i wrote a movie called painT in 2006. I put it away and forgot all about it. i wrote it because i felt a connection with another artists decision to go forward with a life in the arts. this artist is Vincent van Gogh. a life in the arts is the most wonderful for me. i have been an actor for more than half my life and found painting along the way. Through the rejection I felt as an actor in the span of twenty years it must have been over ten thousand “no’s” to hear ”YES” a few great times. I began to read all I could find about Vincent’s life. I couldn’t believe that someone with such passion could be ignored for so long. The suffering he went through physically and mentally in order to create to the full capacity that his being could withstand is remarkable. We do what we do as a way to breathe. He painted for eight years and sold one painting. His talent and grace were never fully realized until after his death. I began writing a modern day tale that would blend the life of this artist with the life I am living. This is the movie that I am going to use all my facilities and heart to make this dream a truth on film. i was acting in a Sam Shepard play at Underground St. Marks Theater, down the block from it was the DE LA VEGA Museum.In between rehearsals I would walk into this cove of poetry and heartlift. This was no accident but a reminder from artist De La Vega that “suffering has taught nothing but great lessons.” and now is the time to BECOME YOUR DREAM. Thank you for the inspiration and here is my journal, what it takes to make painT. This blog is the recorded journey of making a movie with nothing more than a heart, a dream, and big faith. ever yours, Greg Siff
THE THREE COLORS. test shots 1-5, 2009, Gregory Siff
When my father passed in 2007 an arrow shot into my head that said, Stop waiting. Do the things you want to do. DO THEM NOW. Through my love I met an interesting individual over the computer who’s artwork and poetry found a way into my blood. We had written letters, shared art, poems for over a year and at that point I knew I always wanted shake his hand in person. I said EFF it. I’m going to LONDON. Bought the ticket and stayed with one of the coolest people I ever met in my life. You ever meet someone that just bounces on the wind and you just honor in awe the way they live their life, like living is an art form? For me it was DAVID SHILLINGLAW, a free artist and free spirit. I had the pleasure of living with him and his bro Robs in their false-teeth factory art gallery club house called NOWHERE NORTH. There I painted with David and learned about stencils, found objects, drinking strong coffee, smoking cigarettes in night clubs under tunnels and drinking real old absinthe, an ode to the green fairy that Vincent indulged in with Paul Gauguin. I mentioned the drink to him and David was like, “Oh yea man, I think I got some of that shite right here!” Dusted off the bottle, We had two shots and hit the tube train to london and that was the fastest 1 hour train ride ever. David told the story that absinthe back in the old days was made with “wormwood” real worms and if you drank enough of the stuff it would make your ears go deaf and ring. Such is the case with van Gogh who drank much of so much of the “green fairy” that in a mad rage one night he cut off the lobe of his ear. There is a lot more to that story, Paul Gauguin. David also subscribed to the philosophy of DO IT NOW and suggested I see more than just London when I was this close. I took a train to Paris and spent the night with strangers drinking champagne and dancing till morning. I also flew to Amsterdam, met up with a great friend from Dublin, Keith who is a collector of of my paintings. We walked up and down red light drew on marshmallos, drank chocolate drink and guinness and photographed every light bulb that streaked. Amsterdam is where I got see The van Gogh musuem, the ultimate collection of his work. I showed up with not a piece of food in my stomach and spent the day there. At the end i had a meal of chocolate bars. Below are some drawings I did in front of the canvases, skull and gauguin. They did not allow photography but I was able to snap one shot. I had an experience of catching up with my father, just days after he passed away. This happened in the form of a butterfly on Rockaway Beach. A neighbor complimented my physique and I said, “Oh this, my dad this!” punching my stomach hard, as soon as I said those words a butterfly flew down and attached himself to my stomach. It stayed there for at least 4 minutes. When the conversation ended he crawled onto my hand, sat on my pointer and middle finger and then flew towards our house. My Mom and our neighbor Regina was witness to this. From then on, the butterfly became the guide for me in this game of chutes and latters we call life. Actually make the game CandyLand. As I went through the tremendous amount of work at the musuem I saw a painting of a butterfly that I never even knew of. The path is lined with love. I cannot imagine myself without this trip. I can say that life so far is so up to you. You can buy the ticket or you can wait till it’s over. I say BUY THE TICKET. Bro I’ll see you when I get there.
I showed my mom this photo booth strip and asked what she thought. she said i looked like a monster. perfect. that’s exactly what i’m becoming. i love you ma. this was an experiment for a scene in the movie where vinny attempts to poison himself by drinking paint while he’s in the asylum. it comes from a true moment in van Gogh’s life. i went to my favorite B&W photobooth in NYC at the ACE Hotel on 29th st. I highly recommend all of you to go there and see what you look like in old time splendor. I carried my bag of three colors with me and a group of 2 girls and a guy, M & M & M, saw me pass the booth 3 times. One of the girls said, you really should go try it, it seems like you really want to! She could tell that I was itching to get in. I did. I went in wild and came out with a mouth full of paint. They loved it. Moneer and her friends are from Wash. DC and were down in the city for a couple days. I told them all about painT and that i am an actor/writer/artist, they knew J2K and Z Games. I laughed, they laughed. this feels good when you meet strangers with great curiosity and smiles and curiosity for adventure. M told me that van Gogh’s letters had been at the MORGAN Library & Museum. i was happy to smile in a time of nutso. happy to be thinking about what painT will taste like on the day. after it’s all said and done i shoulda brought a tooth brush, but the way the day tasted to me was like nothing i ever had.
As i walked home from work the other day i saw a white canvas on the wall. it was calling. i dreamt that night and woke up buzzing to get to work the next day. i held a black oil crayon in my teeth while the abstract of the 3 colors formed and then made the first teaser poster to the movie. i could not stop thinking about the paint on the wall as i watched the hours tick away. was it still there? did it dry? did it leak? did someone stop at canal and thompson and grab their heart or laugh or say, “that’s dope.” wow. the next morning i saw another wall the size of four movie posters. i had one last cartridge of polaroid film left, now that they are extinct, and shot the other one at the corner of west broadway and grand. i do love this poster and it is a wish and a promise and a dream come true on a wall today.
ingrid mellor is a mystery. her photos are dreamlike shafts of light, crunching leaves, pure dark, and lush rich beauty. her models and locations are just attractive to the eye and i am lucky to say that she said yes to shooting me and helping bringing some of the dreams i have written down on paper in the screenplay, painT, to life. She shot over 9 setups over the course of a 12 hour day and night in Bushwick, Brooklyn before i came out to LA. the rest is history as she has painted the story’s fine moments with her camera, the night ending in a full-on photo realistic version of the famous painting by Vincent van Gogh, skull with burning cigarette. here is a link to her work, some of the painT series, that will premiere at the Standard, Hollywood at 8300 Sunset Blvd. for the painT exhibition. check out some of the behind the scenes polaroids as well. she is on point, and i can live in my dreams longer because of her. thank you alana for styling a modern day vinny, thank you ingrid for magic.
Photos: Ingrid Mellor
Stylist: Alana Hudkins
CLICK HERE TO READ PAPERMAG has eyes for painT. DOPE FEATURE from THE DOPEST MAGAZINE. Gregory Siff’s Cinematic Street Art
photo by Lee Tergesen
painT, on location, Coney Island. photo by Lee Tergesen