Tag: art

Groovy, baby: 1960s ‘Fashion Experiment’ takes spotlight in new Allentown Art Museum exhibit

The Allentown Art Museum is the place to be when its groovy new exhibition, “Fashion as Experiment: The ’60s,” opens on Saturday, May 6.

The exhibit, which runs through Sunday, Sept. 24, explores clothing as a tool for change and focuses on the mid-1960s styles that offered young people of the era a laboratory for imagination and play as well as a growing sense of activism.

The new exhibition will be structured in two parts and will feature more than 100 garments and accessories from the museum’s vast collection, some of which by iconic designers such as Geoffrey Beene, Emilio Pucci, Bonnie Cashin, and André Courrèges.

A special preview night event will take place on Friday, May 5, from 6 to 8 p.m., that will include light refreshments as well as a disc jockey spinning the music of the 1960s. If you can’t make it on Friday, there will be a special member-only preview hour on Saturday, May 6, from 10 until 11 a.m. The day’s attendees will be able to take a tour of the exhibition with museum curator Claire McRee or can stop by the museum’s new kid-friendly Fashion Maker Station.

Visitors are encouraged to wear their own vintage-look clothing or bring along old garments and transform them into iconic ’60s tie-dyed fashion statements.

I recently spoke with Museum curator Claire McRee about the upcoming exhibition and more in this exclusive new interview.

Q: What was the inspiration behind the new exhibition, “Fashion as Experiment: The ‘60s”?

Claire McRee: We have a strong 1960s area in our fashion collection with a lot of depth and interesting garments. That was really the inspiration. Then as we thought about the issues and conversations that were happening during the 60s we realized a lot of the ideas about things like gender, race and the environment still resonate today. It felt like a great moment to take a closer look at this important era in history.

Read the rest of my Morning Call Interview with Claire McRee by Clicking Here!

Interview: Artist Maria Zinca Discusses Her Watercolor Journey

Since beginning her artistic journey in watercolor, self-taught artist Maria Zinca has created an abstract world that’s both visually dreamy and soothingly surreal. The artist’s strength comes from her innate ability to draw the viewer’s attention to a pre-determined focal point location through the use of color, lines, objects and reflection. 

Zinca’s dynamic use of angles and ubiquitous vision of rainy day and night scenes of her bustling Bucharest city tastefully captures the feel, essence, and energy of the streets.

Zinca continues to challenge herself with every painting she does and believes the type of materials you use is crucial in allowing you to ignore the timing and struggles with the watercolor medium itself, and focus more on putting the vision into the finished painting. 

See more of Maria Zinca’s art on her Instagram.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Maria Zinca about her art and career in this exclusive new interview.

How did your artistic journey begin?

Maria Zinca: I don’t know exactly when but I’ve liked to draw ever since I was a little child. I’m a self-taught artist who was born with a need to paint. At some point, when I was between twenty and thirty years old, I started decorating my house and was looking for pictures or paintings to fill up my walls. I wasn’t painting much during that time and started looking for ideas on places like Pinterest. I saw a few watercolors and thought, I can do this myself.

I started painting but was using cheap paper and everything was a mess. That’s when I started seeing what other people were doing with watercolor and knew I had to learn more. I started getting better quality paper, brushes, and pigments with the ambition of painting more and more.

How did you overcome challenges and struggles in those early paintings?

Zinca: I still struggle at times with not being able to do exactly what I want. When I started out, I would struggle with pigments, because I used cheap paints. When the painting dried, the colors were not very saturated, so I’d put another layer and then another layer. The paper was bad and didn’t help me. That’s when you get a feeling that you’re not good and think, I won’t do this again, but then tomorrow you’ll be back to paint another one. It’s a carousel of being on and off. 

How would you describe your style?

Zinca: I like abstract paintings and am always trying to get away from reality as much as I can. To build a painting that doesn’t look like a photo. You can always take a photo, print it and then put it on your wall. With painting, you can go into a different reality you can’t mimic in other mediums. I want the viewer to be able to see the car, the building, or the man walking the street, but I don’t want to paint the entire car window or the detail on the man’s face. I want the feel and energy of the street. That’s what I try to put in my paintings.

What’s your creative process like? Where do you draw your inspiration?

