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Monday, December 15, 2014

"Making The Best Of A Really Trying Day!"

A flyable gas power model...
Two weeks ago, I had to replace my tires. It was hard to believe I actually put fifty thousand miles on my 2012 Honda, but catching two nails driving in a construction zone in downtown New Orleans, was the deciding factor in buying a new set.

A few days ago, while stopping for gas, I noticed one of my brand new tires was almost flat. I searched around the gas station for the water/ air pump, to add some air to what I thought was a defective tire. As I was pumping air into the tire, I was hearing air, somehow, escaping. My first thought was that I was being ripped off with a leaky air hose, but it was a nail puncture that was allowing the air to escape as fast as I pumping air into the tire.

I won't go into the difficulty of explaining the extraction process of the spare tire from behind the main console and under the floor board. It would be interesting to learn who thought this design concept was a good one.

I postponed my doctor's appointment and called the dealership. They assured me that there's was no problem in caring for the damaged tire. In the back of my mind,  I felt this care was gonna cost me more money.

Arriving at the dealership, and discussing the damage and the warranty, I asked how long it would take to replace the damaged tire with the "free"and warranted tire. About one hour past the half hour the agent told me it would take to complete the exchange, I'm informed that my rear brakes need to be replaced.

"Okay, well, I guess it needs to be done, but if it is gonna be any longer, I'm gonna need a courtesy drive to a coffee shop or diner," I said, rather with a heavy sigh.

The dealership complied after they realized it was gonna take another two hours. I suggested a restaurant near the dealership, so they took me to the Southside Cafe in Slidell, LA... http://www.southsidecafe.net

Even though, I had eaten two bags of complimentary buttered popcorn and a couple of cups of coffee at the dealership, I broke my gluten free diet and ordered this wonderful looking reuben sandwich with some Cajun coleslaw.

The cafe has a nice mural in the outdoor patio, created by local artist, Phil Galatas. The dining area has a military theme with aviation posters, soldier memorabilia and model aircraft. I walked around the dining room checking out the patriotic decor while awaiting my late lunch. Hanging amongst the rafters and air conditioners vents were banners, tee shirts, weapons and two rather large radio controlled aircraft.

This sketch is the result of another phone call, "Mid-Reuben" from the dealership. Apparently, the front end had a "shimmy" to it and needed adjustment. Never mind that I have been complaining about that problem way before I totally replaced the old set of tires.

So, I decided to just enjoy the afternoon, and my lunch, by sketching one of the hanging models, a beautiful North American T-28 "Trojan."

Somehow, I just knew this "free" tire was gonna cost me something...

... About $349 bucks!

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"Hey Mister, You Wanna Buy Some Popcorn?"

It's for a good cause!

This is a sketch I drew while waiting for my wife to finish shopping at a local thrift store. Therese is always looking for bargains for her class, either for projects, gifts or supplies. So a few weeks ago we drove up to Franklinton, LA, which is only about ten or twelve miles north from "downtown" Folsom to checkout the deals going down. A friend, at Gus's restaurant, suggested she go there if she was looking for some inexpensive spiral bound notebooks for the class.

With our crazy schedule, if I want to spend some quality time with my teacher/wife, I have to occasionally go hunting for bargains with her, but I can only "circle" the tasty tidbits so long and then I get really bored... especially if I'm not buying, but looking.

I, begrudgingly, moseyed from the parking lot to the thrift store where I was intercepted by the young, cute as a button, but rather scruffy nine or ten year old Cub scout. He was being chaperoned by his grandmother, who looked very thin, weather beaten and world weary with a few missing teeth, wearing a rather worn and disheveled "hoodie." With a "ciggie" in her hand, she guided the rather elf like Cubbie in my direction.

"Go ahead, go ahead, ask the man if he'd like some popcorn." Tell him, it is for a very good cause!" she said, encouraging the boy to put his best salesman act on.

It was a very cold Saturday morning, dark, damp and cold, and therefore,  the little guy was so wrapped up that I really couldn't tell if indeed he was a true Cub scout. Therese, who was on a mission, continued towards the door since the budding salesman had singled me out.

"Hey Mister, you wanna buy some popcorn for free?"

"Free?" I inquired. "Now, how much is the free popcorn?"

He stopped in his tracks, looked back at his managing partner, and mumbled something to himself, as I smiled and waited for an answer.

"Well son, said his grandmother, That's not exactly how we practiced it, is it?"

Now, grandmother, every now and then, taking a toke on her cigarette, explained to me in a rather raspy voice about how we are letting down our younger generation and losing them to the devil.

Oh boy, I thought to myself, as the little lost soul was trying his best to remember his sales pitch amongst his chaperone's preaching. I decided to intercept her oncoming Bible recitation by asking the little guy, how much are you selling that big can of candied popcorn... with the nuts!

"Uh, um... twenty dollars, sir," he said, looking for approval from "management."

