Sunday, April 29, 2012

And The Emmy Goes To...

So last night I made my national television debut in the non- "...Arrested and charged with..." category.  The show is called My Ghost Story, and my daughter Leigh and I told our tale in what can only be described as the Beauty and the Beast segment.  Leigh looked lovely, and I filled the role of the puffy, pasty-faced father.  If you missed it, no big deal-- only that your lives will be slightly diminished as a result.  However, the Bio Channel's website will have it available for viewing in the next few days, and there are always repeat episodes, so fear not.  And if you have no idea of what I'm talking about, you can read this.

As always happens in Hollywood, my best scenes were left on the cutting room floor.  I had so many more "walk over stop and turn around... now looked scared!" spots that were truly terrifying, it's a crime they didn't show them all.  I also had some killer dialogue that I was sure they would use.  Deep, meaningful stuff like, "Can you repeat the question?" and "I was so scared I could've crapped my pants!"  But with nearly two hours worth of interviews, and another couple hours of tape filmed at my house, they had to cut something to fit into an eight-minute segment.

Well, it was all fun, but I'm glad it's all in the rear-view mirror.  It's time I got back to un-interrupted painting.  I know how being on TV can become addictive to some, but it was a one-shot deal for me.  But then again, I did hear phantom footsteps in my bedroom closet one time, and I have seen strange shadows moving about the house at night.  Hey... maybe I can get on Ghost Adventures!...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lights! Camera! Look Scared!

My Ghost Story, 10PM Saturday Night April 28, 2012 The Bio Channel

The road of life is one long blind curve, isn't it?  I mean, who knew that when I bought an old house so many years ago in a quiet Maine town that eventually it would lead me to Hollywood to film a segment for a TV show about ghosts?  Go figure.  I blogged about the goings on in that house in this post, and this one.  Go ahead and read 'em, I'll wait here for you.

On my word of honor, all that stuff is true.

Now, back when I bought the house Al Gore hadn't invented the internet, cars had extra little antenna's for their "mobile" phones, and cable TV had about 36 channels.  Now cable has about 226 channels, and of them, 221 have "reality" shows about auctions, homes and guns-- with a Kardashian thrown in-- and ghost shows.  Celebrity Ghosts, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Pets, Ghosts In The Machine, you name it, there's a ton of them.  After having gone through what I have, I admit I am a fan of the paranormal, so I'd watch those shows and think, "Man, if they could only hear about my ghosts, they'd flip out!"  That's where the show My Ghost Story comes in.  The premise of this show is actual people who have had paranormal experiences sit down and tell you about it, kind of like sitting around the camp-fire and telling ghost stories, but they have some kind of evidence; photos, recordings, and best of all- videos, to back them up.  So, I fired off an email to them and to my utter astonishment, they were interested in my story.  And that meant getting on a plane for a quick trip to L.A.

The story they were most interested in involved my daughter Leigh as well, so we both got to go.  I've been on enough flights in my life to know that I'd rather walk, but Leigh had never been on a plane in her life.  As we sat on the tarmac in a cigar tube with wings, she was not thrilled to see the flight crew winding up the rubber band to power the engines.  Suffice to say, she was a touch nervous.  But as always happens (except when a plane crashes and burns, killing all on board) we made it safely to LAX where we were picked up by a show staffer.  He's a nice guy who is also a screenwriter and has appeared on a couple of TV shows.

After checking in at the hotel by a very nice desk clerk-- who really is a screenwriter whose been in a couple of TV shows, we prepared for our on-screen "interview".  On the show, it's a person sitting there alone, telling a story.  Behind the scenes it's a cavernous, dark soundstage with three or four very bright spotlights shining in my face, and three cameras wizzing around my head as I told my tale to a woman sitting off-camera.  Periodically, a make-up lady would rush over to dab sweat off my brow, put my two hairs on the top of my head back in place, and apply more boot black to my beard.  Now, I had done some research on this show, and I had noticed that the story tellers would frequently say that they were "scared", or the ghosts were "evil,"  even "demonic," but I wasn't going there.  Instead, I tried to think of any other adjective, synonym and euphemism to use instead of "scared".  So it remains to be seen what a melodramatic twit I sound like.

Leigh in the make-up chair

After I was done, Leigh had her turn, but I didn't get a chance to watch her.  I did spend my time back in the green room chatting with some of the shows assistants.  They were really pleasant young men who are screen writers and who've appeared in a couple of TV shows.

A few weeks later, it was time for a cameraman to come out to the house to film some background scenes for use in the segment.  They use these shots as silent films to run while our voices play over them.  We couldn't use the original house, so we used mine.  I did ask the cameraman, whose name is Steve, to include as many shots of my paintings as he could.  Hey, a little free publicity can't hurt--am I right?  (Even though at no time during the interview did I mention that I am a painter...)  Steve filmed Leigh and me kind of reenacting our story.  As an example, he would set one of us up and say, "OK, sit in this chair and read a look up... now look scared!"  Or, "In this scene I want you to walk through this room... now stop and look over your look scared!"  So now I can't wait to see how I look as a melodramatic twit... whose scared!

Steve, Me and Leigh admiring ourselves.