ZincaI like to take walks and when I’m in the street, I feel all this light, people and life around me. I try to express that in my paintings. I’m always looking for the mood, feeling and story from the street. I like to take a lot of pictures of my city and sometimes I’ll watch YouTube videos of someone walking down a city street with a camera for two hours on a rainy day. I’ll watch and then screen shot an image of everything I like. Most of the work is made even before I even start painting. I spend a lot of time preparing by thinking about composition, focus points, colors, and mood. I use a tablet with the Procreate app and draw what I visualize. When I have the sketch on my tablet as close as I visualize, I start painting. But I don’t copy an exact sketch of the image. Sometimes a painting asks for itself what needs to be done.

What do you think is the most challenging part about painting in watercolor?

Zinca: With watercolor, you have to express everything in that hour and second from when you pick up the brush. Sometimes I’ll be tired when I come into the shop and that can be seen in the painting. Watercolor sees your state of mind and energy when you’re painting. I love that challenge.

What are the keys to creating a great watercolor painting?

Zinca: There are a lot: The focus point, the message and concept of the painting. You have to tell a story and not just paint a pretty painting. Make the painting interesting using different methods like dry brushing and wet on wet. Having one part of the painting where it’s evenly blended and another part that’s very harsh. Build interest with color, composition, and different techniques to make the viewer go to the focus point. When I’m sketching, I think about all of that. Guiding the viewer to the focal point with color, composition, and technique.

What’s the best bit of advice you can give to an aspiring watercolorist?

Zinca: The most important thing is to paint every day and not give up. Just like exercise, if you paint every day, you’ll get better. Get used to the medium and brushes. Know your pigments and paper and get rid of the unknown element. It’s like when you’re in a car and you just focus on the drive. Know your materials so well that you don’t have to struggle and can focus only on painting. You also have to study. Even if you didn’t go to art school, look at books on composition and learn from others.

Are there any projects you’re currently working on?

Zinca: I do have other activities I do. I have a tattoo workshop and a gallery. I’m working on exhibitions and trying to help other artists here in Romania. I’ve also started focusing on making large portraits in watercolor. It’s very challenging. This is the next thing I’m going to do. 

Losing Street Cred

HomeYesterday, my friend (and fellow blogger) Kat posted her review of the new Phillip Phillips CD called “The World From The Side Of The Moon“.

I always enjoy reading Kat’s album reviews because she has no bias, and just tells it like it is. She’ll dissect every track piece by piece and tell you exactly what she liked, and what she thought was lacking.

Although her review gave me some insight as to what to expect on his new record, for me personally Phillip Phillips’ music has been “tarnished”; and it’s not even his fault. The blame for it lies with two people: Drew Pearson and Greg Holden, the writer’s of Phillip’s song, “Home”.

“Home” was actually quite a good song, that is before it became fodder. Not only has the song now been played ad nauseum on radio (a travesty into of itself) but its also been used in no less than three advertisements for television shows. I’ve heard “Home” played in its entirety multiple times at the Olympics, on “American Idol”, as the soundtrack for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and even as the goodbye song on “America’s Got Talent”. I started out liking it. Now, I HATE it.

Usually, congratulations are in order when something has that much success. But as far as I’m concerned, new songs (and subsequently the artists who perform them) lose a bit of street cred when they allow their songs to be whored out to every Tom, Dick and Harry.

I’m from the “old school” way of thinking, where a hit song needs to have an aura of mystery surrounding it. Something that let you know that it’s not going to be played all the time. So that when it finally is played, you enjoy the listening experience even more.

At first, it was cool to see Phillip performing “Home”, and even cooler when it started making the rounds on radio. But, when it started getting into the regular rotation of television shows and commercials, it drove me crazy.

Case in point. Over the last year, the following could be heard every night in prime-time:

Randy Jackson (American Idol): “You’re going to Hollywood BABY!”

Phillip Phillps Music: ♬ ♬ “Settle down, it’ll all be clear…Don’t pay no mind to the demons….They fill you with fear” ♬♬


Howie Mandell (America’s Got Talent): “I’m sorry, the road to Vegas ends for you now!…”

Phillip Phillps Music: ♬ ♬ “The trouble it might drag you down – If you get lost, you can always be found…” ♬♬


Ty Penninton (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition): “We’re gonna build you a new house and Sears is going to pay off your mortgage.”