As the grandmother backed away from her "hell in a hand basket" sermon, I turned to the Cubby and told him, that I'd give him another try when I come out from shopping at the thrift store. Thirty minutes that seemed to go on forever, I decided to go the car to snooze and listen to sports talk radio,  since my wife was still on her mission, but before I got past the exit door, the little guy hit me again.

"Hey Mister, you wanna buy some holiday popcorn... for free?

I spent the next hour, in my car, sketching and chowing down on a tin canister full of candied popcorn with nuts as I observed the little capitalist raking in the dough...  and, all for a good cause, ya know?

And, it's free!

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Monday, December 1, 2014

" My Veteran's Day Finale... A Sketch!"

My Veteran's Day sketch...
On Veteran's Day, November 11th, I decided to paint a static display of a Vietnam era aircraft, the McDonnell/ Douglas F-4N Phantom. The aircraft is a two-place, twin engine, all-weather jet, with top speeds more than twice the speed of sound, It was one of the most versatile, multi-role fighters ever built and served those roles in the Marines, Navy and Air Force. It also served in the first line of more Western air forces than any other jet. Just thirty-one months after its debut flight, the F-4 was the U.S. Navy's fastest, highest-flying and longest-range fighter. It first flew May 27, 1958, and entered service in 1961.

This particular Phantom is situated off I-12 just east of a Louisiana town called Walker, which is about ten miles from the state capitol of Louisiana, Baton Rouge. In an attempt to paint the plane, one of the three days I visited the site, it was cold, dreary and wet. It was supposed to eventually clear up, but it never happened. This sketch is the opposite side of painted aircraft I was rendering En Plein Air.

I stayed long enough to sketch this piece and then went to a local Mexican restaurant for some warmth... and some margaritas, chips, guacamole and salsa. 

I eventually completed the on-site painting about one week later. You can see the finished piece and read about all the visitors that came by while I was painting this beautifully restored monument to all those who flew and all those vets who served in Vietnam as well as everywhere else to preserve our freedom at: http://graphicgumbo3.blogspot.com/2014/11/painting-some-veterans-day-conversations.html

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Happy 90th Birthday, Mom!"

  • I've done about 7 or 8 portraits of mom. But, she likes this one best. I believe it is because it captures that," you rascal you" attitude she espouses. I don't remember, but I think I sketched this from a cellphone photo that I took while eating Chinese at a local restaurant in Gentilly. Classic New Orleans... It Ain't Dere No More! 
  •   I do remember that she was angry because I took her to John Jay's Salon where they charged a  'Benjamin" to give her a "new look!" Nothing I could say, no compliment I could give to  assuage her anger...
  •  Except dinner at a restaurant somewhere! 
  •  Happy 90th Birthday, Mom!

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"An Agrarian Sketch"...

A Harvester?
I have done sketches of people in the restaurant eating, chewing the fat, and hanging out. But, as some sort of ode to the farm world, the good natured, laconic Greek, has a couple of old rusted plowboy "objects d'art" situated as accent pieces around the premises. This is another of Gus's ode to something agrarianly artistic, but, generally, these "antiques" are mostly ignored, mainly because so many of these farms tools are so plentiful around here!

I drew this sketch, like I did with the other "ode," see the post at: 

seated in my car in the restaurant parking lot listening the Dan Patrick program on sportstalk radio after a long breakfast. 

I'm pretty happy with those wheels. I feel once I've decided what the degree the ellipse is in, I try not to pay attention to the subject matter until I complete it. It seems to come out much better than if I actually attempted to draw it from sight.

 I believe this to be another horse drawn harvester, of sorts. It seems like another very ineffectual way of gathering anything and the metal seat has got to chafe, ha!

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Thursday, October 23, 2014

" In My Woody, I Will Take You... Everywhere I Go!"

For Sale...
The little yellow truck in front of St. Tammany Glass is gone. I saw a, "For Sale" sign on both sides of the door panel a few weeks ago, but I didn't think anyone would buy it. It would have taken a "whole lotta love" to restore this puppy, but...

An original sketch before I decided to paint it!

Another sketch, from another visit, at almost the same angle as the painted version.

I'll pretend some "SoCal surfer dude" bought it and will get it back in shape... Pappa-Ow-Mow-Mow!

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Jam Up and Jelly Tight!"

Where's the blackberry jam WITH seeds?
A tisket a tasket, I remember seeing this little basket!

A few months ago, a favorite restaurant was destroyed by an electrical fire that burned the classic house restaurant from the attic down to the dining area. As I drove by the old site, there was a banner spanning a portion of the parking lot encouraging patrons to share breakfast at another local restaurant. Apparently, the "Bear Cafe" was helping out until the Sunrise at Second became the Sunrise at Robert Street. Don't know how the helpful hand was worked out, but Sunrise's patrons were happy to be the beneficiaries.

The Sunrise omelet was as delicious as it ever was and along with the entree was their familiar wicker basket full of jams and jellies. In the classic Southern style, along with a couple of cups of coffee, and the morning newspaper, I decided to pull out the sketchbook and challenge myself to the folds, the weaves and the cane unravellings of the little wicker basket.

