Monday, August 31, 2009

B. Fuller's Morter & Pestle

Fremont Avenue in Seattle was founded by hippies and artists. It is the self proclaimed center of the universe and a MASH style signpost points to cities in all corners of the World and Universe. Newer shops are now offering high priced boutique items and the artists are being driven out to establish a new artsy neighborhood.
A huge outdoor market with perhaps 50 or so tents was going on and anything could be found from a used doll or old record to vintage clothing. B. Fullers tonics and cold drinks caught my eye. To do the sketch I had to stand right out in the flow of endledd foot traffic which was intimidating but once the sketch began to take shape I lost track of where I was. One of the proprietors offered me a free sample, and the tea was light and tasty. Some people looked over my shoulder but as usual when I was fully concentrating, few people interrupted. One person did ask if I liked the tea and I offered a rave review which convinced the costumer to order a sip. I felt I had earned my keep in helping to promote this unique tea shop.
It was exciting to be part of this bustling activity which goes on every weekend on Fremont Avenue. The weather was cool and inviting with the sun offering just enough warmth. The variety of people and situations offers an endlessly fascinating sketching opportunity.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mount Rainier

The mountains beckoned again so we had to make a trip to the mountain that is faintly visible in the Seattle skyline and often hidden in the mist and clouds. It is as mysterious as Mount Fiji with its base seldom visible. It took us all day to drive around Mount Rainier but the trip was well worth it. Rolling mountain meadows were covered with purple and white wildflowers. This view from Sunrise Ridge is looking down on the Lodge and parking lot where the tourists gather. A short hike up the hillside and I was serenely alone. The air was cool and the sun warm. It was fantastic to sit still and sketch the scenery. I did get a bit of a high altitude sun burn right through the sunscreen I had lathered on. The valleys leading up to the mountain are filled with horse ranches and farms which have the most astonishing views with the mountain filling the horizon behind the barns.
When the mountain was directly in front of the car as we drove towards it, it would seem to fall away while the trees roared towards the foreground. This gave an unnerving effect of vertigo. Rivers and waterfalls rushed water away from the mountain in every direction. One deep gorge called Box Canyon had a steep vertical drop of sheer cliffs of rock which had been eroded over time by the water.
On the drive back to Seattle we went through the town I once lived in after I had taken a bicycle trip across the country. Tacoma is sort of the armpit of Seattle. It is very rural with pickups, gun and pawn shops and rampant poverty. Terry and I considered getting a pizza for dinner and the sign on the door proudly boasted that food stamps were accepted. Teenagers hung out in the strip mall parking lot drinking beer and waiting for night fall. I felt as out of place today as I did when I found myself trying to carve out a living here years ago. I only stayed in Tacoma for about a year and then I rushed back to NYC. I was glad when the drive through memory lane had ended and I was back in scenic Seattle.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Seattle Sketch Crawl - Gas Works Park

At 10 Am I went to Gas Works Park to meet some Seattle sketchers who were meeting for a sketch crawl. The rusty buildings in the park were used to manufacture gas from coal in the 1940s. I arrived a bit early since I gave myself extra time to get lost but I found the park with no problem. While sitting on a bench near the water, I noticed a woman on a distant hill who was holding a hula hoop. I looked out over the bay at the Seattle skyline but my attention was always drawn to the woman on the hill. I wondered if the hula hoop was being used in some sort of morning meditation or perhaps a new form of Yoga. I finally couldn't take it anymore so I walked up the hill to ask her is she was a performance artist. She was just waiting for a friend and his son and the hula hoop was her way to attract their attention. She also had juggling balls and bowling pins. It turns out that the friend she was meeting is a rather renowned juggler who had been making a living as a juggler for the last 20 years. He has been on Johnnie Carson and all the late night talk shows.
When I noticed some other artists showing up in the designated meeting area, I walked back down the hill and said hello to the artists as they arrived. When it came time to draw, I knew I had to go to the hill top and sketch the woman and her friend.The woman had some really cool tattoos on her arms one was of an killer whale and another of a penguin. These tattoos were pitch black which meant that she had endured quite a few passes in order to get the ink solid black. She explained that she had been fine with the pain until the tattoo artist hit two very delicate spots on the undersides of her arms. She then had to call it quits and returned another day to finish the tattooing.
The couple juggled together for some time. First he would juggle the 3 balls and then she would take over. When he moved up to the bowling pins she just watched and like me enjoyed the spectacle. As I worked on the sketch more and more people hiked up to the top of the hill. Some tried to figure out the sundial and others used the spot to launch kites. At least 10 kites were in the air at one point. Gabi wandered up the hill and got a sketch of me at work. At the designated hour all the artists gathered and compared sketchbooks. I learned so much from flipping through so many amazing sketchbooks. On this day, I fell in love with Seattle. So many people were out enjoying the day. Young couples rested and snuggled on the grass as they overlooked the Bay and Seattle skyline. People were biking and jogging everywhere there was activity and excitement, it was any sketch artists dream.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Lake Quinault

This trip to Washington state is making me discover and attempt to differentiate many different shades of green. Pines had a much darker green as opposed to the yellow ocher green of conifers. This lodge was the end of a hectic days drive as I rushed to find a place that had internet access. This sort of Swiss looking lounge was a place where I was able to set up and check e-mails. Besides getting apiece sent off to Orlando Home and Leisure I also had to work up an assignment for an auto company that wants to run a blog sketch on 25,000 bags for an auto conference. They picked an image that has alot of Photoshop painting involved and since that image is at the home studio, I had to rework the whole painting. So rather than relaxing at the lake, we decided to drive through to Seattle the next day, where I finished work on the painting.
When we got to Seattle we visited Gabi and his family. Gabi founded "Urban Sketchers" and it was fantastic to get a chance to flip through some of his sketchbooks. Gabi also had that days newspaper out which featured one of his sketches in the local section. I asked for the page since which would be helpful as a way for me to pitch the idea of an Orlando Sentinel sketch blog.
From Gabi's house we drove down to Queen Ann Hill again to visit Terry's sister.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Olympic Rainforest

