Friday, July 31, 2009

War of the Worlds - Lighting Cues

X2L calling CQ . . . 2X2L calling CQ . . . 2X2L calling CQ . . . New York. Isn't there anyone on the air? Isn't there anyone on the air? Isn't there anyone . . .
War of the Worlds has invaded Orlando. I spent a solid day sketching rehearsals on the day before the play opened. Here Fletch and Zac are in the sound booth working on the lighting cues for the show. This is a grueling process for the actors who had to go thought the play scene by scene being interrupted every few lines as the lighting was adjusted. I finished 5 drawings all together this day and I discovered it is possible to draw and paint in a pitch black theater. As the actors performed the lights seemed to switch constantly and arbitrarily. This forced me to work in different ways using less line and larger masses of color. Not being able to see where I placed lines forced me to trust my instincts more than the final polished look.
When I arrived at the Shakespeare Theater, I saw a young woman struggling to get in with a huge plastic bag packed to overflowing on her shoulders. She was also carrying some heavy coats on hangers. I helped her by opening the inner theater door. It turned out that this was Kelly Ann who is in charge of the shows costuming. One at time the actors approached her and tried on their stylish 1940's duds. What followed then was the first full dress rehearsal. For the first time the play was performed from start to finish with lights, sound, props and costumes. For me the performance was overwhelming and a joy to watch. The play taps deep into the depths of our humanity and the our vulnerability and everyday fears. Something magical happened at this dress rehearsal, emotions and actions were crisp, clear and sincere. The directors and actors are continuing to polish the performances but they are polishing a true gem. Tonight is opening night, don't miss it! If there is one play you need to see this year, trust me it is War of the Worlds. Performances are:
Opening night Friday July 31, 8PM.
Saturday August 1st 2PM and 8PM.
Sunday August 2nd 7PM.
Friday August 7th 8PM.
Saturday August 8th 8PM
Sunday August 9th 7PM.
Tickets are $12. If you want to order online, go to http://www.playthemoment.com/index.html Listen to the directors talk about the production on the WUCF Podcast.
Do not miss the invasion!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

War of the Worlds - Orange Day

While sketching at this rehearsal for War of the Worlds, Sophia Wise informed me that it was Orange Day at the rehearsal which meant most of the actors were wearing orange. I didn't get the note so I was stuck wearing nothing but blues and grays. I did make sure to put plenty of orange into my sketch however. I also noted the blue tape which Zac had put down to mark the edge of the stage. If the actors wandered past these blue tape marks they would fall into the audience in the Goldman Theater. Since Sophia informed me about Orange day, I decided to put her in the foreground of my sketch and I made a note of her orange shirt and the stripe on her shorts.
In the play she is listening to the radio broadcast. "Now, ladies and gentlemen, there's something I haven't mentioned in all this excitement, but now it's becoming more distinct. Perhaps you've caught it already on your radio. Listen: ..........
Do you hear it? It's a curious humming sound that seems to come from inside the object. I'll move the microphone nearer. (PAUSE) Now we're not more then twenty-five feet away. Can you hear it now?"
Sophia and the rest of the public actors lean in to hear better.
While Fletch worked with the actors on the second act, Aradhana asked my if I would like to hear the acoustics in the First Baptist Worship Center. I had only been in this space once before for the memorial service for Caylee Marie Anthony. Zac and Lindsay ran to the highest point in the worship center which was like a footfall field away and when they were there Aradhana quietly asked them to say something. Zac said "what should I say?" in his normal speaking voice, and it was like he was right next to me. Amazing! The acoustics here made the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center seem like a muffled barn.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Faery Festival

Avalon held a Faery Festival that encouraged people to come out dressed like a Faery. There were perhaps 10 tents set up outside and dozens of people with wings. One tent was offering Henna Tattoos and another offered massages. Almost all the vendors were dressed as faerys or wizards. I walked among the tents for a while contemplating a possible sketch but the 95 degree heat drove me inside. The store was packed elbow to elbow with people picking out incense, cards, polished gemstones and assorted magical potions. I sat in the less crowded front porch area and waited till just the right Faery entered my scene. Some children with wings also entered the scene but parents always tugged them away quickly from the delicate figurines and crystal balls before I had a chance to truly look at their costumes. I know a costume contest was held but I didn't find out who the winner was.
I was seated in front of the stores newspaper and flier stand. As I worked a woman came in and dropped off a flier for a Witches and Wizards Ball. I tool the flier because it sounds like a tempting subject. I rather liked the banner that proclaimed never, never, never give up. That mantra ran through my head as my field of vision was often blocked at I tried to complete the sketch.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

War of the Worlds - Jessica Earley

Jessica is soft spoken, humble yet vibrantly creative. When she speaks I always lean as close to her as I can to hear what she is saying. She is almost always laughing and has a innocent charm that can be seen in all her video work.
When I arrived at Jessica's studio, it was pouring rain outside. I climbed the slippery metal staircase and struggled to close my umbrella to get in the door. Inside was warm and cozy.
She is the creator of the amazing viral promotional War of the Worlds video. Here Jessica is preparing to animate the stop motion titles to me used in a possible second video. Her huge cat is named Mein Kampf (my struggle) and he had a habit of stretching every few minutes and he knocked the Crayola Crayons off the Coffee table twice. Occasionally Jessica would accidentally brush a piece of paper against his fur and this would wake him up and make him look around wide eyed in alarm. Jessica said it is a bit embarrassing when the he gets out and she has to wander the neighborhood shouting "Mein Kampf" to try and find him.
She quickly drew all the letters on brightly colored craft paper then cut out the letters with scissors. These letters were then taped on the world map behind her and she then incrementally moved them until they formed the title over North America. She then animated the flying saucers which entered the scene and blew up the title with lasers. Her tripod is the pile of books to the right and the individual shots were taken with the tiny digital camera perched on top. It was fun watching her work her magic. I decided my sketch was done when her second camera battery died. Her work and mine was done.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Brian Turner Poetry Reading

