Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dark Genius (Prologue)

The nightmare begins the same way: Night. Dark. Air so thick you can hardly breathe. The walls of the loft give birth to partially formed demons. Slowly, they emerge; first a foot, a rib cage, a deformed head. Round, smooth, covered in greasy birth slather, soft, slick images frolic through the bedroom, down through the halls, leaving smearing footprints. Low whispered voices calling out. They float from room to room, space to space. Their guttural wails waft into the bedroom and Jimmy pulls the sheets up over his head. Black shadows surround the bed. He's got to get away before they reach him, before they touch him or he will melt into one of them.
Racing to the bathroom, he slides to the floor in front of the sink. Unable to stop the room from spinning or to stand long enough to take a leak, he kneels to relieve himself in the bathtub. Shaking involuntarily, he sits on the cool hardwood floor and studies the small room, waiting for the demons to slip in under the door.
The unframed painting on the back of the door moves in a swirling, wavy pattern as he studies its composition. What's not to hate about that painting? It looks just like him, his burnt soul, a mass of black and gray lines intersecting in a warped ball of nothingness.
Jimmy pulls himself up to the sink and stares into the mirror. The rings under his eyes are a dull umber. His narrow head and bulbous nose are what he hates the most. The red lines just under the skin twist and dance to the beat of his racing heart. An open envelope on the sink still holds white powder. Jimmy wets a finger on his tongue and swabs the crystal poison onto his gums.
They are pounding on the door now, the demons, calling his name in a dreamy, guttural singsong: Jimmmeee, Jimmmeee. They dance on the floorboards; ethereal rats mixing it up, just outside.
Go away! Leave me alone.
They scuttle across, projecting tiny dark shadows in under the door. On his knees, his face flush to the floor, he can see them moving back and forth.
Whispering; Do it, Jimmy, just do it.

He knows what they want. Come to play lethal games; he feels it in his soul, come play in hell. Everything that is wrong with him they hunger for. They'll suck him dry, the vampire demons; squeeze every drop, all that's left, until his soul is empty.
It's so wrong, isn't it? All wrong: The loft, the work, and the money, loneliness, all alone, all gone wrong.

But it's time to face them, take the pain away for good.

He remembers the noose, already made up, waiting for him just outside the door, left over from Halloween, and kept intact to amuse unsuspecting visitors.
Running to the front hall, he stands near the ladder, searching for them, waiting to see them scurry, slip and slide over each other for first place in the race to his hell. Top of the ladder, he takes hold of the hanging noose. Gently, he guides it down over his head, and snug around his neck. The room is spinning again and the demons just below the ladder, rush in circles, snarling and hissing.
Jimmeee, Jimmeee!
Jimmy stands on one foot, taunting them, sniggering, but his attention is drawn to a large canvas on the wall. The brilliant cadmium red and dull burnt umber seemingly melt together into one oozing color and run off to the floor. The yellow ochre needs adjustment; it doesn't quite fit the rest of the composition. He might fix that, get some more burnt umber going. Reaching for a brush, he takes a step off the ladder and... That's when he awakens, heart pounding, not sure if he’s dead or alive, shouting: “I’m not Jimmy, I’m not Jimmy, I’m John Harper…and I am not dead, I am not dead...”

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Studio Picture

This photo is of Sargent's studio. Note Madam X and the heavy curtains. I love this photo.

Season's Greetings

Wishing you all a very special holiday season! I hve new paintings I just need to get some photos done.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I have two lemon trees in the back yard that will be bearing two variety of fruit in the next fews weeks. I also have an orange tree. Hopefully, I will be able to get lots of subject matter for my paintings. This "Lemon Study" is on canvas, 8 x 10, oil. I used a heavier mixture of Stand oil and turp, about 50/50, for the background and just stuck with the Liquin Original for the lemon and the greens. This painting was made to viewed at from about 5 feet or so, so until I figure out how to do a proper photo the right size, click on the smallish painting to get the gist of viewing it from that distance.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bummed but not for too long...

