Thursday, February 26, 2015

Birding down in Kissimmee

Terry's niece Claire Brown was visiting with her boyfriend. The entire Brown family are avid birders and Terry has also caught the birding obsession. It has been a blessing on vacation because while Terry was searching for birds, I could sketch. This is a rather old sketchbook that has a few unfilled spreads left to fill. On these pages I drew two thumbs for some reason. Those thumbs became a block that kept me from filling up the sketchbooks. At a Mystery Sketch Theater session, I used the spread to do quick gestural studies in pencil. The sketchbook sat abandoned for years. I like a sketchbook to have an overall flow when it is flipped through. For whatever reason this spread threw the book off track.

I erased as much of the harsh pencil work as I could and reworked the sketch as my relatives birded. I only had at most half an hour, so I kept the sketch extra loose. Trying to do a sketch in a stolen moment like this is stressful, but the sketch couldn't be any worse than the mess that was already on the page. In some ways, messing up the page a bit first can be freeing. It gets past the pristine blank page and lets me realize it is just a sketch, let it go.  I've shown this sketch to students and they seldom notice the thumbs hidden in the composition. You can always change and adjust a sketch to push it in a new direction. It was a lesson learned, and soon this sketchbook will be filled and join the others on my bookshelf.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Blue Spring is my "go to" place to bring out of towners .

Cornelia Thorspecken and her daughter Nini came from Germany to visit the Thorspecken's of America. Terry and I met Cornelia in Germany when Nini was just a baby. I had done a boat load of family history research at the New York Public Library and found the boat manifests for Dr. Augustus Thorspecken who arrived in America in 1854. He left Germany from the port in Bremen, so I searched for modern day Thorspecken's there. I got in contact with Herbert Thorspecken who was about the age of my dad, and he sent me all the family history notes he had. Herbert was my cousin, and we were related because Dr Augustus left while another brother, stayed in Germany. Herbert was a descendant of the brother who stayed and I'm descended from the Doctor who left. Terry and I visited every living Thorspecken we could find in Germany including Cornelia. Facebook made it easy for Cornelia to do the same in America.

The biggest adventure on the drive up to Blue Spring (2100 W. French Avenue Orange City, FL) was getting gas for Cornelia's rental car. Cornelia expressed her concern that she couldn't remember her code for her credit card. The jerk behind the counter gave her a hard time. We drove across the street and the charming Indian clerk asked Cornelia about Germany and explained what her own name meant. It was a good lesson in how intolerance and a power hungry idiot can be quickly out shined by a caring, compassionate and fun clerk.

In Blue Spring, there were a couple of Manatees in the spring. Now that it is so much colder, the Manatees return to the spring in hoards or is it herds? No, actually a group of manatees is called an aggression, which makes little sense since these graceful mammals are never aggressive. Rather aggressive humans are endangering manatees by ripping through peaceful waters with power boats that then cut open the backs of manatees with their props. Most every manatee I have ever seen had multiple lacerations and scars. The manatees return to Blues Spring when it is cold because the spring water is always a balmy 72 degrees as it rises from the earth.

On this sunny day there was a gaggle of humans sunning themselves on the lawn. No a group of humans must be a horde, a huddle, or a crowd. Anyway it was a relaxing afternoon that gave me a chance to learn more about my German cousins. The first thing Nini wanted to do in Orlando was find a Taco Bell. Terry and I were glad to oblige, but its kind of sad that this is the culture that the rest of the world expects from America.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Mills 50 District heralds the Mills 50 Community Market.

Every Tuesday from 5:00 pm until 9:00pm the Mills 50 Community Market (between Will's Pub and Track Shack) brings together a variety of artisans and local vendors to share food, ideas and community resources. Our vision is to foster weekly community engagement and to provide support for local businesses in the Mills 50 District and all of Central Florida. By providing this open platform, we hope to empower local residents with a more resilient, sustainable and healthy place to live.

I went right after work one night to sketch. On the side wall of Will's Pub was the controversial mural by Dolla Short. It depicts a drunk satyr floating in a noxious cloud. The detail that a few local residents have an issue with is that the cloud is implied to have come from a fart symbolized by a word balloon and a skull and cross bones. Because of this, the city is trying to come up with a way to censor future murals. They want to create an ordinance that re-defines murals as signage which suffer strict jurisdiction. Murals keep popping up in the neighborhood like mushrooms.