Brian Turner the new resident author at the Kerouac House read poems from is book of poems titled "Here, Bullet" at Infusion Tea on Wednesday night. These are not the type of poems that get polite applause from the audience rather they hit you strongly in the chest often leaving you chocked and dazed. The Iraq war that Brian writes about is still going strong today, the media seems to have turned away feeling the public does not want to hear more of the bitter hard truth. Often the line between the poem and an ongoing narrative or explanation was blurred. Brian talked about how he had done readings for cadets at military campuses and how he once slept in the same bed a s Dick Cheney in a fine hotel near the base. He spoke of how women soldiers in the army are often sexually abused, and of his visits to veterans hospitals where the injured go ignored.
Even after experiencing and writing about so much human suffering, Brian remains gracious and is a champion of all the arts. The Orlando arts community is lucky to have such an amazing author writing and compiling his work right here at the Kerouac House for the next 3 months.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

War of the Worlds - First Baptist

An alternate rehearsal space had to be found for War of the Worlds rehearsals. Aradhana arranged to rehearse in the cavernous choir room of the First Baptist Church of Orlando.
It is not nap time for the actors. In this scene the public is lying on the ground after the Martian invaders have sprayed a poisonous gas over the human population. The audio playing is of someone changing 1930's radio programs quickly. The actors coughing rise from their positions. Some actors exit the stage. The radio settles on a broadcast of German marching music and two members of the cast march toward the front of the stage. The effect is chilling and it makes you realize why hysteria was so easily triggered in these times. The scene is elegantly choreographed and perfectly timed to the music. The actors had to return to these starting positions again and again as they rehearsed the scene over and over. With each run through I would get another actor placed in the space relative to the others. Joshua and other actors have started to joke with me so I have started to feel at home at these rehearsals. Only one week remains until War of the Worlds hits the stage here in Orlando. Shows start July 31st through August 9th. Check the War of the Worlds facebook page for show times.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Brian Turner Poetry Workshop

At the Kerouac House Brian Turner hosted a Ekphrastic Poetry workshop. Ekphrastic poetry is poetry that is inspired by works of visual art. Brian first spoke about his humble background. He grew up in a family of middle class intellectuals. His father used to read a book to the family at the diner table, but the family never discussed what was read. Brian put himself through college as a machinist. Later like his father he felt the need to serve his country in the military. When he was deployed to Bosnia and then Iraq he wanted need to learn about the country's culture and ways. As a soldier he had to be keenly aware of the environment and the pace of life in the villages and towns. If the pace of life changed something was wrong.
As an exercise Brian asked all the poets to walk through the house and pick and object to write a poem about. From all these separate poems he later compiled the group poem "Tonic".

Tonic

A lone gin bottle sitting on the headboard
labors to inspire the numbing dreams
which-out of love, like musicians
with their instruments laid down-
might serve to keep me company.

The air has turned electric-conducting
all that is about to happen. Through windows
of blue and grey-the air smells of rotten cabbage,
pond scum, rancid sweet fermenting,
stewing, the dark soul of a marriage
overcome by the hive of bees in sheet rock,
layers of winged frenzy sweetened
only by the magnolia out back.

If there's only one thing I have learned-
not from the wandering,
not from the traveling, and
not how Aristotle said it best-
it's how I move, most impressively,
alone. No one stretches me.

It is true. A bottle of gin is only lonely
when it is empty.

This collaborative poem was written by: Susan Shannon Spraker, B.J. Hart, Naomi Butterfield, Julie Dunsworth, Mary Ann deStefano, J. Northlake, Lorie Parker Matejowsky, Mary Elizabeth McIlvane, Kenny S. Murry, Gene Moore, Bernadette Adams Davis, and Brian Turner.

Friday, July 24, 2009

War of the Worlds - Sound Booth

Here Zac Alfson works his magic in the sound booth. He has his hands full as he often has to fade in the soothing sounds of Ramón Raquello and his orchestra. He of course also had to balance the sounds from the radio broadcast being conducted on the stage while also adding haunting sound effects where needed. Since all the sound cues are not set in stone at this point, Aradhana signals him on when to come in from where she is seated in the theater by turning and raising her hand.
Some complicated staging had to be worked out and Aradhana struggled to communicate to her Public actors while the Mercury Theater performers were rehearsing on stage. Since she couldn't hear herself think, she asked all of her actors to crowd into the sound booth hoping to muffle the on stage performance. This plan was foiled since the performance was amplified with speakers in the sound booth and the speakers could not be turned off. She ultimately held her acting huddle in the hallway outside the theater.
While doing this sketch I couldn't really see the colors as I put them on the page since it was so dark in the booth. I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at the sketch when I got home. I should paint in the dark more often.
During a break I was talking to Erika about how exciting all the rehearsals were to sketch and she said "This is enough isn't it?" She meant that staging the play was one thing, but also there is enough drama right here and now, that every day is drama enough.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