Well, as most of my friends know I ran into a bit of bad luck and a string of bad health issues that delayed my departure for New York just long enough to make it not worth my while this I postponed the trip and will have to make due with working here at home and maybe taking a few nearby workshops. I am bummed because I wanted to see my good friend Richard and attend the classes. But I am determined to make it back there some time soon...enough, now back to work...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Preparing for NYC

As I prepare mentally for my sojourn to NYC, and the Grand Central Academy, I have been reading through, again, Juliette Aristedes book, Classical Drawing Atelier. In it are the basic fundamentals and some in-depth instruction on the classical drawing methods of great representational artists throughout the last few hundred years, and particularly those of the nineteenth century atelier's that were so prevalent in Europe at the time. The methods and thinking are sound: make a good drawing and the painting will follow. Above all else, get the drawing right. Modeling form is fun, difficult and often frustrating for the art student. This book explains step by step the processes needed to acquire the skills to master representational drawing. I took a workshop from Juliette back in 2007, and enjoyed it very much. It opened my eyes to the work involved in developing the skills see and think as an artist. Although, I did already "see" as an artist to some degree, this strictly reinforced what I had instinctively started to develop. Consistent hard work is the key. Developing ones eye and skill takes some time, but I am confident that, since I have been drawing and painting since high school, as a part time artist, my development shall not be impeded by age. I am optimistic, and look forward to immersing myself completely in art. Next blog…about the art galleries I plan to visit. Love it already! Photo is a self portrait by Juliette.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Finding a Sublet In NYC

Having been out of the city of New York since 1992 after having lived there for 8 years, I can honestly say I forget how crazy it is to find a living situation there. As in most things, it's always best to "know" somebody. But I know only one person left from the old days and he shares a small apartment already...not something I can dive into. So, I've been looking on Craigslist and what I thought was almost a done deal on a sublet has turned South and now I am hot on the trail of a new sublet in the East Village. I can honestly say it reminds me of throwing bread crumbs into a pond of carp. A frenzy-like atmosphere emerges and you start to stress and get caught up in it. I have been jerked around by at least two (I think) would be scammers, whose sublets were just a bit too good to be true and who wanted me to wire them money. That was a laugh. One woman actually said I could not send my friend to see the place until I gave her a deposit because she had shown the place to a few people and they didn't rent it. Good luck with that! Another potential scammer answered one of my emails at 2:30 AM Pacific time. That means he is either a very early riser or he was someplace other than New York, say maybe Russia?!? Who knows? Anyway, I found a guy, who happens to be a trader on Wall Street and was born and raised in Half Moon Bay, CA. The same place where I own a home and recently moved from. Small world. We'll see what happens. And, BTW, all the places I've seen pics of are small, cramped even, with maybe 400 sq feet of space. My how we take space for granted here in Phoenix!
Out for now...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Well It's Official...

I will be spending the month of September in NYC, studying part time at,
The Grand Central Academy of Art.
By part time, I mean, M-TH 6:30 – 9:30 PM, and Sat 12:30 – 4:30 PM The tickets are bought, the sublet is waiting, and I am ready to head back to NYC! The school was started by Jacob Collins, Dan Thompson, and others. I had the pleasure of studying under Dan for a workshop in 2007 in figure drawing. What a great guy. He also studied with Jacob Collins at The Water Street Atelier, also founded by Collins.
I've also had the pleasure of attending a workshop with Juliette Aristides, also alum of the same school.
I had the pleasure of taking a portrait class from Jacob Collins in the early 90's at The National Academy of Art in NYC. Mr. Collins has been a huge inspiration to me and my pursuit, although part time, of being a better artist. And although I have pretty much been a part time, or Sunday painter, as I like to say, I have been inspired to take my art to the next level. Unfortunately for my music, I have found I no longer have the energy or the will to play full time in a band. I will, however, pursue that as a "Sunday" drummer/singer. At The Grand Central, they teach in the classical tradition, where skill in draftsmanship came first and was highly developed. This will be the foundation of all my future artistic endeavors. To be achieve above all, a good drawing, all else will follow. I will start will "cast drawing" and "figure drawing." As I am a part time student, this will only be for one month, but I am completely psyched to be able to immerse myself completely in my art work. I will be documenting this incredible journey through this blog...
Wish me luck!


Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's Been A Long Time...

It's almost been a year since I had my second knee replacement surgery, the first one being in Feb of 08'. It's been a long hard road, having been in a wheelchair for 3 years prior to the surgery, I wasn't even sure I would ever walk again. I'll never forget choking back the tears driving home from a doctor's office after he'd told me he could not do surgery on my legs, they were just too contracted...Luckily, I found a brilliant DR. at Stanford Medical that did a great job on me. The wheelchair kind of snuck up on me. I used it to ease the pain of walking but it robbed me of that task completely. My knees just locked up and I could not straighten them out to walk at all.

