinkets, talismans or mojos and no large, small printed books and missals to make the sign of the cross over.

I kinda like that...

Maybe I should spend more time in galleries... amongst the art!

Copyright 2012/ Ben Bensen III

Friday, August 10, 2012

"Sometimes, Too Much Is Not Enough"...

What 'da Hell...
Some people drown their sorrows in beer, Sazeracs, Hurricane's, cheap wine, expensive brandy or whatever. Some people hide their troubles eating themselves into a diabetic coma while others prefer to smoke those anxieties away into some sort of haze.

There are those that like to sweat away their fears at the gym, listen to massive amounts of Simon and Garfunkel records curled up in a fetal position, or shop till they drop regardless of how little they have in the bank, but not me!

I can't put pencil to paper or punch this laptop pleasure machine until I have my fill of the nectar of illustration... New Orleans coffee! I prefer drowning myself in, CafeDuMonde coffee with chicory. I used to have it shipped to me by my sister when I lived in LA... in cases!

Even though their have been many studies, probably funded by some caffeine conglomerate, that tout all the benefits of the cancer fighting elixir, nowadays, after punching a few walls between tight deadlines, I've changed my evil ways.

Massive quantities of decaf CafeDuMonde coffee with chicory!

Copyright 2012/ Ben Bensen III

 Photo credits: Tessie LaLa at PJ's coffee house.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

"I Rarely Say No"...

Storyboard frames scribbled on napkins!
If anyone is fascinated with an art career, I won't burst your bubble.There are some wonderful advantages to owning your own business. And some crazy moments, too.

This is, but one of the many stories in the life of this artist... I do have many!

Two weeks ago, a friend had tickets to a ballgame for me and the family as well as tickets for any friends who might enjoy a minor league game with a Friday night fireworks show afterward. My mom loves the game of baseball since it reminds her of her childhood days with her father, who was a coach. She can't really eat the baseball fare, so we usually go to the local buffet close to the stadium.

As most "commercial illustrators and designers" know, ad agencies wait till the very last minute waiting for the marketing muses to descend upon their agency with new ideas, concepts and schemes. To qualify for my art director colleagues, I've been on that side of the ad business, too and understand the pressure.

But, it seems, they almost always call around the dinner bell.

Mid meal, as we are discussing our plans to attend the game late, the cellphone rings. A producer from a California production company calls and wants to know if I'm available to work the weekend. Of course, with the scarcity of projects out there, I, of course, said yes.

I rarely ever say no.

"We have some other artists lined up if you can't do it! I know it is at the last minute, but Joe really would prefer you. We are you located?"

"No, no... I'm hip!" I can start immediately or whenever you..."

He cuts me off by saying it's all good and that he was gonna put me on hold to get the art director to brief me on a couple of boards.

This was my chance to get out of the restaurant and race to the quiet of my "parked studio."

"Mom, Therese, everyone... I got a job," I said, "so, we can't go to the game and they want me to start immediately, so we gotta go!"

Because it would take me over an hour to get back across the lake and into the studio, I had to pretend I was in my studio for fear I would lose the opportunity. The noise of the restaurant, I felt, was making the producer, suspicious. So, I left a tip and ran outside and into the quiet of my car just as a large airliner descended on its flight path to Armstrong International.

I have such great timing!

I can tell you I have lost jobs because I was not at the right time, at the right place. Needless to say, my cellphone ringing in the bathroom stall at my gym was maybe the right time, but definitely not the right place. I returned the call as quickly as, well, you know... but I was too late! The New York client had, in less than five minutes, found someone else. Knowing that the art buyer found someone probably not as good as me was my only consolation! 

Just as soon as the Airbus 310 passes off into the distance, the art director comes on line and inquires, " Hey Ben, how ya been?" You got a pen and paper to write on?"

"Oh yeh, Joe, " I say. "Let me turn my Daily Reminder to the right page," I said, as I frantically search every compartment in my mobile studio for something to write on.

Finally, I find, in the center console, where cd's used to be stored, some blue and white super absorbent window wipes similar the kind you find at gas station kiosks, to take notes.

"Okay Joe, I got the right page... What'cha got?"