iPhone Class

Terry recently bought herself an iPhone and she is in love. She uses it constantly. She asked me if I would like to sketch as she took a class on how to use the iPhone at the Millenia Mall Apple Store. We entered the Mall early and there was no one around, which is in itself kind of spooky. The Apple Store was open with a sign blocking the entrance explaining that a class was in session. Crowded around the table were eight middle aged people and the teacher was a young twenty something with spiked hair. Any time someone would ask a question he would respond "That is a very good question..." then he would explain how to use the technology in a Disneyesque way. Some questions were more generational than technological. For instance a woman asked "Well why do I have to text someone if I can just pick up the phone and call them?" The instructor had to explain that his generation had grown up with texting and it is less intrusive in that he could ignore a text document for a while and answer when he had time. If you ignored someone on the phone, that would be rude.
At a party at the Kerouac House, everyone in the living room area except myself pulled out their iPhones all at the same time and were doing who knows what with them. They slid their fingers over the polished screens and giggled to themselves. I tried to fit in by pretending to use one. No one noticed. I am beginning to suspect that iPhones are much like the invading pods (iPods) in the movie "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" if you do not have an iPhone, a friend will try and convince you to get one. If you fall asleep in the same room an an iPhone it takes over your body and leaves you an empty shell yearning to stare at the ever changing screen, ignoring life as it passes you by. I found it interesting that in the Apple store there were booklets on how to live an iLife. What is that all about? I pay close attention to where Terry leaves her iPhone at night, I don't want to fall asleep unless I know it is in another room.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

War of the Worlds - The Radio Broadcast

In this sketch the Mercury Theater performers, Brandon Roberts, Frank McClain, and Alan James Gallant prepare for another read through of the War of the Wolds Radio broadcast. Chantry Banks sits in the background listening to the old radio and reading a newspaper.
An amazing amount of work went into blocking the public's performances during this rehearsal. I am discovering new ways of working and have found that I can block in a sketch when the performers repeat the stagings again and again. This will help with future sketches, allowing me to take greater chances.
After rehearsals the cast went to Tastings Wine Bar for a "Coming out Party". The directors graciously invited me along and rather that sketch I took the time to learn more about some of the actors life stories. I learned about the struggles and sacrifices made to stay true to the calling as an actor or artist. I drank a bit more than I usually do and felt closer to the crew than ever. Mark from "The Dialy City" stopped by and I caught up with him. I had a long talk with Aradhana and tried to find some small nugget of drama in my humble sketch obsessed story. To find drama in what I do each day, I realized I might have to discuss my own character flaws and how they impact others.
After Tastings some of the cast went to see "Snack" at the Rep Theater. Driving over was a fun drama on its own. I laughed like I was back in High School. For once my guard was down and I just relaxed and had fun. Snack is a hilarious comedy and runs through July 26nd and is part of the Target Family Theater Festival. So you have several more days to go out and see this show. It was hilarious. I especially loved watching the children in the audience as they reacted. They know how to express pure joy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

SketchCrawl, Stardust Lounge

Scott Fuller, A Full Sail student, and myself were the last artists still at Eola Wine Room at about 7 PM. We finished the sketches and decided to get to the last stop on the Crawl which was directly across the street. A huge thunderstorm had rolled in and it had just started to pour. We figured, we wouldn't get to wet if we made a mad dash across so we sprinted across. I was soaked within the first two strides. I started to curse and shout. Time slowed down and I could feel every rain drop as it pounded down on my head. When we were across, winded and soaked to the bone, two women who were waiting at the top of the stairway down to the Lounge were having a good laugh at our expense. They asked us to do it again and with that, I had to laugh as well.
When I entered the Lounge I couldn't see a thing. As I gained my sight again in the dark interior I saw several people sketching so I introduced myself. Jean Michelson and her husband had traveled from Jacksonville to escort their daughter to a Rock and Roll Summer camp. Jean had read about the crawl and this was the only stop on the crawl they could attend. They picked a good stop since the Lounge has lots of retro color.
The Stardust Lounge is straight out of the fifties. Rat Pack movies are playing non stop on the wide screen flat panel screens and all the furniture feels like it was salvaged from a Vegas 1950's club. I sketched the crawlers at work. The manager kept dimming the lights so it became harder and harder to see the lines and colors as they hit the page. Half way into this sketch Kattie Windish and her husband arrived. They sat in the red leather booth in the background of the sketch and I decided to sketch them in as well. The place became more and more crowded as the night wore on. I think I called it a night around 10pm after 15 hours of non-stop sketch crawling. It had been a very productive day. I can't wait till the next Crawl.

