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