Monday, June 21, 2010

The Bubble Room Monkey

I have become addicted to attending McRae Art Studios (904 Railroad Avenue) open houses. Some of these open houses offer the public the chance to watch the artists at work. The studios are located in a large warehouse and the space has been compartmentalized into working studios for 21 artists. The last open house I had attended, I found John Whipple working on a series of black and white illustrations which were rich and deep in tone. At the time I didn't have the time to do another sketch. I returned with the hope of catching him at work. Unfortunately this open house just gave the public a chance to view the artists finished works and wander the studios.
John told me that he had just cleaned up his work space. This room is filled with antiques and assorted odds and ends for his many quirky and fun sculptures. I fell in love with this old animatronic monkey. John told me that he had bought the monkey at an estate sale when the Bubble Room closed down. For those of you who have been in Orlando for some time you might remember that the Bubble Room was a quirky restaurant with tons of antique toys and animatronics like this monkey. John explained that the monkey had been the drummer for an animatronic band. I love that this character has a string tied around its thumb as if he was intent on remembering something. Even more interesting is the fact that the monkeys other thumb is missing like he had tied that string to tight and the thumb just snapped off.
The entirely naked animatronic to the left was once a Santa Clause. The gears and leavers are simply designed like an old fashioned wind up wrist watch. Santa's mask has been removed showing a lumpy malformed ball of Styrofoam. The arms also have Styrofoam tied down with twine. I have no doubt that when the lights go out, these characters live out a nightly drama before freezing in place the next morning. Also crammed in the space are old iron fireplace grills and aging yellow boxes. The bright red logo reminds me of the final scene in Citizen Kane when the sleigh is thrown in the fire with the name, Rose Bud.
John isn't sure yet what is in store for the Bubble Room Monkey. He doesn't want to alter the characters look until he is sure he has the proper artistic vision for it's future. Prior to the clean up, the monkey wasn't even visible. Now the space has a feeling of organized chaos. I asked John if he would allow me to sit in and sketch when he starts on the sculpture that the Bubble Room Monkey was meant for. I would love to see that piece find it's final form.
After I finished this sketch I then went to visit Don Sondag who is a local portrait artist. Don told me about a Sunday morning painting group. I expressed an interest in getting out and doing some plein air paintings with that group, but both times something came up which kept me from going. I need to call Don, it would be nice to do some thick paintings using large blocks of color rather than the line work I use every day to complete my sketches.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at


Rick said...

I could spend hours just looking around at all the cool stuff in John's studio space. Last year my wife and I went down to Captiva Island and ate at the Bubble Room down there, which i still thriving. It's well worth the trip!

Thor said...

A field trip down to Captiva sounds like a grand plan. It is in the works.