Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dead Silence

"Beware the stare of Mary Shaw she had no children only dolls. If you see her in your dreams, be sure you never, ever scream, or she'll rip your tongue out at the seam". Happy Halloween! I spent part of my afternoon watching the horror film "Dead Silence", a 2007 schlock-fest by the creators of the "Saw" series. It about a mad ventriloquist named Mary Shaw who was buried with her collection of vaudeville dolls and whose ghost terrorizes the small town of Ravens Fair. In the decades since the old woman's death the dolls have been mysteriously reappearing in the sleepy town, and soon after they are seen whole families are gruesomely murdered with their tongues carved out. The story begins with a young couple who have left Ravens Fair and moved to the big city. But it seems they can't escape the curse of their little town, for they soon receive one of old Mary Shaw's dummies in a package.

When I first saw the dummy I thought this movie was going to be about a homicidal doll like Chucky in the cult horror series "Child's Play". That would have been a better idea, because this stinker of a film isn't even "bad" enough to become some kind of ironic cult favorite. Its just bad. In the end one of the dolls does finally speak, possessed by the spirit of Mary Shaw, and actually this doll does kind of resemble Chucky. But mostly this a slow moving ghost story with bad acting and a contrived "twist" at the end. My favorite bad actor in this movie is former "New Kid on the Block" Donnie Wahlberg. Donnie gives an almost endearingly cliched portrayal of a detective. Ostensibly Detective Lipton is out to solve the mystery of the murders, but he mostly just plays with his electric razor...

"Beware the stare of Chet Loggins. He has no children only dolls..." I only struggled through this rotten tomato, because someone once told me that my paintings of dolls reminded them of "Dead Silence". I don't know about that, but creepy is a word I hear a little too often. I think these four paintings were the ones they were talking about...

A long time ago I did actually do a painting with a ventriloquist's dummy in it. I think this a Charlie McCarthy doll, but I'm not sure. My painting skills were not as keen back in '96 when the painting below was done. Charlie McCarthy was the doll used by famous ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, Candice Bergen's pop.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Snapit Review

Speaking of emails, as I was last post, I recently received a request via email to do a product review for Digeus. Digeus is a software manufacturer and the software they want me to test and review is Snapit Screen Capture 3.7. I downloaded the trial version, which except for its 15 day time limit has all the features of the regular version, and had a look at it.

Most everyone knows that if they press the "Prt Scr" (Print Screen) button on their keyboard that a snapshot of what ever is on their monitor gets saved to their clipboard. Then you have to paste it into a Word document and save it that way. If you didn't want the whole the whole screen, and you almost never do, you have to bring the saved document into an graphics program like Photoshop and crop out what you want. When you have Snapit 3.7 you don't have to go to all this trouble.

When you double click on the Snapit icon, which is a little camera, an even tinier camera appears in your system tray. If you press the "Prt Scr" button while the little camera is in your system tray your cursor turns into cross-hairs and you can drag it over whatever you want to copy to the clipboard.

Not only can you drag and select exactly what you want from whatever happens to be on your screen and copy it to your clipboard, but you have the option to automatically save these "clippings" as image files to any folder you chose. You simply right click on the Snapit icon in your system tray and then click on "Properties" to set up the autosave feature. You have the option to choose where to save the images, what prefix to use in the autonaming of the files and a choice of five different file types to save them as. You can also right click and point to "Save As" on the dropdown menu if don't want use the autosave feature.

All the pics used in this post where captured with Snapit 3.7. This is a lightweight but very handy little utility for anyone from bloggers who want quickly capture images for a post to business people doing a presentation. Its a great little tool, and I'm glad to be part of their viral marketing campaign.

Btw, if you want to receive a free copy of Snapit 3.7 just download the free trial here, post a review on your blog or website and contact with a link to your review for a free registration of the software.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ye Olde Overpayment Scam

When I first started my clunky, outdated website back in January 2008 I had some hope that by putting my artwork on display for anyone to see I might be “discovered” by someone important. Boy was I naive! I have been discovered not by any important galleries or wealthy patrons of the arts, but by every scam artist cruising the web for suckers. My in-box is regularly filled with notices that I’ve won foreign lotteries (I’ve “won” the Netherlands lottery three times), requests for help cashing overseas checks or depositing large sums of money or even to pose as a next of kin to collect and share some huge inheritance. My website itself has even been hijacked and used as an attack site.

But the most dastardly of the e-mails I've gotten is one I received a few weeks ago. It seemed someone had come across my website by chance and wanted to purchase one of my paintings. The e-mail was very brief and business-like. The person said nothing of themselves except that they traveled a lot. Meaning what, possibly that they would be in my area and would swing by pick up the painting? I was suspicious right away, but this person did have a particular painting in mind “as a present for his wife”, so I figured it couldn’t do any harm to tell him my asking price and mailing address. He wrote back the next day from the same e-mail address but this time he called himself Frank Ray instead of Frank Lee. I mean if you’re going to con someone can’t you at least keep your name straight. I was certain now that this was a scam, but up to now I couldn’t figure out how. Identity theft crossed my mind anxiously, as I had given the bastard my name and home address, although I didn’t really think he could do much with just that. But under the new surname the body of the e-mail said that he would be sending me a check for the painting. He went on to explain that this check would be for more than the price I’d asked for the piece, and that I should immediately deposit it and give the amount left over after my asking price in cash to his “shipper”, who would come by and collect the painting. He said this was to “pay his shipper”. Uh-huh, sure. I wrote back, “Nice try. Find another sucker asshole!"

