About Mike Bennett
My earliest memory of having any interest in art work was from my elementary school years, around 3rd grade. I remember diligently trying to copy coloring book pages from the cartoons that were on television during that time period (1963) – Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound Dog, Mighty Mouse, and Felix the Cat.
A visiting priest dropped by at my home and my mother was showing some of my cartoon sketches to him, and he exclaimed, “These are really good. Did he trace them?” My mom very quickly corrected him by saying “No, he drew them!” It was then, that I decided, I wanted to be an artist.
In the early to mid 1960's, I would watch the first ever T.V. art instructor named, Jon Gnagy. His half hour show was on every week, in black & white – of course. They were already in re-runs even then.
I began to watch his show as he worked his magic by doing two scenes within a half hour using a light gray, dark gray, and black chalk. I started off with a pencil, trying to duplicate what he was doing, but was never quick enough.
By my next birthday or Christmas, I received, my first Jon Gnagy “Learn to Draw” set. It had everything I needed including “How to …” books so that I could take my time making beautiful sketches. I started to experiment with color pastel, and watercolor paint.
By 1966, one of my fondest memories came true. The local newspaper had announced that Jon Gnagy was coming to San Bernardino, California to the new May Co art department to demonstrate one of his famous TV lessons. He was going to choose 6 children to follow along with him as he taught the lesson.
I could hardly wait as the day approached for the happy arrival of this master artist. I managed to work my way to the front of the crowd and as he started asking for volunteers, I was jumping up and down, waving my arm so that he would see me. He finally chose me and we all began to start our sketches. The children and I all worked with Gnagy’s own chalk collection. I really felt that I had made it.
After everyone was finished and the crowd started to disburse, I asked Jon Gnagy if he would autograph my sketch, and he said, “I can’t do that since I did not make it. First I want you to sign it.” After I attached my name to my first professional looking color sketch, Gnagy grabbed a piece of chalk and wrote on my sketch, “Instructed by Jon Gnagy”
The sketch of the tree was immediately framed behind glass by my mother and stayed in my family home until I moved out. I still have it in my studio!
I met Jon Gnagy again in Idyllwild, CA. I was then in high school at the time. He asked if I would be on a new color television show that he was planning, and of course I jumped at the offer. Unfortunately the show never materialized. Later, I was able to acquire an original Jon Gnagy pastel sketch that he developed for the color television show.
I ascribe most of my drawing and shading skills to Jon Gnagy. No artist taught me more about the basics of art than him.
In the mid to late 1970's I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree and subsequently worked at a construction supply company and one of my main jobs was to do the graphics and illustrations for their monthly sales books and later their catalogs. I did hundreds of illustrations and paste up using the antiquated hot wax and roller method. The job put food on the table but I did not feel that I was using the full potential of my talent yet.
During the this same era, I was freelancing for Columbia magazine, painting covers. I even had some prints made of my “Christ the King of the Universe” painting. I also was doing local art shows, art contests and exhibiting and selling my paintings at a gallery in Laguna Beach, CA and doing very well.
I married a beautiful young lady named Rene’ in 1981 and subsequently had three beautiful daughters. I thank all four of them for putting up with my many absences from the living room to escape to my studio and paint another picture.
By the 1990’s, I was entertaining the thought of becoming an art teacher. I liked the hours and the pay was reasonable. The summer vacation and days off during the school year were really appealing to me as I had so many ideas I wanted to put on canvas. I also was able to pass on all the techniques I learned as a young artist to the elementary and middle school level students I have been teaching since 1997.
I continued to free-lance doing commissions, greeting card designs, and international stamp designs.
I painted many murals over the years and three of those murals were on a large Bekins trailer which became a mobile classroom with the subject matter of General Patton and World War II.
I continue to sell my art through art galleries, commissions, submissions to various art organizations, and through word of mouth. My art has appeared on custom wooden puzzles, book and magazine covers, newspapers, cross stitch designs, greeting cards, posters, audio cassette covers, international stamps, and many web sites. Recently I licensed my art with two cardboard puzzle sites. I am privileged to have my art licensed with Magic Murals.
My father told me shortly before he died in 1986 that one day I was going to make it and he was never wrong!