Monday, October 24, 2011
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
People have commented that I seldom talk (publicly at least) about my career in the theatre.
That part of my life sort of wound down in the 1980s and pretty much ended completely in the mid-90s.
I sang Sharpless in Madama Butterfly in Laguna Hills for my good friend and longtime coach CHARLES ROSS PERLEE opposite Korean opera diva VICTORINE LEE as Butterfly and DOROTHY DALLAS as her companion and servant SUZUKI as my farewell performance in Opera.
I believe CHRIS LAICONAS was the Pinkerton.
I sang many performances of Sharpless in my career and far more performances as PAPAGENO in Mozart’s THE MAGIC FLUTE (a role I have always despised. I am probably the only baritone who cut the arias from 3 verses to 2 and on one occasion a single verse).
My singing career was shadowed by my designing and directing which brings me to a story I wanted to share with my readers-I directed a Metropolitan Opera DIVA when she was barely out of high school.
It was inevitable that I would end up directing (and designing) a production of Magic Flute.
As it happens I was working with some of the people I had done my debut performance with as Papageno back in 1971.
MAESTRO FRANK FETTA was at the helm musically and former co performer and director GARY FISHER a marvelous Canadian tenor was Tamino…My dear friend, the late EUGENIA HAMILTON (contralto) was one of the three ladies.
In the 1971 production celebrity voice teacher divine JOAN ZAJAC (the woman who groomed Emmy Rossing for PHANTOM on screen not to mention Cybil Shepard in years past) was the QUEEN.
Joanie and I also sang Hansel and Gretel together and I directed her in BOHEME as MIMI.
In the West End Opera Production I don’t remember many of the cast except ROBIN BUCK a handsome baritone who may be best known for his performances in the Glory of Christmas as the Crystal Cathedral (he is on the video of the production) and one other, a beautiful young soprano named ELIZABETH BIGGS.
The BIGGS family was quite active with the West End Opera company-Betty had done costumes and wigs many times (Elizabeth’s MOM) and Dad Dr. RICHARD BIGGS (the world’s most wonderful chiropractor-I can’t tell you how many people including me he really helped with his Palmer Method treatments-he actually cured me of Migraines on a picnic table outside a rehearsal for Boheme but that another story).
Elizabeth’s brother, Chris, was (and perhaps still is) an inventive special effects expert-a warm, wonderful, creative family.
I don’t remember quite how Elizabeth ended up in the production singing Papagena…but I was thrilled.
Elizabeth had everything a director and designer could want from a singer/actress…she was quite beautiful, slender but curvy with gorgeous hair and an almost dancer like quality to her movements.
Earlier in the season I had been directing La Boheme and we had lost our Musetta due to medical problems…I had lobbied hard for Elizabeth to step in as having a glamorous young coquette would have not only played perfectly but would have served my Avant grade production and out of period Belle Époque costumes wonderfully.
At any rate, I had her for “Flute” and I gave her impossible things to do-during the famous duet with Papageno (to the delight of the audience) she threw one ballet dancer like leg around Robin Buck’s waist and did a full back bend and reverse while singing-never losing her richness of tone or projection.
In such performances, if one is paying attention, one sees future greatness so it was no surprise to me when several years later she was singing in New Zealand.
I followed her career a bit via her father during visits to his office but lost touch before the turn of the century and only recently reconnected with her via the internet.
ELIZABETH BLANCKE BIGGS has sung Fedora with Placido Domingo,gave her met debut is 2003 as VIOLETTA, stepped in to cover Tosca at the MET and done Butterfly for the New York City Opera-the company that launched such legends as Beverly Sills and Norman Triegel(amongst many other roles worldwide).
I dropped her a note and she dropped me a couple signed pictures and a CD of her performances-I keep track of her via the internet and an occasional FACEBOOK entry…she travels the world singing, teaches in New York City and lives what seems to be an exciting life.
I think that it’s wonderful that Elizabeth has become an international name-like many who start out at home she had to travel to be taken seriously.
I wonder if those who remember the WESTEND OPERA ever think about the BIGGS family and regret that ELIZABETH wasn’t given more opportunities there.
Most importantly she had the support of her family…and perhaps that is all one destined for stardom needs-that a few breaks and an unstoppable drive and passion to perform.
I don’t claim to” know” ELIZABETH BLANCKE BIGGS nor even just Elizabeth Biggs the young, beautiful soprano but I directed her once as Papagena in the Magic Flute-a production that had all the glitz of a Vegas revue, coloured smoke and magic tricks and a bizarre concept that would seem tame by the standards of today’s opera productions-and she was damn good, sang like a nightingale and looked like a goddess…how wonderful memories can be when they are pretty much all one has left.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
For those of you who are totally familiar with digital stamps and how to work with them-PLEASE bear with me...you would be amazed at how many people have no idea what a DIGI is or how to use them!
When my friend DEE MORAN first encouraged me to explore selling my artwork as digital stamps I thought it was a silly idea but I quickly joined the camp followers and saw that DIGIS are a great tool for card makers and paper artists.
Rather than store countless boxes of mounted rubber stamps you digitally store a huge amount of images and they are available to you in a variety of sizes and can be flipped, manipulated etc into MANY versions of a single design assuming you have a photo manipulation program.