Phillip Phillps Music: ♬ ♬ “Just know you’re not alone…Cause I’m going to make this place your home.” ♬♬

I know what you’re thinking: the placement of the song makes sense. People on ‘American Idol’ are finding their “Home” by living the dream. Others are actually going “Home” on ‘America’s Got Talent’. And then there are the people who are actually getting a physical “Home” on ‘Extreme Makeover’.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against new songs being used for marketing and merchandising purposes. But I am of the opinion that some period of time needs to pass before they should be used to peddle things.

Great music needs to run its course naturally, otherwise it diminishes it as art.

Channeling My Inner Nerd

spider700When I was six years old I became a HUGE comic book and Spiderman fan. In fact, I’ve still got the huge collection of comics I amassed as a youth stored securely away in boxes that I hope will one day fund my retirement (or at least supply me with a few months worth of Polident). Back then, if a comic had a Spider, a Hulk or a guy on a flaming motorcycle on it, I bought it.

In the early eighties, my friend and I would make weekly pilgrimages to the downtown district to purchase the latest tales of Spiderman, Incredible Hulk and Ghost Rider (among others). This place was one of those cigarette shops that sold lottery tickets and magazines but also had a few swiveling metal racks with comic books on them. It was in front of those racks where he and I would have deep discussions about the important issues of the day: like why we thought Spiderman could beat the Incredible Hulk if the two of them ever got into a fight.

Even into the early 90’s (when I was still a major geek), I’d drive to comic book shops every Friday where new issues had been reserved for me. What was cool about it was comic books at the time cost $1 each. So for a ten-spot, you’d have plenty of superhero whoop ass to last you for quite a while.

I’m not exactly sure when it ended, but I gradually began to lose interest in buying comic books. Looking back, I think the signs may have started when I began noticing that there were no hot chicks in the comic book stores. I mean let’s face it, regardless of what other’s might say; comic books (for the most part) are chick repellant.

Recently though, the current rage of hit movies bringing these heroes to life on the big screen began to pique my interest in comic books again. I had even heard a rumor that the latest issue of Spiderman (#700) was going to be a milestone issue. It didn’t take long for me to decide to channel my inner nerd and go roam the halls of a comic book store again and so yesterday, I made the trip.

Brick and mortar comic stores are quickly going the way of the dinosaur, but thankfully there are still a few in my area. As I walked inside, there was an immediate feeling of deja vu. Walls and walls of old comics, graphic novels and action figures greeted me and a feeling of giddiness washed over this now forty-something year old kid.

I noticed that a group of young individuals (all male – go figure) were blocking the middle of the room and making conversation with each other. Under their arms, each held their weekly fix of comic and I kindly asked them to move out-of-the-way so I could make my way over to where the latest issues were. I have to admit, I loved the feeling that this was going to be the first time I purchased an actual comic book in at least twenty years. A rush of euphoria came over me and I felt kind of, well… nerdy about it!

Sitting there on the rack was the object of my quest: Amazing Spiderman #700. I quickly picked it up and held it in my hands. The number of pages appeared to be less than I remember for a comic book and the artwork had changed quite a bit from the style I was used to from the late 80’s.

And then it happened.

I peered down and noticed that the price of the comic was no longer the dollar I had once enjoyed. In fact, it was far from it. The latest issue of Spiderman was now almost eight dollars!

And that was the moment when “Fiscal Jim” put “Nerdy Jim” in a headlock and made him put the comic back down in the rack. When a comic book costs as much as a Playboy, something is wrong (not that I would know how much a Playboy costs mind you). But you can keep your comics, I’ll just stick with watching the movies.

On my way out of the store, I passed by the gaggle of guys standing around with their comic book bounty again. They were in deep discussion with each other about the conditions required for Bruce Banner to turn into the Incredible Hulk. I laughed to myself because thirty years ago, that was me pondering that same question.

At least some things never change.

A Conversation With Actress Ami Dolenz

Ami Dolenz – Actress, Artist, Author

“Very classy”.  It’s one of the few lines she speaks in the movie “Can’t Buy Me Love”, but those two words are what best describes actress Ami Dolenz.

The 1987 coming of age movie that showcased nerdy Ronald Miller (Patrick Dempsey) buying the affections of Cindy Mancini (Amanda Peterson) also contained a number of firsts for the daughter of famous “Monkee” Micky Dolenz. Not only was it Ami’s first feature film role, but it was also where she met co-star Darcy DeMoss (Patty) for the first time as well. The two instantly connected and have been best friends ever since.

