Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Viet Garden

Whenever I find myself with extra time before going to a theater or other event I often stop at Viet Garden (1237 East Colonial Drive, Orlando FL) for a bite. They serve the most delicious Pad Thai that I have ever tasted. The dish is prepared super quick and it is always super good. There are shrimp and peanut sauce soaked noodles along with light bits of chicken and seed sprouts. Once, I overpaid because the server and woman at the cash register had intercommunicated. The server ran out to the parking lot and caught me before I left. That kind of caring service is rare and it has made me a very loyal customer.

I am almost always alone and I am ushered to a window seat. Since I know what I love, I can usually immediately order. All of the walls in the restaurant are covered with beautiful murals depicting the Vietnamese landscape. Some of the sponge painting of the clouds could be refined, but over all, it is impressive. Mirrors help the room feel larger than it is.

I did this sketch on the evening of my Retrospective exhibit opening at Snap Space in the historic Cameo Theater (1013 East Colonial Drive, Orlando FL). I knew that at the opening I would be pulled in multiple directions with no time to sketch. I kind of regret that this important moment in my career wasn't documented with a sketch. There are however plenty of photos to be found online. The opening was a whirlwind and it was wonderful to see so many friends and meet new people. A contingent of former Disney animators showed up. I probably hadn't seen some of them in 10 years. Four original sketches sold almost immediately and that let me relax and enjoy the night. Other pieces kept selling, and when I wasn't talking to patrons, I was signing books. Most important, I believe my work was introduced to people who hadn't seen it before.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


On Friday April 18th, I went to the first of two performances by Red Right Return Dance Company at The Venue (511 Virginia Dr, Orlando, FL.) Elise Frost was the director and she was kind enough to let me know about the world premiere performance by this new dance company. RRR was formed in the summer of 2013 by a group of like  minded artists hungry for a space to play and develop as movers and creators. Sylvia was the culmination of their work showcasing how they discovered each other as artists and humans. Sylvia is the first destination on their journey.

The mission of RRR Dance Company is to establish a platform for the development of contemporary dance in the Central Florida community. The company seeks to create risk taking works through experimentation of movement, act of play and the creation of a fearless creative space. This performance was an incredible first step. The program began with a quote from Poet Sylvia Plath, "Can you understand? Someone, somewhere, can you understand me a little, love me a little? For all my despair, for all of my ideals, for all that - I love life. But it is hard, and I have so much - so very much to learn."

The line of dancers progressed slowly up the wheel chair access ramp at the back of the stage. They moved as if in a funeral procession and then the lead dancer would scuttle back in live. There was pushing and shoving in the endless procession. On stage groups of dancers would huddle together seeking solace in each other and in human contact. The groups would move like a single entity. Dancers were often off balance trusting that they would be supported by someone else. At times, couples would pair off and dance to their own embrace. There was an intimacy in the interactions. At times dancers might be face to face, forehead to forehead looking into each others eyes. One dancers spun and fell loudly repeatedly. The sound of the fall was so loud that I was concerned she might hurt herself. She rose up and flung herself into space again with no fear.

A group of dancers pushed a fellow dancer up against the rear wall of the stage and they supported here there in a Christ like pose. They kept here there the longest time looking a bit like the solders who raised the flag on Owo Jima toward the end of World War 2. The dancers formed a line down the center of the stage facing the audience. They pressed forward and the lead dancer would stare above the audiences head in horror at some terror in the distance. That dancer would try to escape to the back of the line but never without a struggle. Each dancer on turn would face the horror and struggle to escape.

Suddenly the music changes and the lights all glowed red and the dancers broke into a joyous dance of celebration and abandon. With this sudden explosion of energy, the audience applauded. Some of the dancers I recognized, like Ashley Kroft and Darci Ricciardi so as an artist I felt invested in the off balance chances that the company took. There was a raw naked abandon to the entire performance. It was exhilarating. This is the face of change in an otherwise homogeneous clean cut town.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Gun and Knife Show

On Saturday March 16th, I went to the Gun and Knife Show at the Central Florida Fair Grounds on Colonial Drive in Orlando FL. I didn't find out until I got there that admission was $9. I've seem guns on TV, so I didn't see the point of paying to see guns on display. Instead I sat down near the police cars figuring that would be the safest place to sketch from. People walked by with semi-automatic rifles and machine guns sling over their shoulders. It felt a bit third world. If the person wasn't sporting a gun on their shoulder, then they were carrying one or several lock boxes full of hand guns. Insider there was a concealed weapons class which just made me wonder if everyone had a hand gun tucked in their belt or in an ankle harness. The guns on parade were just the tip of the iceberg.