Anyway, now I look forward to getting on with things I had long lost the feeling for, like playing my drums and singing. I got the idea for starting a band again, and since I had not been in one for a few years it's been hard getting my drum playing and singing chops back again. Sometimes I forget how out of shape my body had become...that sneaks up on you, too...

The band I have in mind would play music that I have a feeling for...a lot of Steely Dan, because I like the challenge and the sound, and Sting. I love Ten Summoners Tales, one of his best efforts. He is truly a gifted singer/song writer.

So here I am sweating and toiling away learning song and I suddenly I give in to a long standing urge I used to get....the urge to be the "front man" of a band instead of the drummer who sings back up. I want to be the lead singer...

I have taken voice lessons in the past and have sung the lead in stage musicals and sung lead vocals on a few songs in bands...


I go back to voice lessons once a week, I buy a CD from a singing coach with a killer warm up exercise on it...I practice my butt off trying to squeeze out those few extra high notes I need...and I get a cold...a two week set back...

I have a guitar track from Stings, "Shape of My Heart" that I paid a guy to perform so I can lay down the vocal track for... as kind of a calling card to other musicians...

Like I said it's been's kind of like putting on a play by yourself in some ways, but every time I think I can't do it, I think back and remember where I've been.

I'm the type of person that completely immerses himself in what he is doing to the point of neglecting all else...Unfortunately, I tend to get to a certain level of competence and just let it go...hence the "Jack of Arts..."

But this time I think I can safely say I am sticking with it...working hard and will get it done...however long it takes, and it will take a long time...

In the mean time my painting and writing have taken a back seat. I have an idea for a painting, or a re-write to a story and I tend to just let them go...I want to be a singer, damn it! Is that so wrong...?


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Something Rare Indeed.

This is a true story...I feel like a successful lawyer today. Even though I am no where near a real lawyer, I won my first case in court!

The city of Phoenix, in an effort to squeeze more money from the tax paying public, has put up camera on the major highway systems in Phoenix. If you go 10 Miles an hour over the speed limit you get a nice photo taken of you infraction and a letter sent to your home address. I got such a letter a few months ago for something I supposedly did in December. Received a nice little photo of myself traveling along Interstate 10, supposedly traveling at 77 miles per hour.

Well, I don't go that fast because I know where the cameras are and I use my cruise control. So, just before signing the "guilty" portion of the summons, and thereby forfeiting $181.00, I decided to watch the video they made of my infraction. To my amazement, I saw not only my car but another vechicle approximately the same size as mine, go zooming from in back of me in my lane to my right and passing me. I then noticed that my car had stayed parallel to a city bus in the far right lane...
So to me this meant two things. One: I was going the same speed as a city bus. Second: That car that passed me from in back of me must have triggered the cameras and I got left holding the bag.

I requested a court hearing. Today I went to downtown to the court house. They had a Department of Transportation Officer there presenting cases to the court and a judge. I was waiting there a good 45 minutes. One lady in front of me had been nailed for going...coincidentely...77 miles per hour! She plead her case in broken English, claiming her husband had turned red and the veins began to pop in his head, so she sped to the doctor. The judge didn't buy this and ordered her to pay the fine and seek an appeal.

As time passed and the cases in the court dwindled down, I began to get a little nervous wondering if I would be able to speak clearly and intelligibly about what I believed to be my case.

My heart raced as my name was butchered by the judge. I waved my hand and was asked to approach and be seated. I was sworn in and the Judge repeated his spiel about this being a hearing and that the state was going to present evidence against me and that I could then question the officer and then argue my case.

I was delighted that the officer produced photos of the infraction that included surrounding vehicles and indeed included the mystery car that I believed had cause my dilemma.

Once the Officer was finished I began my questioning: "Do you see a car to my cars right?" Yes..."Do you see that the car to my right in partially in my lane?" Yes... 'In the next picture, do you see a city bus parallel to my car?" Yes...