Maybe, I got a little carried away...

Copyright 2012/Ben Bensen III

Monday, September 22, 2014

"Gus's Ode To A Farmtool!"

A horse drawn harvester?
A friend requested that I, one day, sketch the interior of Gus's restaurant, which is the local Greek Parthenon, or forum here in Folsom, LA where everybody's got an opinion on practically everything. I have done sketches of people in the restaurant eating, chewing the fat, hanging out, and just about hanging all over. But, as some sort of ode to the farm world, the good natured, laconic Greek, has a couple of old rusted plowboy "objects d'art" situated as accent pieces around the premises, which are generally ignored.

I drew this sketch, seated in my car in the restaurant parking lot... just before the lunch crowd blasted in. I believe it to be a horse drawn harvester, of sorts. I've seen it a couple of times, and investigated how it basically works, but if my investigations are correct, it seems like a very ineffectual way of gathering anything.

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Thursday, September 11, 2014

"Washateria Thoughts Watching The Clothes Go Round... And Round!"

Just like old times!
Yesterday, I decided to try and save a big, green pillow that my mother used to sit up in bed to read or watch television. The pillow had a pretty stiff back with arm rests on the left and right sides of the pillow. It was not soiled enough to discard, so I decided to wash it to see if it could be salvaged and return it to my mother, who is now in a nursing center.

Yeh, yeh, yeh... I know! I'm a wonderful son...

But, this isn't about mom, pillows or care taking. It is about laundrymats, or as we used to call it, "wash-a-terias!" In New Orleans, we seem to have a word for everything that shows somehow that we come from another planet. But, that's a story for another time.

Nothing makes a person so privileged as having your own washer and dryer. Sitting here, blowing a perfectly good Saturday, watching that now heavy, wet pillow go "round and round" in a local wash-a-teria brings back so many memories. Not necessarily great memories, but memories.

One is normally introduced to the joys of such a place when one goes away to college unless one was a rich kid and brought dirty laundry home for mom to attend to while one spends the weekend partying with those "so-called friends!" College wash-a-terias were considered a great place to meet girls because they also had to wash their clothes. Sadly though, if you never hung out at the local college beer joint because you had to save up to get your clothes washed over the weekend, then, using that excuse to meet girls is a pretty lame excuse.

Believe me, I know!

But, the campus experience is only one of the many experiences you can have at a wash-a-teria because there are such a wide variety to choose from. The clientele, in real world wash-a-terias, vary from roust-a-bouts returning from some Gulf oil spill, and hookers washing their tutus and fairy outfits in the wee hours in Hollywood, to a soccer mom washing the uniforms of an entire family of screaming and unruly ballplayers.

The odor of these places regardless of the clientele are a strange combination of bleach, sweat, mold, and musty, dryer lint balls. And, you might think twice before putting your cleaned and dried clothes that you spent a fortune to get cleaned and dried, on one of those tables to fold.

Since most women are usually stuck with the task of cleaning clothes, they are the ones who demand a decent facility to perform the dirty job. When we were newlyweds, and bounced around from one apartment to another in a variety of towns, the main criteria seemed to be, for my wife, having a residence that had it's own washroom.

Today, while doing this drawing, I was having a chuckle or two thinking about all the apartment complexes I believed were really great that my wife wanted nothing to do with. After dropping five dollars worth of quarters in a large dryer trying to get that fat pillow dried, I'd have to agree with my better half.

Home Sweet Home, ain't... if it doesn't include a washer and a dryer, ha!

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Discussing The Trombone, Kid Ory and Tailgating... Dixieland Style!"

Playin' dat old tailgate...
Once again, what I had in mind did not come to fruition with this sketch. I didn't feel the need to capture this trombone player's portrait, but sketching him on site as he played was more of a challenge than I thought it would be. Just drawing the trombone itself was harder than I thought it should ever be even though it seems a very basic instrument. The trombonist was one of four musicians entertaining the crowd at the annual Southeast Louisiana Land Grant polo fundraiser. Two years ago, I designed and illustrated a poster for the fundraiser, which you can find at:


The musician and I had a wonderful discussion about his career and his life as a musician. He hailed from Indiana, I believe, and went to school on a music scholarship in Chicago. I am not sure how one can fall in love with such an instrument as the trombone, but he did. He played classical music until he heard some Kid Ory records and decided to move to New Orleans and immerse himself in that "tailgate" style of Kid Ory and his Creole Jazz Band. Although the trombone is less often heard as a solo instrument, many legendary performers have left distinctive marks on the history of jazz. Kid Ory's aggressive style of playing long slide notes up or down between the cornet and clarinet solos, created a sound that was distinctly up front and out there. 

