Monday, December 30, 2013

"So Much A Part Of Our Lives…In So Many Ways!"

Another special waitress in our lives who was a part of our lives in South Pasadena.
A friend sent me your article on Maggie and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Everything you said about her was right on. I loved your comment.

"We tend to commemorate the glamorous and spectacular in Los Angeles, and we celebrate those who beat long odds. But maybe we too often overlook the people who toil in anonymity, bringing dignity and pride to their work, and going out of their way to touch lives and give meaning to our daily routines."

I was a student at Art Center College of Design in the mid seventies and when the college moved to Pasadena, we students found a late night place to drink coffee, have a knosh, and converse about art. Back then, the Salt Shaker was the only place that was opened past midnight.

As it happened, once I graduated and started working, I bought a place in South Pasadena, not too far from the restaurant. Maggie was still there, serving it up! She loved watching our son, Brian, grow up. We'd sit and draw pictures and she'd get a kick out of his scribbles.  And yes, she knew my favorite dish for so many years, "The Great Eggs Incognito" with extra chili and an English muffin, well done.

My little story is a mind blower. In 2001, after living and working in South Pasadena, we returned back to the bayou north of New Orleans, which is our original home. Occasionally, since we left, I'd return to  South Pas, and have my favorite dish for old times sake. Margaret was on another shift, I guess, because if I saw her, I, like others, would have requested a table where she was working.

But last time I was in town, around Christmas, I saw Margaret and requested one of her tables. Though I'd been to the Shakers, as it then, became known, I hadn't seen her in, at least,eight or ten years or so. After some holiday greetings and a brief chit chat, she asked me what I wanted for breakfast and before I could get the words out, she giggled and ordered my regular. 

"Maggie, I said, there are many things I miss having move back to Louisiana, and you are definitely one on the top of my list!"

Guess I will be missing her for a long time, now.

This is my response to the LA Times reporter who wrote this article, Steve Lopez.

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

Thursday, December 26, 2013

"Sometimes, Ya Gotta Do What'cha Gotta Do… A Follow Up!"

Mom better not find out her name was misspelled… 
Some friends mentioned wanting to see my mother's picture in two of the local newspapers. What's the big deal about that?

Well, I composed a blog the afternoon I returned home with my mom, who was just as "happy as spiked punch" with the reception she received about the Santa's baseball cap I gave her to wear earlier that morning. I didn't think it was a big deal and actually had to sell her the idea of wearing such a "chapeaux." I never thought it would be a highlight of the season here in Mandeville, LA. There's no need to rewrite that story, which explains the "high drama" hilarity. You can read about, at:

Santa's baseball cap was a hit… with the "paparazzi" as well as the media, and here's the proof!

Ho, Ho, Ha…

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

"Christmas Will Never Be The Same Without You"...

A Christmas promo a few years back…

Brian, you know that I am a Christmas freak. I love this time of year whether here in Louisiana or your hometown, South Pasadena. There's no heart for trimming the house with lights, Christmas trees, mistletoe or stockings hung from the chimney mantlepiece, but your mom and I will still celebrate His birth and Santa's special gifts. Christmas is always great, but it will never be the same without you. It's just that we'll miss you so much…

We'll toast you at dinner man… So much!


Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

Friday, December 20, 2013

"Daddy's Drinking Up Our Christmas!"… And Other Great Seasonal Vibes!

The gift that kept on giving until it is left on the car's dashboard.

There was a time when cassettes were all the rage. Maybe, to understand it, is to remember the convenience of having ninety minutes of uninterrupted music at your disposal. No album to flip over or replay. You could cram both sides of three entire albums on one tape. You could design your own play list, overdub, overlap, fade in, fade out, make poignant statements politically, socially, musically, emotionally, comically… whatever.

It all seems so silly and insignificant nowadays, but...

There was a time, I'd take my date to a movie and afterward, have dinner at the hippest hamburger joint in New Orleans, The Ground Patti. It was so cool to snuggle in your "CPO" next to a roaring fire and listen to uninterrupted tunes on a reel to reel tape machine. And, as a twenty year old, eating there was a definite upgrade from Burger King!

Ah, the simple pleasures…

Years later, much to the disdain of many of my musically sophisticated friends who just hated Christmas music, save one or two songs from their childhood, I made cassettes of Christmas music. I made them with all kinds of music from the baroque to ultimate classics like Nat King Cole's, "Christmas Song," which has to be in my top twenty five songs ever.

Eugene Rappolo's version of Judy Garland's," Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," is also one of my favorite tunes. "Stax/Volt's" collection of risqué and raunchy, tunes like"Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'"and the country corn tear jerkers like "Daddy's Drinking Up Our Christmas!"were just a sample of the kind of tunes I'd record to tape.

As a part of the fun of giving these thank you gifts to my clients, was creating, along with the discography, the artwork for the cassette holders. I enjoyed creating them for my collection whether it was a cassette of Beatles hits or a Christmas concept of all "Silent Night" tunes. I made a Cajun Christmas cover, a Country Christmas with Santa's tip of the hat, and a Black and White Christmas, which had "white" Christmas tunes on one side and soulful, rhythm and blues and doo wop tunes on the other side. I thought juxtaposing Bing's, "White Christmas" with the Drifter's version was pretty illuminating, as well as, entertaining.

Some disagreed. They didn't appreciate the visual of a split Christmas tree, black on one side and white on the other. C'est la vie!

There was a time, I feared that I'd run out of Christmas material, but after a dozen years of gift giving, the technology changed and beat me to the need to find new ideas. In a way, I sort of, lost interest.