The Market is a small affair with local goods. The closest vendor had meat on a stick and I was offered a sample which was pretty good. Doughn't Be Cruel was directly across from me. Senior Baker and Artist David McWhertor was at the helm. He pointed out that we had exhibited our work together at the Falcon Bar's "Porn" show. David's painting was of a nude man with a unique way of hanging his jacket. For that show, I did a sketch of 2 actors in an intimate embrace. At the opening, I sketched a guy hitting on a girl for several hours in front of my sketch. David offered me a sample of one of his doughnuts, placing it in a paper bag. The bag sat on my kitchen counter for the night and in the morning it had been engulfed in a grease stain. I couldn't bring myself to open the bag. Perhaps if bacon was packaged in paper bags, I could give that up as well.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Relaxing at the Lake Louise Ski Resort.

In an effort to be sure all sketches are posted online, I've started signing sketches once they are published. This way, hopefully, no sketches will slip through the cracks. In the early years sketches often slipped by because the latest sketch and experience seemed fresher and more exciting. Looking back at vacation sketchbooks, I was surprised to find this Lake Louise, Canada sketch unsigned. That morning, Terry decided she was going on a horse back ride up to the lip of a glacier. I don't trust horses so the morning was mine to find a sketch opportunity.

I went through the town maps and brochures and decided that the gondola ride was probably sketch worthy. It was summer however, so there wasn't much snow on the lower slopes. The Lake Louise Ski Resort (1 Whitehorn Road, Lake Louise Alberta, Canada, T0L 1E0) had this gorgeous ski lodge at the base of the mountain. I could faintly see the gondola snaking it's way up the first slope. I went inside to check on ticket prices. After a quick deliberation, I decided the lodge would be my subject. I had to sit in the parking lot to do the sketch, so I was always looking around to be sure I wasn't run over by a wayward tourist bus or an RV.

Every half hour or so a bus would park in front of the lodge. All the tourists would pile out of the bus, take a cell phone photo and then pile back in. I'm glad that Terry and I travel at our own pace. Back at the hotel, Terry made fun of me for not riding the Gondola. She made clucking noises to rub it in. Her morning had been a real adventure riding her horse through muddy slopes to the glacier.A little friendly competition on vacation isn't a bad thing. I grant Terry won this round.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Getting over the hump of a long flight.

Terry and I have been traveling quite a bit this year. Back in June and July we flew to the Rockies in Canada and in October we disappeared for a month to go to Australia. Flying to the opposite side of the world is exciting until you are half way into the flight. Terry takes some medication right before take off that cuts the edge off of her fear of flying. Not only can she relax, but she can pass out on a dime. While we were waiting on the runway to take off, she got annoyed at the delay. She then fell asleep and several hours later she woke up and called over a stewardess. She asked the stewardess why we hadn't taken off yet. The stewardess calmly explained that we WERE in the air and had been for quite some time.

I can never fall asleep when flying. This was a real curse of the flight to Australia. I watched all the animated films on the entertainment list. I believe John Hurst, a former Disney colleague got an award for his storyboard work in the opening sequence of Rio 2. It is a pretty impressive sequence with Parrots performing a complex Busby Berkeley Song and flight routine. I just saw a live action film I did early storyboards for. It was exciting to see compositional ideas incorporated in the final film. Some of the cast had changed but the action was true to what I remember.

Sketchbooks, clothes and my carry on were all used in an attempt to create a comfortable sleeping position. The delicate house of cards would always collapse and I would nod awake.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Warming up on Valentines Day at the Mennello Indie-Folkfest.

Most of Valentines Day I was running around town. In the afternoon I taught a two hour Urban Sketching workshop. From there, I drove downtown to drop off several paintings at City Arts Factory. Then as the golden hour lengthened shadows, I rushed to the Mennello Museum's Indie-Folkfest. I bumped into Cole Nesmith and his friends on the walk to the museum. He assured me that there were still plenty of people there. I could hear the music as I walked over a foot bridge toward the museum's sculpture garden. The lawn was covered with people sitting on blankets and lawn chairs.