The term "tailgating" was probably best used to describe Kid Ory's use of slurred notes, growls and rumbles, but actually tailgating trombones was more of a practical space saving device. The band, usually consisting of a trombonist, cornetist, clarinetist, bass instrument ( a tuba or double bass), chordal instrument ( a banjo or piano), and a drummer, would advertise their dance or party by marching in parades or playing in a wagon pulled around the street of New Orleans. The trombonist, in order to have enough room to maneuver his slide, would sit at the back of the wagon, giving the name "tailgate trombone" to this style.

Anyway, this trombone player knew his history and had me completely sold on the instrument. I told him I'd do a sketch of the band with him in the lead, ( it was not his band! ) but this sketch is all I had to show him at the end of the day...

And, I did not show him!

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Thursday, August 28, 2014

"On Second Look... It Ain't That Bad!"

Chino's Focke-Wulf...
One of the really cool things about the Planes of Fame in Chino, California is that they have some awfully unique aircraft and many of them are actually flyable like this German FW-190. The plane was practically deconstructed when I sketched this, so I assumed it wasn't gonna be flying on the day I was attending the air show. Many of the panels were opened or taken off for maintenance and I thought all those square panels would make a pretty cool drawing, but I ran out of gas on that hot summer day and only got this far.

I didn't show it originally because I was quite frustrated with the effort. It didn't go where I expected it to go,  but looking over this sketch and, some others that are floating around in that "blog vacuum, " I decided that it really wasn't all that bad.

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Monday, August 25, 2014

"Three Girls,Three Sketches..."

Three Girls, Three Sketches, Three Styles...

Another one of those sketches from a local Starbucks that I haven't posted since it has been drawn. All of the "models" were all busy multi-tasking, so I had to keep it quick. I prefer the one on the right though the drawing looks pretty static, she sat still long enough for me to capture her.

The one in the middle was very quick since she was at the coffee bar waiting for her libation. I like that I captured something... in about a minute.

And, the drawing to the left is one that I labored over because she sat across from me for over an hour. You can't tell by my drawing, but she was quite beautiful with big, dark eyes, raven hair, high cheek bones, and a very definitive jaw line. She was also very pregnant. Three times within that hour she came over to me and asked that I watch over her table full of electronic devices.

On the third request, I teasingly replied," Oh, that's enough, don'tcha think?"

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"Sketches From The ASAA Forum"

One is Keith, one is Peggy, one is Mike and the other...
One morning, at the ASAA seminar, we had three or four presenters and speakers. They were all incredible talking about their art, professionalism, business practices, and lifestyles, but the most interesting, and long winded, was the veteran WWII pilot and career Air Force man, Steve Pisanos.

Wikipedia writes...
He was born in November 10, 1919 as Spiros Pisanos (GreekΣπύρος Πίσανος)) του Νικολάου και της Αθηνάς) is a USAF Colonel (retired) who served successfully as a fighter pilot with the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Air Force (USAF) 4th Fighter Group in World War II, having been credited with 10 victories and thus considered an ace.[1] By the end of his career in 1974, he received 33 decorations and distinctions. He is author of the book The Flying Greek, published in April 2008, where he has meticulously recorded all of his personal adventures and detailed war fighting experiences. The book is commented by his friends and renowned USAF aviators Gabby Gabreski and Charles Yeager.

To say this man had a colorful life is to totally underestimate his contributions to our democratic view of the world. What an ambassador for America and all we fought for and stand for. He spoke for almost an hour, with much humility and humor, and he spoke like you'd expect a Greek to speak...

With his hands!

I originally attempted to sketch his large, expressive hands, but he moved them so much telling his story, that I gave up and just decided to put the pen down and enjoy.

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"Add One More Color And She Could Celebrate Mardi Gras... All Year Long!"

A cellphone photo, Kristen was kind enough let me shoot!
What color this week? Since I last sketched Kristen, she has decided not to let her hair grow out, but did color it purple and green. Add one more color and she could celebrate Mardi Gras all year long, ha!

One thing's for sure, this is Kristen in final sketch form. I showed this to Kristen and she was "politely" impressed. As I got to know her a little bit, I realized that she has her plate full. Don't need to go into one's private life to do a sketch, but I found out she has to drive from Baton Rouge to Mandeville, three times a week to get to work at the Mandeville Starbucks. That's about a sixty or seventy mile trek, one way!

Things will slow down a bit when her daughter goes back to school, she said.

Sure hope so…

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III   

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"A Sketch Of A Grouchy Man…"

On many occasions, I've tried to capture this man. His name is Bobby McGee, and he always has this intense, cranky look on his face. He's the only member I know that is a member of the same health club I belong to. He tells me that he likes staying in shape and the senior center doesn't have enough physical activity for him. Of course, the many times I see him at the health club, all he seems to do is fraternize with the babes.

It's not like he doesn't smile, he does. It is just that when he is discussing his disgust, his face get like this.

And, this time, I got him.

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Friday, June 13, 2014

"Thoughts On Being An Artist... And Scrambled Eggs!"