Also, by that time, the culture and how we connected and worked together had changed. The computer made it unnecessary to physically be in the agency interacting with creatives like art directors, production people, account execs and designers. It was time to move on...

But, I still have my original cassettes and, here's a picture of some of the artwork I created in those crazy, conceptual, cassette days.

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

*Some folks asked me for the url to the title of this blog, so here it is: Quick get out the hankies!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Sometimes Ya Gotta Do What'cha Gotta Do!"

This is a sketch I did this time last year while enjoying a SoCal Christmas...
But this Holiday Season, the sketch is not the story… Santa's baseball cap is. As it so often happens, the holidays create all kinds of personal deadlines, misinformation, confusion and panic! When it is not about me, but involves me, I can get a bit irritated.

For weeks, I knew my mother's Christmas bash at the senior center was on December 11th. That was then, and this is now and this is,

"Oh crap…that is, today?" This morning? What time?

"Okay," I say. "Let's find something festive that is, hopefully, in red and green!"

The day before we argued rather vehemently over my mom's insistence that she didn't need a bath. After cooling off, she went in hiding, and I had a glass of merlot to forgot about the argument... and, everything else pertaining to my mom. Then, Sonya, our CNA and old folks/farts psychologist and, part time bar tender, came by to smooth out the rough edges and bathed my mom. She is a definite godsend, in so many ways!

So, as I am clothing my mom quickly and rather haphazardly so we wouldn't be late, I'm thinking about a broach or pin or something I could attached to her that would make her feel more festive when she walked into the senior center.

You know how most women are, at any age… grand entrances and all.

Though I don't like rummaging through my wife's jewelry and such, to find something appropriate, I did. I promised myself that later I would put everything back to where it belonged. Going through my wife's stuff always bothers me and I try not to do it unless I really, really, really have to. It goes back to my childhood when I'd see my father occasionally rummage through my mother's purse looking for money to buy milk, bread or gas.

It's sacred ground to me. It's kinda like reading someone's diary without them knowing it. It's a violation of a person's space and it makes me always feel uncomfortable.

But, this was an emergency and so I dove in to scrounge anything I could find, but I couldn't. I could not find anything that was seasonal except a gold pendant of a reindeer that I purchased for my wife years ago. There was no way that I was gonna pin that on mom. I liked it too much, and I'd be really angry if my mom somehow lost it. I'd probably be more angry than my wife would be.

Then, all of a sudden, like Santa hit me in the head with a snowball, I remembered my Santa baseball cap. Yeh, that's the ticket! Most of the time, my family begs me to not wear it on Christmas day. I guess they are embarrassed by my attempt to be so festive! But, this is different, and so what, if it isn't very feminine. My mom always tells anyone, who is a captured audience, about her days pretending to be a boy and playing ball. Or, the time she showed a nun her athletic prowess and superiority by hitting a home run to "win the game."

Not just once, but twice, in the same time at bat.

The story is, as told by my mother, entertaining, and a classic bag of baloney because she's told it so many times that the story has taken on it's own life. C'est la vie!

In the end, it all worked out. I was able to just barely convince mom that the combination of Christmas and baseball was sure to be "a hit."I was able to remind her fleeting mind that she could use the combination to tell everyone all her childhood baseball stories. I even provided her a mirror so she could see herself with the cap on and make the necessary adjustments to her satisfaction. Fuzzy pom pom to the left, fuzzy pom pom to the right! She went for it, but all the way from Folsom to the Mandeville Community Center, which is about a twenty mile drive, she primped, hopefully assuring my assertions that she'd be the belle of the ball… base-ball, cap and all!

Well, not only was she the subject of many a paparazzi, but two "community section" newspaper photographers snapped away happily as my mom ham-ed it up. And, of course, she made sure that they spelled her complete name completely correct. That is, Mimi ( not Miriam ) Fortier Bensen!

See ya in the papers, y'all… and thanks, Santa!

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"Another Nixon Galloway Watercolor"… Number Fourteen!"

A tri-motor minus two engines?
In 1925, Stout brought out the 2-AT Pullman, a high wing conventional gear monoplane. The aircraft featured decorated side panels, padded seats, semi-circular opening windows, and a bathroom.  The all metal airframe was covered with that distinctive corrugated metal skin apparently to prevent rust and corrosion. It was the first all-metal aircraft certified in America and was one of the first single engine aircrafts to commercially carry more passengers. It was eventually redesigned to accommodate three engines, becoming the Stout 3-AT Tri-motor, and later was redesigned to become the more well-known Ford Tri-Motor. 

Development hastened with the infusion of resources from Ford. The rugged Stout could carry up to 10 passengers including the pilot. It could also carry a huge load of freight and mail. Its 400 hp engine enabled the Stout to cruise at 116 mph. This aircraft is responsible for the start of the multi engine airliner, the Ford Tri-Motor which was essentially a three engine version of the Stout 2-AT Pullman.

I thought it was pretty cool of Nick to keep that cool aluminum feel to the watercolor realizing that it was, at the time, the first successful all metal transport. I don't know if he did this purposefully, but I like to think so!

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Now, I Ask You… Which One Would You Send?"

Which one to choose!
Hey everyone, I submitted two paintings at the New Orleans Arts Council for purchasing. Selected work will be placed on walls in the city facilities including new and existing fire stations and police stations in Orleans Parish. And, guess what? I made it to the final round of juried pieces. 


My only problem, that y'all can help me with, is which of the two paintings do you think I should frame and send to the council to be judged and awarded? Most of my Facebook friends are familiar with these two paintings. Let me know which you think is the better one to send for the jury to accept. I don't need to make a final decision till next week, so there's plenty of time for me to receive your vote. I'd be really helpful to me to have y'all's opinion. 