Copyright 2012/Ben Bensen III

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Young Cajun Girl Celebrates Bastille Day...

Young lady dances the two-step and steals the show!

This is my second year celebrating Bastille Day at the local library here in Folsom, LA. Bastille Day, which is celebrated in Louisiana every July 14th, herald's France's independence from the monarchy way back in the guillotine days of 1789. The program presents a mixed bag of American, French, American Indian, and Acadian history and how each contributed to the culture of southern Louisiana over the past three or four hundred years. The speaker is a friend of mine, Bernie David, who is part Acadian and part Mi'kmaq Indian, and one who brought along with his folklore, bag of artifacts, percussion instruments and native indian customs, his accordion.

And, two other Cajun musicians, Ed Delaony on violin and Gill Gerard, on acoustic guitar.

It didn't take long to get the blood stirring and the toes 'a tappin'.  Let me tell you, historical forays into Lewis and Clark, the War of 1812 and the Louisiana purchase, are all well and, well... educational, but it all pales when compared with that "chanka, chanka, chanka rhythm and bayou whine of Bernie's accordion. After a spirited singalong of "You are my Sunshine," it didn't take long for many in the audience to kick up their heels on the makeshift dance floor in a waltz or two step shuffle.
As there was at last year's program, an aged dance instructor from the "Northshore Cajun Dancers" club, offered lessons to any of the ladies who might be so bold to try and follow his lead and Bernie's Ah-EEEEEEE! He managed to intercept a few prospects as they went back for second helpings of jambalaya and boudin, which was excellently prepared by the library volunteers. 

During the two hour program, Bill managed to instruct just about half of the ladies there to the finer points of the two step, but the best and most entertaining student he had was a young lady named Haley, who managed to keep up with him and actually do it with a little bit of her own "pizzazz!" She and Bill had everyone laughing and clapping along until her sandal got caught on the rug and they both came crashing down to the carpet. Bill, who must be well into his seventies, bounced right back up with a little help, but Haley seemed embarrassed and ran off to her mother who was standing back behind the book rack.

But after the initial fear that someone might have gotten hurt in the fall, the audience's gasp turned into applause as they encouraged the little lady to come back out and finish the song.

And with everyone's approval and a big smile, Haley came back out to "center stage," took Bill's hand and did just that!

Copyright 2012/Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Isleford Island and "View of the Bay"...

The local parking lot!
Flowers were plentiful on the island!
We decided to take the ferry to some islands to avoid the bad weather. It drizzled most of the time we were on Isleford Island. There really wasn't much to see on this island which is part of the "grand tour" of the Cranberry Islands. Therese and I walked and snapped photos for about a half mile up the road, which really led to nowhere. There were flowers everywhere, on the lawns and in empty lots and everywhere, landscaped like the church's front entrance or just wild. I surmised the spring and summer time being so short this far north, plants take the immediate opportunity of warmth and sun while they can. 

 A native riding uphill on a golf cart laughed quizically when we asked her what was here for a tourist to see. She mentioned three buildings that sat just a few hundred feet from the harbor that we thought we had already investigated thoroughly.

Apparently not!

From the landing dock, a view of the co-op dock
and to the left of it, the Isleford Dock restaurant.
One on one pier was a co-op fish market, the other pier housed an art gallery and a restaurant and the other building housed a museum, which had steps leading from the double doors onto an uncut lawn. At the museum, there was actually a ranger giving tours, but it was only Tee and me, so we got the elite tour. The museum was full of artifacts from the fishing village's past including whaling tools, model ships and displays. It was, especially since we got the royal tour, quite educational. 

We would, later the next day, meet that same ranger on the big island giving a nature walk along the craggy, southeast part of Acadia National Forest.

From the outside, the restaurant/ art gallery, appeared a derelict shack running the length of a pier which looked even worse than the building itself. But once you entered the restaurant, it was totally together with views that covered almost 270 degrees of the bay. The interior walls were whitewashed with a knotty pine roof and large beams that continued invitingly from the bar to the art gallery, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The artwork wasn't gonna win any great contests, but it was more competent than most tourist trap offerings.