Following the breakout success of “Can’t Buy Me Love”, Ami would go on to appear as Melissa McKee on the daytime soap “General Hospital” and star in such films as “She’s Out of Control”, “Miracle Beach”‘,  “Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway” and  Pumpinkhead II: Blood Wings” to name just a few.

What you may not know about Ami is that, in addition to being an amazing actress, she also has a passion for art and writing. She is currently working on a children’s book,“Harold and Agatha and the Mysterious Jewel”, in which she will both write and illustrate.

I had the opportunity to speak with the beautiful and multi-talented artist from her home in Vancouver and discuss “Can’t Buy Me Love” and the bond she shares with Darcy DeMoss. Ami also talks about her passion for art and storytelling as well as her own “metal” connection.

If there’s one thing I learned about from our conversation, it’s this: When it comes to cool, Ami Dolenz is in a class by herself.

goJimmygo (gJg): I wanted to talk to you about the 25 year anniversary of “Can’t Buy Me Love”.

Ami Dolenz (AD): It’s so weird and hard to believe that its been that long.

Ami Dolenz & Darcy DeMoss “Can’t Buy Me Love”

gJg: I spoke with Darcy DeMoss (Patty) a few months ago and she said the exact same thing.

AD: You interviewed one of my BEST friends.  Darcy and I have known each other for such a long time. It was one of those things where we just instantly connected; we keep in touch a lot.  I love what she’s doing with the animals.  I’ve been to Shambala quite a few times. That whole movement is so amazing; it means a lot to me.

gJg: How did you become involved with “Can’t Buy Me Love?”

AD: I was just starting out as an actress at the time, and initially auditioned for the role of Cindy but ended up getting the role of Fran; which was great. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to get my chops going; memorize lines and hit my mark. Amanda (Peterson) did such a great job as Cindy. I met so many amazing people while working on that movie.

It was so much fun just to be there with everyone and be a part of that experience. It’s a point in my life that I don’t ever want to forget.

gJg: What do you remember most about your experience making the movie?

AD: When we made the movie, it was around the time of my 18th birthday and it was the first time I was on a location without my Mom along. It was also where I met Darcy for the first time. She bought me a cake to celebrate my birthday.  We’ve been best friends ever since!

Ami Dolenz & Darcy DeMoss – Best Friends For Life!

gJg: Do you have any favorite scenes?

AD: I really love Darcy’s scene where she’s in the car with Patrick. Of course, I’m also pretty fond of the party scene too (because, I’m in it).  <laughs> 

gJg: You went on to appear in “General Hospital” and then the movie “She’s Out of Control” with Tony Danza. What was it like working with Tony?

AD: Tony was a fabulous person to work with. He’s also a great tap dancer and showed me some of his moves. It was funny because our paths seemed to keep crossing. I first met him when I was on “Star Search”; we were both in a comedy sketch together. Then a few years later, I met him again for “She’s Out Of Control” .<laughs>

gJg: What attracted you to the horror genre for films like “Pumpkinhead” and “Witchboard”?

AD: Believe it or not, I’m actually a scary movie fanatic. I love horror. In fact, the original “Alien” is my all-time favorite comfort movie. I can watch it over and over.

gJg: Your father is hugely into music. Did he encourage you to try to get you into music while you were growing up?

AD: He did in a way, when I was younger. I used to play his drums. I also have a tape of me as a child signing “Blue Suede Shoes” with him. But acting was something I really wanted to do.


Ami Dolenz, Micky Dolenz & Darcy DeMoss

gJg: What was it like growing up with The Monkees?

AD: I remember we had a beautiful house in the Hollywood Hills that people would always come and visit. One of my best friends growing up was actually Alice Cooper. I even remember one of my first days in school; my teacher asked me who my best friend was and I said, “Alice Cooper”…<laughs>

gJg: Do you have your own “rock star” moment?

AD: I once did an episode of “The Adventures of Superboy” where I actually got to play a rock star who needed to be protected. My hair was wild and I got to “perform” on a huge stage. I particularly remember the scene with my limousine pulling out and everyone pounding on the car. That was a fun gig!

gJg: What are you working on right now?

AD: I’ve been taking art classes here in Vancouver. I do charcoal and some ink projects. I’m also self publishing my own children’s book, “Harold and Agatha and The Mysterious Jewel”. It’s very exciting but a lot of work. I’m going to be doing the illustrations myself as well. 

As far as acting goes, I have a few things going right now, but I can’t really talk about them…yet. <laughs>

Article first published as A Conversation With Actress Ami Dolenz on Technorati.