The flowered one is 24"x48" and is entitled, "Ward's Azaleas" and is my largest plein air piece to date. It was painted in five different non-consectutive days at about five hours each session on my neighbor's property. The other one is entitled, "A Closer Walk With Thee!" and is 16"x20" and completed in the studio. It was painted from photo reference and took me about the same amount of time. Both were painted in oils on linen canvas!

New Orleans is a jazz music town, so the clarinet player is the obvious choice, but at a smaller size, even when framed, it will get swallowed up in the huge government building full of halls and walls.

The flowered one is more visible and more relaxing and sedate, if indeed, it ends up on the walls of the new police facility, that might be an important consideration. And, of course, I'd get paid more for the larger painting than the smaller.

So, as you can see, I've muddled up my own decision with too much marketing logic and I need fresher eyes, and opinions to blast me out of my own emotional stalemate.

So, what'dya think? Wanna play?

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Three Rivers Sale… " Lazy Lagoon."

The question; to add the riggings, or to not!

The art festival in downtown Covington, LA, ended two weekends ago and, for me, there was much to learn about marketing your own fine art. I had the pleasure and good fortune to have a few local artists, guide me in the right direction. Most of my experience is from the advertising world and, I find, promotional material is pretty much done in a different way than fine art.

I didn't hesitate to display my commercial work, but most of it was in slideshow form on one of my laptops and it wasn't as effective as I had hoped mainly because of a computer preference which constantly went to sleep mid slideshow. A minor glitch, that will be rectified… next time around.

I really enjoyed talking to artists of all varied disciplines and getting their opinions and insights that come from years of participation in the many venues available. I found it interesting that all the artists I spoke with just loved talking about themselves, their experiences and their art. I was amazed how effective the placement of my paintings were to enhance a better traffic pattern in and around my booth. A large 2'x4' painting centered on the back portion of the booth caught everyone's attention whether they stopped for a better look or not, but  my "Little Yellow Truck"seemed to spark conversations more than any of the other works.

A good friend of mine told me it would… and she was right!

I did manage to sell one painting on the first day. Of the two sailboat paintings I showed, it is the one I like the best and, to tell the truth, it is still one of my favorites of all of my plein air efforts.  I entitled it, "Lazy Lagoon."

It was kinda how I felt at the time I painted it and I guess it came through in the painting!

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

Thursday, November 21, 2013

"A Thirty-Fourth Birthday Celebration…If Only!"

Brian hated getting dressed up!
It seems our son, at a young age, would prefer to do anything except get dressed up to go out and eat. Although he never expressed his feelings very well or often, his facial expressions said all that there was to know. Brian was a kid that seldom stopped moving, and if he did, it certainly wasn't to eat at a restaurant. Any restaurant!

We once took him to an English Tea Room in Pasadena, close to where we lived. We sort of knew it wasn't a good idea, especially if we wanted to pretend we were somewhere in posh England nibbling on cucumber sandwiches and sipping tea. Brian loved practicing his baseball swing. He had a portfolio of batting stances and swings that he was quite proud of. Will Clark, Rod Carew, Tony Gwynn, Ken Griffey, Jr. and so on, and when he got bored, like shopping with mom at a clothing store, he'd start swinging away perfecting the nuances of one of his heroes and impressing all his friends with his expertise.

Many an elderly woman has dodged his left handed Will Clark swing when he had two strikes on him.

Anyway, it didn't take more than a second cup of tea to have our son knock over a large picture of the Queen that was resting comfortably atop the piano, which knocked over a bunch of knicknacks and pattiwacks… and a Union Jack. I believe it was his patented Ken Griffey, Jr. home run imitation that did the Mother Queenie in.

 "Never in the field of human conflict has so much damage been caused to so many, by so few!"

We weren't asked to leave by the nervous, but understanding patrons or staff, but I think they hoped we'd consider a "Mickey D's" next time!

One Easter Sunday, after mass, we decided to celebrate at another rather upscale restaurant that required Brian to don on a blazer and tie. Groan, groan, fidget-fidget, squirm squirm as mom tried to wrestle him in to his formal attire. Once he was in the car and we were on our way, Brian keep his thoughts to himself until we arrived at the parking lot of The Velvet Turtle, which was located off of Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena.

Naturally, Therese tried to assuage the pouty, recalcitrant young man by giving him all kinds of kudos and compliments. 

"Oh Brian, you and Daddy look so good all dressed up, and look at that little turtle on the sign!" See, he's eating here and he's all dressed up too!"

Brian's retort was short and quite poignant when he said,"Yeh Mom, and he doesn't look comfortable either!"

Great memories abound and Therese and I are savoring each and every one. Today, November 21, like in days from our past, we are celebrating our son's birthday. It would have been, here on earth, Brian's thirty-fourth birthday, today.

Copyright 2013/Ben Bensen III

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Once Again, File It Under... "The Mind Is A Terrible Thing!"

My P-47 Thunderbolt forty minute demo sample...

It is just too hilarious. I just don't understand what is the matter with me, sometimes.

About a month ago, an administrator for the Three Rivers Art Festival asked me if I was interested in doing a demonstration in paint because they had a slot to fill at noon on Saturday. I could paint or sketch any subject matter I choose, so in a Jack Leynnwood moment, I told the woman that I'd love to do the one hour demo…

…kinda like Jack used to at Art Center.