Driving down highway 101 in Washington State, we decided to head inland to explore the Olympic rain-forest. A small road winds its way inland up a river valley while the forest canopy got denser and denser.
We hiked on a short trail for perhaps an hour that highlighted the various forms of moss that inhabit the region. This secluded spot had a different coloring that anywhere else. The trees were Maples and they had an orange cast absent from all the other pines in the forest. Everywhere you looked moss covered and muffled the woods. Terry sat across the trail from me and read a book while I sketched.
As I worked a small cloud of mosquitoes began to dive bomb my ears. I borrowed some bug spray from Terry but the onslaught continued. I put on my rain gear so I could protect my ears with the hood, but the mosquitoes were so loud that I could hear them through the protective vinyl.
I spent just as much time swatting the mosquitoes as I did putting lines and tones on the page.
If this sketch looks rushed, you now know why. For whatever reason the mosquitoes left Terry alone. Usually the roles are reversed.
A large group of Tourists wandered by and they were all shouting at each other and snapping pictures of everything. I am pretty sure I ended up in a couple of those shots. When this sketch was done Terry and I piled into the car and headed back to 101 to drive down to the coast beaches.
On route, I got a call from Orlando Home and Leisure telling me that they didn't get the High resolution image I had e-mailed them before we left on this vacation. We were literally perhaps 50 miles from any Internet access so I drove and made time towards civilization. We stopped at several spots only to be told that they did not have access to the Internet. The tension in the car built.
When we got to the Lake Quinault hotel which had Internet access, I had to set up an impromptu Internet cafe in the local Mercantile. I sat on a freezer and got to work re-making a high resolution image to send the magazine. I had to move once to let a camper get 2 bags of ice from the freezer I was siting on. With the image finally sent, I checked my e-mails and let out a sigh of relief. The grey sky opened up and dropped a fine delicate mist for the rest of the afternoon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Realto Beach

A fellow gust at the bead and breakfast we stayed at said he saw a sea otter out among the kelp beds. I searched for some time with binoculars but couldn't find the sea otter. The B&B had a gorgeous cottage style garden that filled the quarter acre back yard. In the morning 5 deer were wandering the yard eating the grass and other delectable s. From the B&B we headed down the coast of Washington State. I started the day driving but again I became drowsy seeing the road rushing at me all morning. Terry drove for the final leg as we approached this pebbled beach.
Realto beach was covered with flat disk shaped stones that are all perfect for skipping across the water. Terry went for a walk as I started this sketch. It was super windy and cold so I hunkered down behind a large piece of driftwood to stay warm. There was a constant flow of people walking up and down the beach but trust me no one went in the water. Stark pine tree skeletons which looked like fish skeletons, lined the edge of the beach and huge pine driftwood was everywhere. A harbor seal poked his head out above the surf and watched what I was doing with some suspicion. Just as I was finishing up a fine misty rain started so I had to close the sketchbook even though the paint wasn't dry yet. You can probably still pick out some of these Rorschach blots if you look close enough.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hurricane Ridge

On the second day in the Pacific Northwest Terry and I picked up a rental car and escaped the city of Seattle. We took a Ferry over to Bremerton Island and rode out to explore the Olympic Peninsula. Terry did all the driving. I got drowsy from watching the road rushing toward me. The big stop for the day was Hurricane Ridge. We got half way up the road leading to the ridge when all traffic stopped. We found out that the road had been blocked up ahead by a huge rock slide. I do not know how long the road had been blocked but we were told that it would be clear in a couple of minutes. An hour or so later we heard cheers from cars ahead of us. and traffic started to move. When we got to the top, we were treated to a huge panoramic vista of the Olympic mountains. I took the opportunity to sketch the tourists as they shot photos and took in the view.
In the parking lot a deer wandered around eating clumps of grass and groups of tourists including Terry followed it and shot photos. That might have made a great sketch, but the deer was in constant motion. I let the monument slide and relaxed in the car enjoying the air conditioning. I am not yet on west coast time and I am feeling the jet lag.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Seattle Skyline

After a full day of flying Terry and I arrived in Seattle. Terry's sister Rachel picked us up at the airport and shuttled us back to her home on Queen Hill. Allison Terry's niece was also home and we all sat on the back patio overlooking the Seattle skyline and talked. The original plan for the vacation was to go to Vancouver where Terry wanted to see some famous garden. As it turns out our passports were not up to date so we flew into Seattle and stayed.
I have plans to meet Gabi, the artist who founded Urban Sketchers. Actually over the weekend I will be joining the Seattle Sketchers on a mini Sketch Crawl. I am looking forward to meeting these west coast artists.
Terry and Rachel reminisced quite a bit about their high school years. What boys had been cute and which were jerks. I think Rachel recently went to a high school reunion so that sent her down memory lane. She told an interesting story about one boy who had been a bit frail and flabby in high school but he was the most handsome man at the reunion. A jock in high school introduced him to weight lifting and he took to it with a passion. Later he founded his own line of exercise equipment and then he hired the jocks from high school who had mistreated him. He gave these jocks demeaning jobs and underpaid them loving every minute. Perhaps Seattle is the capitol of the nerds revenge. Just look at Bill Gates.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Concert at First Baptist Church

The Sunday night concert at First Baptist Church featured performing artists Al Denson and Kari Jobe. I went to this concert not knowing what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised. Periodically the crowd would rise to their feet and raise their hands swaying to the music. I remained seated and continued to sketch. The concert was used as a fundraiser to try and build a church in Haiti. Apparently you can build a church for just $20,000. The importance of trying to break the stronghold of voodoo practiced in the region was stressed. A card was handed out at the entry doors which asked everyone to sponsor a child in Haiti to help with their education. As the music was performed the lyrics were signed to the audience on the right by a young woman standing down in front.
The music was resonant and joyful. I found myself singing along to "Amazing Grace".
"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.... I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see..." If I were to hear the songs out of context on the radio they could be taken as simple love songs. Kari between songs said "We are all so busy doing instead of just being." Once I figured out the words to each of the songs I sang along just as I often sing at the top of my lungs while listening to my car radio. "I give all I have and more." I know that you are for me, I know that you will never forsake me in my weakness." I feel the warmth of your embrace, your all I want, your all I ever needed." I sang, holding some notes for so long that my breath was fully exhausted, then I inhaled deeply reaching for the next note. There is something completely satisfying to surrendering then reaching once again in song.
After 3 hours of this music, my butt started to tell me it was time to go. My sketch was complete so my job or purpose for the night was done. I looked for an exit from the balcony where I was seated but the stairs went down and then back up leaving me back where I started. I found the only way out would be to walk down the long flight of bleachers in view of everyone in the worship center. I quietly left during a prayer hoping most people would have their eyes closed. I still felt like everyone might be watching as I made my way to the door.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