Jessica Gahring Is Making Her Mark

Jessica Gahring has unleashed her full potential.

From the moment I first met her, I knew it was only a matter of time before the artist, actress, model and Mom put down the moniker of “Shop Manager” of NY INK, pick up her own tattoo machine and open Ms. Dixie’s Tattoo & Pin Up Parlour in Troy, New York.

With the unique shop layout that reflects the 1950′s and her love of pin-ups, Jessica is about to make her own mark on the business.

Her love of art began at a very young age and was nurtured by family and through education. On the television show, she may have been portrayed as a person with limited experience in the art of tattooing. In reality, quite the opposite is true. Jessica is already gaining notoriety for her work from people all over.

I had the chance to speak with Jessica as she prepares to open the doors to her shop for the very first time. She may have butted heads with Ami James for entertainment purposes, but in “real life” Jessica Gahring is making her dreams come true.

goJimmygo (gJg): Jessica, it’s so great speaking with you. Congratulations!

Jessica Gahring (JG): Thank you! This was definitely a long time coming.

gJg: How are you doing?

JG: I’m doing great. I’m tattooing full-time now, which was a given. I have people who want to travel and come see me!

gJg: Did you always have the dream of opening your own shop?

JG: That was always the plan. Even when I worked with my friend Lydia years ago we almost bought a studio together. It didn’t end up happening at the time, so we decided to wait. I went into banking to get more into the business side of things. I knew I wasn’t going to be there long.

gJg: Why did NY Ink choose not to showcase your talent?

JG:  The producers didn’t think it would make much of story. Even though I was already working with Lydia, they didn’t want to reveal that I had any sort of real background in the industry.

The truth is, we play characters in a “reality-type” show. The public wants confrontation and that’s what sells. But the person they showed in the first season is not who I really am as an individual.

gJg: What makes Ms. Dixie’s different from your typical tattoo shop?

JG: I’ve got a pin-up modeling theme; with a 1950′s, vintage feel to it. It looks like it belongs way back when.  It’s classy and something completely different from all other tattoo parlors. I’ll be tattooing full-time at one of three stations. I never wanted to have a huge studio. I wanted something that felt like home when people walk in and I think I’ve accomplished that. It’s very true to what I imagined it to be. 

gJg: Do you have anyone else helping you in this endeavor?

JG: Yes, my boyfriend Christian is my business partner and he’ll be scheduling and managing appointments for the shop. He’s the one that holds it all together.

gJg: Do you have any other artists lined up to work with you?

JG: I have an amazing artist, Jon Abbott, who will be working with me. He’s a traditional style artist. The third slot I’m going to leave open for guest artists until someone else comes along. I’m not sure what will happen down the road but I am really excited about where I am at right now!

gJg: Where did your love of art begin?

JG: I’ve always loved art even as a child. My Dad painted and drew pictures and even from a young age I was amazed that you could actually look at something and put what you saw down on paper.

I have art awards from elementary school and graduated high-school with a fine arts degree. Even when I went to college; I studied sociology but still took art classes. Art has always been a huge part of my life.

gJg: Where did your interest in tattooing begin?

I grew up in a very conservative family where tattoos were sort of taboo and something that was untouchable. I think because of that, it made me want to understand it more.

During high school and college, I would often design tattoos for other people. To me, tattooing is art on the ultimate canvas: the skin. I think that’s very cool!

gJg: What’s one thing everyone needs to know about getting tattoos?

JG: Be knowledgeable. My first tattoo was a butterfly on my upper back that I got right after high school. Unfortunately, it was done poorly and I ended up covering it up.

Most people between the ages of 18-21 usually either hate their first tattoo or end up covering it, so it’s really important to understand what makes a good tattoo and the health and safety aspects of getting one.

gJg: Which of your tattoos is your favorite?

JG: I really don’t have a personal favorite; all of them mean something to me. I have some that represent my daughter that are very special and the very first tattoo I ever did was on myself, so that has importance as well.

gJg: When is your official grand opening?

JG: We are open for business right now but we’re having our huge grand opening the week of Aug 11th. That’s where we’ll have the ribbon-cutting, balloons and prizes. I will be tattooing two radio DJs live on-air during the Grand Opening week: one from Jamz 96.3 and the other from our local country radio station, 104.9 The Cat.

I also happen to turn thirty on August 12th, so it’s perfect timing.

