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Down to the wire

A sharp-dressed, silver-haired man steps into a creaky elevator cage and heads up to the artist's loft at the top.

The fictitious artist, a famous painter named Lionel Dobie, played by Nick Nolte, is not happy to see his agent.

The elegant silver-haired man runs the prestigious Manhattan gallery that represents Dobie's work. There's a one-man show of his paintings scheduled in three weeks. Dobie has not begun.

So starts one of my favorite art movies, the Martin Scorsese segment ("Life Lessons") of the 1989 movie New York Stories. It's not that unique of a plot, really - a middle-aged man is pathetically obsessed with his cold young mistress, and their insecurities feed off each other. He uses that pain from her rejection to fuel his art. This opening sequence is beautifully shot and edited, though - gotta hand it to Martin Scorsese and his editor, Thelma Schoonmaker.

Interestingly, the young woman Nolte's character obsesses over is played by Rosanna Arquette, who is the same age as I am. We're both middleaged now, so that makes Nick Nolte, well, ah... old, I guess. He's still got it, though. Funny how fast 20 years slips by. That's how long it's been since this movie came out - 21 years, actually. The lifetime of someone who is now legally allowed to drink.

But the thing I liked so much about this movie was its immersion in the lifestyle of a painter. Dobie has a fabulous, high-ceilinged loft in a former factory - any artist would drool over such cool digs. (And in fact, the art school where I'll be going in the fall looks a lot like this.)

Dobie slaps paint onto huge canvases while his paint-spattered boom box blasts "Whiter Shade of Pale." He gets paint on everything, even his snifter of Courvoisier.

And he depends upon the adrenaline rush of waiting until the last minute to get going. That's what this article is really about. Not New York Stories, although I do love that movie.

The deadline for entries to the show that I'm entering my new assemblage piece into is Monday. It is now Thursday. I still have a lot to do. I'm excited about having it done. Therefore I'm going to end this blog post now and get back to work.

See you on the other side.