The officer handed the photos to the judge. I then began...
"Your Honor, I drove these highways from August 08 until Jan 09 twice a day to drive my son to and from school. I knew exactly where these cameras are....When I received the notice in the mail I was puzzled as to how I could have been going 77 miles per hour since my custom was to set my cruise control on 65 miles per hour...then when I saw the video I realized there may be a flaw in the system. I am under oath and I believe that it was that car that pass me from behind in my lane and to my right that set off the camera, unless of course that other driver also received a ticket at the exact same time I did."

The Judge looked bemused, was his day was being broken up by an actual argument...?
The DPS Officer produced a small video console and watched the film of my car a few times, showed it to me and said..."Your Honor, I do see a car passing his and the state cannot verify that that car did not indeed trip the cameras, therefor the state will withdraw its case..."
The Judge looked at me over his glasses and said...I smiled a we bit. "Good for you..." Said the Judge.

I asked, "Am I dismissed, Judge?"
He said, "Yes, you are dismissed. And enjoy your time here in Phoenix."
"Thank you, Your Honor," I said. I turned to the Officer and said, "Thank you Officer."

He turned to me and said in a low voice, "Your welcome. Good job!"
I walked out of the hushed court room to the hallway and pump my fist. "Yeah!" I said out loud. Now I know how Matlock feels."
Obviously, there are flaws in the "camera" systems that catch speeders. I happened to get caught up by one of those flaws and luckily for me, I was able to demonstrate it to the court. I firmly believe I was correct.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rotten Apple in box

This is done on canvas, oil. Trying for some painterly effects because the canvas was not that smooth. I use liquin original as a medium. Underpainting is done with orderless mineral spirits and Asphaltum.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The All American Kid