I figure, if I’m going to do thirty, what better way than by opening a tattoo shop?

For information on Ms Dixies Tattoo Pin-Up Parlour  Click Here

Article first published as Jessica Gahring Is Making Her Mark on Technorati.

Teacher Teacher

Most of us wanted our school years to just fly by. Every day of school was just another day closer to the weekend and doing whatever we wanted to do. At the time, most of us never really thought about the real impact school and teachers would have on our lives.

Bring out the way back machine Sherman and set it to the years 1984-1987……

I’m in high school again. You know, those crazy years we all went through. Like walking down the halls in Jordache jeans while Spandau Ballet blared over the loud speakers, carrying books covered by paper grocery bags (a requirement back then and before plastic bags became ALL the rage). Ok, its “True”, I made up the part about Spandau Ballet.

In all of my schooling I can’t remember much about what was learned or very much about my teachers. Although my friend Michele has the uncanny ability to recall exactly WHERE I was sitting in history class in proportion to her location. We’ll have to talk about this at the next reunion. I have a lot of questions that need answering.

Anyway, although I can’t recall much I do remember three teachers during my tenure there that really impacted me the most: Mr. Siddons, Mr. Fox and Mr. Milisits. I won’t even bother to give their first names because to me, respectively, that’s who they will forever be known as.

Mr. Siddons was my tenth grade history teacher. His father was one of the last of the old school door to door sales people who had sold insurance to my grandparents. He was also my brother’s history teacher two years earlier. So there’s sort of a familial relationship there too.

Mr. Siddons was probably the most benign person you’d ever meet. He had a soft tone and rarely yelled. But the one trait he had that I’ll never forget was the ability to tell the lamest jokes. You know the ones I mean, something like: “Why did the chicken cross the road? Because He had to go the bathroom”. And he’d always give out a “Mr. Siddons” laugh. Nothing outrageous or anything. He would just kind of chuckle to himself. You could tell he must have been up all night thinking about it. How he’d deliver it and the kids would go crazy.

At first his shtick didn’t go over too well with me. But by the end of the first month of class I actually looked forward to the little gems he’d throw out. Even though most all were met with crickets (and he must have felt like the size of an ant in a room full of elephants) he never let it get to him. He’d always chuckle, wipe his mouth and seque with “Ok, let’s take a look at the Gulf of Tonkin”….

Strangely enough, every day after having learned about Tonkin, the Volstead Act or some war to end all wars I remember giggling to myself reciting a joke over and over in my head as I walked out of the room. Surely, a joke I would never utter to anyone else. Maybe that was really his shtick. To get me to try to remember them.

During my junior and senior years I rarely got down to the part of the school where Mr. Siddons and others of his “ilk” resided. But on the occasion that I did or saw him in the hall he would always say “Hi” to me and call me by name. He always remembered me. And I’d never forget him.

Let’s transfer over to Mr. Fox in the Art department. A short, grey bearded man with a limp. Mr. Fox had suffered from polio as a child and as a result he walked a bit strangely. Sadly, I’m sure he was the butt of many jokes from cruel students but I think by this point in his life he was immune to all.

Art class was a means of escape for me. I loved to draw and became an affection ado for Bob Ross. I could watch that dude for hours paint a happy little tree. And while we never painted those trees in Mr. Fox’s class it was still a way for me to forget about all the problems of the day.

We all knew Mr. Fox must have been an artist himself. And one day we found out what he loved to do. We came into class to see these miniature models of a circus that he had constructed himself. Everything he painstakingly made from scratch with his own two hands. You could see the pride in his eyes. This guy was GOOD.

But the one day that really stands out for me was when we were drawing the human figure. We’d have students go up and just stand there while the rest of us drew. I could always draw the body (even cool detail on their Converse sneakers with rainbow shoe laces) but never the face. It never came out right. I spent a long time on it and it just wasn’t happening. He must have seen my frustration because at one point he came over and sat across from me. It was just me and him…face to face.

He looked at my piece and was impressed. Then he asked me why I was so frustrated. I told him it was because as hard as I tried I could never get the face to be anywhere close to being right. So he took a piece of paper and started doodling…all the while looking at me and just saying things like “You know, if you really want something and try hard enough, you can make it happen”.

For those thirty seconds or so I was more doubtful than ever…”Yeah, right” I thought to myself. Then he stood up and told me “Keep up the good work Jim”, and passed me the paper he was doodling on.