First Baptist Church Stage Lighting

Here a light is being adjusted that will shine down a light fabric column. To move around the stage you often have to duck down to avoid hitting your head on the booms. In all three large booms were used to set the stage for the upcoming concert. The one being worked on here is the center boom which holds the bulk of the stage lighting. The boom behind it would hold a shear fabric curtain which would be used as a backdrop. The smaller boom in front would hold the front edge of another bolt of fabric which would drape out towards the audience sort of like a lean to tent.
Jeff checked and double checked the lighting electrical connections and he found quite a few that had been set up wrong on the first go around.
I was sitting on the stage floor while I did this sketch. The front boom had LED lights on it that were on and pointed right in my direction. Those LEDs changed colors constantly creating an ever changing light display on the stage. Having spent so much time watching the work that went into setting up the lighting, I decided I had to go to the concert on Sunday to see the final design all set up.
As we said our goodbyes Jeff introduced me to his whole crew. I showed them all the sketches and some crew members were tickled to see themselves in a sketch. Jeff looked around and asked who was wearing the purple tee shirt. Actually no one was wearing a purple tee shirt I just picked that color since it seemed to work at the time.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Jeff Atkisson - Lighting Design

I fist spoke to Jeff at the War of the Worlds wrap party. He told me all about the state of the art equipment that is used at the Fist Baptist Church of Orlando. He explained that he would be setting up the lighting for a big concert on Sunday night so I asked him if he would mind if I sketched his lighting crew at work and he was all for it.
The sheer size of the interior of the First Baptist Church is almost impossible to convey in a single sketch. I decided to move in for a closer view rather than sketch the half dozen workers like ants on the stage. Here Jeff, in the backwards baseball cap, and Derrick Mckenzie, a former Disney Co-worker, work on getting some fabric columns attached to the lighting boom. Jeff showed me the lighting design sketch he had done and explained that lights would shine into the columns from above and below creating an ethereal effect.
The stage lights hanging from the boom are state of the art LED lights. LED's use much less energy than traditional stage lights and they can be made to project any color. Jeff showed me some of the LED's in action and let me tell you those tiny bulbs are bright.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dandelion Communitea Cafe

I went to the Mills 50 district to sketch Dandelion Cafe. It was a really hot muggy afternoon. I am starting to realize that sketching locations outside int the Florida heat is less than enjoyable. About halfway into this sketch looming clouds started to drizzle. The drizzle lasted for some time so I sat there closed my sketch book, raided my open hand to the sky, and waited for the rain to stop. Well, that didn't work because the drizzle turned into a torrential downpour within minutes. I ran for my truck and sat inside wondering how I should finish the sketch. Luckily, Sam Flax, an art supply store was nearby so I decided to drive by and pick up a few new pens and tubes of watercolor paint. By the time I got back to Dandelion the rain had slowed to a drizzle again.
I set up shop a second time and started quickly throwing down washed.
A woman walked up to me and introduced herself she was Kristen Erickson and when I mentioned my blog,, she lit up and said "I know you!" She is the Mills 50 Main Street Program Director and she invited me to a mills 50 event going on in two weeks. Every time I do a sketch these days I seem to meet someone who knows of a place I have to sketch next. My blog is slowly becoming more of a community effort.When the sketch was done I went inside and asked for a nice iced tea. I ordered a Jasmine iced tea to go and I drank it on the way to a sketch class in Winter Park.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Brian Feldman eats everything on the Loving Hut menu

At the Fringe Festival, Brian Feldman offered himself up as an award to the Loving Hut which had won an award as the favorite Fringe food vendor. Brian staged a performance piece in which he would attempt to eat everything off the Loving Huts all vegan menu. Brian's original plan was to eat full servings off the menus 44 or so listed dishes. He gave himself 10 hours to accomplished this Herculean feat.
When I arrived I saw this figure slumped over on the far side of the restaurant. From a distance he looked like one of the employees and I thought to myself this doesn't leave a very good impression for the employees to be asleep in the restaurant. On closer inspection I realized it was Brian who was slumped over. He had collapsed after eating 14 menu items. Since I was meeting Terry for a movie afterward, I knew that I only had an hour to catch the proceedings, so I got right to work. As it turned out Jessica Earley was in the restaurant as well and she was being interviewed by a video crew. She later sat down across from me and introduced me to her friends. More of her friends arrived as I sketched. The staff of the Loving Hut became very curious about my sketch and at one point I lost precious sketching time as people flipped through my sketchbook pages.
A facebook message from Jessica the next day confirmed a suspicion I have always had about events I sketch. I often get the feeling that the second I leave, suddenly the party explodes with activity and people let loose with joyous abandon.
Jessica said "Soon after you left Loving Hut, that place got down right ridiculous...It was like slap happy city. The staff just started getting super kooky and bringing Brian out tiny mini little versions of the meals and every single time anyone walked into the entrance of the place the entire restaurant clapped and cheered and welcomed them.
All tables were talking to one another.. complete strangers hanging over chairs to laugh and make absurd conversation. There were two little kids there who were just coming out with the most funny comments ever about Brian's eating performance.
Then the staff started to get COZY.. They were coming over and putting their arms around every one's shoulders and saying things about being happy..
and I ended up getting a massage from one of the ladies!
It was so so silly and funny. Wow."
Since Brian did not manage to eat all the items on the menu Saturday, he returned Sunday for a second chance to complete the task.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

United Methodist Church Demolition

The First United Methodist Church located at 142 East Jackson Street was demolished in preparation to build the New Performing arts center. When I did this sketch the last wall was slowly being bought down. Many other buildings are slated to be demolished in this neighborhood across from the city hall. With the economy taking a nose dive it will be many years before the city can afford to build this Performing arts center. I am left wondering how long this lot will remain empty. I heard that the members of the church raised the money to built this structure by having bake sales and other fundraisers. I am sure it came down much faster that it went up. It is always easier to destroy than to create.
A fellow in a wheel chair stopped and asked me what I was sketching, I offered the brief story I just outlined and he said "Well maybe they should have asked for more money in the collection basket."