"Billy! Billy, are you listening or are you gonna be dead all day?”
Billy picks his bullet-ridden body off the ground, brushes some lint from his ice cream cone and looks at me with meatball eyes.
“Okay Billy, let me finish my story. I’m on this raft, see? I built myself out of old paint cans and plywood. But I can’t keep my balance. My arms are thrashing and my hips are moving up and down and around and around trying to stay on. It’s a really funky raft, see? The cans are tied together with old twine rope.” I gyrate around for effect.
He licks his cone while standing on the lip of the huge city fountain, leaning back toward the water. “Can a bear kill a whale if it could swim fast like a whale?”
“Watch it!” I say, pleased he may fall in, horrified for thinking it.
He’s my sister’s kid, wearing shorts, bleached canvas Keds sneakers, one white, and the other grey. His white socks have fallen down around his ankles.
Knees locked at an impossible double-jointed angle, he stands surveying his domain.
“Don’t you get it?” I ask, “I couldn’t get the raft to float. But I kept trying anyway and I fell into the water and got all wet.”
“He fell in the water? Hah, hah, hah!” Billy forces a groaning laugh.
“Yes. He fell in the water,” I say, my enthusiasm trailing off. “He, me, she, it, whatever Kid.” I check my watch. Yet another hour of babysitting torture to go.
“Can tigers swim?” He closes one eye and cocks his head up at a pine tree, his mouth outlined in white foam. “I think I see a bird.”
“Yeah,” I say, “birds live in trees.”
“If tigers could swim in the ocean they could kill whales.”
“If tigers could fly, they would swoop down and take you to a cave somewhere.”
He cocks his head again and looks at me with the one eye. “Tigers don’t live in caves.”
“Yes they do. Big fat caves and they eat ice cream right out of little boy’s hands.” I laugh maniacally, snort and clench my fingers at him.
He rolls his eyes and makes a farting noise with his lips.
“Hey, that’s impolite.”
“Tigers do that.”
“They do not.”
“I heard one at the zoo.”
“I doubt it.” I look around for witnesses, I want no one video of this..
“My mother says everyone passes gas.”
“Mary Finn didn’t.”
“Who’s she?”
“A girl I knew.”
“If horses can’t fart, they die,” Billy says.
“Who told you that?”
“The horse lady, who my sister rides her horses with sometimes and they had a horse die of it!”
His cone falls into the water..
“Is there anything you don’t know, Billy?”
He turns on the lip of the fountain and reaches in for the cone. It slips between his fingers and sinks. Fishing around, he pulls out a wad of muck before I can stop him.
“Hey, look what I got.”
Yeah, real neat, kid. Now I have to touch that stinking little hand and run it under the sink. I look around for a park bathroom.
“See?” He holds up a funky blob of something and drops it onto the ground like a crane dredging swamp muck.
“Can I keep it?”
“Keep what?”
He kicks the wad and it takes the shape of an open wallet.
“Hey, look at that.” I lean in toward the slime.
“I found it.”
“That belongs to somebody, Billy. Don’t touch it.”
I grab a stick from a near by bush and poke at the blob. Billy ignores the stick and picks up the wallet.
“Give me that.” I let my fingers touch the slippery leather and rinse it in the fountain. A driver’s license falls out. Billy is on it like a kitten on yarn.
“It’s a grandpa.”
I see the photo of a bald man, seventy-ish, wide eyed, looking like he’d been caught doing a felony. The license reads: James Richard Collier, 39 Pleasant St., Northborough, Massachusetts.
“That’s right around here,” I say.
“Let’s go.” Billy jumps up and down and runs in a circle.
“We should take this to the police, Billy. I don’t want to get involved.”
“Uncle John, he’s a grandpa lost his money.”
I look inside the wallet and pull out Costco and Visa cards, an AARP membership card, triple A and AMC Movie Watcher cards. No cash.
I know the address is around the corner from the park. We can be there in five minutes.
“Come on, Uncle John. Let’s go to his house.”
“There’s probably a police report on this, Billy. They’ll know what to do with it.”
“The grandpa needs to go shopping. Let’s go!”
I look at my watch. There’s still time to kill before my sister retrieves him. I stand up and point to the left.
“That way.”
A tree lined street off the park named Walnut leads to Pleasant Street and tenement houses lining a small hillside lane. I knock at number thirty-nine. Billy has hit every part of the front metal railing with the stick and I am about to take it away from him when a small dark woman comes to the door.
“Yes?” she asks.
Billy darts behind me. I nearly fall over, goosed from his head between my legs. I recover, laughing sheepishly.
“We’re looking for a Mr. Collier.”
“Oh, and who are you?” The woman pulls back a step, holding a hand to her heart.
“Is he a Grandpa?” Billy asks, suddenly poking his head out from between my legs.
“Why, yes he is. And who are you?”
“I’m Billy the Kid. Pow!” Billy shoots her between the eyes with his finger, then draws back, staggering in a death throw. He lands on the stoop between my feet.
“We found this wallet in the park.”
I hold out the wallet. It takes a minute to sink in before she opens it and pulls out the license.
“Where did you say you found this?”
“It was in the fountain at the park,” I answer.
She stares at the photo.
“Has it been lost long?” I ask.
“Since last fall. He was walking and...” She begins to choke up but stops herself. “It was days before we realized. He can’t remember the simplest things.”
“I’m sorry,” I say feeling uncomfortable.
“Is the grandpa home?” Billy asks.
“Don’t bother the lady,” I scold.
“It’s all right. He’s right in here.” She turns to her left, then back to us. “You want to see him? He’s having a good day.” She smiles at Billy.
“Was he in the war?” Billy asks, climbing back up my leg.
“Yes, he was. He was a Captain in the infantry.”
“Did he shoot anybody?” The ack, ack, ack of anti-aircraft fire suddenly explodes from Billy as he sights enemy bombers over head. “If they had tanks in the olden days, they would have won,” he offers without missing a beat.
“Who would have won?” She asks.
“The ones with the tanks.”
She looks up at me and I smile.
“Come on in.” She steps aside and Billy is in before I can grab his shirt.
“Grandpa, there’s someone here to see you,” she says, politely.
She walks us into a dark living room. The old man is sitting on a stuffed chair, cane at rest between his knees. He looks up with a start.
“Grandpa, these gentlemen found your wallet and returned it.”
“What’s that?” He asks, looking at me.
“They found your wallet.”
He takes the wallet from her and, without missing a beat, stuffs it into his back pocket.
“It’s kind of wet,” I say, but no one seems to hear me.
“Grandpa, this is Billy and?” She looks at me.
“I’m John.”
“Good to meet you. And who is this young man?” He asks, smiling at Billy.
I am goosed again, as Billy’s head pops out from between my legs.
“I’m a tiger. Grrrr.” Billy runs around the room and lands hard next to the old man at the chair. “If polar bears and tigers had a fight, who would win?” Billy asks.
“Polar bears?” The old man shouts. “Who cares about polar bears?
Billy furrows his brow.
“Tiger’s beat polar bears every time.”
Billy zooms around the room, looping past vases and framed photos, landing safely at the old man’s feet. “What if the polar bear had wings?”
“There were flying tigers once. They kicked all comers. Best pilots in the world.”
“There can’t be flying tigers,” Billy snorts. “Can there?”
“No, Billy,” I offer. “That was the name of a group of flyers in world war two.
“That’s right,” the Old Man says. “So, you see, tigers kick polar bear butt.”
Billy looks puzzled. “You were in the war, huh?”
The Old Man coughs, moves his cane around nervously. “My brother Dicky made all American!” The old man’s eyes light up. “He was in the paper and Life magazine.”
“I’m an America,” Billy shouts.
“How fast can you run?” Asks the Old Man.
Billy jumps around the room like a ping bong ball and crashes into the Old Man’s chair.
“Fast!” Billy says.
“That’s not running, Dicky. You bounced too much. You got to step into it, take long ones.”
The Old Man gets up and nearly falls back into the chair. I lean forward, but he catches himself with the cane. “Spread your legs out and make it smooth, like the runners at the track meet. The best ones take long strides.”
Billy cocks his head and looks at the Old Man with one eye. “You can’t beat me.”
“Billy,” I chastise.
“I can beat you any day of the week. I hurt my leg is all.” The Old Man slaps his bad leg and points his cane at Billy. “Lets you and me take it outside, if you think you’re man enough!”
“Dad, you know you can’t go outside,” the woman says.
“Dicky thinks he…” The Old Man’s voice trails off as he catches sight of his granddaughter. His eyes grow dim and he slowly sits back in the chair. Billy grows quiet, places a hand on the Old Man’s knee.
“Can I see your cane?” Billy asks.
“It’s not a toy,” I say.

