Monday, May 26, 2014

"I Only Knew One Friend And I Found Him At The Vietnam War Memorial."

He was on the football team as a second string tackle, and that's pretty much how I knew him. Adrian was a soft spoken, shy, rather unassuming guy who seemed not quiet sure of his place in high school. He had a great sense of humor with a disarming smile. I wish I had known him better. I went to our Senior class yearbook to find his graduation photo, but, for whatever reason, it was not available. 

Classic Adrian? I really don't know. We were pretty much all about our selves back then, as most teenagers are, and I have, now, no way of knowing. I had to go to our junior year football roster pic to find the one posted.

I was in my first year of college when I heard Adrian joined the Marine Corps. I thought, he must have had a real need to prove himself to himself to do something that drastic at a time that was so dangerous. Why would he do such a thing? 

What seemed like six months later, the news spread that Adrian was killed in an ambush in Vietnam. I remember someone told me how it happened, but the passing of the many years has fogged my memory. I felt some sadness, then, but felt it was naive to think he could prove himself in such a way. I felt it was foolish of him to try. There had to be a better way.

Many years later, while attending a function at Andrews, AFB with the Air Force Art Program, I  decided to visit the newly completed Vietnam Memorial. The memorial had been negatively talked about for what seemed years before and after it was built. I had heard people would bring paper and a marker or pencil to rub or score the names of deceased friends and relatives onto the paper to remember and honor those who died protecting our freedom. I thought that was cool, even though I knew I would not need much paper.

I only knew one soldier.

I would walk and search the entire wall until I found him and when I did, I just began sobbing. I really didn't know why, I just did. It was very moving. More moving to me than I could ever realize. A distant school friend, a team mate, a graduate, a soldier… a Marine!

A piece of paper is now all I have left of him and it is stashed deep in my files, forever. Who knows if I will ever find it, but in my heart, Adrian will live forever. Though I have never been in the service, and therefore, no real right to say this, "Semper Fi," Adrian...

And thank you.

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Monday, May 19, 2014

"Be-boppin" Mom, Friends, And Some Horseplay"...

Some of today's polo horseplay...
We live about two miles from these polo grounds. Every now and then, as I drive my mom to and fro, she spots the polo players across the road, riding and slapping the ball around on the practice field. I thought it would be cool to take her to a real game. With the help of Debra Schilling Smith and Karen Babin, I was able to take mom to the Southeastern Louisiana Land Grant Polo Tournament today. Mom had a ball, grubbin' and watching the horseplay!

Like "cool Daddy-O!"
I also met a few patrons who somehow knew me, but I didn't know them. That's always a bit awkward, but I did find a few artists friends like Phil Shaw and sculptor/ ceramist Craig McMillin, who was nice enough to pose with me nine different times to get a decent picture. Our son Brian used to hang with Craig and occasionally help him in various ways at his shop.

Craig's work can be seen at:
As I mentioned, there were some folks who introduced themselves to me like I knew them. It was very flattering, but a little awkward. One man I did know was, Dr. Jay Addison, the president and administrator of the Southeastern Louisiana Land Grant. He came over to thank me for my limited edition poster I created two years ago for the polo event fund raiser. 

The story of creating the artwork for the poster is at: Limited edition print, "Bubbles"
I had not seen Jay since he lost his son in a bicycle accident around the same time we lost our son. We spoke about "chasing ghosts" for the last year or so, as he, as well as I, try to get on with our lives. He sent a large, beautiful floral array at Brian's funeral. It was awfully nice of him to seek me out being that this is basically his party and was so busy running it as well as, entertaining.

All in all it was a gorgeous Spring day to come out and watch the ponies play... and for a good cause!

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"Trying On Bathing Suits... And A Little Boy's Help!"

The Enemy...
I haven't bought a swim suit in twenty years.

It's not like I can't swim, I can. It is not like I don't like sitting "fashionably"sunning ( or burning ) myself around a hotel or gym pool.  I do.

Well, maybe not fashionably!

I do have a bathing suit that I've worn for many years in spite of the fact that it embarrasses the hell out of my wife whenever I am out in public wearing it. I just don't spend a lot of time that way. It is usually when I'm on a vacation that I acquiesce to trying on new bathing suits. I'm not at all as interested in clothes as I was as a youth. Maybe, it was all about the dating game... maybe.