JUNOsmile was performing on stage so I sat down and immediately got to work on a sketch. JUNOsmile is a collaboration between husband and wife veteran musicians Joseph and Jesse Martins. As they performed, the sun set over the lake behind them. For a few minutes the setting sun was right behind them causing a blinding light. I believe I saw Jesse Martins perform once before with Bubba Whoop ass Wilson out behind Bubalou's Bodacious Barbecue. She performed a mean fiddle. Children love to approach the stage. They love music and know how to celebrate it. A little girl tapped me on the leg, I suppose I was "it". Genevieve Bernard who produced the event let me know that earlier in the day the crowds were insane. The day was an undeniable success. People discovered the museum, some of them for the first time.

Eugene Snowden and friends took over the stage at 6pm. By that time the sun had set and he needed to warm up the crowd. There is an unwritten law in Orlando that if you are a musician then at some point you will perform with Eugene. Right from the start he was pulling friends out of the audience so they could play guitar or sing with him. The kids were dancing up a storm now, doing somersaults and cartwheels. Snowden pumped up the energy to a fevered pitch. With my sketch done, I bundled up my sweatshirt sleeves over my fists to make mittens. I clapped my clenched fists and swayed to the beat. Is it odd that I should feel so comfortable being alone at this concert on Valentines day? As the children danced with wild abandon, I felt at peace. The sketch might be hampered by the cold fingers that executed it, but I was doing what gives me the most pleasure on this day by creating.

In the midst of sketching a young woman asked if I was an Urban Sketcher. She knew of my work and said it was an honor to meet me. I'm always shocked when anyone knows about my sketching obsession. She shook my hand and then left me to continue my work. That simple exchange warmed me on that cold night. The final song for the evening was "Lean on me." Jesse and Joseph Martins returned to the stage to sing along with Jessica Pawli. You could tell that all these musicians were dear friends as they huddled close to the mics to share their love in song. On that note I decided to head home. Joseph shouted out, "Remember we have far more similarities than differences. If you make one person's day brighter than you are making the world a better place to live. Spread the love today and everyday."

Friday, February 20, 2015

Weekend Top 6 Picks for February 21st and 22nd.

Saturday February 21, 2015
9am to 3pm Free. The Orlando Wetlands Festival. Orlando Wetlands Park, 25155 Wheeler Rd, Christmas, Florida. The Orlando Wetlands Festival promises to be the "Best Wetlands Festival in the United States!" In addition to numerous guided wildlife and plant life tours, there will be bird-banding and mist-netting demonstrations, as well as live music and wildlife shows. IBEX Puppetry brings  our endangered species puppets to life for your family at the  Orlando Wetlands Park .

6pm to 8pm Free.  Brewery Tour. Orlando Brewing, 1301 Atlanta Ave, Orlando, Florida.

8am to 10pm Free. Robert Metcalf's Farewell Reading. Kerouac House 1418 Clouser Ave, Orlando, Florida. Please join us in saying a very fond farewell to our writer-in-residence Rob Metcalf. He will be reading at about 8 p.m. at the Kerouac House.

Sunday February 22, 2015
10am to Noon Free. Super Joy Riders. Eastern entrance of the Lake Eola Farmers’ Market.
 Participants dress as superheroes and ride en masse around the city as they check off their scavenger hunt-like list of Do Gooder Duties; collecting litter, helping senior citizens cross the road, returning shopping carts, basically performing small acts of kindness for an hour and a half of hilarity and love.
The Super Joy Riders: Do Gooder Bike Ride is an exercise in community organizing and active engagement. We hope to use the ride as an opportunity to show how helping people can be simple, fun, and easy, especially while wearing a cape. You + Superhero Costume + Bike = Best Sunday Ever