The Old Man lets go of the cane and Billy pulls it away. “Bam! Bam!” Billy suddenly has a shotgun in his hands and races to the other side of the room. Taking cover behind a stuffed chair, Billy jumps up aims and fires. “Bam! Bam! Bam!”
“Ahhh, got me got!” The Old Man slouches in his chair, dead.
“Ah hah, hah, hah, yah dirty rat! I got yah!” Billy screams.
I start toward Billy, but he races past me to the Old Man. Billy leans close to the Old Man’s face, his nose almost touching his. The Old Man springs to life and grabs the cane from Billy, aims and unloads a few blasts into Billy’s chest. Blam! Blam!
Billy staggers back, leans right, left, forward, then back and crumples to his knees.
I clear my throat. “Well, thanks so much for letting us visit,” I say. “We really should get going. Come on Billy.”
I start walking to the door, but Billy hasn’t moved. I turn to see the Old Man hovering over Billy holding the cane in firing position. “Move and you get plugged again,” the Old Man says.
“Grandpa, they have to go now.”
“But, Dicky just got here.” The Old Man’s voice has a child-like quality. I see the glint back in his eye.
“Aw, do we have to?” Billy asks.
“Come on, Billy. Your Mom should be home by now.”
“Will you come back and see me soon?” The Old Man asks enthusiastically.
“Sure, if we can,” Billy says.
The woman gives me a knowing glance. I smile.
Billy drags himself to his feet and slowly clomps his way to the door. The woman comes with us.
“That’s the happiest I’ve seen him in a long while,” she says. “Thank you for returning his wallet.”
“Sorry he’s not feeling well,” I say.
“Hey Dicky!” The Old Man calls, “I’ll race you next time!”
“Yeah and I’ll beat you.” Billy answers.
“Fat chance, fat chance. You never beat me yet, Dicky!”
Billy turns to me. “Whose Dicky?”
“You are,” I say.
“Oh. Why am I Dicky?”
Billy spreads his arms and takes off from the back porch, circles around and zooms out toward the street.
“Come on Uncle John. I’ll beat you, I’m an All American!
I walk down the steps and turn to see the Old Man smiling at me from the window. I nod as I follow Billy on his bombing run back to the park.

The End

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Trompe L'oeil

Trompe-l'œil, which can also be spelled without the hyphen in English,[1] (French: "trick the eye", IPA: [tʁɔ̃p lœj]) is an art technique involving extremely realistic imagery in order to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects appear in three-dimensions, instead of actually being a two-dimensional painting.