I was a student at Art Center a long time ago when Jack Leynnwood taught product and marker rendering. I won't go in depth about the man's credentials, professionally, except to say that as a teacher he was always demonstrating rendering techniques. He'd usually illustrate with acrylics, casein or gouache. Jack wasn't a guy that philosophized about art and the aesthetics of it. He used to lick the end of the brush, no matter what medium, ( to my knowledge, he seldom worked in oils! ) and his favorite art pencil was a Ticonderoga No.2. In other words, he was just a plain Joe doing his job!

And, he did it in class "in any key!"

Well always, in my mind, I have these visions of grandeur where there are tons of people in the audience just waiting for me to show them the way. It's not unlike the visualization techniques that athletes go through before a big play or game. I envisioned lots of kids, mostly boys, just clamoring for a lesson on how to paint a big, bad World War II aircraft. I visualized every aspect of rendering the big, silver plane with bold black and white invasion stripes. I thought about what I'd say using shapes to capture the true form, warm and cool colors, reflected light on a metallic surface, and how to maintain the center axis for all the important points in perspective. And then, when I'm finished with the painting, everyone could put their name in a hat, ( which I forgot to bring! ) and, at the end of the day, in my booth, I would pull out the name of the lucky winner of the illustration.

"Ta Dah!"

But, for me, the reality almost never happens that way. And, the reality of this demonstration was sadly, all too real. It's not like I've never given demonstrations before. If you've been in the business any length of time, eventually, you will get asked to teach or give a demo of your style or philosophy. I've taught classes at some pretty good art schools and given promo demos and such all through my years in Southern California. So, you'd think by now, I'd get a grip on my runaway imagination and self absorbed ego.

You would think!

First off, I actually drove to the festival site without my easel and paints and had to turn back around  for home to pick them up. It made me late setting up the rest of my booth in the morning. Just before noon, a block monitor came by to watch my booth as I took off, on time, to get my supplies from the car, which was parked in an "artists only" lot that was close to the demo tent. When I arrived at my car, I realized that I had left my car keys back at the booth which was three long, crowded blocks away.

By the time I returned to the "Artist's Alive Tent" with my easel, palette, water bucket and acrylic paints, I had less than forty-five minutes to paint... ANYTHING! With another artist waiting in the wings to do his metal works demonstration, I didn't have any extra time to embellish. This was in no way how I had envisioned my demonstration going. Now, the best I could hope for was an explanation of the use of ellipsis when drawing a form as mechanical as an automobile or airplane and possibly, fling some paint around.

What you see at the top of this page is a D-back Thunderbolt painted under duress. It is the result of a demo gone terribly wrong. Had there been a real audience asking questions, I never would have gotten past the initial drawing. ( I believe, including my wife, I had about six mildly interested viewers! )

Having given myself a few days to reflect, I guess I can say that at best, the experience reminds me of just how incredibly hard it is to demonstrate in a classroom situation under time restraints. Also, how one must not expect perfection to the point where it stifles or interferes with the learning process. Jack was a professional and never worried about making mistakes to the point where it stopped him from demonstrating.

At the very least, I can understand the process enough to actually laugh at my attempt to replicate a Jack Leynnwood moment…

And, probably, so can Jack!

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III 

Friday, November 8, 2013

"Countdown To Three Rivers… Minus One!"

Paula and the Big Belgian...
Well, this is my last new painting which I just completed. I don't know if it will make the show tomorrow or not…
…but I'll be there!

I was invited to a polo event years ago and I was impressed by all the incredible horses that were paraded around the polo field about an hour before game time.

One, in particular, struck my fancy. I brought my sketchbook, but there was no time for that. So, I clicked away in the bright November sunlight. I must have taken about twenty pictures of this big Belgian, but it wasn't until about three years later, never knowing that she was the person who rode the horse that I photographed, that I befriended the woman who road this beauty.

Her name is Paula Alario and the big, bad Belgian's name is Tinkerbell. I never would, in my right mind, have guess that that was her name…


Look forward to seeing y'all sometime this weekend. The weather's gonna be gorgeous!

Copyright 2013/Ben Bensen III

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"Countdown to "Three Rivers Art Festival"… Two days left!

The stone bridge at City Park...
This is a piece I finished about a month ago is 16"x 20" in size and was painted in the studio from a plethora of photos I shot on two different days. I will be showing it at the Three Rivers Art Festival this coming weekend, but slightly changed. After looking at it for a while, I thought it needed a bit more atmosphere with lighted palm "frawns" and a few more lagoon lily pads.


Any one who is familiar with City Park in New Orleans, is very familiar with this stone icon. As a kid, I remember playing "Army" dressed in full combat gear ( circa World War II ) with my other soldier buddies attempting to attack or defend the bridge at all costs. That was a long time ago, and the bridge survived our attacks and many other catastrophes over the years.

It was a fun piece to paint and I suspect I will be doing a few more of these over time. In fact, if I had a few more hours of drying time, I probably would go back into this one to make an adjustment or two, though regardless, I really am happy with how nice it turned out!

You know how we artists are… never satisfied!

Copyright 2013/Ben Bensen III

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Countdown to Three Rivers Art Festival…Three Days Left! "The Lily Pad Broke And..."

It Ain't Gonna Rain No More...

This is kind of an onsite plein air piece. About once a week, I have to check on things at my mom's home in New Orleans. When I do, I always try to set up a luncheon with an old friend or peruse the city for interesting things to paint.

There was a show of paintings at NOMA in City Park that I was interested in seeing. It was by an illustrator that, in a series of small paintings, documented a local celebrity chef named Leah Chase. The show wasn't what I expected, but any visit to this art gallery is worth the trip.