I'm sure I could have discovered a very sketch able scene inside, but Terry was driving home from Miami and I wanted to be home when she arrived. A food truck next to the Gun Show pavilion was serving plenty of corn dogs and beer. I found it ironic the the guns had taken over the Creative Arts Pavilion of the fairgrounds. The creative Arts Pavilion is where you go to see children's art when the Fair is in full swing. As a kid I was so proud when I got a blue ribbon for the art I put on display in a county fair. I had constructed a working R2D2 droid out of scraps I found around the house. I should have figured out how to construct a working gun out of those scraps.

When the sketch was done, I walked around the outdoor flea market which was in an field next to the pavilions. Vendors were already packing up and there was no shade so I didn't stop to sketch. Some other weekend I'll explore the refuge on display. One man's garbage is another man's treasure.

Mark your Calendar! The next gun Show is on May 17 and 17th at the Central Florida Fair Grounds. The Hours will be Saturday 9:00am - 5:00pm and Sunday 10:00am - 5:00pm. Admission is Adult: $9.00 Children: 12 & Free Parking

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Western Way

The Western Way Shopping Center sign is located on West Colonial Drive a block west of North Tampa Avenue. A big Department of Motor Vehicles building is right up the block. The sign hearkens back to a time when Colonial Drive was the main road to get from cost to coast. Colonial Drive (State Route 50) runs throughout Central Florida, from Weeki Wachee on the west coast, to Titusville on the east. The highway is called by different names in different regions, such as Cortez Boulevard in Hernando County and Colonial Drive in much of Orange County. Parts of the highway east of 436 (Semoran Boulevard) follow the Old Cheney Highway, the original road that ran from Orlando to Titusville. I've driven Colonial all the way to the west coast of Florida, and it is a step back in time sprinkled with plenty of old Florida towns and long stretches of rural cattle farms and citrus groves. In 1955 the Western Way Shopping Center on West Colonial Drive opened with Moses Pharmacy and Landis Stone’s Hardware Store as anchor tenants.

Excerpt from From the Florida sand to the City Beautiful: A Historical Record of Orlando, Florida, by E.H. Gore, published in 1951: “Mr. Charles D. Sweet, a surveyor from Louisiana, located in Orlando in 1873. He had traveled up and down the Mississippi Valley and got a desire to see what Florida looked like. When he arrived in Orlando, he liked it so well he decided to locate. He surveyed part of the city when it was incorporated in 1875 and laid out some of the streets. He wanted to make Gertrude Street a main thoroughfare through Orlando but when the South Florida Railroad was built in 1880, it followed through a large portion of that street. That street was named for his sister Gertrude. He was elected to the board of Aldermen in 1880 and served as mayor in 1881. He wanted to name the streets running east and west after different mayors so started out with Marks and Sweet streets, but some time later the name of Sweet Street was changed to Colonial Drive. He was one of the pioneers who helped change Orlando from a village to a city.”

There were maybe five or so pedestrians who walked by as I sketched. People tend to try and cross the four lanes of Colonial on foot to get to fast food restaurants or 7-11s. The Orlando-Kissimmee region was ranked as one of the most dangerous pedestrian regions in the country, with more than 550 pedestrians killed from 2000 to 2009. This translates into 61 deaths a year or about one death every week. Colonial Drive alone has claimed 40 lives in the past five years. Colonial was a constant blur of speeding gas fumed traffic as I sketched. Were I to try and get to the Magic Mall across the street, I would have to risk life and limb. When I did leave I stepped into my steal box of a car for some form of protection before pulling out into the anger fueled traffic.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Modern Widow's Club

Carolyn Caple Moor founded the Modern Widows Club that has met every third Thursday for the past 29 months at her Orlando home. Carolyn lost her husband Chad Moor on Valentines Day in 2000 in a hit and run auto accident as they drove home from diner. I saw one of Chad's original sketches of a horse on display in the home when I first entered. He was a gifted artist. There are 11.4 million widows in this country and 3.5 million of those women are under 65. Carolyn finds strength and hope as she reaches out to help others. She shares inspiration and mentors every woman who enters her home. These meetings are a safe place where incredibly honest conversations blossom.