11am to 5pm Free. Dragon Parade Lunar New Year Festival 2015. Orlando Fashion Square 3201 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, Florida. Lunar New Year is the most important festival celebrated in Asia. In countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States, although Chinese New Year is not an official holiday, many Asian organizations hold large celebrations and parades to share the culture. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sydney and London have already held many successful Lunar New Year Parades which attract thousands and thousands audiences.
This year, Asia Trend Magazine together with Mills 50 – Orlando Main street District, REACH of Central Florida (Recognizing Educating Asian Cultural Heritage) and Y.E.S.S. (Youth Enrichment and Senior Services) joined hands to organize the Central Florida local community Dragon Parade Lunar New Year Festival on February 22th, 2015 to celebrate the Year of the Goat. The festival starts at 11am with a community parade (begins at Orlando Fashion Square Parking lot and ends at Orlando Fashion Square front entrance) followed by a 5-hour festival which takes place at Orlando Fashion Square lobby stage. Come experience the Asian culture with cultural performances, exotic Asian food, Arts and Crafts and exhibitions. Admission is free.
You are invited to be part of this community event by becoming a sponsor, a vendor, or a participant. For vendor and parade information, please email or 407-205-2808.

6pm to 8pm Free, just get a drink or a bite.  Shut Your Face! Poetry Slam by Curtis Meyer! La Casa De La Paellas 10414 E Colonial Dr Orlando Florida. The only current ongoing slam in Orlando officially certified by Poetry Slam Incorporated, IE. Send a team to Nationals as well as poets to The Individual World Poetry Slam & Women of The World Poetry Slam! $50 to the winner! If you’ve never seen or been in a slam before, it’s definitely worth checking out!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Nude Nite with a live painting by Marla E. Artist.

On Valentines Eve I went to Nude Nite to get a second sketch. I parked in the same place about a quarter mile up the road and walked to the warehouse venue. On this hike however I tried to jump over a roadside drainage ditch and missed. My right hiking boot sank into the muddy slop up past my ankle before I pulled it out with a slurp. I arrived at Nude Nite with one boot soaking wet and covered in mud. Nude Nite is a pretty swanky affair with women in high heals with sleek low cut dresses. My boot debacle made me feel like Frankenstein. I reassured myself that no one checks out a guys shoes. I tend to cross my legs when seated and drawing and that left the boot dangling out in front of me.

Enough about the slop. I decided to sketch Marla E. Artist who was doing a larger than life painting of a stunning nude model. Marla prepares her canvases with a thick gesso that makes the surface smooth as plaster. She also incorporates even thicker circular patterns that create a surface you are tempted to want to touch.  Marla actually used champagne to thin out her paints. The model had on a long pearl necklace that accentuated the curve of her back. Marla's painting from the evening before was stored off to the left. When the model took a break, I sketched her one more time as she checked her phone for messages.

Orit Reuben had a pastel nude on display and it sold on the first night. I really should consider hanging work in next year's show. Then again, the only time I sketch nudes is at Nude Nite. I checked out the couple that were allowing people to snip away one inch pieces of fabric from their outfits. I considered doing a second sketch. The scene was chaos and the crowd so thick that I decided to pass on the sketch opportunity one more time. I needed to get home and slip out of my sopping wet boot.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Nude Nite had a stellar opening night.

Nude Nite is a dazzling art and entertainment event celebrating the beauty of the nude. It brings together hundreds of artists for three evenings of visual art, performance and a cast of characters both in costume and out. Open to the public, tickets can be purchased at the door. This year the event took over an empty warehouse at 5051 LB McLeod Rd. Orlando FL. Tree trunks outside the venue gave a visual clue that you had arrived along with the line of cars waiting to park. Valet parking is $10 so I drove down the road a distance to find self parking.

Once inside, I quickly walked around searching for a subject to sketch. Since most performers were nude or partly nude, the choices were overwhelming. On a stage with butterfly wings as a backdrop, a figure squirmed inside a dark fabric cocoon. Later in the evening she was free of the cocoon and gracefully flapping her wings. There was a staging area for Marla E. Artist who began a life sized nude painting of a nude female model on one of her thick impasto canvases.

In the furthest reaches of the warehouse, I found these two men hard at work. A large ball of electric wiring sat between them. They were pealing away the plastic casings from wires to expose the inner copper wire. The copper wire was then cut into one foot lengths and stacked in a neat pile. A video camera taped the whole process and a black and white projection filled the back wall. As I sketched, I realized that the projection showed a different time. It didn't sync with the live action performance. What does it all mean? Who knows. Art I guess. The crowds weren't too dense on opening night, but I'm always amazed at how many people are shooting photos. You can tell the amateurs with their red laser beams and flashes. They should learn to sketch, it is far less disruptive.

