Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Portraits from "Escape From New York"...

Inset portraits to the movie,"Escape From New York."

Sometimes, I wonder what the hell happened here. Sometime in late 1981 or so, I was contacted by a design firm, Butler and Associates to design and illustrate the seven cast members of the movie, "Escape From New York." When I originally came into the upstairs studio, I noticed a movie poster with a large destroyed head of the Statue of Liberty between two buildings and New York pedestrians fleeing for their lives. The painting was quite large and very well done. At the time, the LA based illustrator, Stan Watts, was all the rage and I was told the painting was his. 

It was beautifully done...

Apparently though, as it occasionally happens, another artist doing another "comp" gets the gig and  gets the piece printed. I've done a bit of research and remembered that the poster that was used was Barry Jackson's version, which he created for a rival design studio. It too, was very well done and very well received. So, why do I now bring this all up?

I was asked by an educational film company to send some samples of my portraiture work that is created traditionally... in paint. I've done quite a bit of movie work back before the digital age, but I was maybe a bit too blase about the work I did back then. I couldn't really find too many of my painted portraits. Ah, youth!

The digital age provided art directors and designers the flexibility of creating with little knowledge of how to draw or paint. You just cut and paste and push a few buttons. The computer cut out the cost of using a comp artist for presentations or even an illustrator for the final poster. The studios could just pay one or two on staff designer's to illustrate whatever would be needed. I can't be bitter about it all because I found the computer to be a pretty cool tool, too.

Of course, the difference is, I can paint and draw. 

But, in my search to find print worthy samples, I ran across these inset portraits that were originally painted as comps. Only later, when I received a pretty handsome check for the portraits, that were each illustrated at about four by eight inches in diameter, was I told that it was going to be used for the original poster. I was excited about the check, but once again, wish I had known it was gonna be used as illustration. I would have asked for more time which would have afforded more of me to be put into it. It probably wouldn't have made any difference anyway. I was only given a four day weekend to produce these pieces, regardless.

When the movie came out, the Barry Jackson poster was in the marquee and my work was nowhere to be found. When I asked the designer at the studio about what happened, I was told that they decided to use it for the European market. Today, cruising the internet for pics and posters from the low budget movie, I am amazed at all the reference and the many various treatments to the basic visual premise. I wish that I had had access to all this reference material at that time. And yet...

I never found an ad or poster or anything of my inset artwork.

Like Barry Jackson's story, who apparently never got the original artwork back, I never saw the poster my art was designed for. Maybe it was used... and maybe, not! It's just classic Hollywood. 
But hey, you got paid, right? 

No hard feelings, you know?

Yeh. Right!
Copyright 2013/Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"I Can't Imagine How Jack Would Have Done It!"

One in a series of storyboard frames for the original Spiderman trailer!
This is a comment I made in a conversation with a fellow Art Center College of Design student.

Yeh Karen, Jack would have given me that smirk if I tried to tell him my problems with this piece. I remember how he would jokingly say create an obvious mistake that would be easy to correct so that the art director would have something to say which would validate the art director's job.

When I first did this piece it occurred to me, someone would have a problem with the kid since it was the focal point of a dubious concept. So, I did it in two pieces and the original "kid" was more in line with the atmosphere of an early urban morning. There were no contrasts.

The many folks from art directors to movie execs made me beef it up and add wind blown hair and shirt...

Three more times.

I started to wonder if doing it separately was a mistake. Maybe, if I would have drawn it all in one piece, they would have been more receptive to approve it. Doing it in pieces just seemed to spur them on, perhaps! Sometimes, you can out smart yourself by anticipating possible scenarios of disapproval.

I must say having the computer to cut and paste was a godsend regardless of how many times I had to change the kid and reassemble it into a composite piece of art. Looking closely at it,  I thought I did a pretty good job of selecting the kid and pasting him into position.

Today, they'd probably "google" a NewYork skyline and pose a buddy, if they couldn't find a pose that worked with the layout. They'd then, photograph the buddy and assemble it... if they needed to go to that extreme for a presentation.

And every time I see and relive this frame, I wonder to myself, " How would Jack have done it?"

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III

Saturday, March 2, 2013

"And A Good Time Was Had By All... I Think!"

My first serious Plein Air painting!
About three weeks ago, before the rains came and the colder weather returned, me, Mary Monk, Carol Hallock and later, Louis Morales, drove our rolling studios out to the end of a road through Big Branch nature preserve in LaCombe, LA as far as the shell covered roadway could take us before dead ending into Lake Pontchartrain. 

It was a gorgeous afternoon just right for a Plein Air outing. It was my first serious outdoor painting attempt and I learned a lot just getting reacquainted with acrylic paint and a few flat brushes. But, later on, I was invited to watch Carol attempt to capture a gorgeous setting sun. Carol moves very quickly with very decisive, bold strokes capturing, if not the reality of what she sees, most definitely, she captures the mood, the color and the intensity of the moment. Her style seems to embrace the kinetic energy of her subject matter. It was fun to watch her work! Also, I learned when you paint outdoors, you can't afford the time to render a painting unless you want to return two or three times to the same site and hope you can get the same kind of environment you had on your first visit.

Pretty much, that's what I did with this 11x14 canvas board painting. Like Carol, trying to capture the spirit of a setting sun, I could not stop the waves or the gulls and pelicans from their perpetual motion.  It took me three visits to finish this piece and, classic Ben Bensen, it probably will never be considered finished! All tolled, I think I put in about another three hours in two more visits to the site before I announced to myself that the painting was completed.

I'm pretty satisfied with my first effort. I acquiesced to the need to have a definite focal point, which is  the landing pelican. The artist in me said leave it out, but the salesman in me demanded it be put in. Oh well...

Watching both Mary and Carol record their visions was a real treat. One this first day, I put in almost two hours of setting up, painting and packing up, but in between paint strokes, I sauntered over to Mary's van, where she was working on a rather huge horizontal pastel drawing, and, while she worked, we talked about each other's art and sensibilities, selling one's work, art gallery etiquette, and goals. As it grew darker and Carol had finished two of her paintings, we later went to dinner where I got to meet and speak with another pretty good outdoor artist, Louis Morales and his wife Debbie. Apparently, Louis is a regular with this group and pretty much keeps in touch with the art scene here in the Northshore area. It has to be a scene I'll have to get more acquainted with too if I am gonna pursue this type of painting.

As I drove away, having said our goodbyes, I assessed it was a very profitable experience. It was nice to be the student again and be with people with similar yet divergent interests.

All things considered, a good time was had by all...

Copyright 2013/ Ben Bensen III