The food was excellent and priced like the owners appreciated your travels from the big island to this humble abode. Since, Therese and I are not frequent lobster diners, I can't really say it was the best I've ever had, but it was certainly big enough and tasty enough for me to recommend it to any one we met on the big island. The rest of the meal, cornbread, clam chowder and a veggie was also great, but the homemade wild blueberry crumble with ice cream was really the topper. It seemed there were wild blueberries everywhere on the island.

The whole experience was welcoming especially since it was a rather wet, gloomy day with not much else to see.
Me after lobster, blueberry crumble, coffee and a sketch...
My sketch, complete with spilled coffee, though unfinished, reminded me of a gruff, old, hostess at a South Pasadena sports bar where we would always take our son for pizza. After asking our son if the team won or lost, he'd asked us if we preferred a table with "a view of the bay" which amounted to a large grassy medium that separated the four lanes of Huntington Drive as it headed west toward Alhambra.

This time, not only was the food great, but we actually had, a great view of the bay!

Copyright2012/Ben Bensen III 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Just An American And Celebrating That Fact Today...

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emmanuel Leutze
Without getting into the historical aspects of this painting, which y'all probably know has more about it that is incorrect than correct, for instance, river icebergs, crossing in the daylight, wrong flag, and too small a boat...etc, etc, I just want to maybe use it as visual celebration of all that is so good about America.

I can be a pretty cynical and embittered son of a bitch after my sixty plus years on earth, but today I just want to be, I don't know, "patriotic!" Maybe, it has to do with my recent trip to the New England states, rich with all that incredible history that has me feeling this way. Somehow, it seems to be a real big thing there. Maybe, it is because the citizens have to hibernate until almost late May that makes July 4th  so important to the eastern shore. In Louisiana, Bastille Day, at least, in the southern part of the state, seems somehow more important to the populace. I don't know if I can get the same goosebumps on that  day than I get on July 4th.

Today, call me the naivete. Life, in my humble opinion, isn't black or white! Screw Romney, screw Obama Care, screw, Dey-do-run Ron Paul, to hell with politicing, corporate greed, pedophilia, homophobia, isolationistic baloney, economic armageddon, and all that hell in a hand basket crap. I'm not a republican, not a democrat, not an independent, hate being prejudged and pigeon holed and denigrated by friends and relatives for "sittin' on a fence" and not picking a side.
I guess that's what artists do... I guess.

If you must, "Bother me tomorrow, today, I 'll buy no sorrow... Doit-do-do, Lookin' Out My Back Door!"

Actually, I'm taking my mom and brother and family to a ball game and a late night fireworks show!

Happy Birthday, America... now, git outta here, you crazee!

Copyright 2012/Ben Bensen III

Monday, July 2, 2012

While I Was Gone, The Hits Just Keep On Coming...

Retif Oil shortstop Tony Fortier-Bensen ’11 has one of the hottest bats around in
American Legion baseball. Fortier-Bensen takes a strike here but two pitches 
later, slams a triple, his seventh of the season during Wednesday’s (June 27)
4-0 win against Brother Martin-based Peake BMW. It was the second 
time Retif shutout Peake this season. Fortier-Bensen’s play on the 
field and in the batter’s box is one of the reasons Retif boasts a 
17-1 record. In 34 at-bats in 10 games, Fortier-Bensen has 15 
hits, 21 RBIs, and 13 runs for Retif. He owns one of the 
highest batting averages .441 in the league.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

With the Passing of Rodney King...

Bill Robles sent me this portrait!
I haven't posted much on this blog, lately. My last entry was a story my octogenarian mother told me about declining a nun's invite to join their ranks, but Bill Robles, who was and continues to be a court reporter for CBS, sent me this courtroom sketch of Rodney King, so I just had to share it.

I personally think Bill is one of our profession's national treasures having witnessed with his talent so many important historical moments like the trials of Charlie Manson, the Menendez twins, O.J. Simpson trials, Patty Hearst, Robert Blake, Lee Marvin's divorce case and just a while back reported visually on the Jarod Loughner case.

Hmmm, I wonder if he's in the courtroom now, sketching Jerry Sandusky?

Copyright 2012/Ben Bensen III

Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Nope. I Can't Be a Nun"...