Okay, it is just a creamer... and a bit crooked!
I'm like any artist type. I get bored too easily and start to sketch or look out of windows instead of paying attention. Today, psychologist and educators label it as "attention deficit." I call it a chance to sketch, doodle, look out of windows, or fantasize. There's no need to delve into the various reasons for this sketch or to critique it as something worthwhile.

It is just a sketch... on the back of a restaurant flyer!

But, I'm a stickler for precise ellipses and this creamer's spout is either correct sitting on a incorrect bottom or the vase part is perfect and the pour spout is messed up. I'll let the viewer be the judge. The truth of the matter is, that I started the bottom part first and then got distracted by the topic of the speaker. It was a delicious business dinner, with great conversation, but when the topic at hand turned to business at hand, I started to sketch.

Somehow, someone got up and spoke about a topic I was interested in.

Looking back at my career, it is truly a testament to my talent that I succeeded at all. Every thing else is scrambled eggs!

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Thursday, June 5, 2014

"Free Ice Cream And A PT-22 To Sketch"...

Okay, I'm guessing. This is a PT-22 Racer version of the military PT-22.
Well, okay. I admit I'm a sucker for anything free, especially if it is ice cream. I had been aloft perspiring for my craft for over an hour and as I descended to earth, someone mentioned that there was a refrigerator in the "commissary" of the museum where we could have our choice of ice cream sandwich, nutty buddy, fruit bar, polar bar or whatever other frozen goody was available.

Talk about a bunch of ten or twelve year olds racing to the chimes of an imagery ice cream truck... well, that was us. I grabbed a "nutty buddy,"sat down to chow down, and, as I did,  this is what was staring me down as I ate. I decided, amidst the third bite, that even though this Racer wasn't in the best attitude for defining her beautiful shape, it certainly was good enough to sit, and eat, and sketch.

Besides, I wasn't getting up real soon.

Since one hand was busy holding the frozen key to my childhood, I decided to use a more forgiving black Prismacolor pencil to render this aircraft with. The sketch is not that bad, and there are no chocolate stains there to help me render the form...

For better or worse!

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Monday, June 2, 2014

"Sketching Up On The Roof"... Number Two!

Certainly, not one of my better takes!
With a Stearman type biplane in the background, I decided to try my hand at capturing the entire right side of the museum hangar. This was maybe too big to tackle and the finish leaves much to be desired, but it was the second sketch from above in the museum loft and I was starting to perspire...

No, actually, I was starting to sweat!

I believe I made my first mistake trying to count windows behind the biplane, and one can easily see that I miscalculated the distance it would take to complete the entire wall. From there, it was fake your ass off, which worked in the foreground, but not with the Stearman and its surroundings.

All in all, it is not that bad, but not up to par with other drawings I did on this trip. But, the concept of this blog,"SketchieThoughts" is to show the good with the, sometimes, not so good.

I won't get all lofty with that, "It's a process" thing, but I did create it, and for whatever reason, it wasn't working for me the moment I couldn't fit the entire wall of window panes into the sketch. I'm showing it to say, hey, I am not too old to realize my mistakes, and learn from them.

I guess...

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sketching, "Up On The Roof"... Just Me And The Drifters!

A DeHavilland trainer?
Developed just after World War II, the was the first aircraft designed by de Havilland of Canada to replace the de Havilland Tiger Moth as a single-engine basic trainer. The Chipmunk first flew on 22 May 1946. Initially, 218 Chipmunks were built for the Royal Canadian Air Force, followed, after a change to the Gipsy Major 8 engine, by 735 planes for the RAF’s primary pilot training bases.

Well, that's what "Wikipedia" and "PilotFriend Aircraft DataBase" have to say about this aircraft that I sketched from the vantage point of a storage loft at the Allen Airways Museum in El Cajon, CA. Before I even looked for the info on this chromed beauty, I knew it was a DeHavilland product from the vertical stabilizer design. They all look alike at DeHavilland. 

Consider the plywood versatility of the "Mosquito," for example. The "rudder" is almost exactly the same! Someone once told me that rudders ( vertical stabilizers ) on an aircraft is more about a company's logo, than it is about aerodynamics. I wonder...

I probably shouldn't have been up there, but in my career as an artist, I found that you do what you have to to get the best angle that helps sell the product... Whatever that product might be. 

Oh, the stories I could tell... "When this old world starts getting me down,
And people are just too much for me to face.
I climb way up to the top of the stairs,
And all my cares just drift right into space.
Up On The Roof!"

I wonder if that's how pilots sometimes feel!

Unfortunately, the price I had to pay was the heat. It wasn't horrible, but it was clear I wasn't gonna spend too much time high above everyone else... sketching for fun. This took me about forty minutes to complete, I guess.

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"Sketching At The Chino, "Planes To Fame" Airshow"...