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Studio of Brigen Gresh

Brigen is working on a series of abstract paintings called the aftermath. This series explores and deals with the stages of grieving. Each piece begins with a set understanding and she then searches for new ways to convey sensations. Although the work is not illustrative, she does extensive research before she starts painting. For instance she has a whole series of photos she shot of people who are or have been grieving.
Her first series of 12 paintings was more personal and dealt with her relationship with her mom. Each painting offers her new ways to learn about herself. She conveys sensations using line and form. She keeps the inner meaning subtle enough so it creeps on a viewer and then moves them. Her work is light, subtle and delicate with multiple layers of glazes plaster and meaning. She presses door hinges into the plaster as a way abstractly reconnect to the feelings she had when all the doors were removed in her home to allow her sick mother to move from room to room in her wheel chair.
Recent research sent her to a cemetery in Fossil Springs Florida. There she found full body sized grave stones all painted with silver leaf. The stones were lying on the ground side by side with no dates or names indicated. A whole family was lined up together. The heads of the stones were curved and the sight was beautiful and unnerving.
Brigen hopes to fill in the gaps in the development of characters that her work represents. The work is personal yest she still has to edit and remove things that might make the work to personal. Her studio is located in her garage. In this sketch you can see the garage door which her panels are leaning up against. She hasn't insulated the space or set it up with air conditioning so in the summer months the heat becomes brutal. I was sweating up a storm by the time I finished this sketch.
Box springs and a strange plaster figure were hanging from the rafters. Tiny halogen lights illuminated her panels. From here I was heading down to the Shakespeare Theater to see the final showing of the War of the Worlds so I bought my suit and tie to change into. I changed in Brigen's bathroom and headed out to the show.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Princess for a Day

On Saturday there was an open casting call auditioning for Character Look A -Likes for Princess Tiana from the new Disney Feature animated film The Princess and the Frog. As I drove up to the Casting Building at 9 AM I found a line of young ladies waiting at the front entrance. I imagined this would be a mob scene but there were only a dozen or so girls waiting. At 9 the doors were opened and everyone filed in. As I sketched a few more young ladies arrived. I was impressed when a gorgeous silver Lexis drove up in front of the building and a leggy slender young lady exited the passenger side and strutted into the building. She had a slender neck, impossibly thin waste and was a dead ringer for Princess Tiana though perhaps a bit to old for the part.
There is another Casting call Saturday evening and another 2 calls on Monday for Prince Naveen and Dr. Fadilier. I have high hopes for The Princess and the Frog. It is the first traditionally animated feature from Disney in over 5 years. I have seen the trailers and I got a close look at one scene. I must say the film looks exciting. So my fingers are crossed and I remain hopeful that the American public can see the value in traditional hand drawn animation.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Shut Up And Write!

Mad About Words organized this writing event called "Shut up and Write". Mary Ann deStefano who runs Mad About Words usually hosts events where writers gather and talk about the process of writing. In some ways all this academic talk is just another form of procrastination. So Mary Ann organized this free event where writes gather and quietly write together. Besides this front room of Dandelion Communitea Cafe there were two other rooms in the back filled with writers at work. As I walked up to the cafe several writers even sat outside at the picnic tables and were tapping away on their laptops. Mary Ann said 22 people signed her sign in sheet but I am certain that many more authors came and went during the 3 hours of this writing event.
Since the room was so packed, I decided to lean against a wall in the doorway between rooms. I had to step aside each time a waitress would go by but it was worth it since this location offered me a great view of the entire front room. The interior of Dandelion is brightly colored and festive. The fellow in the foreground knew of my flickr page and I suspect he is also a blogger. A sign on the wall pointed out that the maximum occupancy is 49 people and this event made me think that maximum might be met.
Some authors left while others drifted in. A few were just here for dinner. A girl in the far corner leaned back in her chair after writing for an hour and exclaimed to her boyfriend "I have officially been productive today." The two of then then chatted for a while before getting back to work. Patricia an author that teaches a write your life workshop that I sketched last week, came in and asked me if I wanted a tea. I had a butter cup iced tea that has an interesting creamy taste. I really liked it. To say this event was a success would be an understatement. The arts are very much alive in Orlando.

Friday, August 14, 2009

SAK Comedy Club

The SAK Comedy Lab held a panel discussion among eight members of the improv comedy group. For the first half of the panel, Richard Paul acted as the MC and asked questions of the troupe. When asked where did each of you come from, everyone answered at once.
When asked what their greatest horror story was on the stage, Mark related a story in which he had been given a bottle of Champagne before a performance. He had never had Champagne before but he decided to have a few drinks right before going on stage. He stumbled onto the stage and "acted" drunk holding onto the bottle. Before long he realized that he was drunk and his act was quickly sliding down hill. Unfortunately he wasn't a funny drunk. This was his most embarrassing moment of his career.
Robyn who is the only female member of the cast related that she grew up in a family with all brothers and herself.She said that growing up in a family of all brother prepared her for the stage. She then gestured to all the med seated beside her. She then related that she would like to see more women get into comedy. She also want to see women break out of established roll, for instance the ditsy blond. She also said women can aspire to any position and any roll is possible. At this point David Russell shouted out "Except President!" This got a big laugh from the audience.
David Russell related a story in which he decided to go on stage with pants o n his arms and his legs stuffed through shirt sleeves. He wanted to enter on stage walking on his hands but dressed as if he was right side up. He forgot that the shirt had a large opening for his head and became concerned when he felt a breeze between his legs. Mike Carr chimed in "That is why they call it the SAK Theater."
David summed up the ingredients for great comedy with three simple ingredients: Truth, Excellence, and joy. This was my first time visiting the SAK and I definitely want to experience more.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ballet Volunteer Meet and Greet