I am taking a class in Trompe L'oeil painting next week. The "apples and grapes" was done in 2007 , oil on board, 8x10.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Drums and Drumming

6/8 I started drumming in 4th grade. I picked up a pair of sticks and started counting 1 + 2 and, blah blah blah, hitting the wooden seat of the chair in front of me in music class. I was pretty good at the one and two ands, understood the whole note, half note, quarter note concept, but then I got walking pneumonia and missed a week of school. Sometime during my week of illness, the sly old coot teacher had moved on to sixteenth notes and suddenly I was lost counting and kind of sunk off the old stool and out of music class.
12/8 Looking back, I find it hard to believe my music teacher didn't take the extra five minutes to explain (or as Bernard Purdie would say, "splain...") what had happened while I was gone.

4/4 During that week at home, I read my first book cover to cover. It was a little chapter book about a pony. Don't remember much about it other than the pony was nice and the kids in the book were happy. Anyway, I digress. Seems the little slip up at the 4th grade level kind of set the tone for me not really understanding counting and note values for some time to come. But I continued to hit things with my drumsticks, only at home now.

5/4 As I got older and into junior high, my dad bought me a used Japanese drum set. It was awesome! The cymbals were cheap and would dent, crack and bend when I hit them, and the drums were out of tune, but I didn't care. I was in heaven!

7/8 As I got into high school I bought a pro level set off a classmate for a whooping $200.00. A nice blue onyx Rogers Holiday set, with a 22 inch Zildjian sizzle ride and an 18 inch crash. Heaven thy name is drum!

15/8 I listened to records and tried to play along. School band was out of the question. They had too many notes. I was determined to teach myself how to play. Only thing I really didn't know about drumming was how to do it. Oh, sure I bashed and moved and soon my hands and feet were flying. I used to listen to Gene Krupa and try to imitate his sound. Soon I was listening to Mitch Mitchell and Ginger Baker.

7/4 Eventually, I learned to play a pretty mean drum solo. Only problem was I could not hold a steady beat. Nor did I have any concept of "time." Little did I know all those "notes" had to be played in time and had so many beats per measure at a particular speed. I just thought drummers played and that was it. Kind of like an embellishment on the music.

9/8 Well, anyway, a few thousand drum lessons later, I was in a band, but still, the notion of keeping "time" was just lost on me. I didn't know what a time signature was, nor did I have any concept of playing notes as a drummer. Oh, sure, I kind of learned my rudiments and kind of could count out notes, but the concept of time...?

12/8 I got into music school by enrolling in a correspondence class from Berklee College of Music in Boston. I was 19 and had just been asked to leave a band because I couldn't play in time with the music. I was determined to show them the genius I truly was by going to school. Eventually, I got into the Berklee by lying about my past experience and about which "required" drumming books I had mastered. Ah, yeah, kind of a huge mistake.

15/8 I met "monsters" at Berklee. Huge one eyed Cyclopes that ate whole villages for breakfast. Those were the kids that had been practicing, with books and a metronome, for 12 hours each day since 4 th grade. (Like I should have.) These were the kids that absolutely blew people away with their skill and dedication. Me? I kind of faded into the shadows as much as possible.

3/4 I did okay, though. I got a 3.5 my first year and did very well in everything but sight reading for my instrument. Again, 4th grade came back to haunt me.

5/8 Anyway, even now, as an "old man", I am still learning. Each year as I progress, I marvel at what I pick up. Listening to music is like a dissection to me now. Sure I hear the piece as a whole, but like a painter looking at another artists work, I see the work that went into that painting. I see the strokes used by the brush, the composition used, the layout, the points of interest.
16/8 I listen to a piece of music now to be thrilled, not so much by the sound, but by the skill of the artists involved. And the more I listen and learn and imitate, the more I love and dissect and appreciate virtuosity in a player or group of players. I appreciate more and more the genius that is in all of us, if only to be nurtured and developed by curious and loving hands.

7/4 I love drums! I love to look at pictures of drums, cymbals, hardware, drumsticks. I have books on how to make drums, old drums, new drums. Show me a good drum and you will have my attention, and a smile. Sometimes I'll go into a music store just to look at the pretty drums...
4/4 Oh, and now I count everything. That that I have to anymore, it's just ingrained in my head.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Breaking Into Show Business

When I first tried to break into show business, I was young and naive about it all. I answered an ad in the paper for a movie that was to be shot in NYC. So I go down to this casting place and there is a couple of guys in a bare room, an exercise bicycle and a barrel of water in front of a white screen. They had a big camera set up in front.