The Seversky P-35... I think!
It was hot, and I was wasted after three hours of being outdoors in the Santa Ana heat of Chino, CA. A friend said it was around 97 degrees around noon, but out on the tarmac, it was more like 105. For
me, too Swedish for my own good, it didn't take much to send me back into a cool of a aircraft

I love the Chino Air Show, and I miss it "big time" now that I'm living in 'da Bayou. I enjoyed it so much that I used to have a membership. The same climate that affects me so negatively, is the same climate that is so perfect for protecting anything metal. Anyway, I had to make the best use of my time, so after polishing off a bottle or two of "Planes of Fame" water, I decided to stay inside and draw until I gained my strength back, or the growl of P-51's and '47's extract me from my cool seat.

I managed to sketch a Boeing P-12 (F-4B) and this Seversky P-35. The P-35 was basically a precursor of the P-47 Thunderbolt of WWII fame. It's competitor for top spot in pre-WWII aircraft  competition was the Curtiss P-36, which basically was the big brother of the Curtiss P-40.

I did have to move from my cool seat up against stacks of water bottles to sketch this piece. A friend, NASA test pilot, and drone fanatic, stole my identity, by taking this picture of me while sketching the F4B.

Eventually, I did hear the growl of the Rolls Royce engines which compelled me to hastily boogie out to the flight line to take in some great fly byes. Later,  in the comfort of a patio chair around the Crowne Plaza hotel pool, I faked in the "tone" of the P-35.

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Sunday, May 11, 2014

"Sketching From The Model!"

A Pan Am Clipper...
And, you thought you were gonna see sketches. Aw, screw the sketches, you were hoping you were gonna see some really nice nude models, huh?

Well, this model is a bit on the hefty side, but she is still a classic.

In the back lobby of the Allen Airways museum are many original posters and artwork from the deco days of flying, and among those framed beauties were three all metal models of aircraft from that period. Atop a three glass cabinets, featuring badges, ads, coasters and all kinds of flight memorabilia were models of the Pan Am Clipper, the still flying DC-3, and the Ford Trimotor. Having fought the SoCal freeways to find the museum, I thought sitting, catching my breath and perusing was a nice way to ease into a sketching mindset.

This clipper seemed an appropriate start to my visit...

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"Passing A Good Time At A Tractor Festival"… Number One!

A Ferguson Tractor?

I must admit, though it is hard to agree from my sketch, this medium sized tractor actually has really gorgeous lines… for a tractor. I learned a lot about tractors at this fund raising tractor ( Second Annual, I think! ) festival. It is amazing what you can learn if you are willing to exhibit some ignorance about a subject and show a little curiosity.

And, I got a whole lot of that!

There were so many friendly people there who were willing to share their love for tractors, it was truly refreshing. But, with so many tractors and owners with their stories, I couldn't remember all the details of each machine. I learned that there is a specific design for whatever need you had. Tractors are so basic and hard working that one wonders why there are so many variants. At first glance, a tractor is a tractor is a tractor! But, there are. I learned that if you're growing corn, you better not be also growing cotton.

Otherwise, you'll need another tractor… or borrow one from a neighbor.

Anyway, I found this wonderfully and, I think, beautifully designed tractor to be an award winner. Not only was it beautifully restored, but it had some really nice lines and appeared to be a real show boat with creature comforts for the back forty. There were many makes and models represented at this festival, from companies like International Harvester, John Deere, Case, Ford, Massey-Harris and this standout from Ferguson.

A Ferguson… who knew?

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Saturday, May 3, 2014

"Wasted, I Decided To Lie On The Hangar Floor And Sketch!"

A Boeing P-12 fighter...
I haven't done as many sketches on this trip to Southern California, as maybe I should have, but this one was saved by my crosshatching. By one pm, yesterday, I was wasted. The Santa Ana sun and wind wasted most of us aircraft enthusiasts, and I had to sit on the cool concrete floor and sketch in hopes of saving the rest of the day. There were many horrible false starts for me which really is frustrating for someone who is supposed to be an aviation illustrator. It's such a waste of paper... This is one of two completed sketches.

I'll save the other one, for later!

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Monday, April 21, 2014

"Kristen, the Starbuck Barista, In Green!"

Kristen In Green!
This is actually my best impromptu sketch of Starbucks barista, Kristen. It is created in a standard Bic ink pen, which allows much more sensitivity than the Sharpie. Using the Sharpie forces you to concentrate much harder to capture the defining lines. I have to assume it freezes me up more than it should. The ball point affords me the confidence to just dive in and sketch.

When I showed Kristen this sketch, she was a bit taken back. Maybe, she thinks I'm this weirdo that only comes in, for a full year, just to drink coffee and sketch female baristas. So, in my inimitable way, assuming the best defense is an offense, I asked her if I could take a pic of her on my cellphone
( I still use the old clamshell type! ) and she posed for me.

I'll do two more sketches of Kristen and then, I'll move on. Maybe, this sketch I do of her from the pose will be the one she prefers. But, all things being said, I really like this one. It really looks like her and it still has that #loose, sketchy thing happening!

We'll see, one way or another!

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Kristen, The Purple Haired Barista!"