Well, my mom's slowly losing her memory but...
Art Linkletter's television program years ago was called, "Kids Say the Darndest Things!" but you could easily replace that with, "Octogenarians Say the Darndest Things!" because they do. Now, it is not my style to make fun of anyone especially those from that "greatest generation." Heaven knows that group has been through enough and seen enough to get my respect forever. I only hope to be able to put on a happy face and continue to lust for life like so many of them do.

And, my mom is definitely one of them.

All that being said, mom still has a penchant for twisting reality in her story telling and blurting out one liners that have you guessing whether she still has it or, it has long since gone on the wings of a bird. I've actually started taking notes on her various quips and quotes.

Just the other day, she "entertained" a male nurse who had come by to see how her health was doing. The nurse, who looked to be pushing seventy or so, somehow got talking about the good, old days. He touched on certain topics just to get my mom engaged, but she wasn't playing along until he mentioned to me his television viewing habits and I made the mistake of saying that this time of year, I only watch the weather channel and baseball games. After my momentary cringe, I cringed again when he asked her...

"Mimi, do you enjoy baseball?"

Well, now we are talking. Stories I heard a thousand times over the years and seldom told the same way twice, mom gave him an ear full. Stories about longing to be with the boys playing baseball, cutting her hair short, hiding her hair wrapped under the cap, begging her father and coach, Pops Fortier to allow her to compete with the guys. Stories about bunting with two strikes, tagging out ball players in double plays and hitting home runs just to show the boys she was no slouch.

Oh man, I've heard it all. My whole family was baseball... both sides of the family. My dad could have been a contender had not the war interfered with his game. When he returned from the jungles of the Pacific, we found out he had contracted a bad case of malaria, which effectively put him, as least in his mind, on the pine forever. I was just a little guy when I saw my father shake violently and beg for my covers to keep him warm. It is the only time, I believe, that I ever saw my dad really sick.

Dad rarely spoke about those baseball days though he continued to play amateur ball, company softball and evidently was honored locally, by the Diamond Club, for his thirty-five years of service to the community of baseball, as an umpire. Yeh, dad rarely spoke about those days, but mom did!

Her favorite, of the many tales she wove, was how she was challenged by the nun/coach to win the game with a home run hit. Mom didn't take kindly to people doubting her abilities as a female ball player.

Or as anything else, for that matter.

Well, she took up the challenge that the nun gave her. Like Casey at the Bat, she confidently took one strike, two strikes and then, POW... long fly ball, hit deep, going back, going back... gone!

She never ever mentioned any fence that the ball went clear, clean over, but the story continues. Apparently, the flustered, black cassocked, Catholic coach didn't like this girl's bravado and said that the home run didn't count because she didn't actually see the hit. ( I've often wonder, at this point of the story, just who were they playing and where were the umpires! ) So, like a D.I. in the Marine Corps that lost count of how many push ups a recruit has completed and demands that recruit start over again, this nun, according to the story, demanded she get up and bat again. Sometimes in the story, the pitch count changes, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes, she's knocking the dirt off of her spikes to dig in and get a better footing sometimes, it seems, she played bare footed.  Tension mounts as she adjusts her cap, rolled up her sleeves, spit in her hands for a better grip, etc.

By now, she's got the nurse on the edge of his seat... as he continues monitoring mom's blood pressure.

BAM! The ball flies out over everyone's head and as the young, brash ballplayer stares down the flight of the ball as it soars high and deep into the outfield. And, as she struts across the bases, you can just guess what happened next... according to the story. Mom goes Babe Ruth on the nun as she points to the area where the ball landed. Everyone cheered... except possibly, the nun. Who knows how many laps my mom's antics caused the team to run. We'll never know because the story usually ends with great fanfare and jubilation.

But this time, my mom ends the saga with a new twist.

"You know, the nuns were always after me to become one of them, but I had no intention," she says. "They'd always tell me what a great asset God would have with me becoming a nun!"

"No way," I said.

Now, I'm thinking, she's not gonna tell the nurse her excuse for not becoming a nun was purely sexual or mention, with a twinkle in her eye, what a great "dancer" my father was... which, of course in those days, meant the same thing! Oh no, I thought to myself.

