Local artist Benji Pierson may hail form Normandy Park, Washington, but he’ll always say he was “born” in Enumclaw.
“I learned to snowboard at Crystal Mountain,” he said. “That has given me my life. Snowboarding has given me my life.”
It was “a crunch job,” Pierson said, recalling how he only had about two days to come up with a jacket design that Rice would wear in “Art of FLIGHT,” the film Rice was working on at the time.
But after countless Red Bulls and cups of coffee, Pierson, now 41, got the job done — and his jacket design hit the big screen in 2011, jumpstarting his art career.
Eight years later, Pierson wants to re-visit where it all began for him, and hopes the Enumclaw community will join him by attending a free showing of “Art of FLIGHT” at the Chalet Movie Theater on Wednesday, March 27.
The doors to the Chalet are slated to open at 6, and attendees will be greeted with numerous examples of Pierson’s art, including the jacket Rice wears in the movie, which starts at 7.
Pierson describes the film, which takes viewers on a two-year trip from Canada to Chile, as the “creme de la creme” of sport-action movies.
“The movie is a blow-your-hair-back kind of movie, like Planet Earth meets snowboarding,” he said.
When Pierson was young, he suffered from epilepsy. In fact, he can barely remember his life before his early teens, which was when he came to Enumclaw and stopped having seizures.
But those formative years still had a big impact on his life and art.
“Epilepsy put a damper on physical activities for a number of years, but for some reason I have laser focus when I draw and I feel it keeps my chemistry balanced,” Pierson said. “I remember drawing airplanes my dad with a kind of drafters-style that helped improved my line quality.”
He’s also a big science fiction fan, which shows in his artwork at Arts Alive on Cole Street — an All Terrain Armored Transport (or AT-AT walker) looming over Cole Street, or a crashed snow speeder at the foot of Mount Rainier are just two of his pieces.
“I grew up on Star Wars… the only thing that would bring me out of a seizure, bring me to a level where my heart wasn’t going nuts and the stress wasn’t hitting me, was through Star Wars,” he said, adding that as a child and adolescent, he looked up to Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston, the concept artists for the original Star Wars Trilogy.
But canvas art is only a little of what Pierson does.
Beyond continuing to do art for the snowboarding and skiing industry, Pierson also designs art for Melvin Brewing in Bellingham, Washington, and very soon, is having one of his pieces painted on an Air Force KC-135 refueling jet. At the moment, the project “is underway,” and will be promoted on his social media sites when it’s completed.
Pierson hopes the “Art of FLIGHT” showing will inspire other artists to think outside the box.
“I’m there to display the artwork, show a bit of how illustrators and artists alone can get beyond in production, beyond the two-dimensional canvas, and getting functional art,” he said.