A fire was setup in the fire pit on the back patio as dusk settled in. There was plenty of food and drink inside and everyone mingled through the social hour. I poured a white wine and settled in to sketch outside. The fire started to fade, but Carolyn's daughter, Mackensey Moor used some dry palm husks as kindling to reignite the blaze. I got to learn about her camping experiences in Colorado where she earned a patch as an expert fire starter. I used this time to pencil in the perspective. As women came out, I quickly placed them in the sketch. The wind kept blowing the fire's smoke and ashes my way, so by the end of the night I smelled like a Phoenix rising from the ashes.

Mackensey was busy setting up a Skype session on her laptop with  Becky Aikman the NYC Author of  'Saturday Night Widows'. Martha Curtis-Garry skyped in via Rome, Italy at 2am her time and actually talked to Becky from iPhone to laptop. It is so amazing how digital tools are changing the way we communicate. Carolyn panned the laptop around so Becky could see everyone in attendance. Becky complimented everyone's shoes since that is what she saw on her end of the digital divide. Becky's book was about her journey along with six friends after they were all widowed. She went to a widow's group and some psychologist was wallowing in negativity while outlining the five stages of grief.  Becky doesn't believe in set steps to grief, everyone is different. She suggested the group might want to focus on some more positive viewpoints and after the meeting, the head of the group told her she wasn't welcome back. This was an all time low for her, being kicked out of a support group. As a journalist, she decided to form her own group and each of the members knew their stories would become part of a book she was writing. One of the participants said she felt naked, but brave. Another Widows meeting in NYC involved a lingerie sample party where everyone got to try on their favorite frilly outfits. Why hadn't I been invited to sketch that meeting?!

Becky mentioned one joint meeting where the widows club met with a widowers club in NYC and then the conversation turned to how men are different from women. I think they forgot there was one man sketching in the shadows. A woman might feel guilt if she dated soon after her husband's death, but men can compartmentalize their emotions. They might truly love the wife that they lost, but there was no guilt in getting back out and dating. Men envy the strong binding friendships that women have. Men's conversations seldom venture and deeper than sports along with one word grunts. The group of women in NYC were fairly affluent, but the conversation in Florida turned to women who have to give up their homes and scrape by when their husband's income is no longer available. Insurance money is only a short term fix for a lifetime to come. Widows seem to be invisible in many societies.

The atmosphere of the meeting I was sketching felt warm and supportive. After the Skype session conversations returned to warm often funny memories. One woman related the fun and playful game of trying to beat her husband to the TV remote. I realized she wasn't talking in the past tense. Memories shared are very much alive and in the moment. Another woman related that her husband used to watch so many Crime Scene Investigation shows, that she thought he might be plotting to kill her without leaving evidence. Laughter erupted frequently as stories were shared. One woman had been to the "Love" themed Pecha Kucha" event that Carolyn and I had been presenters for. Based on the talks she heard that evening, she decided to sign up on OK Cupid an online dating sight. She glowed as she showed me an iPhone photo of the handsome guy she is now dating.

After the meeting I sat in the living room chatting with Carolyn and Mackensey. I had been sitting silently sketching all night and was a bit hungry for conversation. When Carolyn's other daughter Meagan walked in with her freshly showered hair, I realized I might have over stayed my welcome. I was surprised that I was the last to leave. Vicki Garcia had left white Easter Lillies for everyone to take home. Carolyn gave me some lilies as I left with instructions to cut the stems before putting them in a vase.  I handed the lilies to Terry when I got home. She asked where I got them, and I told her. "You could have lied you know, I would have believed you." Darn, men can be so stupid sometimes. This morning one white bloom opened to the sunlight, a symbol of hope and resurrection.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Weekend Top 6 Picks

