Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Truck gets New Tires

For my trip up north, I had to get a head lamp replaced since one had burned out. When I got to the Reed Nissan dealership, there was a long line of cars waiting to get into the repair shop, so I stepped out and walked up to a repair person to see if they had the parts and if so, how long it would take to repair. She was really nice, and had me pull my truck up to a third line which had no cars in it. When she drove my truck back to the shop, she told me that she had experienced a shudder and the truck lurched a bit. She also pointed out how bad the treads looked on my left front tire. I would be driving up into snow, and it was at this point that I decided I would have to get new tires for the trip.
The waiting area of the repair shop had a large plate glass window overlooking the garage where the work is done. In this sketch the mechanics are doing oil changes on the vehicles on the lifts. I never saw my truck, so it must have been in another garage. When the service advisor, Ellie Diaz, came back, she admired what I was working on. She said, "Now that is a nice way to pass the time." I gave her my card and told her to check out my blog. She asked if I did portraits and I showed her the sketch I had just recently done of Hannah Miller. She wanted to know how much I would charge to do a sketch of her daughters and her. I gave her an affordable price and she seemed pleased, saying, "This would be a nice birthday present for myself."
My next stop was the four wheel parts off road shop where I got my new tires. At this shop the mechanic was unable to figure out how to get at the spare tire so I had to go back and lower it myself. As I was sitting in the waiting area, I got a text from Hannah. She told me some stranger had asked to shoot a photo of her feet in her hip new shoes. He wanted to brag to friends that he had taken a photo of Cinderella's sister's feet. Hannah pointed out that my truck was getting new shoes, so it was a red letter day for shoes.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Adventures in Baby Sitting

I kept my first visit with Ruth short since I knew my sister, Carol, was waiting downstairs to come up. When I found myself alone with her two very energetic kids, ten and eight years old, I asked them if they would pose for a portrait. They agreed and then fought each other as they climbed into the same chair. They posed for maybe five minutes. Anna tried to keep a wide-mouthed smile on her face the whole time. She soon lost patience and decided she wanted to paint as well. I let her use my palette and one of my brushes and soon all three of us were busy painting. I continued to work on my painting as they worked. Occasionally I would catch a glimpse of their eyes or the gentle curl of their hair and I would add it. Kristen did a silly drawing of me with an oval head and a big hooked nose.

Perhaps an hour later, Carol came back down thinking I would be at my wits' end. Anna said, "Don't worry mom, we are having fun. Why don't you go back up?" Babysitting my nieces turned out to be quite fun, perhaps parenting isn't the distracting challenge I always thought it would be.
The next day I watched my nieces at my stepmom's place while Carol drove to the hospital to visit mom a second time. Once again, they took to painting like fish to water. I sketched Anna as she worked on a painting of Reeses, the family dog. She also did a painting of me, and from her sketch, I am one scary looking uncle.

We later decided to go for a hike around the small frozen lake my stepmom's house is next to. I devised a way to keep Kristen's sneakers from getting wet using grocery bags and two bungee cords from the back of my truck. The bungee chords acted as suspenders for the bags. I think she got a kick out of wearing them. The kids ran the whole time through the three inches of snow. Anna kept falling every time she ran. I kept warning her to slow down, but she just kept falling. I finally gave up telling her, since she never seemed to get hurt, and just got back up and started running again. Anna then did the one thing Carol had warned me not to let her so, she ran out onto the frozen lake. My heart stopped. I had no idea how thick the ice was, and it was warm out, with small puddles of slush all around her. I screamed for her to stop and walk right back the way she had gone out. I couldn't go out after her since we might both crash through. She just giggled willfully, but then I told her we would have to all go back in the house if she didn't get off the ice. I also told her that if the ice broke, I might not be able to get her out before she froze to death. She finally came back to the shore.