Monday, July 20, 2009

War of the Worlds - Read Through

In this rehearsal the cast is checking their lines and sometimes trading lines if the dialogue seems to fit another characters personal world view better. Aradhana and Fetch work with the actors to get these details finalized or gelled. Although this wasn't one of the longer rehearsals, it was very productive. This new stage area in the Goldman Theater is a bit tighter that the first stage the actors had used so adjustments often had to be made to be sure that the actors had room to move.
During this rehearsal as the Mercury Theater announcer is relating the horrific event as they unfolded at Grovers Mill, a thunderstorm erupted outside. The rain could be heard pounding down on the flat metal roof. Reality and fiction began to mix and compliment each other. Loud claps of thunder accentuated the scene as the martians came out of the metal cylinder and began to spray the unsupecting crowd with a fiery heat wave. Erika Wilhite suddenly remembered that she had left the roof off of her convertible and she apologized as she sprinted for the door. It was time for a 5 minute break, Thank you five.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

SketchCrawl, Eola Wine Room

When the crawl arrived at the Eola Wine Room around 4 the place was rather dormant. The artists had their choice of tables. I decided to sit with a good view of the main bar area. At this point in the crawl there were nine artists so we did a good job of filling up several tables. KC sat outside and did a sketch of 4 women who had an amazing number of mimosa glasses stacked on their table. It was a scene straight out of sex and the city. Most of the other artists kept me company. I ordered a glass of white Riesling wine and sipped it while I worked.
The strange thing about this place on a weekend is that about every 15 minutes a young couple would arrive with a baby and the parents would order wine. I sort of envied these couples just starting a family, feeling secure and living in a ritzy downtown neighborhood. But then after a short time the child would start squirming, complaining, and screaming until the parent s felt they had to leave. This scene played over and over again. I joked to another artist that the Wine Room had more infants as clients that adults on weekends.
One of the waitresses was an artist and I tried to convince her to come out to the next Crawl. For many artists this was the last stop on the crawl. As we all said their goodbyes storm clouds rolled in and just as I got ready to head across the street to the final destination, it began to pour...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

War of the Worlds - Mercury Theater

Advice for reading this blogcast, Open an new internet browser window while keeping this one open. Navagate to Analog Artist Digital World in the new Browser window. Then click on this link for the audio background music. Then return to this page with the audio still playing and read the copy. When you are done reading explore the Mercury Theater Radio Performance link below and keep the audio soundtrack playing in the background. This involves some complicated internet staging but it should be worth it.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. From the Meridian Room in the Park Plaza in New York City, we bring you the music of Ramón Raquello and his orchestra. With a touch of the Spanish. Ramón Raquello leads off with "La Cumparsita."
In this early rehearsal I finally got to see how the Mercury Theater Radio performance would work with the actors I had been sketching all along called "The Public". I focused on the radio announcers who I hadn't observed before and although the public was active the whole time with it's nervous energy I didn't focus on them as much except in this one instance in which I sketched actress Tanja Mobley Pektas as she crawled in and collapsed during the reading. Here Frank McClain reads while Alan James Gallant prepares to speak. Up until this point the Mercury theater actors and the public actors had been working in separate rehearsals. Director Joseph Fletcher had been directing the Mercury Theater actors and Aradhana Tiwari had been directing the public. Here the two groups came together for the first time and any changes in the blocking of movements on the stage were made. As Aradhana walked past me during this rehearsal she whispered to herself with excitement "This is starting to feel like the show".

Friday, July 17, 2009

Urban Think

Dina and I left Panera Bread and walked down to Urban Think. Right outside Panera Bread there was a street performer playing guitar and singing the Blues. That would have made a great sketch, but as the host I had to get to Urban Think to say hello to any artists that might join the crawl at that point.
Local Author John Fleming was setting up to sign copies of his book "Fearsome Creatures".
A group of three other artists, Brian, Travis and Randy joined our group. Jessica Earley and Rick Jones sat outside doing wonderfully quirky sketches of buildings in the neighborhood, bikes and each other.
My goal was to sketch all the people lined up to get their copy of Fearsome Creatures signed. However not a soul showed up to the book signing. Bob Hague, a watercolor artist, explained to John why our group was there, and to pass the time John read to us some of the passages from his book. The passage he picked related directly to artists and he got an ovation from our group. Although I am now curious about Florida's Skunk cabbage man, I didn't get a copy of the book. Dina and several other artists left the group at this point and we all said our goodbyes. The next stop was the Eola Wine Company down the street and I thought a cup of wine would do me good at this point to loosen up my line work...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

War of the Worlds - The Public Panics

As I set these notes on paper, I am obsessed with the thought that I might be the only artist to ever have witnessed this amazing journey as simple words on a page are converted into a mysterious and dynamic drama. Toward the end of a rehearsal Aradhana asked the actors who play the parts of "the Public" to all sit in a circle so they could read lines from a book of interviews of people who had lived through the panic caused by the Orson Wells radio broadcast. Everyone insisted I join in this reading circle so I did. Each actor in turn would read a line or paragraph from the interviews and revised excerpts from the readings were incorporated into act 2 of the show. It is surprising what people think of when they assume the end is inevitable. A policeman has to calm callers on one hand while wishing he could escape. A young woman wishes she had lived long enough to have a baby. An impoverished woman is glad she doesn't have to pay the butchers bill and thinks to herself she might as well eat the chicken in the freezer. Some people heard about the broadcast from friends and tuned in as the worst of the Grover's Mill invasion took place. For some it was just important to be with family and friends and accept their fate and trust in God. Sitting in this circle and adding my own voice to the confessions and lost hopes was sobering and magical.
In this sketch the actors are highlighting lines that they will later be asked to recite in the final play. When I saw the second act with these lines added the result is haunting and unexpected. This scene is lit with a ghost lamp. The tradition of the ghost lamp is that in Shakespeare's times the lamp was used to scare ghosts away from the performance. The ghost lamp is left burning in the middle of the stage all night. This superstition continues to this day.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