And it is free, on Wednesday.

Anyway, I happened to have my easel and paints with me, so I dove in and painted this lily and its "pad" from the huge fountain in front of the museum. I didn't do a very good job of painting the scene because I felt rather conspicuous playing artist in front of this huge, beautiful building. Luckily, it was only my insecurities that got in the way.

 No one stopped to look over my shoulder.

After about an hour, I decided to pack it up and drive back home before the commuter traffic started. Lucky for me, I decided to take a few shots with my... ahem, clamshell cell phone because months later, I visited the park and found the fountain was gone.

I don't know if it is being refurbished, replaced or just discarded, but one thing was for sure, the lily pad broke and hopefully, the frog split before falling and receiving the embarrassment of getting "water in his eye!"

So, here is, waiting to be displayed in my tent this coming Saturday and Sunday at the Three Rivers Art Fest on the downtown streets of Covington Louisiana. Waiting for whomever finds it as intriguing as I do. For info concerning the festival, go to:


A giant lily and it's pad, captured beautifully for posterity!

Copyright 2013/Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Countdown to Three Rivers Art Festival..." A Closer Walk With Thee!"

Getting Jazzy in the French Quarter...
Down to five days before the show.  Here's another  painting I've completed in 2013 for the Three Rivers Art Festival coming this weekend on November 9th and 10th. I only have a few more days to get my art and act together, but I am not fretting about the quantity of paintings I'll hang for the show. One way or another, I'm gonna have fun, and the great fall weather should make for a wonderful weekend. For info concerning the festival, go to:

It is more about the quality, and I'm pretty happy about that!

Copyright 2013/Ben Bensen III

Monday, November 4, 2013

"Countdown to Three Rivers Art Festival"...

Just for the "plain air" of it...
One of a few on-site paintings I've completed in 2013 for the Three Rivers Art Festival coming this weekend on November 9th and 10th. I only have a few more days to get my art and act together, but besides getting a haircut, posting some of the artwork throughout the week, seems like the best use of my time. For info concerning the festival, go to:

Okay, maybe, the haircut is more important... ha!

Copyright 2013/Ben Bensen III

Friday, October 25, 2013

"That's What I'm Here For... I Think!"

The mind reels... well, at least, mine does!

So, while I'm putzing in the bedroom, making the bed, folding clothes, that kind of stuff, my wife pulls out these little lace insect wings and antenna with cute little fuzzy red ball tips at the end.

Well, like any man, the first that comes to mind... comes to mind.

"Gee babe, I say, We really don't have the time for that... dont'cha think?"

She looks at me puzzled and then, pulls out this brand new red tee shirt and says,

"Can you paint some black dots on this shirt, before I have to leave?"

A bit disappointed, I reply," Sure, glad to... wassup?"

"Well, today's dress up Friday, and all the second grade teachers are wearing this "lady bug" costume, and I thought, maybe you could paint some black dots on this red t-shirt for me."

I laughed because she knew I had an idea of just where two of them should go.

"Don't you dare," she replied.

Thirty minutes later five four inch black circles were painted in acrylic and dried. I yelled to her that that the shirt and all the black dots were ready to go... 

"Another deadline completed, on time and under budget," I said rather sarcastically.

She gathered all of her things, plus the lady bug costume complete with the painted red shirt and all, and said, as she pranced out the studio door...

"So nice, to have an artist round the house!"

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"Another in a Series of Nixon Galloway's Watercolors...Number 13"

Love the yellow wings...
When most aircraft being built in the mid-twenties looked more similar to the WWI trainers that were used as barnstormers all around the country. One entrepreneur enthusiast decided to employ a designer to build a new kind of aircraft.

In 1925, Agnew Larsen began designing a series of biplanes that culminated in the beauty of Mr. Pitcairn's 1927 PA-5 Mailwing. It was used extensively on airmail routes all around the country. It was powered by a Wright Whirlwind J-5 engine rated at 220hp, the PA-5 cruised at 110 mph with a range of an unheard of range of 600 miles.

The Mailwing built of chrome-moly steel, with fabric covered spruce wings was a sight that surely influenced other designers in the coming years. Nixon's interpretation of the Pacific Air Transport PA-5 illustrated the beauty of the Larsen design.

Apparently, besides the aircraft hanging in the Air and Space Museum, there are a few privately owned beauties out there flying.

                                                                  ##Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

" My Book, Rock Lists And Mom's Bibliography!"

Just where is my favorite book?
My mother used to be a volunteer librarian. She went back to college, late in her life, in an effort to learn the library sciences, but took ill before she ever finished college. She now suffers, at the age of 89, from dementia. Gnomes and gremlins haunt her existence, meaning that she can never find things when she needs to. When everything disappears on her, she forgets where those devious munchkins from another world, put her stuff.

Of course, it has never been mom's fault... even when she had all of her faculties.

It has been my fault, since I purchased Dave Marsh's, "Book of Rock Lists" in 1981, that I have misplaced this well worn masterpiece many times. It went missing for years. Thinking it was forever lost, I'd put the book on my Christmas wish list many times.

I guess you've gotta be really into trivia or rock 'n roll or both to really appreciate the importance of this, one of many books, I own on the subject. The six hundred and fifty page book in just filled with really insignificant stuff like "Greatest excuses people use to get backstage!" to important stuff like The 100 Greatest Number One R&B Hits.

Great stuff...

Anyway, six months ago, I again found the book and put it on light stand next to the kitchen phone. It was left there after I used it to discuss trivia with a friend. And then, it disappeared again.

