Air Force Art Program

The U.S. Air Force Art Program celebrates its 61st year!

SILA Air Force Chair: Ben Bensen

For over 60 years the U.S. Air Force has had an art program that is ideally suited for illustrators. The Air Force provides trips for artists to bases, holds events, etc. throughout the continental United States and abroad and you do an illustration/painting based on what you see, experience and feel on these trips — It’s your creation! While your original painting/illustration — is given to the Air Force, you can keep the copyright for your own use in the future. The Air Force does require that your painting be done in good taste, be professional in its execution and that it tell a positive story about the Air Force.

The Air Force is a people oriented organization and likes to have paintings that show its personnel doing something (i.e., piloting, re-fueling, repairing, maintenance or whatever). In spite of what you might think, the Air Force isn’t looking for more “Planes-Hanging-In-The-Air” kind of art. They like to see and would prefer paintings with a human interest, people involved in some kind of activity. If you were not able to take advantage of the trips there are several members who can supply you with scrap. Contact Air Force Chair, Ben Bensen or Alyce Heath at the office, 800-799-6368 ( for help.

The 2012 Gala has been postponed to June 2013

This year’s event will once again be at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, Friday, October 26, 2012. While this venue is out of the norm for the Air Force, they are very excited to have it there this year. So is the Secretary and the Chief of Staff.

All of the artwork will be exhibited there from Oct. 26 through the second week of January 2013 NEW DATES TK. This will allow thousands of people the opportunity to view the artwork over the holidays as this is the museum’s busiest time for visitors. NEW INFO TK.

For those who did not visited the museum last time or have not seen it yet, this will be a real treat. The gala will be amongst the aircraft in the modern flight portion of the museum. Plans are to start flying people into Dayton, Wednesday, October 24th, and possibly, have a “behinds the scenes” tour of the museum, its restoration facility and the presidential planes sometime during the visit. Final departures will start on October 28 and continue on the 29th NEW INFO TK. The Air Force plans to have everyone stay on base at Wright-Patterson AFB. Ben will send more information as it becomes available.

Deadline and Other Considerations (Please read carefully!)

As soon as your artwork is done, a JPEG of your image should be sent to Air Force Chair, Ben Bensen care of From there he will send them out to SILA’s review committee to make sure they meet the quality level the Air Force has asked us to maintain.

Once approved, Ben will then contact each artist about shipping your un-framed art to the Pentagon by September 14 (note this is earlier than usual since the Air Force has to then send everything to Dayton). The Air Force will pay for the shipping as well as cover the cost of the framing.

As it stands for SILA members, the trip to the Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH in October JUNE will be run as usual. Artists can FedEx in their donated painting to the Pentagon for framing. As mentioned, it should be sent no later than mid September… sooner, if possible because the painting must be shipped to Dayton for the show on October 26th, after it is framed. The Air Force needs as much time as possible. The framing and shipping of artwork is paid by the Pentagon. The artist’s flight to and back from Dayton is covered. Spouses/guests can be invited but the flight is not paid for. The meal for the artists and one spouse/guest is paid for, but if you invite a third person, as I do, that person must pay for the meal, which is about $60. It is a formal event and men must wear a tux. As for the bar, that night, I believe it is not an open bar, but I’ll have to confirm that!

Normally, the Air Force sends the West Coast artists to the party on the Thursday before the Gala, which is always on Friday from 6pm till 10pm or so (NEW INFO TK) . We all find a place to continue the party after hours, but that is at the discretion of the person hosting the party. Almost everyone stays on base and, once again, the cost is paid by the artist. It comes to about $30 per night. We used to get flown out on the Monday after, but lately, artists are flown back to the west coast on Sunday morning. The flights, also, used to be provided by the military in a military aircraft, but in the past couple of “galas”, the Pentagon felt commercial was the better way to go. Because we fly commercially, if you’d prefer flying on different days, you can call Greg and set that up separately at (703) 697-6629. Also, when we flew military we all parked our cars at the Air Force El Segundo site and did not have to pay for parking. Flying commercial changes all that and as far as I know, one is not reimbursed for parking at the airport, though, once again, when on assignment for the Air Force, I believe parking is reimbursed. I’ll check on that!

A taxi or car pool is the best way to get from the Dayton airport to the base. It is around 15 miles from Dayton International Airport to Wright-Patterson, AFB and the taxi fare, currently is about $2.00 per mile plus tax. I do not know what that cost is exactly because I usually rent a car at the airport, in case I wanna get around. The Air Force doesn’t reimburse me for that though they have on most other trips except the “Gala.”

As for things to do, I know there’s the Wright Brothers Bicycle shop and a covered bridge tour though I’ve never been to either. It’s not full of museums like D.C., but you can get an idea from

The restrictions to the art is as follows: nothing of a political nature, no computer generated art, no overtly sexual imagery and if you are doing aircraft, make sure you understand that genre. Other than that, just one more thing… They don’t like Navy, ha!

All of our paintings are juried by email attachments and are juried by me and Keith Batcheller.

It doesn’t have to be from your latest Air Force trip. I tell our members who are waiting for a trip in order to donate artwork and participate, that they don’t have to have a trip to and if they don’t know what to create, I can send them reference material and ideas. Also, understand, the Pentagon happily accepts artwork that are aviation historical in nature. It can’t be naval, but it doesn’t have to be military either.

There’s no size requirement, but lately, those who wanna get seen have been painting five and six foot pics. Last year, I painted two 36×60 paintings and this year I plan to scale back quite a bit. So no, there’s no size requirement.

One last reminder…your renderings can be about any aspect of the Air Force. That means not just planes, but people, operations, or anything else that depicts any part of the Air Force mission. To the regular participants, the Air Force will send a “Brush of Blue” with additional information. If you have a question about subject matter don’t hesitate to get in touch with Ben to discuss it.

Please note, we keep using the word “artwork” instead of “painting” because any medium except computer generated is acceptable and welcomed. Oil, Acrylic, Watercolor, Pastels, Charcoal, Ink, Mixed Media, all have appeared. Even Sculpture, both paper and bronze.