SketchCrawl, Panera Bread

At 10 Am Orlando Sketch Crawlers headed to Panera Bread for breakfast and a chance to share sketchbooks and talk. Megan, an artist I had sketched before, showed up with her mom and was taking photos of the event. Our group filled up these three front tables and people talked art while others sketched. I was sitting on the long leather bench shown in this sketch, but after eating, I decided it made more sense to get up and sketch our group. Ricardo the photographer for the Sentinel sat behind me the whole time I sketched watching every line and wash as I put it down. Usually I get distracted with such attention but I had to get this sketch done, so I lived with it. Kristen or Kelp as she refers to herself online, can be seen sketching the photographer and myself. She has the art of clandestine sketching down because I never actually noticed her glancing at me directly. I am sure this is a skill I have as well.
As I was sketching, artists slowly got up and headed out for the next leg of the crawl. There were artists sitting in the two empty chairs when I started the sketch. By the time I was splashing on the final washes everyone was gone. The photographer said he had more that enough shots and we said our goodbyes. When he left, a woman who was seated in a leather chair behind me, introduced herself. Her name is Dina Mack and I knew of her work through a friend named Summer who had told me of an artist journal workshop that Dina was going to organize. Dina and I spoke for close to an hour about art and journal keeping. Sketching on location isn't something Dina does often, but she said she liked having the time to fully soak in the environment. We joked about how Panera's is such a sterile place with harsh glass cases and coffee dispensers that look like space station refueling depots. A cafe in Europe would have a much different feel. The smells of the pastries is pleasant however and I kind of wanted to sketch them and the cashier but we had to get to the next stop on the Crawl route...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

War of the Worlds - Viewpoints

I have to interrupt this sketch crawl to bring you more news from the rehearsal hall of War of the Worlds. I will bring you an eyewitness account of what is happening. I will continue relating events as they unfold for as long as I can talk and as long as I can see. In many ways what is happening is indescribable, it is the most extraordinary experience, I can not find the words...
This second rehearsal built from the first using exercises called Viewpoints. The actors move on an imaginary grid exploring extremes of tempo and pacing to start. They then began exploring kinesthetic responses, namely why are they moving and are they responding to another actors movements. At times they were asked to repeat another actors movements. They were asked to become aware of the space around them and to be mindful of how they fill the space. Layered on top of this they were permitted to explore behavioral and expressive gestures. Lastly each actor was given a line from a poem which they could recite in order to further express themselves.
"I can't believe this is happening."
"Have you heard."
"This is it."
"Are you sure?"
"This IS happening."
As the actors explored their movements on the grid, Aradhana would shout out questions which would further affect the performances.
"Does someone elses panic affect your own?"
"How does panic build?"
"Are you more afraid?"
"Explore the way out of your panic."
"What are you afraid of?"
"Your words are what you hold onto when you are most afraid, they are all you have left."
The panic although expressed in an abstract fashion with limited dialogue was palpable, overwhelming and exhausting. I vastly admire what the actors were able to emote using just body language tempo of movement and limited expressive dialogue. These exercises inspired new thoughts in the directors and allowed the show to develop with every actor contributing to the final gelled look of the show. As the youngest actress, Sophia Wise, stated so eloquently, "War of the Worlds is a delicate balance between the abstract and reality."

Monday, July 13, 2009

23rd World Wide Sketch Crawl

Saturday Orlando artists gathered for the 23rd World Wide Sketch Crawl. I got up to go to the event before the sun was up and I arrived at the Red Pagoda where early birds were to meet at just a few minutes after 7AM. Several artists were already out and sketching namely Karen Cali, Kristen Pauline and Glen Ward. We all talked for a few minutes, I handed out crawl course maps and then we scattered and started sketching. While I was doing this sketch several other artists could be seen as they arrived and started sketching. When I started the sketch the sun was low on the horizon and I was in the shade of some trees but within minutes I was in the direct sun and squinting into the bright light. I was on a small peninsula that juts into Lake Eola and all around me geese and ibis were swimming and diving down for food under water. By the time I was ready to head to the next stop, about 10 artists had gathered and were sketching away. Although I didn't do a perfect job of keeping track of everyone, I believe altogether about 22 artists showed up at different legs of the crawl that day. That is an amazing turnout! A reporter and photographer from the Orlando Sentinel came out early and interviewed all the artists that were on hand at this early hour.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

War of the Worlds

We interrupt this blogcast to bring you news of an unexpected nature developing in Orlando! "The War of the Worlds" is about to hit this town like a firestorm and I fear that local residents might not be ready for the invasion.
Aradhana Tiwari, one of the Directors, of this intense and panicked staging gave this reporter the opportunity to observe the chaos and heated action first hand as it developed. I sketched as this group of individual actors became a unified group. Aradhana played the infamous Orson Wells radio broadcast and asked the actors to draw any images or write down words or thoughts that the broadcast evoked.
The radio broadcast is chilling to this day. It's visceral first act panic brought back feelings that have been dormant since the Terrorist attacks of 9/11. One actor felt he would have never fallen for the hoax, but others like myself felt that the American public would easily be swayed even today. The radio broadcast has causes outbreaks of hysteria in other countries as well over the years.
To help bring the cast together as an ensemble, Aradhana asked Associate Producer, Erika Wilhite to lead the group in an exercise called View Points .
Aradhana explained to the cast how this production would be built around the abstract imagery of radio waves. Radio waves can be pulled apart and put back together and yet at the core they have a central DNA like signature. In a related exercise, the actors were divided into two groups and each group was shown a different radio wave. The groups were then asked to stage performances that demonstrated the imagery. One performance was built around two chairs. On actor would sit stare out into space and say "It looks like lightning". Another actor would respond "Its not lightning". This back and forth exchange continued and built its tempo and pace becoming frantic over time. Two other actors then joined in the frenzied action talking over others and moving in fast clipped fashion about the stage. The radio wave they had enacted was a multi layered waveform with many high and low peaks and valleys.
The other group entered stage left hunched forward emitting a shrill Eeeee noise as they slowly moved across the stage. The shrill noise grew louder as the group picked up its pace until the exited stage right at a full run screaming. They had demonstrated a linear wave form which built steadily in volume. Every aspect of the rehearsal was fascinating to watch and draw, I plan to return as often as possible to follow the shows progression.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Book Club

