New Jersey, 1973; Thailand, 1974; England, 1978; Beaux Arte Ball, UM, 1981; Corcoran, 1983

"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature.... Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."
- Helen Keller (1880 - 1968)

Family '75
Family Christmas Picture, 1975; I'm second from right (between my Dad and my younger brother, Herb).

Ben, Official Air Force Portrait, 1974

Vietnam and a low draft number ended any further college or artistic aspirations for several years. With the certainty that I'd soon be a Marine in Vietnam if I waited to be called up, I enlisted in the Air Force in 1972, under a 'Guaranteed' program that promised me training as an illustrator. I quickly discovered that recruiters were often less than honest in their promises! Things turned out for the best, however; while my career field was 'Command and Control', my artistic talents were quickly discovered, and I was pulled from my job frequently to paint murals for buildings and world maps for Command Centers (often working with fellow artist and best friend Ken Sweetser), and to draw caricatures for various dignitaries.

AF Artwork

My eight years in the Air Force were fun, and I did very well, being chosen Airman of the Quarter at two different bases, becoming Honor Graduate at NCO Leadership School, and writing and drawing for three base newspapers. A photo of me painting a mural even appeared in the Air Force Times!

AF Artwork


I travelled extensively during those years, being assigned to bases in New Jersey, Thailand (working as Rescue controller during the evacuation of Saigon, in 1975), California, and Germany, and I lived a fantasy life of trips to exotic locales, occasional romantic flings with beautiful women, and adventures that were sometimes not quite legal, but made for great storytelling!


Kate Oliver, 1978 Ben, with Kate Oliver, 1978

I was having so much fun in the Air Force that I contemplated making it a career, and postponing any ambitions to be a full-time artist, but two things happened; first, I met an enchanting girl named Kate Oliver, from Boulder, Colorado, in 1977; after a couple of months, I had fallen deeply in love for the first time in my life, and proposed, and she accepted...only to dump me, in 1978, as she realized, far more than I, that we were both too young and impulsive for that kind of responsibility, particularly as the service had me constantly moving, something she wanted no part of; second, I recognized that what I enjoyed most in the service were not my duties, but the time spent creating art! My future, it became clear, was as an ARTIST, not a career AIRMAN! So I honorably discharged in 1980, and went to college (using my GI benefits, so my Dad could keep his money!)

Ben, 1981

I first attended the University of Maryland at College Park, Maryland, focusing on Fine Arts, Art History, and Radio, Television, and Film, from 1981 until 1982. I grew a beard, discovered that the eight-year hiatus from school actually improved my academics, and created such a strong reputation as an artist that I was approached by several art institutions to switch schools, and continue my artistic training at a more specialized college!

Artwork, 1981-1986: Pen sketch of Robert Mitchum, large acrylic 'free-form' painting; oil wedding portrait; oil nude study of a roommate; oil monotone portrait of best friend Geo Cameron

Fulfilling the dream my father had crushed when I was in high school, I transferred (using a Veteran's scholarship program) to Washington, D.C.'s Corcoran School of Art (known today as the Corcoran College of Art and Design) in 1982. While this illustrious, hundred-year-old Fine Arts institution was NOT happy when I expressed a desire to follow my passion, and pursue a career as a Caricaturist/Cartoonist, and not as a traditional Fine Artist ("Caricatures are NOT ART!", my Academic Advisor ranted), I still won several awards, learned a lot about artistic discipline and the creative life, made some wonderful friends, and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in 1986.

Enjoying Life, 1983 Corcoran Artist, 1984 Corcoran Friend, 1983

At 33, with a diploma in hand, yet clueless about what I would do, I nervously entered the "Real World"...

Burgraff Family, 1992
Last Family Picture, 1992: I'm at the far left. (Dad passed away a month later, never reconciling himself to my being an artist; Mom died in 1994, my biggest fan, full of faith in God and all her children's potential, until the end.)