I never know where the book is until I need it, but three days ago, I found it in my mother's bottom drawer next to a stuffed Christmas icon called, "Mr. Bingo!" In it, my mom had saved the torn paper cover sheet and stuffed it inside an envelope. On the outside of the envelope, mom copied the bibliography as if she was gonna file it away in a library card file.

It wasn't the only time she has done such a thing. Mom has "stolen" just about every book in the house and copied, in one form or another, and then, filed "the card"in a spiral bound notebook or in the inside of the book itself. We only notice such a phenomena when we go searching for a missing book.

Only this time, that tricky little gremlin absconded with one of my favorite books!

One that I always seem to lose...

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"Utensils, The Who, and Plastic Soul..."

Mom's Stash...
A Google + friend, Katrina Szatmari, mentioned The Who song entitled, "Substitute," and it sent her mind back to the days when plasticware was washed and re-used. It got my mind reeling over the song, AND the days of the "fifties" anxieties, which in some, still exists.

We grew up French Catholic in New Orleans, and I guess we were considered middle class. We were taught never to waste food and the story of the starving children of "pick your favorite third world country" always reverberated in my head. Even as a kid, I understood the value of that lesson.

But, in elementary school, the nuns, thinking we were gonna be at war with someone, eventually, taught us to never throw anything away. Back then, it probably was those insidious and God-less communists, trying to get us to use up all of our resources for the big takeover. 

Damn God-less things!

Top that 'tude with my mother's WWII scraps for victory, the by-product of rationing and the depression, our household, today, is still shoulder deep in plastic tops with missing containers, ziplock bags, safety pins, bobbi pins, rubber bands and paper clips... and 
plastic utensils. Knives and forks and spoons of all shapes and sizes and of every color. Some uselessly bent or broken. I even found plastic silverware so lifelike it was found in our silverware drawer. 

Of course, it is not always my mother's fault. My wife, occasionally brings various forms of plasticware home from school when there's a classroom birthday party, or from a fast food establishment having to eat lunch on the run! But, it seems lately, every time I pick my mom up from the senior community center, where she enjoys lunch with her friends,  her pockets are full of sugar and Sweet-n-Low packets, salt and pepper, butter or margarine packs, napkins and, of course, plastic utensils wrapped in napkins and stuffed in her used styrofoam coffee cup.

And she becomes indignant whenever I inquire about her "booty." 

To make matters a bit more interesting, she suffers from memory loss. If I don't distract her to somehow confiscate her pilfered pockets of the goodies, I'll find them later stuffed in bathroom drawers, medicine cabinets, shoes, dresser drawers, kitchen and desk drawers and even, the refrigerator. 

The worse, though, is finding them, too late, in the washing machine. What a mess!

The Who, had it right. I may not have been born with a plastic spoon in my mouth, but...

"The simple things you see are all complicated, 
I look pretty young... but I'm just back-dated, yeah "

Gotta love it...

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

Friday, September 27, 2013

"Well, It Was Only A Matter Of Time..."

Her name is Layla...
Sometimes, I sit and sketch at the Mandeville Senior Center while my mother socializes. When I do, I usually sketch people that aren't very mobile. I don't always ask to sketch them, but I always show my subject matter what I'm done. If I ask, my models get squirrelly, as some folks tend to stand behind me and watch me draw. They don't mince words in their critiques.

I've gotten a reputation now, for better or worse.

"I keep asking you to draw me, but you don't!' What's the matter... not pretty enough for ya?"

And, "If I like it, can I keep it?"

"Yes ma'am!" If you're nice enough to let me sketch you, of course, I'll give it to you... I'm flattered!"

And, "How much would you charge me for a sketch?"

And then... "How come you're charging me for a sketch, you did her, for free!"

Well, you can use your imagination from here to conjecture what could and has transpired. Strangely enough, it is mostly the women who want a sketch of themselves. I try to imagine them a bit younger, if possible, when I draw them. I am actually behind on two "commissions." One of which is supposed to be sketched in paint.

The men could care less what you draw or say about them. They probably think I get what I deserve.

All of this, is kinda fun. It helps me understand my mom's condition, and it helps me keep up my "chops!"

But now, I've done it.

I do like animals and grew up inviting lots of stray dogs to live with the Bensen family, much to my father's disgust. I like watching nature programs. I often wonder if that dead raccoon, armadillo, or possum that I just passed over on the highway, had any real thoughts about their future and a possible career change. What did they have as their "Last Supper"? I've spent many a profitable and enjoyable night doing storyboards for clients like Fancy Feast, Cesar, Purina, PetSmart, etc.

I just don't wanna spend the rest of my artist life painting and drawing cute and fluffy, scruffy domestic animals, especially ones small enough to be beaten and bullied by the neighborhood cockroach.

I don't know why!

One friend of mine actually took their six pound canine thingamajig on a camping trip and was concerned about its welfare when she noticed an owl, at dusk, eyeing her little dust mop!

Anyway, this is my first puppy-pooch painting which was done in oils at about 9"x12." I did have fun pushing paint around to create the terrier's wiry fur, and I hope the little elderly woman who's actually paying me to paint 'da pup, likes my approach.

There's got to be some good reason to do this, besides the money... ha!

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

Monday, September 23, 2013

"It's That Time Of The Year To Wish Everyone A... Merry Halloween?"

And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?
It's coming so early, better get yourself some,
And so this is Christmas, we hope you have fun?
The shelves are all shiny, before Halloween's come!