Terry asked me if I would like to sketch at a meeting of a book club she has joined. We drove to a beautiful house in Winter Park and walked back to the pool house where the meeting was to be held. The book they all had read was "Making the Mummies Dance" by Thomas Hoving. Thomas was the former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and apparently an A type personality who disclosed the cutthroat politics involved in making the museum run. I didn't read the book so I can't offer any insights other that what was discussed at this gathering. Most of the women did not like the book finding it to dry and technical. Many of the women did not finish the book in time for this meeting. They did seem to agree that Hoving's abrasive personality did result in some sweeping changes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The discussion then turned to a book that had been discussed in a previous gathering. This book was written by an 65 year old woman who started putting ads in the personals because she wanted to fully discover her sexuality in her later years. Some felt sorry for the woman who was acting like the high school girls they pitied who would do anything for attention from boys. A heated discussion then erupted about whether sex and personal intimacy might be separate entities. Being the only man in the room, I wondered if I should chime in, but I had a sketch to finish.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Heather Henson at the History Center

Heather Henson the daughter of Jim Henson, of Muppets fame, gave a at a lunchtime bag lunch talk about her fathers work at the History Center. She began the talk by showing early black and white television commercials her dad was doing at the beginning of his career. This early advertising work was surprisingly violent and over the top. The dead pan expressions on the Muppets made the zany skits all the more funny.
There was some trouble with the audio so she began talking over the muffled soundtrack. She explained that Kermit the Frog had originally been made from parts of one of her mother's coats. In the early days her mom had been much more involved in the day to day production work.
Answering a question from the audience, Heather explained that holidays in the Henson home involved creating everything from scratch. Christmas ornaments would be simple Styrofoam which was then hand decorated by the children.
Heather has formed her own puppet company here in town called Ibex Puppetry and I follow their work as often as I can.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

MS 150 Bike Ride

I got a tip from Robyn a friend who is helping raise money to battle MS by riding in the MS 150 which is a bike ride that raises money for Multiple Sclerosis. MS is a horrible disease that slowly causes the loss of muscle control. The ride started at 7 AM at Bok Tower Gardens and ended at Caribe Royale Hotel in Orlando. I decided to make my way to the finish line to do my sketch. The finish line can be seen in my sketch way in the background at that tower of red balloons. I became instantly fascinated with this massage Triage tent where cyclists lined up to have their aching muscles soothed.
To the left of this massage tent was a huge area where hundreds of bicycles were stored and teams of cyclists gathered at tables celebrating the end of a very long ride.
The excitement around this event raised my interest again in bike riding. I may just have to get my bike repaired so I can take it on the road again. Right now my bike is hanging upside down from the garage ceiling with some broken spokes and flat tires. It deserves the freedom to explore the open roads again.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Retro Game Night

The Orlando History Center hosted Retro Game Night and Terry expressed an interest in going. Retro attire was encouraged so I put on a very old Hawaiian shirt that Terry's dad once wore. Being a member of the museum, admission was free, non-members just had to pay a $5 cover. I wandered from room to room on all 3 floors to see every room filled with card tables all set up with every imaginable board game.
I wandered past 2 girls playing Rockum-Sockum Robots and one screamed when she knocked the other girls block off. I also notices a fast paced game of Hungry Hippos.
I decided to sit on a wooden bench in the stairwell to watch as people played the old video games like Pac Man and Space Invaders. The fellow in the blue tee shirt played for well over an hour. I could tell that he had logged in many hours on similar video games.
The monopoly pinball game also had a constant crowd. When the sketch was finished I called Terry since I was surprised she hadn't showed yet. It turned out that she was at home and had forgotten about the event. I decided I might as well get home, but the place was really hopping when I left. It was so crowded that it was hard to move room to room. People really love retro games. I wouldn't have minded playing Risk and taking over the world, oh well, maybe next time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Screaming of the Lambs