As he walked away I picked up the paper and looked at it. The old guy with the limp had just drawn a picture of my face. One where even the subject (in this case, yours truly)  would say “That looks just like ME”….he did that in thirty seconds of just scribble.

Finally, we move on to the music department, my personal favorite. I could write a novel on my exploits here (including the day I officially became a ROCK STAR opening for Clay Aiken) but we’ll save that for another time. Suffice to say, I credit most of my music “success” to the days of high school music theory and choir.

Mr. Milisits (or “M” as he is known) would conduct the huge high school choir. One that won many awards over the years. I’m sure for many; choir was like art class was for me. Just a way to get out of taking another boring subject. But that soon changed. Somehow, he would take a group of kids and make them WANT to sing.

He would always tell us inspirational things to keep pushing us. Quotes like “You can do this”, “A new mistake shows progress” and “Talk to me” resonated with everyone. He just had “something” that made you want to work hard.

During my senior year, it was his teaching that made me want to play guitar in jazz band and the school play. Now, to get a metal head that wanted nothing to do with ANY after school activity and would spend most of his free time jamming to Bon Jovi and Def Leppard to perform “Leader of the Pack” is really saying something.  That M’s got some strong kung-fu.

When it came time to perform, be it at school or somewhere in Canada, it was really like “rock star” night for the choir. And well, I even got to play that black heavy metal guitar during our spring concert. One that hangs on the wall in my office right to this day that I still play.

I could bore you for hours on how M’s classes changed me but let me just end by saying those classes are the best memories I have from high school.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to rejoin “M” and a few other alumni as he is now the director of the Lehigh Saengerbund Chorus.We’re preparing to perform at Allentown Symphony Hall in early June, twenty-five years after I last sat with him in high school concert choir.

As I sit in rehearsals now there’s no wayback back machine required. It’s like re-living a part of all the best days of being in school again. That old feeling of “you can do it” and “new mistakes show progress” are back.

And it’s all good.

New York Groove: My NY Ink Story

The Stencil For My Tattoo

It was a bright sunny day in August. I remember it well because I was in my upstairs bathroom shaking like a leaf. It was around 3 pm and I was getting ready to head over to South Bethlehem for sound check.

It was the summer of 2004 and my band was going to be the opening act for Clay Aiken at Musikfest. On the biggest stage of them all. The fastest sellout in the festival’s history – 6,500 people. We had the greatest female singer ever in our arsenal that got us there. But I was a nervous wreck.

I had dreamed about this forever. Since the first day I picked up my grandmother’s hand held potato slicer and pretended it was a guitar (true story). The callused fingers, the long walks downtown to Ken Brader and Son’s music store for lessons on brutal summer days. The countless number of  hours spent practicing after school.

While other kids went out and played sports or hung with friends I was trying to figure out how Eddie Van Halen got his kung-fu. I even used to write journal entries in high school of what my life was going to be like after I “made it”.

And now here I was, sitting in my bathroom next to the bowl for fear of losing my lunch. I’m still not sure how I held it together.

But somehow my “Rock Star Moment” was here. And I wasn’t about to let it slip away.

Ironically, it was being part of a country band that gave me this opportunity. The last thing you’d probably ever expect from a guy who grew up playing Survivor, Bon Jovi, Ozzy and AC/DC .And yet it was because our singer had won a regional vocal competition that we were invited to be the opening act.

So, a METAL head in a COUNTRY band gets to open for POP star. Musical irony.

Imagine the day in the life of your favorite chart topping artist as they arrive at a venue to perform. That was me that day.

Megan Massacre

All the crew members doing whatever it takes to make you comfortable so you could ready yourself for a night of great music. Ushering you off away from the adoring public. Ok, so this “public” was there to see Clay Aiken but this was my “moment” so I could think what ever I wanted.

Clay had just placed second in season two of American Idol but was almost on the same level as Justin Bieber is today. People were going bonkers for him.


This was the story that I told Megan Massacre as she tattooed me. This was the reason for getting my very first tattoo: to commemorate the day my dream came true.

Although my segment with her never actually aired there is a brief glimpse of Megan tattooing me during a transition between scenes as you can see in the one photo.

Frankly, I’m still wondering if this picture justifies me having my own IMDB listing… I can see it now:

Actor: James Wood:  Appeared in: “NY INK Season 2″… In the role of:  “Arm being tattooed by Megan Massacre“.