Saturday April 19, 2014
10am to 6pm Free.  43rd World Wide Sketch Crawl in Orlando is on the same day as the 9th Annual Central Floride Earth Day at Lake Eola.
Thor of Analog Artist Digital World is the Orlando host. The idea of the FREE SketchCrawl is that of a global
drawing marathon: Taking a day to journal and draw all that is around you.
1- Artists gather together for the Sketchcrawl. (Lets meet at the Artist Corner at 10am to start.)
2- They share sketches and photos from all over the world after the SketchCrawl.
3- The event helps create a community of friends passionate about drawing around the world.
There are no rules:
Anyone can participate, be it to draw for 20 minutes or the full day . Any level of ability is welcome
from veteran artists to first time sketchers. Any age! Try it with your kids!
Artists can explore the event with sketches and ultimately gather at the Food Court-Beer Garden
at 5pm to share sketchbooks while tasting some of the Earth Day food and drink.

10am to 6pm Free.  Central Florida Earth Day. Lake Eola Park (east side) 195 N. Rosalind Avenue Orlando, FL. Please join us for the 9th annual Central Florida Earth Day, the largest and longest-running Earth Day festival in Central Florida! Central Florida Earth Day is back--bigger and better than ever!  Please join us at the largest and most prestigious Earth Day event in Central Florida. The event will include healthy living and eco-friendly exhibitors, speakers, and presentations; non-profits; fun and games for kids; dog and cat adoptions; restaurant booths; environmental and humane education; artist and craft corners; and live music and entertainment. Central Florida Earth Day will draw both committed environmentalists and those who want to learn more about how to protect our health, the planet, and its inhabitants. You can promote your business or group to thousands of people who want to learn more about environmentalism and the varied products and services that support an eco-friendly and a veg-friendly way of life. All money raised will be used for local environmental education and outreach.

10am to 8pm Free. Acme's Star Trek vs Star Wars Art Show and Charity Auction for Hero Initiative. Acme Superstore 905 E. SR 434, Longwood, Fl. Acme's Star Trek versus Star Wars Art Show! Join us for new themed art, family-friendly activities, movies, contests and vendors! And a store-wide sale on ALL Star Wars AND Star Trek comics, toys and merch! Throughout the day, we'll also have a silent art auction with all proceeds going to Hero Initiative:.
Winners will be announced and contacted at 7pm. All ages welcome! FREE to attend!
Also, for all you 18+ fans, check out our Acme After Hours: Star Trek vs Star Wars Art Party!

Sunday April 20, 2014
2pm to 8pm. Free.  Orange Blossom Jamboree 5 Pre-Party. Red Lion Pub 3784 Howell Branch Road Winter Park, Fl. A pre-Celebration of Florida's finest homegrown festival: Orange Blossom Jamboree 2014!!! Live music from local OBJ bands on an outdoor stage, free homemade BBQ, and over a dozen vendors will all be present!

5:3opm to ? $7. Southern Fried Sunday with People's Blues of Richmond, The Woolly Bushmen and Fast Preacher. Will's Pub 1042 N. Mill's Ave., Orlando, Fl. This SFS will rock! April's SFS presents bands who all have a blues tinged, garage rock soulfullness to their diverse yet distinctly Southern sound. We welcome Virginia's People's Blue of Richmond back to Will's after their last display of badassery. They'll be joined by The Woolly Bushmen and Fast Preacher, the side project of Fat Night's Daniel Hanson. The $7 Cover includes BBQ. Because this show falls on Easter and because we'll be celebrating the first full liquor SFS at Will's we are hiding eggs around the bar which will have tickets for free shots inside. Happy hunting!

9pm to 11pm Free. Solo Acoustic Spoken Word. Natura Coffee and Tea, 12078 Collegiate Way, Orlando, FL. 407 482-5000.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Paint Nite

On March 4th  I went to Avenue Gastrobar (13 S. Orange Ave. Orlando, FL) to see what Paint Nite was all about. For $45 patrons registered to paint a simplified version of Vincent Van Gogh's Irises. The event was Sold Out. About half of the bar was filled with small easels with blank canvases, brushes, along with plastic cups of water and plastic plates for palettes. Thirty to forty people showed up to "drink creatively." Each artist was given a green grade school smock.