After my sketch was done, I packed up to get right back home. As I left, there was a huge crowd with their cell phones raised to take photos of some unfolding action. Linda Saracino who was with her friend Lillian Verkins explained that there was a clothed couple standing on display in front of the mob. People standing in line were given a chance to take a pair of scissors and cut away a one inch square of fabric. As each square was removed, the couple was slowly unclothed. I would think two strategic snips could make the outfits quickly fall to the floor, but I suppose the cuts were supervised in a grid pattern. I never did see over the crowd to find out. Before I left, I was once again tempted by a sketch opportunity when I saw a nude woman painted silver and elevated on stilts which were hidden under a graceful silver skirt. She was Voguing for photographers however which made her an unpredictable twisting turning subject to sketch. Oh well perhaps I'll catch her tomorrow night. Parking near a large event like this I always fear that my car might get towed for profit. Thankfully it was where I left it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Magic and Mayhem brings laughter and amazement to resort guests.

Ilene Lieber  made me aware of Magic and Mayhem which is an award winning dinner show at Sheraton Vistana Resort in Lake Buena Vista (8800 Vistana Centre Drive, Orlando, FL 32821). The Resort was just one block away from where Disney put me up when I first came to Orlando as an animation intern. The show is in a new venue, the Fountains Recreation Center, home of the Tacky Tiki Grill and Bar. The magic happens in  the Fountains Room just inside the main doors. I arrived about half an hour early to get a jump on the sketch. James Songster, the show's founder and director was at the door to welcome me. Performing with James that night was Art Thomas the managing producer of Magic and Mayhem. 0n some nights James's son Joshua performs in Art's place. Both James and Art worked at Disney and that background inspires the family friendly show.

James founded Magic and Mayhem in 1997. Each year, Magic and Mayhem Productions presents over 400 performances of engaging, family-friendly and theatrical comedy magic at a variety of venues including festivals, special events and banquets. In addition, they also offer corporate workshops and seminars where they provide custom magic-based team building exercises. Before the show, James and I had a talk about how magic is experiencing a bit of a revival on TV. The winner of last season's "America's Got Talent" was a magician. He didn't do lavish show stopping tricks but rather interacted one on one with the judges. In an age of constant social media, I think people are hungry for more direct and intimate forms of entertainment. This is exactly what Magic and Mayhem offers.

Just before the doors opened, someone wished James,"Good luck." A waitress was putting out large pitchers of drinks on the tables. She set a tray on a table and lifted the pitcher which was keeping the tray in balance. Drinks, glasses and ice cubes crashed to the floor. This was clearly the Mayhem portion of the show. Never tell a performer "good luck" the results can be disastrous. Tell them "break a leg" or "merde" instead. Broken glass was still being swept up as guests arrived.

The show itself went off without a hitch. Art worked as James's straight man and at times a doubting Thomas. One particularly humorous act involved James recreating a vaudeville act his father used to do. It involved two yellow cylinders. Inside one cylinder James placed a wine bottle and in the other he placed a cup. After shouting a magical invocation, he glanced in the cylinders and dramatically announced that the glass and bottle had switched places. He took a dramatic bow. Art however, pointed out that the audience had never seen the items after the switch. As they argued about it, the magic became real.

One act involved the participation of a beautiful female volunteer. It was essentially a card trick in which James guessed which card his volunteer had picked. What astonished me was that a clear balloon was blown up and somehow the card appeared inside the balloon. Little kids in the audience would shout with delight. I was just as swept away. It is the little things that amaze me.

For more information on Magic and Mayhem’s comedy magic show offerings, appearances, workshops and for booking inquiries to be a part of your next special event, call 407-222-4412 or visit Sadly, only guests who are staying at the Sheraton are able to see the Dinner show. It would be nice if there was a venue where locals could experience some magic for themselves.

Magic And Mayhem was named #1 Dinner Show By Orlando A-List.