I laughed and tried to forget about the incident, but a few days later a large white envelope arrived by UPS. It said, “Extremely Urgent”, and it was addressed to me from the “Montana State Library 1515 E. 6th Avenue Helena, MT 59601”, but I instantly knew what it was. It was the phony check from that asshole Frank Ray or Lee. Yep, inside was a check for $2200.00 more than I had asked for “Girl in a Landscape”. The faux check was from Amonix Inc., drawn on their “account” at the Bank of the West, and signed by a Desmond Michel. Now the bizarre part is that there really is an Amonix Inc. They design and manufacture solar power systems out in Seal Beach California. And the Bank of the West is also a real bank out west. Along with the Montana State Library, which is also a real library, I wonder if these companies and organizations know their good names are being used in a scheme to defraud poor schmucks. This type of scam is officially called the Overpayment Scam and is encountered very often by anyone selling anything online today from Craigslist to simple websites like mine. I took the check to my bank to show them and the branch manager said they see 3 or 4 of these phony checks a month. Pretty sad.

I wasn’t even obviously selling anything and I got one of these criminals trying to run his game on me. I mean it’s pretty low to pick on starving artists like me. Every artist dreams of being discovered and some anonymous collector snatching up his work. I’ve received two more e-mails like the one I described here in the last two weeks. I’m pretty paranoid now, so if you do happen to be seriously interested you’d better explain yourself and keep your name straight. There is even a website that talks about scams that potentially target fine artists. So watch your back fellow artists!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mechagodzilla Portrait

Here is my portrait of Godzilla's popular nemesis Mechagodzilla.

"Mechagodzilla Twilight", 2010

14" x 11", oil on canvasboard

I painted this from the Bandai 6.5 Inch Classic Figure Mechagodzilla. But if you travel to Japan and have about ¥84,000 to blow maybe you can still pick up the limited edition 20" tall radio controlled Mechagodzilla also made by Bandai.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I'm the one infected, twisted animator

I did a portrait of a friend of mine awhile back in Gene Simmons' Kiss makeup. After each painting session I took a photo of the progress. I wound up with a dozen pictures. I had the idea to do a time-lapse video showing the making of the painting. After about five months I finally got around to it. I used Photostory 3, which is as the name suggests a slide-show maker app. Its available for free from Microsoft. I also used Photoshop to make things a little more interesting. I wanted to do a longer video to go the length of the song I chose, but Photostory has a limit to the number images it can use, and whenever I've tried splicing together videos made with Photostory in Moviemaker there is considerable image quality loss. Moviemaker doesn't seem to like stills. There is a guy who calls himself PapaJohn who has a site with all the info you could want about Photostory and Moviemaker. He even has custom widescreen profiles you can download and add to Photostory's list of profiles. I used one of his custom profiles for my video. Photostory doesn't come with a widescreen profile, and I wanted to create mine as a widescreen video. This meant I had to compress the width of my photos from a 100 to 75 percent in Photoshop before I imported them into Photostory and then save the movie I made in Photostory as one of PapaJohn's custom widescreen profiles, which then stretches the video back out. Other than the limitations I just spoke of Photostory a great and versatile slide-show maker.

The song I chose is Gene Simmons cover of Prodigy's "Firestarter" off Gene's 2004 album "Asshole". Below is the painting and the video.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Albin Polasek Museum

Saturday I took a day trip over to Winter Park just northeast of Orlando to visit the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens. Albin Polasek (1879 - 1965) was a Czech-American sculptor, heralded as one of the foremost American sculptors of the twentieth century. He worked in a classical style similar to Rodin or Michelangelo. In 1950 at the age of 70 he retired from the Art Institute of Chicago, where he was head of the sculpture department, to Winter Park Florida where he built the home that became the Museum that now houses and displays 200 of his more than 400 works.

A guided tour takes you through the home and private chapel. There is also a gallery with exhibitions by other well-known local and international artists. On display while I was there was the modernist woodcuts and paintings of Charles Turzak. Turzak was the son of Czechoslovakian immigrants, and also retired from Chicago to subtropical Winter Park. I don't think you have to be of Czechoslovakian ancestry to be represented at the Albin Polasek Museum, but it obviously doesn't hurt. Plus the two men, Albin and Charles, knew each other in life.

Anyway, the best part of the museum and gardens for me was the three acre sculpture and botanical garden overlooking Lake Osceola.

Most of the sculptures in the gardens have either a Christian or mythological theme. Albin Polasek was a devout Roman-Catholic, but he obviously still had affection for the Slavic folklore he grew up with as a boy in Moravia. The mythological sculptures were my favorites.

Svantovit, the Slavic god of war, fertility and abundance.
He is represented here with his four faces facing each direction of the compass.

Triglav has three heads representing the unity of three gods,
or the sky, earth and underworld.

Perun is the Zeus of Slavic mythology

A vesna representing youth and springtime.

And then there are a couple of non-Slavic mythological figures:

The Greek god Pan

And the Wasserman from German folklore

There are also metal plaques along the garden path that commemorate Polasek's famous quotes.