Over the weekend Terry and I went to Chuliota to visit Eileen and Lewis. Eileen gave us a wonderful driving tour of the surrounding area and she pointed out some areas I should return to sketch. When we got back to the house Eileen and Terry sat on the porch and gossiped and I knew they would be occupied and happy for hours. I decided to wander up the street to see some of the livestock that live in the neighborhood. I wanted to do a simple bucolic sketch.
When I approached this holding pen, all the sheep bowed their heads down in alarm. When I put down my artist chair, they all scattered and ran to the far corner of the pen. If I moved they would run to the oposite corner. I decided I would never get just the right angle so I stood and just started sketching.
When I was halfway finished with the sketch, an unexpected drama unfolded. Two rams who were in the larger open area behind this pen started ramming the door to this pen with their heads and curved horns. A male sheep on the inside tried to stop them by ramming the door in the opposite direction at the same time. The door was thrown open and the 2 rams charged in causing all the sheep to cry out and run. The rams focused on a single female sheep and began chasing her relentlessly. I wondered if I should run to the farm house and warn the owners, what was happening was criminal.
All the other sheep ran out of the pen leaving just the female sheep as she ran from the two rams. One ram would butt her in the side to direct her while the other pursued from behind. Luckily the rams were not smart enough to ever isolate her in a corner. As you might have guessed by now I simply kept sketching. The young sheep who had broken free screamed Maaaa Maaaa at the top of their lungs. It sounded to me like they were screaming for their mother in alarm. The female never let her pursuers corner her. The chase broke out into the larger holding area and the second ram gave up, leaving just one pursuer. When the sketch was finished I saw the female still trotting at a safe distance with her tongue hanging out. The ram was equally exhausted and overheated. She had worn her opponent down. He was to tired for any more advances.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Toni Taylor Studio

I sketched Toni Taylor in a clandestine way as she worked on a painting at the Orlando Fringe Festival. After talking with her that day, I discovered that she lives and works less than a 5 minute drive from my studio. I asked if I could see her at work and she agreed. Driving up to her suburban home there is no clue outside to indicate what is to be discovered once I entered the front door. I did notice several exotic flowers and I thought they might have appeared in her art. I picked up a fed Express package that was on Toni's porch and rang the front doorbell.
Every room in Toni's home has paintings stacked sometimes 2 high on every wall. I just wandered in amazement from room to room taking in all the gorgeous art. Toni joked that she is running out of wall space and she might have to start hanging art on the ceiling. Every piece has a gem like quality. This was the finest art show I had been to in quite a while.
The last room we visited was her studio. She set up in the corner of the room with a window looking out to the pool on her left. All her brushes and supplies are neatly stored in a bookcase right next to her. She explained that the paint box had been given to her by her boyfriend when she was just 14 years old. She later married this childhood sweetheart and he also gave her the easel she is using. She said she was upset about the easel at the time because her ex-husband had used the rent money to buy it and she likes to stay on top of bills and commitments.
Toni plays relaxing music while she works. After nervously attacking the pages for a while, I felt myself relax and settle into a zen like state where every line and tone landed where it belonged. I stopped thinking and just reacted to the environment with affection and care. Toni and I worked in silence for several hours. I lost track of time. When I felt I was just noodling, I called it quits, and we compared notes. Toni opened the package I had dropped off and it turned out to be a book in which her work is featured. A painting in that book is one of my favorites. It showed a woman from the back with multiple arms outstretched reaching out in a circle. I find I am hungry for conversation with other artists and Toni and I joked and laughed for along time and I was sorry when I had to leave.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Hot Dog Eating Contest

In Coney Island, Nathan's hosts a 10 minute hot dog eating contest and this year Joey Chestnut won by eating 68 wieners. The Orlando take on this contest is a bit different in that the contestants have 10 hours in which to eat the hot dogs. When I arrived at Dandelion Communitea Cafe, Brian Feldman had eaten only 3 hot dogs and he only took a few bites from another politely using a knife and fork. If anyone asked who was winning, he would respond with, "How do you define a winner?" They were not competing it seems based on simple numbers but it was a more refined competition based on savoring the moment. Caroline Johnson, who is from Spain, was reading excerpts from her novel while Brian and Zac Alfson slowly tasted their vegan hot dogs. Caroline was also a contestant since she had a small mountain of uneaten hot dogs in front of her, but she never tried a hot dog while I was sketching. Eight hours into the competition, the contestants had honestly lost count of the number of hot dogs eaten. The hot dogs were wrapped in a pita like bun called a Snuggles which are made locally in Orlando by Toufayan Bakeries. Pittsburgh artist Dawn Weleski, acted as the MC. She would periodically interview members of the audience. She would ask the audience member to sit in the blue chair to the left of the staging area and then ask them to wear an Uncle Sam hat and white beard. Brian's mom and sister showed up late in the competition to watch the relaxed proceedings. Another announcer named Gordon Winiemko took the mic and decided to MC shirtless. He threw the sweaty shirt right at me and I caught it and then didn't know what to do with it. Putting it on the table would be unsanitary yet dropping it on the floor would be rude. I decided to drop it on the table, and the two girls eating salad right next to me didn't seem to mind.
From here Terry and I headed downtown for the Lake Eola Fireworks display. There, during the fireworks show one mortar must have fallen over because it fired off not into the air, but straight across the lake at the audience. It blew up just yards from the shore sending hot embers showering over the crowd. I do not think anyone was hurt.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fireworks Tent

I drove around town for several days with the goal of finding Orlando's biggest Fireworks Tent. I finally decided this tent on Orange Blossom Trail and Colonial Drive is the biggest. The tent is right on the railroad tracks which probably makes the shipping of massive amounts of explosives easy. To see the whole tent I had to walk to the far side of a very busy intersection.
Very dark clouds started looming to the north and I started to smell ozone in the air. I was close to finishing the sketch, but realized I didn't have any light blue in order to paint the sky. Since Sam Flax Art Store was only a few blocks away, I hopped back in my truck and ran over to get some more paint. When I got back on site, the cloud cover had thickened and I knew I only had a few minutes to paint in some clouds. When I was done and heading home the first drops hit the windshield. Interestingly the storm chased me the whole way home. In front of me I always saw the sun but if I looked in the rear view mirror, steely blue clouds stretched back to the horizon. If I had to stop for a stoplight the rain would overtake me, but when I drove forward I would slip back into the light. Have a great 4th of July.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Summer Bash Party

