Happy New Year 2017..if just a little bit late!
I would have reported in sooner, but things have been hopping right from the start of 2017. I am actually working on a film project for the first tine in quite some doing some cartoony character/product designs. It is a lot of fun but also quite hush-hush. When I am able to say more, I will update the blog.
On the personal side, I have a number of new irons in the fire. A wonderful gallery called the “Bearded Lady’s Mystic Museum” in Burbank recently premiered a “Twilight Zone/Alfred Hitchcock” themed group show. A number of folks I know were participating and I thought I should try to get in on the action. Despite being overbooked, the gallery owners very graciously allowed me to enter a painting. The Rod Serling portrait that appears on my portfolio page is now hanging on their walls. It was an amazing show that had crowds lined up around the block. I was quite proud to be part of this event and I hope I will get the opportunity to do more shows with them.
I also had an idea for an original Hitchcock-themed piece, but there was no time to work on it as my friends at the Creature Features Gallery right down the street from the Bearded Lady announced a slew of group shows for the first half of the year. The first one was timed to coincide with the release of the new film, “Kong Skull Island”. This show was headlined by master illustrator and Kong enthusiast William Stout. They also had their usual array of fantastic artists covering the walls with all things King Kong.
For my painting, I decided I would take a satirical swipe at the 1976 Dino DeLaurentis produced remake of “King Kong”. From a young age I have been fascinated with the saga of bringing this particular beast to the screen. For those not in the know, DeLaurentis decided that for his film, they would forego the traditional stop-motion animation that brought the original giant gorilla to life. Instead, they would utilize a combination of newer techniques; a performer in a gorilla suit and a full-sized robotic Kong. For the suit fabrication and performance, the production hired a then up and coming Rick Baker. You might remember him as the Oscar winning makeup artist behind “An American Werewolf in London”, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” among many others. For the mechanical version, DeLaurentis hired his friend, mechanical effects artist Carlo Rambaldi (“Alien”, E.T.”, “Dune”).
The story is long and there are several places on the web that probably tell it better than I could. Suffice it to say, Rick Baker has always regarded “Kong” as one of his worst job experiences. From the get-go he wasn’t treated with much respect. Being an ape enthusiast, Baker and team lovingly crafted the suit to look as much like a real gorilla as possible. Rambaldi’s robot looked like a bad wax museum display, but hey, it was BIG! The only problem was, it didn’t really work! Wearing the technically groundbreaking but cumbersome ape suit must have been torture. However, because Rambaldi’s full size ape was an unmitigated disaster and can only be seen in pretty much one or two shots near the end of the film, 99.98% of the shots had to be done with Rick Baker ape-ing it up on miniature sets. After all that work, guess who gets a special acknowledgement card at the end of the film AND a Special Achievement Academy Award at the Oscars that year? Yup! Carlo. While I always thought they had blinders on when it came to the quality of Rambaldi’s work, it turns out that may not have been true after all. I read somewhere recently that DeLaurentis knew early on that the full sized versions of Kong just weren’t going to work. He turned lemons into lemonade by inviting the press to the first day of shooting with the robot Kong. They got to see it do the one or two simple things it could do, and assumed that was how the effects would be achieved. Essentially, DeLaurentis..lied!
In my painting, I wanted to show these two versions fighting against each other. I knew that the robot Kong wouldn’t last through more than one punch. This idea immediately called to mind the famous Life photograph of Muhammad Ali standing over a fallen Sonny Liston who took a dive in the first minute of the first round of their second fight in 1965. This provided everything I needed for the painting. I added my usual “eye pops” for those who get the in-jokes. Here now for your perusal, “The Crumble in the Jungle”…
I hope you liked it. The painting will be on display, for sale, at the Gallery for the next week or so. There are also numbered prints for sale. Head to the Creature Features website for info!
More to come! Thanks for reading!