I decided we could continue the hike, but when we came to a small frozen stream that fed the lake, Anna once again stomped out onto the ice. Just as I caught up to her, and started to demand that she get off, her foot crashed through and her leg got wet up to her mid-calf. I think this lesson might stay with her. This time we all went straight back to the house, where I had Anna change out of her wet pants and we placed them near a radiator to dry off. Our walk ended with a rousing snowball fight. I don't think I won since it was always two against one. I also think I will leave parenting to parents.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Visiting Ruth

When I arrived in Honesdale. Pennsylvania, my younger sister, Carol, texted me directions until I arrived at my mother's home. Carol and her two children, Kristin and Anna, had been waiting all day for my arrival. They all had cabin fever. Since it took me much longer than expected to get up north, we all immediately piled into Carol's SUV and headed to the Honesdale Hospital where Ruth was in the intensive care recovery ward. I went up first while Carol watched her kids in the waiting area downstairs.
Ruth was surprised to see me, and I was shocked to see how frail she looked. Her spirits were down, so we weren't demonstratively affectionate. We spoke for some time about her health and then I told her about life in Orlando. She has never seen my blog. She has never even owned a computer. Her health had deteriorated since the last time I saw her several years ago. Her breast cancer had spread and she had undergone intensive chemo therapy to try and stop the spread of the disease. Most family members feel that the chemotherapy was the cause of so many of her new symptoms. Ruth's Oncologist, Dr. Scholi, seemed to feel that Ruth was something of a miracle in that she should have died three years ago, but she responded so well to the chemotherapy at the time that she got three more years of quality living. The doctor said, "Her present condition is the result of the combination of her cancer, her age, and the chemotherapy. It's all caught up to her and has taken a pretty heavy toll." On the afternoon of my second visit, a doctor came in and told my stepmom that she was being discharged from the hospital. Her next stop would be Ellen Memorial Health Care Center.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

FRESH - Creation

Much of FRESH is all about the process of creating art. In this sketch, Christie Miga is on her knees as she creates a drip painting during the event. All of the paints are diluted just the right amount so they can flow and blend into each other freely. At times Cristie used gravity to let the paint flow and other times she would lay the painting flat and blow the paint into areas of the canvas where she wanted it to spread. She had the painting done within an hour and at the end of the night it was auctioned off. I had to work extra fast to catch Christie since she was in constant motion. The FRESH performance space also had other areas where guests could play and interact. For instance there was a small Zen dirt garden where people could rake the dirt and arrange delicate stones and sticks in any way they likes. I created a big Z and then with some twine wrote orro so the garden had the mark of Zorro. I have a pet Cockatoo named Zorro so I leave his mark whenever I can.
Besides the drip painting, we all helped create a mural each night by using an overhead projector hung from the ceiling. I was asked to make a hand shadow puppet and then Evan Miga traced the shadow I made onto the large sheets of white paper hung on the wall. He asked me to finish it up, so I added an eye and other details to bring it to life.
After each evening's performance, the real fun would start. The music would build and then all the dancers would come out and dance. I joined them every night and it was always fun. Once in a while we could get an audience member out on the dance floor and then things really got large. It turns out Evan is quite a dancing fool and on occasion he would jump up on the dirt mound and play king of the mountain while dancing. On the final night, Evan pulled Jessica Mariko, the troupe's founder and choreographer, up onto the mound and they had a blast while everyone else clapped. Being on the floor and sketching every night I was no longer just reporting on the event, I was a part of the event itself. This was a creative and inspiring environment and it is a shame it is only in town around Valentine's Day. Every day should be Valentine's day.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Physical Therapy