There was a time when almost every computer came with some sort of bay PHOTOSHOP-Adobe is by far my favorite program perhaps because I have been working with it for so many years and find it wonderfully dependable and use friendly.
They also are very smart people and know that everyone wont invest several hundred dollars in a photo manipulation program so they created Photoshop ELEMENTS (also referred to as baby PHOTOSHOP) readily available for well under one hundred dollars and it has many of the slick tools that the full version does.
A number of artists that I know use either GIMP (a program that is available online free for download) or MS Word-I have little or no info on these programs or how one uses WORD to resize art-so perhaps one pf you brilliant bloggers will write about these programs and send me a link so I can direct people to more info.
I started out doing sheets of images.
I assumed like any ephemera people would want a number of related designs on one sheet that they could digitally cut and paste and then resize.
I was partly right and partly way off and it wasnt too long before people were complaining about having to buy sheets or not being able to use them without printing out the entire sheets...
Never assume...I know that old adage I just , well, assumed...
I would think it would be terribly frustrating to have all these fun images and not be able to separate them and resize them easily...and that's when I assumed that anyone who made these wonderful intricate cards MUST know how to manipulate the art to their own benefit.
I later started adding more single images (bu popular demand) and finally do many more singles than sheets.
By way of a little sneak peek advertising I will be having a new Christmas sheet on the line of my LITTLE BITS OF SPRING but with slightly more intricate designs-I hope to have that up on ETSY about NOV 1, 2011.
So what I do is open a sheet in photoshop and I also open a separate blank file shape sized for printing-often 5 by 5 inches and 300 dpi or some variation thereon.
I then use a cutting tool (like the lasso) to rough cut the image out of the sheet and the MOVE tool to slide it onto the new blank document.
I close the sheet-not saving any changes and immediately make a duplicate of the new file-I learned long ago to ALWAYS work on a duplicate never on the original or even the first copy.
I then use the various tools to resize my image and clean up anything that I might want (or need)to...I could actually colour all or part of my image at this point using the various paintbrush and other colour tools in Photoshop-the logo on my main blog page is digitally coloured.
Since I don't have a tablet or digital brush I have to rely on a wireless mouse and frankly I just don't have the patience anymore so I usually use Prismacolor pencils since I have never been a fan of markers.
My EDT ladies are brilliant with COPICS and I am often amazed that they can get subtlety with them-I myself cannot-its all in the knowing and doing I guess.
Anyway that's pretty much it-open cut slide and size-then you print out your design, colour and use.
Another friend LINDA MARINO who I know from my tole painting days tipped me off to printing on PRESENTATION PAPERS.
These surface come in a wide variety of weights and opacity and can give a project a rich look over some less elevated stocks.
I tried printing of vellum bristol board which can be bought in printed sized reams but the printer version versus the art store version left me disappointed-the print is fuzzy and the designs easily smear...could be a laser printer would be required to get a really good image.
I have enjoyed using printer vellum because of their semi opaque quality-I have never tried the clear overlay/acetate type stocks...not my style, but I love when others use them well.
I hope anyone who has a favorite video tutorial or a site that gives a lot of info about using DIGITAL STAMPS will leave comments below.
I think its so important to share information about the art we do and how we approach each challenge-I am always thankful when people take the time to include detailed product lists and sourcing for their finished projects---I think that's the kind of sharing that all artists should do.
I don't know how long the digital stamps will be popular-as you know I also have some designs in hard stamps that are done by I BRAKE FOR STAMPS-Della does a great job and is so particular about her products so I am proud to have them produce my designs and I know that some of you found me through them and vice versa.
Its been a fun month-I always hate to see October go because it means no more Halloween for a year but Harvest and Christmas come right after-this is my favorite time of the year.
I sponsored a bunch of blog challenges this tear and I believe there is still one more to go from my friends in OZ about the 26th or so-I will [post when I have the details.
Those challenges are a part of the reason for this post-I did sheets for them and found I was having to explain how to take the images apart-its frustrating to win a sheet and find out its really a single sheet not a zip file of singles...
Happy haunting all and be sure to watch for LITTLE BITS OF CHRISTMAS in November-I have my Elite Design Team working as I type-I can't wait to see what they come up with-I loved the projects from the spring sheet.
I will have some of the more popular designs available as singles-and YOU will be voting on which designs you want to see as singles and available separate from the sheet...more later!!!!
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Kirsi's challenge on COLLAGE OBSESSION this week was to tint a black and white or sepia tone photo using a pastel colour wheel.
I have done this image several times before-it;s one of my favorites for Halloweeny sorts of cards etc but usually I have polarized the image and used hotter colours so doing a softer version was fun and I also tried some grunge filters to give a weathered mildewed effect to the finished piece.
It's interesting when you compare the pastel image above with the garish ATC image below how much one can get in range from one image.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Jen sent me a note and a copy of the card she had made using HEDWIG HALLOWEEN-one of the most popular digis I have done-her blog is
As always when srtists share their creations Jen will be recieving a Thank you sheet from me.
Please when submitting samples EMAIL the image(s) to me at
Also add any information about other peoples stamps or images that you might have used so there is no confusion about who's is who's.