I went to the Doctor Phillips Performing Arts Center at 1111 North Orange Avenue to a Ballet volunteer meet and greet. I arrived a little early and was asked to wait in a lounge area. I peaked back into the dressing rooms and the rehearsal halls and tried to imagine the place bustling with activity. Areas of the concrete floor had pools of water and stepping stones to get across the small lakes. The building used to be a pumping station and the ground floor is below the high water table of the lake across the street so anytime there is a heavy rain the place floods.
Jeff Garcia seen seated on the stool in my sketch, explained to the 30 or so people assembled that the ballet has 200 or so volunteers on its roster. Beside Jim was Kim who is in charge of development and publications.
The Ballet has a new Executive Director coming in starting September first. It is still to early to announce who that is. Robert Hill is the Ballets new artistic director. He is helping make the Ballet more relavant for the world we live in today. He is focusing on much more modern Ballet with a few of the classics. Jeff explained that the Ballet is not going away, meaning they will not go bankrupt like the Opera which used to have board meeting in the room we were meeting in. The Ballet now uses the whole Dr. Phillips building. They plan to survive in these difficult times by cutting costs wherever possible and relying on volunteer help whenever possible. If the Ballet makes $10 it will only spend $8. They no longer plan to operate along old established ABC operating norms. They will no longer send mail because of the cost. Instead they plan to rely on phone calls and e-mail.
There are many exciting fund raising events coming which will rely on volunteer help. There will be a casino night fundraiser, a Christmas gift exchange with the dancers, help is needed in the Ballet Boutique found in the Dr, Phillips Center. There is a luncheon coming up with 2 dancers as guest speakers. On February 19th of next years there will be a Latin night at the convention Center and on November 12th there will be the grand opening of the Waldorf Astoria with a Ballet Performance.
From what Jeff said, it sounds like the Ballet is as vibrant and active as ever and it is making changes that will keep it vibrant in today's economy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

War of the Worlds - Its a Wrap

At the War of the Worlds Wrap party, Chantry Banks complained that in all the copy I had written about the show, I had never mentioned his name. So to satisfy his ego, here is a post lovingly dedicated to Chantry.
Whenever there was a break in rehearsals Chantry would pick up his knitting needles and start knitting. Erika who had to knit on stage while listening to the radio broadcast consulted with Chantry to get her up to speed. During every rehearsal Chantry would say something that would get everyone in the cast laughing. Sometimes after one of these outbreaks an actor would try and say a serious line and would end up cracking up and start laughing for no apparent reason. Chantry is a true professional however and often volunteered to read the Mercury Theater broadcast parts when it would help in the Public's independent rehearsals. If there was any doubt about what would motivate his character, Chantry would never shy away from clarifying the point with the directors.
While doing this sketch I was intrigued by Chantry's focus, his hands moved with sure deft precision. Did I mention Chantry? Chantry, Chantry. Chantry.
The play had its final performance two days ago. I am going through a bit of withdrawal. It is hard to say goodbye to such an amazing cast. I miss them all. Hopefully I will see some of them again if I sketch at other show rehearsals.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Destination Journal

"The journey IS the destination".
I met Dina Mack on the 23rd Worldwide Orlando SketchCrawl. Dina teaches a journaling class called Destination Journal. This class was held in the beautiful home of Summer Rodman. At the beginning Dina passed out cellophane packets that would help in the session. Inside the packets was some graph sheet writing paper and scented business cards that outlined the points to consider when journaling.....
Be curious.
Take in the setting - micro or macro.
Try and use all of your senses.
Be beautifully imperfect.
Explore a thought or idea.
Experiment with materials.
These simple ideas seem to reflect how I try to remain joyfully receptive every day. Early in the evening we discussed how the post office is having to shut down branches. I have decided to make it a personal goal to send friends more letters. That is right paper and pencil lovingly folded up and placed in an envelope. Dina asked us to listen to the cellophane as it crinkled and unfolded. I am listening to it now since I need to get at all the notes I took on the paper Dina gave us. We were reminded to keep our sense of wonder and to see the world through the eyes of a child.
Everyone introduced themselves. Malinda keeps dream journals. Sonya, an Aquarius, is a graphic designer and she designs her own line of Artisan Jewelry which she sells on Etsy. Her top selling item is a small bird ring. Michelle was an art teacher and over the summer she worked at a bike repair shop. She just got back from a trip to Canada and in her lap was a travel journal stuffed to overflowing. I wish I had seen what was in that journal. She is also an artist and uses mixed media. Summer who I know through the Kerouac Project is a poet and as it turns out an avid journal keeper. Dina showed one of Summers journals and it joyfully experimental. I could learn for her example. Corine arrived a little late and is a hairdresser and takes classes like this just as she might keep a gym membership to stay in shape and to explore new ideas with her art. Finally Dina showed us some of her journals. She carried them to class in a dark leather brief case which snapped open with a business like k chunk, k chunk. One journal was filled with leaves sewn onto the pages. Others were filled with notes and sketches about art works she is working on or simple everyday items like the wrapper from a fragrant soap. On New Years Day each year she spends the day going through the last years journals and couldn't imagine starting the New Year any other way. Since I started this sketch a day blog resolution on January 1st I really identify with this practice and I hope to start off the next year by flipping through my books and journals.
To kick things off Dina asked everyone to walk around Summers yard and garden. The sun was setting and the garden was dark and mysterious. Summer offered me a round sunflower seed that was hard to chew at first and then it had the texture of bubble gum. It had a mellow peanut like taste that I liked. I grabbed a few more off the vine. A huge owl landed in the dark branches above everyone and he made a strange soft cooing sound. He seemed to just be watching all of us and then he spread his enormous wings and took flight silhouetted against the dim dusk sky.
Inside on the second floor everyone started sketching and journaling. There was a palpable creative energy in the air. As I worked I felt a euphoric glow, a feeling of love for everyone in the room. Actually this glow was a feeling I simply seldom understand or acknowledge, I was happy. Everyone was focused yet playful. They would joke and laugh while the lines and colors flowed. I am so lucky to meet such vibrant creative people even in passing. Thoughts and images put down on paper suddenly become more tangible and important. For the moment life's worries and concerns vanished as we all captured and preserved what matters most, fleeting moments that are so important.