We went to a Cracker Barrel on Saturday to enjoy the rain and share breakfast together without the hassle of the weekday early morning rush. As you enter the store, there are country music sounds complete with twangy gee-tars, whining women singing with accents and, worst yet, whiny men singing like they forgot to take the chaw out of their mouths before rolling the tape. A stunning, purple and gold display beams at you, swearing in this restaurant's allegiance to the local hero, the LSU football team... 

Geaux Tigers!

Off to the right of this football altar, is a Halloween display complete with country-cackling witches with "Minnie Pearl" price tags affixed to their black felt chapeaus and a host of nikki-knack and patti-wack ghouls, goblins and ghosts to frighten the life out of your wallet.

Not wanting you to move one step further to your left, without recognizing it, is a rather sedate display of table cloths, napkins and orange and brown crepe paper florals, chocked full of pumpkins, corny copias, and ceramic sugar and cream gobbler sets. Sitting high atop the display, not unlike "Wolverton Mountain," is the ubiquitous, and cute, Pilgrim dolls, which, holding hands, stare blankly across the general store and "bayou wheat fields" like a nouveaux, 3-D American Gothic.

But the best, sadly enough, was the shiny, tinsel laden display of Christmas. It was just kinda off to the back, lying in wait to pounce on the unsuspecting customers as they waited their turn for a table. At this point, it is a rather humble, insignificant display with a tree just glimmering with sparkly ornaments and stuff. A candy cane here, a silver bell there, and, I guess, a few sugar plums hiding in the mix, somewhere. 

You just know that it is only a matter of time before "Christmas" announces it complete arrival and usurps all the other displays including the, "Ode to LSU Football!"

And, it will happen long before Halloween comes!

Copyright2013/ Ben Bensen III

Sunday, September 1, 2013

"United Airlines Collector Series/ Number Twelve... The "Swallow" C6 Mail Plane.

Wonder why it was labeled the Swallow!
Well, I don't have much information on Nixon Galloway's version of the Swallow, so I'll just type, verbatim, what was written about the plane from the card.

On April 26, 1926 the C.A.M. flight took place on a desolate northwest air mail route won the sole bidder,  a California air taxi and flying school operator, Walter T. Varney. From this austere beginning grew the major U.S. airlines of today with the Barney flight . In essence, being the origin of United Airlines.

The "Swallow Mailplane" was the first successful airplane that was a design advancement over the current crop of aircraft that were all patterned with the look of the World War One "Jenny" and the "Standard."

 It was powered by a Curtiss C-6 inline engine creating 160 horsepower and had a cruise speed of 118 mph with a flight endurance of five hours a full throttle. About 50 examples were produced with the  design was enhanced in 1926. The initial price was $3,500 reducing to $2,485 in late 1926.

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

Friday, August 30, 2013

"Just What Is It About Dogs?"

Pierre, the Magnificient is how he was named  before he conned us at the dog pound!

What is it about dogs? My cocker spaniel, which is basically bred to sniff out targets like birds, rabbits, squirrels and such, just does really aggravating things. His nose will be the death of him, either by Mother Nature or me!

I'm spraying to kill weeds and yeh, I know it is not good for the environment. All that has happened to me in the last year, has highly influenced my neglect, and now, I am paying for it. When I'm finished with the last of the herbicides, I'll employ a more green approach.

Anyway, Pierre, as wonderful a pup as he is, loves to run all around our five acres, chasing squirrels, rabbits, birds, toads, turtles, chameleons, bullfrogs and herons. There's a large white egret that circles the pond and squawks at him as he chases it until it is totally out of his sight. He loves to stick his nose in everything. Rabbit pellets are a delicacy to him. His hunting instinct, or should I spell it "InStink", demands that he hide his doggy aroma by rolling around in dead things... and sometimes, even dried animal poop.

This dawg's intense.

Four or five days ago, I checked up on my numerous bluebird houses, assuming wrongfully, that lovebird season was coming to a close. When I checked one house, I noticed three or four small bluebirds all snuggled together in a nest of pine needles. I figured it was only gonna be a few more days before they would fledge.

Anyway, this is a story about my goofy dog. So, yesterday I opened the birdhouse to check on the status of the fledglings, and they were gone. Only one pale blue egg was left, and before I could grab and discard it, the egg rolled out of the nest and fell to the ground, right in front of Pierre's nose.

This dog is never too far away from my feet.

It's only natural that a dog that prizes rabbit pellets as a healthy part of his daily requirement would love a rotten egg or two.

It all happened so fast that I never got to see much of the entree, but what was left was a shredded pale blue egg. Pierre, took one sniff and commenced to rolling his recently coiffed body all up in the smelly, rotten mess.

"PIERRE STOP!" I yelled. 

He looked up at me with this "please forgive me innocent doggy look", and as soon as I turned away to finish cleaning out the box, he decided symmetry was a good thing and rolled the other side of his face and ear into the now shredded mess.

He followed me around the property into a poison ivy patch that I found under some small saplings, and stuck his nose into the Round Up filled area.

"PIERRE, get out of here," I yelled in disgust. "Go away!"

You know, I'm convinced that dawgs understand English, but they only understand it, when it is to their advantage. Though it has never been substantiated by animal experts, in all of my years owning dogs, I have observed that the entire canine world, wild and domesticated, never do anything that isn't pleasurable!

Well, guess where he went off to upon my return to put away the herbicide!

You got it...
Copyright 2013/Ben Bensen III

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Our Forty-Fifth High School Reunion...