"No sir, she said. "I told them nuns that I couldn't become a nun because I liked baseball too much!"

The Little Rascals, Spanky McFarland's classic double take had nothing on my gaping mouth and wide eyed surprise.

"Nope, I can't be a nun cause I love baseball too much!"

Copyright 2017/ Ben Bensen III

Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Bubbles" In A Limited Edition Print...

Limited edition print!
Well, finally, here it is! My poster for the Land Grant Polo Event on Sunday, May 20th from Noon till 5:30 pm... or so! Of course, this is the "rgb" digital interpretation with type and a little Photoshop sweetning! I am happy with this effort... Lord knows what the printed version will look like!

We'll just have to wait and see!

Funny, I was, at first, inspired by an old Bart Forbes illustration, which I got from Leif Peng's illustration blog at:

It then took me to my own personal file on Forbe's illustrations. I originally was thinking in these terms for the poster, but I couldn't make the imagery work to my own satisfaction. My piece, now, only has traces of Bart Forbes in it, but it was only because of my own inability to graphically represent what Forbes seems to do so effortlessly that I caved in and went to another "me."

Not that I am not happy with my own work... I am!

But, every time I run across a Forbes illustration it reminds me of a conversation I had with Bob Rodriquez, a fellow New Orleanian from way back, and an excellent artist in his own right. He and I were admiring a Forbes that had been entered in the Society of Illustrators/Los Angeles annual 'best of" show.

Well, actually, we were both drooling over it when Bob says, "His work seems so effortless, though I know he puts a lot of thought into the design before he ever begins the final piece. But it doesn't look fussed over or rendered... I love his work! I wish I could think that way." I agreed, but before I could share my thoughts about his work, Bob interjects, "I agonize over every little texture... every nuance! I wish I could paint like that." He does in a weekend what takes me weeks to complete!"

Knowing how incredible Bob's art is, I just had to agree with his assessment of himself and his style.

And after all these years, how true his words speak for the assessment of my own art!

By the way, if anyone is interested in supporting this cause, you can order a limited edition print for $25 unsigned and $30 signed by calling (985) 542-5006 or email Land Trust of Southeastern Louisiana at:

P.S. I'd be flattered to personally sign your poster!

Copyright 2015-2016/Ben Bensen III

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Bubbles" Poster... Some Type And A Tweak Or Two!

The layout formerly named, "Bubbles"...
As I have noted quite a few times, there were many funerals to attend and write about in the last two months, but, presumably, here is something a lot more fun. I was asked to create a limited edition poster for the inaugural "Conservation Cup Polo Event," promoting the polo festivities on Sunday, May 20th at Leah Farms in Folsom, LA. It is a fund raiser creating an awareness to conserving Louisiana's natural resources through the Land Trust of Southeastern Louisiana.

I finally finished this painting late last night and sent it to studio to be photographed digitally for reproduction. I alerted the photographer to take care when handling it because some sections were still drying. I originally envisioned the piece in acrylic, but decided to use oils since I hadn't painted people in acrylics in over a year and oils take days to completely dry even with the use of a dryer.

I had no time for mistakes.

About a month ago, I sketched out three concepts to present to the client and after a little bit of selling, the board chose this layout, which I called, "Bubbles" because of the circular aspect of piece emanating from the champagne glass. There were many aspects of the event as well as the reasons for the event to consider visually. I could have easily added five or six more insets to help tell the story, but wisely, the board and I felt some could be used to continue the cause... next year. You can view the three original sketches on my other site at:

I once thought the entire painting should be encased in an entire circular bubble with other circular insets embedded within the central piece, but when I noticed the limitations of the paper size, I was glad I decided to go conservative. For fun, I added some personal visual effects that may or may not be noticed by anyone but me.

Anyway, when I pick up the painting tomorrow morning, I will probably do some adjusting, tweaking and cleaning up some edges in Photoshop and hopefully, not have to color correct anything. ( I'm paying out of my pocket to have this shot professionally, so I won't have any surprises.) And then, it is off to the printer.

I hope everyone likes it enough to purchase a copy and maybe, have me sign it for them!

Copyright 2012/ Ben Bensen III