Monday, August 10, 2009

War of the Worlds - Costume Designer

As I entered the Shakespeare Theater I noticed one of my blog readers Patricia looking at the board covered with sketches I had done of the War of the Worlds rehearsals. I walked up behind her and said "I know that artist, he is a hack." We laughed and she introduced me to her friend. She asked if I was sketching or just enjoying the show tonight and I explained that I planned to sketch backstage again. She said she probably would not have known about the show had it not been for my blog posts. That made me extremely happy. Several students from my class at Full Sail also came out to this evenings performance.
Once back stage I decided to watch the hectic activity around the prop table again. Kelly - Anne Salazar the costume designer was relaxing and reading a magazine. She had already put out all the costumes and the actors were busy getting changed upstairs. Lindsay Cohen walked past and said "Hey TT". She has a nick name for just about everyone in the cast and now everyone refers to me as TT backstage. Sigh, its not very dignified, but I have to live with it.
The stage manager announced "Five minutes" and the actors replied "Thank you five". Alan who plays Orson Wells quietly went over his opening lines to himself. Everyone began wishing each other luck and then the show was on. What I like about sitting back stage is that the place feels like it is in a time warp. Kelly - Anne looked like she could have been straight out of the 1930's and the poster on the wall hearkened back to war times.
While I sketched I heard a teenage girl sobbing on the stairs above me. She was one of the younger actors performing in "The Two Gentleman of Verona" in the next theater over. I could hear the muffled singing from this musical as I worked and quite honestly the singing was often way off key. Another girl finally tried to comfort the sobbing actress. "What did you do wrong?" The sobbing actress said something in between the tears, but just thinking about it slowed down the emotions. "OK is that it." "You didn't do anything wrong." "It is soooo not your fault.""We are all freaking out, it isn't your fault." The crying actress finally said "I didn't want to do anything wrong." "Come on." The two actresses came down the steps hand in hand and went to the green room.
Suddenly a huge standing ovation broke out in the Golwin Theater and I realized War of the Worlds had rocked the house. The actors came out laughing because there had been a strange sort of group delay when they bowed. The audience didn't seem to mind, they went wild.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

War of the Worlds - Prop Table

For Friday nights performance I immediately wandered back to the Green Room to contemplate what I should sketch next. I arrived a bit early and found the room filled with chattering and excited teenagers who were performing next door. Sophia was sitting among them. We both wondered where the War of the Worlds actors were going to change. We walked into the Goldwin Theater and Fletch was there to explain what was happening. It turned out the Young Actor Company had a performance in the theater next door at the same time as War of the Worlds. He found two other rooms for our actors to change in.
When Sophia disappeared Fletch told me about another major problem. Lightning had struck the Theater the night before and the stage lights had been blown out. Suddenly everyone as in a panic. In the final minutes before the show an electrician was called in to try and fix the problem. Fletch dreaded the thought of having to performing the play with just the house lights on.
While all this was going on Lesley Ann was working on the wardrobe placing actors props such as hats and shoes in the appropriate taped grid on the floor. Other props rested on a table with a similar grid. The stage manager gently opened the vintage lunch box and placed in an apple which Joshua would eat on the stage edge facing the audience in the first moments of the play.
Before the actors had finished changing into their wardrobes, the electrician walked past me up the stairs with a line of nervous stage hands and lighting technicians behind him. Five minutes later, an eternity for the directors, the electrician walked past me again down the steps saying, "Another tragedy averted." He was the hero of the day. I spotted Aradhana at the bottom of the staircase I was sketching from and shouted "They fixed the lights! You have lights!" She shouted with glee.
The actors just before going on the stage would tap fists together and tap elbows for luck. Andy who played Orson Wells, flipped through a magazine. The pace of this show is very fast. Actors would often run to the table to grab something and then they dashed right back on the stage.
The small rag doll on the prop table was created by Tanja and her daughters. It is made from extra curtain material she had on hand and filled with cotton balls. The hair was made from curtain lining material that they soaked in tea.The doll has a quirky endearing quality. For Tanja it is now a family heirloom.
I went to Tastings Wine Bar to celebrate with the cast. They had much to celebrate since the night was a near disaster that turned into a glowing success. Tonight is the FINAL performance of War of the Worlds. It starts at 7 PM at the Shakespeare Theater in Lock Haven Park. I plan to dress is a fine suit to celebrate a great run with an amazing cast. The end is near.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

War of the Worlds - The Green Room

A green room is a room in a theater, for the accommodation of performers when not required on the stage. Its function is as a lounge so that performers do not have to go back to dressing rooms and are still easily accessible for their call. For the Sunday performance I finally ventured back to the green room to see the performers before they went on stage. I held off going earlier because I was concerned the actors might feel uncomfortable with me sketching them as they got into costumes. There are three sets of dressing rooms and they all open into the green room. There was a plate of cookies on the table and several actors joked about not being able to stop eating them, "This is my last cookie, honest".
Linsay
Cohen asked everyone including myself to pose for a group photo. She coached us all telling everyone "You just found out Thomas Thorspecken painted you naked". I smiled broadly, perhaps to broadly and after inspecting the Digital shot Linsay was disappointed that none of the actors had shown disgust or dismay. Kelly - Ann Salazar was on hand in case any costuming alterations were needed. Everyone was energetic and excited. I realized I couldn't catch all the actors so I simply locked down the few who sat down and relaxed prior to the performance. This left the actors I did sketch sort of isolated as if in an Edward Hopper painting. Perhaps that is why Edward Hoppers paintings seem so lonely, it is simply because he couldn't sketch the joyous activity fast enough!
When the play started the green room lights were turned off since the light would bleed onto the stage. I was concerned since I hadn't started adding watercolor washes yet. I considered doing another sketch of the actors waiting in the wings, since there was some light to be found there, but finally I returned to the green room with the stubborn intent that I always finish a sketch once it is started. Painting in the dark was actually easy once my eyes adjusted. I kept the washes fairly light so the room feels light filled.
I worked on the sketch for the entire duration of the show, about 50 minutes. This left me to experience the action on stage strictly with my ears. The performance thus had the impact of the original radio broadcast. All the visceral panic and terror could still be felt just from my listening to the play. When the applause died down, the actors poured back into the green room and there was a blur of activity as they returned to this century. The cast went out to Stardust Video and Coffee for drinks after wards, but for once I returned home to watch a movie with Terry.
You can still see War of the Worlds tonight at 8 PM at the Shakespeare Theater and tomorrow night at 7 PM. Don't miss it! Time is running out!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Wine Warehouse