Sharpie composite in my mind...
I've sketched a bunch of baristas at the Mandeville Starbucks where I many times sit and stare out the windows of my mind and any other window I can find. This my second attempt at capturing a little dynamo named, "Kristen." Her statue, energy and vivacity belie her years. She has an independent spirit that tells me she older than that "little girl" image I've got embedded in my head.

But, maybe, that's just me creating stories as I draw. Sometimes, taking a certain approach, an angle, a storyline, helps me see through and yet all around the image. For me, it is more than entertainment... it's focus!

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"Passing A Good Time At A Tractor Festival"… Number Two!

My first attempt at the tractor festival.
Last weekend, I went to the Loranger Antique Tractor Festival. This was my first sketch there. I spent about an hour walking around, taking photos and listening to all the stories about tractor owners and their love of tractors.

There's an aesthetic for everything, eh?

When I went back to the car to drop off the camera and returned with my sketchbook, quite a few farmer's were impressed... I think! Maybe, they felt I was "showing off" and gave me that "tongue in cheek" amazement. But, it was all in good fun and besides, I'm an artist. I've learned rejection comes in all forms...

Even, in the form of a compliment, ha!

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Monday, April 7, 2014

"Kristen, The Purple, Green and Blue Haired Barista!"

One of quite a few sketches of a Starbucks barista!
This barista's name is Kristen. When I first completed this sketch six months ago, I really didn't know much about her. I still don't. Kristen is short, though she can reach the countertops and the cash register without standing on her tiptoes. Maybe that's why she is mostly at the drive up window, ha!

She's short, she's cute, she is quick to smile. She has tattoos, and paints her fingernails black, at times, but I can't say she is a "Goth!"

Does it matter?

One thing is for sure, she likes her hair short... boy short, and she likes to color it all kinds of crazy colors. That's all I can see at this time. If the "book" is as interesting as the "cover", I would not be very surprised.

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"A Junkyard, A Junkyard Dawg And A Junkyard Tractor!"

I believe the owner said it was a 1940 Ford, I believe!
About one month ago, my wife and I got a Sunday afternoon off from everything, so we decided to go for a ride. We had had so much wet and cold weather, but on this day it was positively beautiful, so we went out for a ride in the countryside.

A better description of our environment would be to call it a "bayouside!"

We took Louisiana highway 22 through Pontchatoula and Hammond and continued following the signs that said LA#22, but somehow we took the wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up following what we thought was the Amite River. It was a real strange mixture of nice homes, neo-south plantation styled homes and disheveled trailer homes and campsites.

Outhouses notwithstanding…

Well, I found this property that had all kinds of junk covered in high grass from old refrigerators, baby strollers, kitchen sinks and tractors! Therese didn't like the idea that I wanted to stop and sketch, at least, one of these rusted beauties. But I did, and this is my sketch of a Ford tractor circa 1940. It took me about twenty minutes to complete, but I later added the tone at a local restaurant to hide some of glaring mistakes.

The owner, figuring I was some sort of "revenuer," ( just kiddin' ) came out with his big shepherd to investigate my investigation of his rare collection. Feeding off my wife's anxieties, I hurried the big wheel and when the dog said "hello," I backed away from him only to twist my already sprained ankle,  and collapse in a muddy culvert. After apologizing for his dog's behavior, I showed the proprietor the reason for my impromptu and unannounced visit. He was impressed with my interpretation of his rusted beauty, not enough to buy it, but, from that point, all went quite well.

He had about four or so tractors that he swore would turn over from a battery jump and get right out to plowing the uh… bayou, I guess! The man told me the make and models of all four of the tractors that I could see half hidden in the tall grass. He was especially proud of his 1940 and 1952 Fords. I believe the one I sketched was one of those Fords. I thanked him for allowing me the time to sketch his tractor
( and, I thought to myself, for not shooting first and ask questions later! ) and asked him if I could photograph the others with my cellphone.

He agreed it was okay, I snapped a few quite hastily, hobbled back to the car, and split.

Driving away, I thought, "Ain't the backwoods of America, great… or what?"

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

"Seems An Extremely Appropriate Nickname!"

Administrators, the Senior Center cannot do without!
I sketched these two women as they both stood in the doorway of their offices overseeing the party festivities at the Mandeville Senior Center. What festivities, I've no idea because there is always some gala event going on there and on certain occasions, I sit in the background, or with my mother, and sketch away.

Arnita is usually parked in her office behind a glass partition and her desktop computer. I assume she is the person to handle the business portion of the center while "Mellow" is more hands on, making sure all the senior's many needs are met. I don't know what came first, Mellow's name or her disposition.

If, it is not her real first name, it seems an extremely appropriate nickname.

I think I captured her in this sketch quite well. Her eyes tell the story better than any words can, at least, any words I can conjure up. I've seen Mellow sit many times alone with my mom when I'm late picking her up and everyone else is gone. Mellow's there, if mom needs reassurance that she won't be forgotten, and doesn't seem to mind listening to, ad nauseum, all of my mother's heroic stories of days long gone. Also, she's not one to shy away from a good line dance in the dance exercise sessions that happen every Monday. I can't tell if she is just there in case one of the members gets dizzy or whether she's really there to get her exercise. With those early morning moves, it probably is Mellow just "gettin' on a good foot!"