I honestly can’t say enough good things about my experience at Wooster Street or the tattoo that Megan did. What’s even better is that I now have a story within a story to tell when people ask me about it.

And I couldn’t ask for anything cooler than that. What do you think?


New York Groove (Part 4): Megan Massacre

She’s a model. She’s a DJ. She plays bass guitar. But most of all – Megan Massacre is one really amazing tattoo artist.

I first met Megan one hot summer day last August. I made the pilgrimage to New York with my daughter to visit The Wooster Street Social Club, the tattoo studio where she works. The studio is also the place where the TLC reality based show NY Ink is filmed. You can read about our adventure here. Today’s visit was different though.

Today, Megan was going to give me my very first tattoo and the entire segment was going to be filmed for the second season of NY Ink.

I really loved Megan’s work from the first season. She has such a unique style that was different from most of the other artists I had seen. I mean, tatting a dog dressed as a Victorian Lady or a dude getting hit by a bus is definitely not something you see every day.

Since this was going to be my very first tattoo I wanted it to be special and more than just a “picture” if that makes any sense. So when I gave her the ideas I had for the guitar I wanted I knew she would nail it. And the time was now drawing near.

I was sitting downstairs in a room adjacent to Ami James’ office. Producers and other production type folks all sat nearby with headset communication listening to what was going on upstairs. Finally, I heard one of them say into the microphone “Ok, I’ll send him up”.

And away I went.

Ami and Billy were already in the early stages of their tattoos and I slowly made my way past them to what’s been commonly referred to as “the big comfy couch”.

My View From The Couch

I sat down and peered over to see RoBear helping Megan set up her station. Several members of the film crew were in discussion with each other while others busily adjusted their equipment.

Megan was already well aware that this was going to be my first tattoo and was of significant size but that didn’t stop her from teasing me a bit.

As she was preparing her station with paper towels and ink she’d often look over at me and do her best impression of a nefarious villain by rubbing her hands together and laughing. Sort of saying “There’s no turning back now son… You’re mine!”.  And in some odd way, it was almost comforting.

Finally, it was time and she called me over to her station.

The first thing Megan did after applying the stencil was to make a small line to assess what my tolerance for the needle would be. It felt like a bit of a scratch, no pain. Off we go.

For the next two and a half hours Megan tattooed me as cameras rolled. Until the production crew was ready, telling her my actual “story” was the only thing we couldn’t talk about. Anything else was fine. So it was here where we shared our backgrounds and I got some back stories about her own tattoos. I also found out that much like me, she also grew up in Pennsylvania and has a fascination for not only art but musical performance as well.

Eventually, the production crew came over and began filming me telling Megan my story and reason for getting the tattoo. I think this was where I was most nervous. Its hard to try and tell a story and use coherent sentences when people are holding monstrous camera equipment and lights three feet away from you.

At times I have to admit that the tattoo process itself did hurt a little bit but there was no way I was going to cry in front of Megan. Ok, it didn’t hurt THAT much but it did make me wonder how people deal with the pain of getting tattooed in more sensitive areas.

At one point Ami, Billy and Jessica all came over off-camera to take a peek at the tattoo Megan was doing on me. Seeing these other great artists taking an interest in my piece was very cool and during the actual “reveal” only one word came to everyone’s lips: BAD-ASS. Exactly what I wanted it to be.

People have asked me over and over what Megan is really like in person and the one word that immediately comes to mind is “sweetheart”. She is lady-like and bad ass all rolled into one. A person dedicated to her craft.

In fact, in all the time it took her to do my tattoo she didn’t take one break. Well, unless of course you count the time she went over to check out the tattoo Billy was having a problem with. (Side note: It was episode three of season two. When you see Megan come up to see how Billy is doing on his “first” big tattoo, she was actually tattooing me at the time but my segment never aired).

Also, when you see her talking about her affection for RoBear that’s also genuine. RoBear was like her guardian. He helped set up her station and brought her over snacks and drinks while she was tattooing me. I suspect that if I would have gotten out of line with Meg I would have been on the receiving end of the big guy’s boot.

She likes to text

The whole experience from start to finish was surreal. Although I was a bit disheartened my segment didn’t air I can’t say enough good things about it.

I mean, how may people can say they got their first tattoo by Megan Massacre with a film crew watching and being interviewed about it?

So by now you may be wondering what my story was and even more importantly, want to see the tattoo that Megan did. All will be revealed in the finale which is next.

Next: The Story and The Reveal