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