Regardless, she's just always "there"… Taken care!

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Grown Man's Tonka Toys... A CASE Tractor!"

Forgotten Junk or a Storefront Icon?
About six months ago, someone decided to park this old tractor in front of a supply store on LA Highway 59 just aside of Abita Springs. Two days ago, someone moved it from the left of the building to the center which means the store owner or manager either wants it to put out to pasture somewhere else, or they are centering it as an attention getting icon.

Well, the move got my attention.

Ever since its first appearance, I've been wanting to stop and sketch the red, rusted "Tonka Toy." But, I'm never, it seems, in the right frame of mine to give it the justice it deserves. It seems my "muse" isn't lately and so days, weeks and months go by and still, I haven't taken the time.

Well, two days ago, on Sunday, I decided to sit in my parked car and sketch this baby. I "sumized"that there would be no traffic in the store's parking lot which gave me time to do some kind of justice to the tractor.

Well, this is a nice edition to my "Grown Man's Tonka Toy" series and now, whenever I drive by, I will no longer suffer that irritating feeling that comes to artists when they have sense they have missed a rare and monumental moment.

If you're an artist, you know what I mean.

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Man With The Sculptured Hair."

I am not sure I quite captured this man's face, but I know I captured his beard because it seems to be well manicured… almost sculptured! His name is Malcomb and is a part of the card playing group.

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Thursday, March 13, 2014

"Rose, The Benevolent Kind."

The cool, calm, collective Rose!
It is just my opinion. I really don't' have any right saying this, although it is not such a bad thing. This lady's name is Rose. Many people gravitate towards her, and confide in her, maybe, because she is such a good listener. She always seems so calm and collected. She reminds me of a few nuns that I have had in grammar school. Maybe, Rose is a retired nun. She's got that "saved composure," ya know?

I wonder, how do you ask someone if they are a retired Catholic clergy... especially if they are female? I wonder...

Anyway, if Rose was, at one time, a nun ( not intimating that she is or was! ) I bet she wasnt 't the kind that patrolled the isles with a yardstick or weighted rosaries… She'd have been one of  the benevolent kind.

Like the "Good Witch from the West."

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"I Like It Except For The Double Chin!"

Amy, the COAST representative for Mandeville...
This is Amy. I don't know her last name though she has told me many times. We kinda had a rocky start, at first, because I'd forget to call her if my mom decided to not go to the senior center. Amy is responsible for and manages the lunch menu each day of each week of each month for the last ten years or so. She hates wasting food!

She told me how long she's been the COAST representative ( Council On Aging for Saint Tammany ), but I've forgotten that also. But, I didn't forget to include her portrait about a month ago when I spent the lunch hour hanging with the seniors.

When I showed my sketch to her, she asked, "When did you do that?"

"I caught you about a month ago. You had a pensive moment or two between lunch and the cleanup,"
I replied.

"I like it, she said. That's really me… except for the double chin!"

I apologized!

Copyright 2014/Ben Bensen III

Friday, February 28, 2014

"Lucinda, Portrait Of A Land Baroness!"

It's a cold, wet Starbuck's staring 'da window day, but I probably won't do it. Got too much other stuff to take care of. Carl, a chubby, gruff, bear of a guy at the Senior Center wants me to bring one of my sketchbooks to show some other friends there. I guess he's tired of watching people play cards, Bunco and scuffle over the Bingo winnings. Anyway, I tried to consolidate four books into one last night. I kinda hate tearing out pages, but I am not sure I can trust the seniors with all four of my sketchbooks.

Carl's gonna be my new agent, ha!

He's promised to tell me the seniors' reaction to my portraits. But, ya gotta love 'em. I dropped off the sketchbook and showed a few of the sketches to some staff members. Three of the staff decided to make a game out of looking at the portraits. They were going to cover, with opaque tape, the names of the people I drew, and have the seniors guess who's who! When I was making my escape, I overheard one staff member trying to decide what the winner would get…

Oh, I certainly don't wanna be a part of that scene, ha!

Here's one of the newer sketches I've yet to show!

This lady's name is Lucinda, but she goes by "Cynda."Amongst the many, Cynda watches over my mom at the senior center. Whenever possible, she admonishes me to take good care of my mom and I always retort with some sarcastic quip. After about a year of this, it has become kind of a running joke we utilize to start the morning.

She is not always at the senior center because she has five, count 'em, five homes around the country. Every now and then, she has visit and care for. She is always pining for her condo in Playa del Rey. By her own admission, Cynda also is a crackerjack gambler and will proudly show you the Lexus LS 300 should won on a twenty dollar lottery ticket.

Today, Cynda was not at the center today when I dropped off my sketches, so she probably won't get the chance to see her portrait.

Maybe, another time, if she behaves!

Copyright 2014/ Ben Bensen III