Leigh picking up some acting tips on how to look scared.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the high-light of our California trip was reconnecting with an Air Force friend of mine whom I hadn't seen in thirty years.  She showed Leigh and me around L.A., Venice beach, the Getty museum, and afterward we had a great time at the hotel bar reminiscing over a few drinks.  The bartender was a charming young man who is really a screenwriter and has even been in a couple of TV shows...

Like me!


Monday, April 23, 2012

Jekyll And Hyde

Here is my latest from around the neighborhood:  Up River, oil on panel 18X14in.  This is the Eastern River, the same little brook that borders my property.  This view is of the upper series of waterfalls that, from here, descend another hundred yards or so.  Earlier this year I also did a picture of the waterfall on the top; Deep Wood Falls:

Like all bodies of water, they can have good days and bad days.  I think I've shown its good side.  But we have had about three inches of rain today, so it has gone from quiet and serene like this:

To raging, like this:

Moody little thing, isn't it?


Monday, April 2, 2012

A Little Art History: Or, I Kinda Get It...

As a lover of history, I have learned not to judge the citizens of the past by today's standards and morals;  I think it's best to try and see things through the eyes of those who were there without the benefit of hindsight.  Take the habit of burning a witch at the stake, for instance.  Now, we cringe at the extreme stupidity and barbarous aspect of taking an innocent victim and burning them alive to expel a "witch".  "My goodness, what were they thinking?" we can ask ourselves.  But to the folks in what we call the Dark Ages, what they thought they were doing was kinda like an intervention.  They thought it a joyous occasion when they could steal a soul from the clutches of the devil and deliver it into the waiting and protective hands of the Almighty through the purifying power of fire.  Not quite so bad now, is it?  Still, it's a practice we frown upon today.

Another thing that's good to keep in mind when studying history:  The winners get to write it.

When I was young and just starting to learn about it, art was still in the middle of the Ice Age known as Contemporary Modern Art.  According to what I read, (in books, and not on Wikipedia...) we had the enlightenment that was the Renaissance, then the art equivalent of the Dark Ages until "true art" was finally born again at the beginning of the 20th Century with the coming of the Expressionism and Abstract movements.  Realism, when mentioned at all, was relegated to the French Impressionists of the 19th Century, with maybe a sideways glance at Thomas Eakins or Winslow Homer.  Other than that, it was a subject best not spoken of in polite society.

The impressionist were always cast as a group of Frenchmen who rebelled against the stuffy and stilted art Powers-That-Be, by painting their pictures outside En Plein Aire, and who figured out if you put a dab of yellow next to a dot of blue and stood back, it looked green.  Now, let's get back to talking about Jasper Johns, shall we?...

But, as with all things, there is more to the story.  The Powers-That-Be that were never mentioned in any book I read were Classical Academic painters like William Bouguereau, Jean-Lois Meissonier, and Jean-Leon Gerome, to name a few.  These were artists whose technical polish and skill were above reproach.  They painted stunning pieces depicting Greek mythology, with dancing Satyrs and beautiful Nymphs: or ancient Roman times, showing slave auctions and gladiator fights in loving detail; or massive canvases highlighting the wars and people of the Napoleonic era.  Not to mention the occasional street urchin, or comely peasant girl.  We look at these pieces today and rightfully see the immense talent and consummate skill that was needed to do them.  But all the Impressionists like Monet, Renoir, Cezanne et. al., saw were paintings that had absolutely no bearing on the world they lived in.

You know what?  I'm kinda going with the Impressionists on this one.

Don't get me wrong; I love the Academic painters.  I think Gerome, Bouguereau and all are absolutely fantastic artists.  But like the young-buck painters of the 1870's, I just don't buy into paintings of Greek Mythology, Ancient Roman life etc., either.  And when they tried to paint to the average guy with pleasing pictures of children and pretty peasant women, all I see is saccharine Victorian sentimentality at its worst.  Honestly, while I can understand and appreciate the talent involved, if I was told that only subject matter like that is considered Art, I'd rebel too.

Monet and company wanted to show what was recognizable to most Frenchmen:  A train station, canals, small villages that were populated with real, identifiable people.  They wanted honesty in their portrayals, so they went to the location and painted it from life, not from imagination in a studio.  You won't find any fierce Satyrs hiding in Monet's haystacks.  There are no rhapsodic Angels floating through Cezanne's skies.  And when Renoir wanted to paint a naked woman, he did-- and he didn't call her a "Nymph" or "Roman Slave".  Oh, and that yellow/blue dab thing?  It was an ingenious way of solving the problem of trying to convey the vibration of color and light that we see when out doors.

But most importantly:  The Impressionists won, so their descendants get to write the history.

Art books still lavish more praise on them than they do the 19th Century Academic painters.  The reason is that in the art tree of life, (as written by the current Powers-That-Be) the Impressionists are considered a vital root, while the poor Academics are relegated to Australo-Pithecus status; An evolutionary dead-end.  But the Ice Age is thawing from the art landscape, and as it recedes, the likes of Bouguereau and Gerome are coming into view again.  And the more they are seen, the more they become appreciated.  The more they become appreciated and held up as the ideal in painting, the more one other thing about history becomes evident:  The past always repeats itself.

That doesn't really bode well for witches, now- does it?