I hand the guy my headshot and he says, "Okay, I want you to stick your hand in the barrel of water and pretend you get a shock."

He stands behind the camera and the little red light comes on. So, I put my hand in the water and pull it out quickly. "Do it again," he says. So I give it my best, “Ow I'm shocked!” expression.

"Now,” he says, “do it one more time." And looks over at this guy, who mounts the exercise bicycle with a little generator attached to it. I look at the guy on the bike and he's giving this odd smile.

I put my hand in the water and ZAP! I get a real shock. The director yells, "Good, do it again!" So, like the fool I am, I do it again and get another shock! ZAP!

"Hey, what is this? I ask.

"That's good," he says, "Follow me."

Desperate actor that I am, I follow the guy into a room with curtains surrounding a mound of exotic pillows and lights set up for the camera.

"Would you be willing to take your clothes off for the camera?" he asks.

"What do you mean?"

"I want to see how you react to stimulus under the lights and camera. For the movie."

"Hey, wait a minute," I say. "What does this have to do with a movie anyway?"

"You've heard of Marlon Brando?" he asks.

"Of course I have? Who hasn't?"

"Well, he's in the next room watching on the monitor."

"You're kidding? Why?"

"Well, he is directing the movie and wants his actors to be able to do certain things. He thinks 'regular' auditions don’t' show enough."

"Oh. Well, if it's for Brando," I say.

So I take off my shirt and jeans and stand there with my socks on, embarrassed and a little chilled.

"Okay, sit on the cushions."

I sit down and the lights dim, a blue light comes on. Suddenly a wind machine picks up and is blowing the curtains all over and in walks this actress dressed in a harem costume with her belly exposed, like Genie in “I Dream Of Genie.” She has a little wand in her hand.

"Hi," I say. "Some audition, huh?"

She puts her finger to her lips and pokes me with the wand. "Ow," I say, not really hurt, a bit confused.

"Good," says the director. "Now make me believe it is a cattle prod."

Before I can answer, she pokes me again and this time I get a JOLT like you wouldn't believe! Suddenly music starts to play, surrounding us from all sides. South Seas music and waves crashing on surf spring from the speakers, weird instruments punching out odd animal rhythms. She pokes me again and smiles a florescent white smile!


She zaps me again.

"That's it!" I yell. "This is not an audition, you jerks!"

I jump up and get my clothes. The girl runs out of the room. The music stops, the lights stay low but the wind is still blowing category three on my hair. I am sweating like a pig and shaking all over. I got to get out of here!

Starting for the door, shoes and shirt in hand, I trip on my pants as they tangle on my ankles. The guy comes out and looks at me splayed across the floor. He’s not fazed.

"Marlon wants you to stay. He liked what you did!"

"I'm outta here, Pal! Tell Marlon to go prod himself!

I turn and trip onto the floor again. I notice out the corner of my eye a big fat guy with graying hair and a ponytail walking toward the other side of the room. No, it can't be! I hear the chuckle, the unmistakable Marlon Brando chuckle.

But it's too late. I have blown it. I am in the hallway, staring at the heavy grey metal door. I hear his voice from within. "Get me another actor. If he doesn't want to do it, he doesn't want to do it, that's all."

I make a fist, pound on the door. No one comes. I pound again.

The door creaks open and standing in front of me is the actress. She’s wearing a pink terrycloth robe. In natural light she looks different, her features more defined. "Yes?" she asks in a strange accent.

"I, I want to do the movie. I want to do, do..." All the time I am thinking, what am I crazy? I want to do WHAT?

"Sorry" she says. "The part is no longer available."

She smiles and shuts the door. I turn and walk away dazed and confused. Marlon Brando wanted me! Wanted ME! I almost turn, run back and pound on the door, but I am numb. I cannot move. I am frozen in place. The face of the girl at the audition comes to me and slaps me like I have never been slapped before. It was, it couldn't have been but it was, was that? Salma Hyack?

I sit on the cross-town bus, images of Salma dancing before me. Her smooth soft belly in the dim blue light, the delicate way she prodded my side. The lovely little ZAP she gave me. I sit and stare, beating myself up when a realization pops into my head...Wow! So, this is show biz!

Jack of Arts