Saturday, January 12, 2013

"When We Flew Backwards To DC..."

A celebratory Gala flyer circa 1982!

A couple of days ago, a good friend and a prolific painter replied to a comment I made about being an artist and talking about that subject. Her reply was,

"Ben....I don't want to talk about art...ha ha..I live it..enough ...I rather talk about the consequences of atoms inter-locking with the Kinetic force of Gama"

Man, I do know the feeling of being overwhelmed by living art! 

There are times when we, as artists, are exhausted from the discipline of making art whether it be storyboards for an agency concept, deadlines for a script, a painting for another gallery showing, etc. Sometimes, out of the blue, a visual pops into my head and won't go away even though I am exhausted from myself and want to be left alone. A triggering device can be as simple as a beautiful sunrise, or a child playing at a park or the egg omelet I've just cooked, even plucking nose hairs... 

Okay stop, that's enough! 

It is not like only artists have work related burn out. Nowadays, everyone seems exhausted from themselves. It is just the mistaken notion that artists have nothing but fun chasing butterflies and rainbows across the universe. The worse time to be hounded creatively is late at night as I stare at a dark ceiling trying to fall asleep. I use to keep a small note pad or sketchbook next to me on my night stand to record such manic, mental episodes.

I use to!

Occasionally, my wife would catch me squatted down on our front lawn and wonder why I was weeding the lawn. Having a gardener who we payed to do such chores wasn't the point. The point was that pulling clover and oxalis from the lawn was a diversion from living as an artist! There was some strange feeling of success in finding the root of the leafy tentacles that weaved all through the grass and pulling it all out in one piece!

Quite a while back, belonging to the Air Force Art Program, we'd all arrive at the El Segundo airbase situated at LAX and wait for the big gray military transport to arrive from San Francisco with a load of NoCal artists on board. While we sipped coffee, munched on donuts and waited, many of my Los Angeles cohorts would sit with their sketchbooks wide open and draw... anything!

Having usually been up all night trying to complete my painting for the show, or trying to finish a storyboard or two for another crazy deadline so I could attend the big show in D.C. the last thing I ever wanted to do was draw... or paint on my five day extravaganza!

I could be wrong, but the thought still exists in my head that you could tell the difference between the fine artists, designers, AD's and the "commercial artists." All you had to do was look at who was drawing in their sketchbooks. Rivets, tie downs, racks, netting, aircraft vents and just about anything in the plane was subject matter for those who, though very talented in their own right in the creative arts, never got to draw enough to satisfy their creative juices.

We illustrators were pretty much all "juiced out" although one could say many were pretty well "juiced up" before the C-141 got off the ground. Some had to just to get on the plane and some had to just to whine down and some had to in order to deal with the concept of flying backwards!

That's right... we flew from the west coast to the east coast... backwards!

The C-141 Starlifter had seats facing the aft portion of the aircraft. The basic reason was simple. Soldiers got out of their marginally comfortable seats to walk to the back end of the plane and parachute  out. The military was not gonna change protocol for we artist types and that was just fine with me and the many av artists aboard. If I had a major complaint about that aircraft it would be the noise the air conditioner blowers made. It was louder than the aircraft's engines!

I remember, clear as the day, standing in the aisle, flying backwards while munching on my box lunch, with earplugs jammed in my ears, yelling and nodding to Marc Ericksen...

"Hey Marc, I yelled, shamefully snickering at some new member's open sketchbook, "Wanna draw?"

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

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