Well, while spending a week in Southern California at a hotel that had a wonderful outdoor patio and pool, I decided to check out some "beach wear." I knew that I'd have to buy some suntan lotion eventually for the air show that I was gonna attend late that week, so why not...

Maybe, I'll purchase an entire beach assemble!

I didn't take long for an attitude change as I went from one store rack to another looking for something wearable. Suffice it to say, I was not in "bikini shape,"as each mirror in the fitting room cruelly reminded me. It was getting to the point where I really didn't want to walk out the door to crack another mirror. Oddly enough,  my timing was about the same as it was for this ten or twelve year old kid that shared the same mirror with me. I don't remember what he was trying on, but it seemed to me that he was also eyeing my sartorial disgust with the mirror. Three times I came out and three times he came out of his fitting room at the same time.

Wearing a suit that was more akin to a boxer's trunks, than it was a swimming suit, it was dark blue with lots of small light blue stars. Staring at a body that is twenty pounds over the limit and knowing I was really expecting a miracle to happen, the slender, dark haired, dark eyed boy looked over to me  smiled and said...

"That one really looks good on you!"

I smiled back, I'm sure, rather suspiciously, and said thanks. As he turned and reentered his changing room, I wondered what that was all about. Was he tired of seeing me so disgusted? Did he feel I needed some kind of approval struggling so with my mirrored image in trunks that made me look and feel like a sonar buoy? Why would he care? Maybe, he was just trying to relate on a manly level in a way that maybe he couldn't with his father. Maybe, he was my guardian angel in the form of a little boy helping me make a decision I wouldn't trust any guardian angel to make... just being in a guardian angel outfit. Maybe this, maybe that!

I stood there for a minute, twitching and blinking at myself in the mirror, dumbfounded.

"What the hell," I said to myself, "Maybe, he just really liked the way I looked in them."

So I bought them... and if anyone complains, especially my wife, I'll just say I'm keeping them because a California angel told me I look good in them.

Indeed, the mind is a terrible thing.

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Monday, May 5, 2014

"Added Spice From Jack Leynnwood"...

Jack's Added Spice...
Well, it is about time that I "fess up" to a few things. This is a painting that I completed at Art Center back in 1976 in one of Jack Leynnwood's rendering classes. If you know me, you know that I adored Jack. The reasons are many and have been explored in pretty explicit detail in earlier blog posts.

But this "Jug" illustration was one that when I showed Jack he felt it needed more "visual pizzaz." As is the case in so many of an early artist's education, once you've completed an assignment, collapsed in bed and awaken a few hours later, you see things you like and things you don't. At Art Center, critique stories abound. Some are really embellished to the point of absurdity, but you always wanted to meet the class deadline "spit spot, and spot on!" It was always better to catch a mistake before you went into a classroom critique.

But, not so with Jack.

We had to complete a product illustration or rendering of our choosing on a 15x30 surface. I really should have painted the Thunderbolt horizontally, but at the time, it never occurred to me to do so. If I had, I would not have had to paint that hole in the sky that just refused to be ignored. With a giggle that suggested no one should be ridiculed for making mistakes, Jack recommended that I lose "the donut in the sky." He, then, at my request, not only made some suggestions on how to make the scene more appealing, but he actually, pulled out the brush and quickly painted, or repainted the foreground runway with puddles from the rainstorm and some skid marks. He also suggested I add some wet spray coming off of the wheels which were shown retracting. 

I asked him to show me how he'd do it, so, he did.

I had that piece in "C print" form in my portfolio for years, but the original now belongs to the United States Air Force in their art collection. In hindsight, I am ashamed to say, I took the framed Ben Bensen III/ Jack Leynnwood painting that I, so dearly loved, off the wall and used it to secure my trip to the Air Force gala presentation at Andrews, AFB.

The painting I started for the show never got completed... and, I was a desperate artist in need of a vacation.  I must have been dizzy from late night deadlines and marker fumes to have done such a thing.

Did I mention that I owned two Jacks? No? Well, one day, when I find out where the hell I put the other matted and framed Leynnwood classroom demo, I tell the whole story...

But, don't hold your breath. 

It has been missing somewhere in my home since Hurricane Katrina!

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III