Avenue Gastrobar offers a casual refined atmosphere that welcomes beer and cocktail drinkers, along with fussy eaters and foodies alike. Avenue is not quite a bar, and not quite a restaurant, but an innovative & modern pub hub to sip, grub and socialize. I had a sandwich and a Coke while I sketched.

I had contacted artist Megan MacGregor and since I wasn't using any of the art supplies, she was fine with letting me sit on the sidelines and sketch without the $45 cover. Megan graduated from New College of Florida with a bachelor's degree in Fine Arts. Apart from studying art, she also specialized in animal psychology, focusing on animal training. Her senior year of college she worked as a marine mammal intern at Dolphins Plus in Key Largo, Fl. Her senior thesis, "Fragmented Perspective," focused on redefining the stereotype of dolphins, came about as a result of her experience working there. After graduation, Megan was accepted into a six month marine mammal internship at The Seas in Epcot, Orlando, Fl, which has continued the inspiration of her paintings. She currently lives in Orlando, and is looking forward to taking her paintings out of the water and into new realms on land.  I like how her work breaks one large image into a series of panels. She works in watercolor which of course I also find appealing. I kind of wish she had coached everyone to paint a dolphin portrait, but that would have required much more drawing skills from participants.

In the workshop, all the artists were first instructed to cover the entire canvas with a coat of yellow acrylic paint. Then large green brush strokes defined the leaves. Every one's painting was unique. The purple Irises were the last item added to all the paintings. Megan coached everyone from a small stage at the head of the room. She had a head mic which amplified her voice giving the impression of a fitness trainer rallying everyone to exercise their creative muscles. I imagine the amount of wine consumed might have resulted in some liberal abstractions. Participants liked joking with each other as they questioned their creations. Paint Nites are happening all over town with many different paintings to choose from. Though I was skeptical, I must admit that a Paint Nite would certainly be a fun date. Everyone is searching for adventurous distractions and this fits the bill.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Shin Sushi

On Friday February 28th, I went to meet Julie Anderson at Shin Sushi (803 N. Orange Avenue, Orlando, FL) to discuss the Orlando Sentinel's new "HypeOrlando Blogs." This can be found on the Sentinel website on the "Home" tab at the top of the page. Several months ago, Terry and I bumped into Julie and her husband Lars at an outdoor cafe in Winter Park. Over drinks, Julie first described the "Hype" concept. A newspaper in Chicago first developed the idea where a large group of bloggers all contribute to the same blog site. None of the contributors is paid, so the newspaper online site gets plenty of creative content for free.

In return, "Hype" contributors would get, a daily newsletter from an experienced blogger on how to build audience (Search engine optimization, optimizing Facebook, writing headlines that make people click, etc.) Offline blogger community meetups.  Free platform and technical setup. Ongoing technical support. Monthly incentives and contests for writing and audience-building.

I got to the Sushi restaurant a bit early since I had just done an interview with Seth Kubersky a few blocks away for a write up in the Orlando Weekly. The head waiter at Shin Sushi told me I would have to wait an hour before I could get inside. I had hoped to sketch the interior and fill the sketch with patrons as they arrived for the lunch hour. Oh, well, it was a nice day outside, so I sat across the street and sketched the barren exterior. As I was finishing my sketch, I saw Julie approach the restaurant and go inside. I packed up the supplies and rushed across the street. The restaurant was bustling now. I ordered some sushi combo which turned out to be much more food than expected.

HypeOrlando in it's first weeks had about 30 contributors. Julie hopes to push those numbers up into the hundreds. My impression is that "Hype" is a great opportunity for beginning bloggers. All the layouts for the blogs are identical making it hard to tell one blog from another. The one established "Hype" blogger that I recognized was  Kristen Manieri who runs Great Dates Orlando. Over lunch, Julie pushed for the idea of having me channel all my future content over to the "HypeOrlando" site. This seemed like an extreme notion which would likely result in my loosing many readers in the transition. I can't imagine giving up a site that I've built up over 5 years. Kristen still maintains her original site while occasionally contributing to "Hype". The fact that I post creative content every day means that I would have to write a new article any time I wanted to contribute to "Hype." I would have to add an 8th day to my work week! I asked about just posting an article on "Hype" that already ran or simultaneously ran on Analog Artist Digital World. Julie said that the Google search engine would label any re-purposed article as spam thus all content would have to be new.