Our high school shoulder/ chest patch...
Well, I don't know how many couples will attend tonight at the Green Acres Country Club in Metairie. We've lost quite a few alumni over the last five years or so, and our graduating class was pretty small. Regardless, Therese and I are gonna get a chance to get away from everything for a few hours and enjoy each other's company. Unlike a lot of married couples who graduated from different schools and go to reunions only to feel like a third wheel, Therese and I first met at our high school, Redemptorist H.S.

Redemptorist no longer exists as a school, but for many years, it was the only Catholic co-ed school in the state of Louisiana. All through our four years, we wore uniforms. The girls all wore dark blue skirts of, supposedly, the same length which was, supposedly, just above the knee. They wore white short sleeved blouses with the above triangular patch just below a breast pocket on the left side.

The guys all wore khaki pants, dress shoes, and a long sleeve khaki shirt with the blue patch on the left shoulder. As part of our uniform, the boys all had to have a black tie which was unusually and haphazardly tied and stuffed inside the shirt just above the third button. Here's a pic from my yearbook that best shows how we had to dress for "success."

We all had to wear these name tags just above the left pocket of the shirt. Many guys, and I assume, girls too, were glad when it got colder so we could hide all of this pseudo-military paraphernalia under our sweaters. I recall that you could be reprimanded or given Saturday school duty for non-compliance.

That never happened to me because I kind of liked the disciplined, military approach to school. I always came to school with a crease on my pants and shirt because I learned how to ironed my own clothes, and it made me feel good. As a kid, I was in a drill team that wore these kind of uniforms when we marched in the Mardi Gras parades during that two week period of "undisciplined partying!"

Of course, that was back then, during the Pleistocene period before "perma-press!"

Anyway, although my letter sweaters no longer fit and my football jacket is rather moth-eaten, I think I'll bring this little patch to the gathering and see how many people still have one hidden in the windmills of the mind!

I bid you adieu by writing our Senior class of 1968 battle cry which is an indication of how we all felt.

"Imma Ram, So What?" 

Copyright 2013/Ben Bensen III

Saturday, August 17, 2013

"What's That Whine This Early In The Morning?"

Serenading Starbucks clients...
After running some early morning errands, I stopped at a local Starbucks that is situated in an open air shopping mall. I prefer this Starbucks because it isn't as crowded as most and there is no smoking anywhere inside or outside of the coffee shop. I 've met some pretty interesting people here. I always bring my sketchbook because you never know what interesting things will turn up to draw.

I find myself a shady spot to park and turn off the ignition, but I hear this slight whine coming from somewhere in the car. Thinking it wasn't the engine, I turned my ear to the radio and turn it up to hear the high pitched whine, but there was no whine to be heard on the sports talk radio show, so I turned the radio completely off and still heard that sound. I attempt to perform a "walk around" to see where the sound was emanating from and when I opened the door, I see this man standing on the lawn, directly in front of me, with his cup of coffee placed neatly at his feet, playing a bagpipe.

Now, I'm not a big proponent of the windy Celtic instrument, but I have to admit that it was really cool to have someone serenade so early in the morning. I waved my cellphone at him indicating that I wanted permission to take his picture. He nodded in the affirmative, as he continued to play some unrecognizable tune. I took this picture, smiled, gave him a thumbs up and started to walk away. I did not want him to stop and interrupt his groove.

He nodded again though I don't know if he heard me say as I sauntered away,"Great way to start the day, man... Laissez les bon temp roulet!"

I said it knowing, full well, that the bagpipe isn't a French instrument. His first cup early morning spirit overtook my better judgement!

Copyright 2013/Ben Bensen III

Monday, August 12, 2013

"How To Enjoy A Flounder Without Getting Hurt!"

and, obviously... After

My studio AC wasn't working for me, so I had done my research on a bigger unit. Therese and I searched all over the southern portion of Louisiana to find the one I approved. It was all the way south of New Orleans in a petro-chemical town called Norco. Tee said, "Do you really wanna drive that far to go get it?"
I said, "Of course, it is too hot to work in the studio without one and we can take I-55 there, purchase the air conditioner and then... stop in Manchac for a bite at Middendorf's on the return trip.

"Well, she said, what are we waiting for? That appliance store closes by 3 pm!"

So, we drove through a massive afternoon thunderstorm and picked up the air conditioner. Although, the thought of shoving that one hundred pound, 14,000 btu machine into my studio window occurred in head, the only thing that really stuck in my mind was the shellfish and seafood at Middendorf's in the little swamp town of Manchac.

Once out of the steamy swamp weather and into the cool of the restaurant, we sat down and placed our order. Therese had the stuff filet of flounder and I had this monster with crab topping! It was an early start to our 41st wedding anniversary, which is today! But any excuse was fine with me!

Of course, there's really no wrong way to dine on flounder, but if you don't want a mouthful of tiny bones, I suggest this! Once you've finished the main filet part of the fish, use the fork to separate the rest of the flesh from the ribs of the spine by following the length of the ribs with your fork and not across the ribs. Once you've eaten all from the top side, gently with the one hand lift the front part of the spine as you use the fork with the other hand to extract the spine from the back side of the fish. Pull all the way to the tail and put the spine with ribs and tail attached off to the side. 

Now, you are ready to eat the back side of the fish being careful to not disturb the small bones from the fins that surround both sides of the fish. If you are really savvy, when you have finished with the flesh from the back side of the flounder and haven't disturbed the fin bones, which are numerous and tiny, you can extract whatever meat there is from those fin bones by using the side edge of your fork and gently pull away the meat in the direction of the bones and, once again, not across.

Having completed that task, you can have another beer to celebrate. You now qualify as an expert flounder "yat" or, even a... Cajun!

Bon Appetit!

Copyright 2013/Ben Bensen III