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