I attended the International Academy of Design & Technology Summer Bash Party. I was attracted to this event because I heard they were going to hold a sand castle building contest. I imagined engineers and artists working together as teams to create astounding architectural and sculptural wonders. What I found when I got there was a sad pile of sand with one ten year old girl digging a small hole with a plastic shovel. I stopped back several times and not a single sand castle appeared.
Several young women in tight shorts and white tee shirts did offer me a free drink however. They were Red Bull girls and things started looking up. My attention wandered to the sidewalk chalk artists. These students attacked the task at hand in the blazing noon day sun with gusto. The young woman in the foreground used a two fisted approach as she layered in the yellow and orange hair on her Henai creation. The artist in the black skull cap took a more somber view and half of his sidewalk square was filled in with pure black chalk.
On the stage in front of the entrance of the school, a group of man dressed in red sweats began a strength demonstration. They tore phone books in half, busted baseball bats and crushed a tower of cement blocks. Between bouts of destruction, they explained that they were destroying things for Jesus. Each of them at one point was at the top of their game living the plush life of a sports star, when for each, an unexpected injury bought them down and made them realize they were living only for themselves. When they discovered Jesus their lives were turned around. I applaud their dedication to destruction, but they would have been far more entertaining without the lecture.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Taco Truck Taste Test

Mark Baratelli at the Daily City.com, organized a spontaneous taco truck taste test for avid readers of his blog. This Taco Truck is located in front of Trinidad Auto Repair Center at 815 South Sermoran Blvd. Mark had wonderfully colorful bumper stickers printed up and a small color program and menu. Since the Orlando Sentinel wanted a photo of me sketching they were going to send a photographer to the TTTT to shoot me while I worked. I figured this was a great chance for the alternate media in this town to get some traditional media coverage.
Then it rained starting first thing in the morning and lasting all day long. The Sentinel decided to cancel the photo shoot but I went to the taco truck site anyway hoping that there might be a break in the rain. When I arrived there was no one in site. The rain was a fine mist and it slowly stopped. I saw Mark drive up and park behind the Auto repair shop where the taco truck was parked. Then slowly people started to arrive. Logan Donahoo was the first to place an order so I placed him front and center in the sketch. In all perhaps 10 people showed up for the taste test and they were rewarded with some very fine food. I worked frantically on the sketch trying to keep the few rain drops from destroying the lines as I put them down. Once in a while a huge drop would fall from the power pole I was leaning against and it would slap down on the sketch giving me a fright. With the truck filling my field of vision I didn't get to sketch everyone waiting in line, but trust me there was a line that flowed off the sketch to the right.
Mark interviewed people after they finished eating to compile an in depth review of the samples offered. I was still placing watercolor washes on the sketch as people started to leave. The cook running the truck speaks no English so ordering was a challenge, I asked a few people for advice as to what was good and I settled on Arepas with Camarones or shrimp. They came in a soft corn shell cooked with salt and olive oil, packed on top was plenty of Swiss cheese. For a drink I had a Colombiana soda which had a vanilla kick and was quite good. As I was eating I spoke to a Spanish woman who had ordered the exact same menu items as me. She travels all the way from Apopka to come to this little mobile stand. She said she comes here several times a week. I decided to show the stand owner the sketch to see what he thought. He made a scribble gesture with his hand and pointed to me and I nodded yes. He smiled and handed the sketchbook back. Good food and art are universally understood.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Earthy Habitat

I was offered a tip from KC that Earthy Habitat was having a grand opening and there were going to be belly dancers! I couldn't pass up an offer like that. The store had just moved 3 weeks ago from it Thornton Avenue address right next to Dandelion Communitea Cafe. The store is now located at 990 North 434 in Altamonte Springs. I had some trouble finding the place since strip malls and stores in Florida don't do a great job of displaying the street numbers. I have a GPS and with trial and error I finally did find the store just when I was ready to give up and head home.
It was pouring rain when I arrived. I ran toward the store and ducked under the store front overhang. As soon as I shook out my umbrella a young woman approached me and told me I could have any item on the outdoor table for free. I chose a hand woven green bracelet that I think my wife Terry will love. Earthy Habitat offers hand crafted jewelry from around the world. Items can be found from Africa, Tibet, India, Ecuador among other places. Gloria Beharry and Sandra Burgos are the owners. Sandra has many of her own paintings decorating the store walls. KC's daughter is working in the store for the summer. So the whole family was out to see the opening. KC introduced me to Bob who is the love of her life and looks just like Ernest Hemingway. I then met KC's youngest daughter Liz who at first seemed a bit unhappy to have to sit through the event but she later livened up and turned out to have a fun sense of humor. Kit was busy talking to clients and selling like a pro. She never stopped working the room.
The 3 belly dancers arrived late. They are called the Magi Dance Troupe and they were amazing. Their arms moved like snakes and they had perfect balance which was demonstrated when the lead dancer, Melanie LaJoie, balanced a flaming candle in a bowl on her head and began to dance. This dance actually made me a bit nervous, I immediately imagined the bowl falling and igniting the carpet and people screaming as they ran towards the exits. I suppressed those thoughts, quieted my nerves and finished the sketch.