Wine Warehouse at 99 West Fairbanks in Winter Park held a wine tasting event where 3 French wineries were flown in to offer samples of their unique wines. I arrived about an half hour early and spoke with Glen Menderos who is the owner of the store. His establishment is small and intimate offering select wines for discriminating costumers. He said the local papers tend to only talk about the huge wine stores in town, but he prefers to offer a more one on one exchange with his clients. His 2 English Bulldogs stay with him in the store and they are content to lounge behind the counter on a large pillow under a table and then excitedly greet costumers when the costumers kneel down to pet them.
Several people expressed an interest in my sketch. Terry pulled a fast one by coaching someone to walk up to me and ask the one question the I can not tolerate when I am sketching, a woman asked "Are you an artist". I never just want to reply "Yes" I prefer to say I am a plumber, electrician or delivery boy, lately I just say "I am a blogger." I want to shout out "Well, I am holding a sketchbook and painting in it with a paintbrush, what else could I be?!" I noticed Terry laughing and then the woman next to me laughed. Flushed I decided I needed a glass of wine.
When I finished my sketch I joined Terry and Caroline and asked what wine they had liked so far. Caroline suggested the white wine grown by Claude Jordan from Langeudoc, France. The person behind the taste counter showed me pictures of the vineyard which is right on the Mediterranean and she said the breezes off the water offered a one of a kind growing environment. The white wine was sweet and delicious. It didn't have the bitter sharp taste I get from most whites I drink. While I was sketching her purse managed to bump a bottle off of the counter and it shattered on the floor. So we ended up getting a whole box of wine out of guilt.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Writing Your Life

I met Patricia Charpentier at a Cajun concert. Her last name definitely has a Cajun ring and she had researched her family history for many generations back. As I sketched at that concert she was looking over my shoulder and after the concert we talked for a while. I found out she teaches a writing workshop so I asked if she would mind if I sketched one of the classes.
Several months later when I arrived at the Marks Street Senior Center, I met Patricia in the parking lot and she showed me the way to the classroom. The Senior Center is a beautiful warm pink stucco building in a Spanish Colonial style.

The classroom quickly filled up and everyone introduced themselves and told a brief story about a unique incident that had happened in their life. Morrie told a harrowing story about living in the depression and not having enough food. He found a pear tree in an alley and returned that night to secretly pick some pears. Morrie's job was to keep watch while the other boys picked the pears. He realized he might not get any pears if he was just standing watch so he climbed up as well. Suddenly a huge burly man started yelling and all the boys ran for their lives. He got his pants leg caught on a fence post nail and hung upside down helpless. He kept quiet and thankfully that man never saw his legs above the fence. Later some rustling startled him again and it was the boys who came back to help get him down. Morrie has a small book published called "Sundays with Morrie".

The class was organized much like a sketch class with quick short exercises to begin and then longer writing sessions build upon the ideas discovered in the short exercises. After each writing session people would volunteer to read what they had written. Some of the stories were truly heart wrenching and others filled with joy. It was a wonderful sketching experience and I felt blessed to be able to hear these life stories.

Mary Hill, a late arrival spoke with me after the class. She had treated herself to the workshop because it was her birthday. She explained that she was taking care of her ailing mother. She also talked about the the courses she had taken in California that covered the more mystical side of healing. Doctors in America tend to be pushing drugs as the solution to all problems. Mary feels that the simple act of touch can offer healing. She told me about an instructor who could sense her feelings just with a phone call. The mystical forms of heeling she talked about were outside my understanding but I was intrigued.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Savoy

Prior to opening night of War of the Worlds Michael Wanzie invited people to come out to Savoy for a drink prior to seeing the show. I decided to go to this event to get a sketch at the bar since I knew I didn't want to sketch during the War of the Worlds performance, I wanted to finally see the show straight through without having to glance at my sketchbook. When I walked in to the Savoy I was caught by surprise. Men were dancing on platforms and shaking their stuff. I walked the length of the bar and found an empty table in the back with a view of all the action. I ordered a drink and got some sort of Mango pink drink shot for free that was delicious.
I quickly got out the pens and paper and got to work. Terry never joins me when I am out sketching, she prefers to have my full attention. However this night she agreed to meet me as I finished up my sketch just prior to the show. Terry arrived about half way through the sketch and she called me to make sure she was at the right place, she wasn't sure she should enter. I talked her back to my corner. The owner of the bar came over to see what I was doing and he really liked the sketch. I wrote down by blog address for him so he could see this post when it comes out. The waiter who served my drink made sure to brush my hand. That probably helps with the tips. I rather liked the music and festive atmosphere, everyone was so friendly. As it turns out Michael Wanzie was sitting just two tables away, he is the fellow with the green shirt in the sketch. Terry and I said hello as we headed out to get to the play.
Post Script: September 1st I got a letter from the city stating I had an unpaid parking ticket and that I owe the city $45. After researching where I was the day the ticket was supposedly issued (there was nothing on the windshield) I discovered that I got the ticket when I parked near the Savoy on opening night of War of the Worlds. The ticket wasn't for parking in an no parking spot but for parking with the butt of my vehicle facing west rather than east. This leads me to suspect the city is targeting members of the gay community or simply punishing people who love the arts. I have no way to defend myself against this bogus ticket so lesson learned this city is in need of money and will do anything to get it, Beware!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