I fired of a long list of concerns. I didn't like having to give up a large header on the new site. Apparently the "Chicago Now"  site learned that letting contributors create their own headers resulted in some very bad and amateurish designs. The "Hype" site limits each contributor to a one inch square avatar. It results in trying to create a recognizable brand on the size of a postage stamp. I was also concerned that there is no right click copyright protections making it easy for Sentinel Surfers to copy any sketches I post to the site. This is an ongoing concern since even the Downtown Arts District and the City of Winter Park do not realize that it is wrong to copy and republish work without permission. The Internet is a lawless Wild West for theft and ripping. The fact that City organizations have no clue about copyright makes it appear that Orlando is a second rate city. Terry seems to feel there is no advantage to posting on "Hype". Even the name seems to imply vacuous content with little substance. I'm still weighing the options. I might even cut back submissions to Analog Artist Digital World to 6 days a week and submit one article a week to "Hype". I've been making adjustments to try and allow for more family time and contributing free content to "Hype" could be a step backwards. I was surprised and pleased that Julie paid for lunch.

Let me know what you think. Should I stay the course and keep AADW a daily, or should I also contribute to the "Hype"? Leave me a message below. One last note. Something I ate at Shin Sushi didn't agree with me and I had the runs all afternoon. Not a good sign.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dana Schutz

Critically acclaimed artist Dana Schutz will be Master Artist-in-Residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida from February 17 to March 9, 2014. She talked about her artistic process on February 27th during her visit to the Cornell Fine Arts Museum (1000 Holt Avenue, Winter Park, Fl.)  Dana’s work suggests tradition while simultaneously presenting innovative compositions. The artist explains, “My paintings are loosely based on meta narratives. The pictures float in and out of pictorial genres. Still life's become personified, portraits become events, and landscapes become constructions. I embrace the area between which the subject is composed and decomposing, formed and formless, inanimate and alive.” New York-based critic John Yau stated, “This is what Schutz does so well—she asks questions that challenge the answers given by others. More importantly, she asks her questions by folding them into the painting.”  The appearance of Dana Schutz was made possible by the Atlantic Center for the Arts Master Artist in-Residence Outreach Program and United Arts of Central Florida.

Dana's work blew me away. The classical paintings on the museum walls seemed shocked and surprised by Dana's work on the screen. The image I sketched on the screen answered the question, "What would someone look like if they ate their own face?"  Dana works large with all her colors pre-mixed. While in school she painted portraits of the men she imagined would be right for her friends. A bright landscape sprouted body parts which people then devoured. Her imagined world is believable yet abstract with the light and color intensity dialed way up. I wish I could have seen some of her work in person. The paint looks luscious and thickly applied. There is a vibrancy and directness to her work that I admire. I left the talk inspired. What a surprise to discover another artists vision with self effacing humor and warmth.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Running on Local

Julie Norris invited me to attend a free talk with Carol Hewitt, a Slow Money inspired author of "Financing Our Foodshed", and Lyle Estill, author of similar books, such as "Small is Possible". The discussion will focus on all things local: from food to fuel to finance to friendship.The talk and discussion were held at East End Market (3201 Corrine Dr, Orlando, FL) on February 24th.

The primary point of the discussion was that we don't need large banks to finance small businesses in our community. Individuals who have a little money saved can help their neighbors with small loans with  very low interest rates. When the money is loaned directly to someone you know, it is more likely to be paid back since not doing so would be embarrassing. Carol began loaning money in her community with increasing frequency and there have only been a few defaults. Such grass roots financing has resulted in a stronger sense of community.

Carol is a pioneer in the Slow Money Movement. The American financial system is built on the idea of fast money. Computers trade execute trades at exponentially fast speeds in order to bring in fast returns. These quick trades aren't intended to help the investor or the business. Instead they skim money from both with no value added. Slow money implies lending money locally so that the community you live in can thrive and grow. Since Carol has been practicing this for years, it seems that removing big banks from the financing equation is a viable option for people with vision and a personal interest in seeing their community grow.