War of the Worlds - Text

At Saturday's matinee performance of War of the Worlds, the usual announcement about turning off cell phones was changed. The back row of the theater was reserved for tweeters. This section would allow individuals to tweet about the performance as they watched it using iPhones and Blackberries. Performance artist Brian Feldman was ushered to the tweeting section and his fingers were in constant motion during the show.
A little late. Good thing I'm very familiar with the War of the Worlds story. 11:19 AM War of the Worlds Actor Brandon Roberts is my long-lost brother. 11:20 AM Where's Orson? 11:22 AM Trivia: BrianFeldman's eaten dinner on OrlandoShakes' Goldman Theater stage w/ his family (FeldmanDynamic) 15 times. 11:24 AM Oh cool! The action stopped for a second while they (the actors) decided what to do (world of the show). 11:24 AM RT @ War of the Worlds Zingo! 11:25 AM @War of the Worlds TMI? 11:27 AM Marshall Law? Or Martian Law? 11:27 AM @ Omar Delarosa Believe it. 11:28 AM I know this show's less than 30 minutes in, but I already have an idea for my own War of the Worlds show. October? 11:29 AM This show makes me want to see Floyd Collins. 11:31 AM I like how this version shows both sides: the broadcast and the public's response (in a time way before Twitter). 11:34 AM They just mentioned last week's New Jersey corruption scandal! Relevant. 11:35 AM Heil Martian! 11:36 AM If the heat rays have truly cut off communication, then how am I still tweeting? 11:37 AM This is an actor's show. 11:38 AM Actor up front sounds like Dan Ackroyd in Spielberg's 1941. 11:40 AM You've obviously never seen any of the "Saw" movies. 11:41 AM @ War of the Worlds Yeah, this should totally be set in New Mexico. 11:42 AM Gas masks? Gas masks?!!! Gas masks? Gas masks?!!! Gas masks? Gas masks?!!!! 11:42 AM Dan Ackyrod's voice is back! 11:43 Avoid bridges to Long Island; Hopelessly peanut buttered. 11:44 AM Orson Welles v. BrianFeldman - Only at the @ LovingHut! 11:45 AM 2X2L? 11:45 AM "It's not real?" 11:46 AM You Can't Do That On Radio! Or Television! Or YouTube! Or Twitter! 11:48 AM And now... The Aftermath. People hate The Great Orson Welles! 11:48 AM I need one of those radio mics. 11:50 AM "You only live once"... unless you're a cat. 11:53 AM That's it! War of the Worlds...With Kittens! 12:03 AM Twitter Applause!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tiki Lounge

On a third Thursday I had plans to attend a number of art openings downtown. I had another commitment that kept me from getting to the openings on time. I rushed downtown and got to the galleries just as the shows were closing for the night. I walked in and out of 3 shows in short order knowing I would not have enough time to do a sketch. I was then left wandering the streets hoping inspiration would strike. A biker gang pulled up in front of a bar with gorgeous custom choppers and after they all parked curbside, I crossed the street for a closer look. I started roughing in a sketch but something about the bikers activity left me feeling they were not staying long. I decided to walk up to them and ask if they were planning to stick around. They said they were illegally parked and just resting, they would be gone in ten minutes. Again in agony I decided to pass up the sketch opportunity. As I wandered the hot humid streets I passed this Tiki Lounge and felt a cool blast of air from the air conditioning from the open door. That breeze was enough to lure me inside where I immediately sat down and started sketching the music act, named John Neff. He played a soothing mix of contemporary pop tunes. As I sketched I heard the roar of the biker gang as they rode by. A woman walked up to me and asked to see what I was up to. As it turned out she is John's mom who came to watch her son play. Later a man approached me and wouldn't you know it was John's dad.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

War of the Worlds - Opening Night

Opening night of the War of the Worlds was pure magic! When I arrived in the lobby of the Shakespeare theater I was shocked to find the cast had assembled all my blog post sketches on a board in the lobby to share with the audience. I was deeply touched. For once I put away the sketchbook and sat in the front row center to get an up close view of the show. This was the first time I watched the show straight through without the distraction of attempting to sketch. This performance with a full audience had a panicked energy that I had not seen before. All of the actors performed the very physical scenes all out. Everyone was sweating which added a sense of authenticity to the emotions. Certain scenes left me feeling terrified. That feeling lingered.
After the play was finished and the standing ovation had died down, Terry and I were invited back to the green room for a sip of champagne with the cast. I was unbelievably happy and proud of the performers. The cast then went to the Social Chameleon and we all partied late into the night. Joshua and Terry got into a heated discussion on how events portrayed in the play in many ways resembled the emotions and fears generated on September 11th. Joshua actually said he channeled some of those feelings by re watching footage shot on that day of the people, who had to choose between being burnt alive or leaping to their deaths. I stayed at the party to the bitter end, When I finally got home and slipped into bed, thoughts of unfinished conversations and the adrenaline rush of the evening left me unable to sleep. I watched the sun slowly slip into the bedroom and then got up at 7:30 AM to go to a senior center to sketch a writing workshop. The sketch was effortless and had a renewed feeling of humanity.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Dr. Sketchy

Dr. Sketchy is held the first Wednesday of each month at Tatame Lounge which is located at 223 West Fairbanks Avenue in Winter Park. The place had an unassuming glass storefront but inside I found a huge crowd of young artists. The event only costs $5 so it is a cheap and fun sketch opportunity. I found a spot near the front windows and squeezed in behind a table. This location offered me a view of most of the artists in the room. I noticed that the young girl in the stripped shirt and purple beret was a really good artist just from the doodles she was doing before the model posed. I began my sketch watching her work. Her friend had bright pink hair. Quite honestly I would have been happy just watching and sketching them working. I ordered a peach sake and on this night if you ordered a sake you got another for free. The sake came in a small white pitcher shaped like a woman's figure. I drank out of a small thimble of a porcelain cup which requires you to raise a pinky just to hold it. The model was dressed like a 1940's pin up girl and she took some challenging fun and provocative poses.
Just as I was finishing up drawing all the artists and photographers, the model took a break and I realized it was getting near the end of the event. I used the break to start throwing down some watercolor washes. The artist sitting next to me started joking that I had spent all my time drawing the artists and I might never get to draw the model. For the next pose the MC announced that the following sketch was a competition. The artists in the room were asked to incorporate the theme of "Ghost Busters" into their sketches. Whoever won would get a Making of book for Pixar's CG Movie "UP". Since I was knee deep into my blog sketch I didn't compete. The model was the judge of the competition. The winner was the girl in the striped shirt and purple beret. I coulda been a contender. My sketch wasn't finished, I hadn't even sketched the model yet!
After 2 sakes, I was feeling pretty good and the lines were flowing freely. The model took one final 10 minute pose and I sketched her into position as fast as I could. I was lucky and thankful that I had finally caught her.
This is a fantastic informal gathering of artists in a hip fun setting. The next event is August 5th at 8PM at Tatame and I can't wait to do it again.