When I got an e-mail from my sister, Juanita, saying that my stepmothers cancer had gotten to the point where she could no longer walk, I immediately decided I would have to take a trip to Honesdale, Pennsylvania to see for myself how Ruth was doing. I jumped in my truck and started driving north. I thought I could do the drive in one day, but with construction and traffic, it took me two days. The drive itself was an emotional roller coaster. When I first started driving over rolling hills, I felt exhilaration. One song played on the radio again and again, "Against the Wind." This song ran through my head many years ago when I rode a bicycle across the country. Then, I felt like the wind was always literally blowing against me as I struggled to climb rolling mountains. Now, I was older, once again wandering the open roads of a cold indifferent world. Snow started to appear on the roadside.
The first day's drive brought me as far north as Virginia. Exhausted, I spent the night at a Holiday Inn. When I resumed the drive the next morning, I was driving past vast fields blanketed in snow. At times, I felt small. At other times, expansive and elated. The radio played, "I say miracles just happen, silent prayers get answered." I felt hope and peace for once, surrendering and accepting what I was driving to face. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of dark tree trunks rising up out of the pure white snow. The radio blared, "Live like we're dying!" I vowed not to waste a minute of the time I spent in Honesdale Pennsylvania. I would be visiting family I hadn't seen in years. I had been out of touch with my stepmom for years. I planned to change that.
My little sister, Carol, guided me the final miles with a series of text messages. As soon as I arrived, at my step mothers house, we headed down to the hospital to see Ruth. Carol had her two daughters, Kristin and Anna, and hospital rules forbid them to go upstairs. I agreed to watch my nieces while Carol visited and then we traded off. I found Ruth in the physical therapy room. A young tan nurse's aid had Ruth lift a two pound weight over her head for three repetitions of twelve. My stepmom has always been resistant to the idea of being sketched, so I started just drawing all the other patients working out. Some would squeeze medicine balls between their legs, while others would pedal a stationary bike set up for wheelchair patients. My stepmom did good with all her arm exercises, but when she was asked to stand, she collapsed. Chemotherapy had sapped all her energy. She was tired of being treated like a child and when we got back to her room, I joked with her about the experience in the cynical way that she was used to. It was good to see her laugh.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nude Nite - Body Paint

My second trip to Nude Nite, I decided I wanted to sketch the body painters at work. A large crowd of photographers and lookers stood around them creating a phalanx that I marched around seeking an opening where I could stand and draw. I finally decided to push closer and sit on my portable stool. Some people still stood in front of me, but many ducked out of the way just as they would for a photographer. As I worked, several burlesque dancers sashayed in front of me and started vouguing in front of the bar suddenly I was surrounded by a locust swarm of photographers. My line of sight to the body painters was lost so I started drawing the posters on the wall. I knew the posturing for the cameras would be short lived and sure enough the crowd of photographers soon melted back into the crowd.
This evening I bumped into KC and Bob. They were standing a short distance from the two nude sketches KC had on exhibit. A young couple was discussing her work and KC desperately wanted to know what they were saying. I pushed up as close as I could to the couple to try and listen in. KC pushed up beside me. With all the ambient noise I could still not pick out what they were saying. KC finally said, "Should I talk to them?" I said,"Of course." Then, as they started discussing art, I wandered off to do another sketch.
I am sitting in the Himalayan Institute in Honesdale, PA for a second morning drinking a Serious Blend Latte and using the only free wifi in town to write this post. A costumer walks in and starts a conversation with the proprietor. He said,"My biggest self defeat is taking myself to seriously. I can never meet my own expectations." Billy Holiday is softly singing, "God Bless the Child who's got his own."

Monday, February 22, 2010

FRESH-The Coffee Mound

Rather than staying with my exhibit of sketchbooks at FRESH, I returned again and again to the main show space to sketch the performers. In this performance, TinTin danced on the mound becoming more and more a part of the earth. He then dug into the earth, essentially resurrecting his dancing partner, Ashley Kroft. She gracefully rose up, spreading her arms towards the sky. Their dance then became an erotically charged dance of embraces, painful separations and joyful reunions. They both embrace the earth, and share it with each other. They rub the coffee scented earth into each other's skin. It would be awesome if Starbucks would embrace this celebration of coffee by bringing this dance to the center of its coffee shops. I am certain they would sell more coffee.
I am writing this post from the Himalayan Institute in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Gentle new age music is playing as I enjoy my morning coffee. The music perfectly brings back impressions and feelings I had while watching the FRESH performance. I feel at peace although I am here, to do one last portrait of my stepmother who is losing her battle with cancer. I visited her yesterday and she is a frail fraction of the woman she was. This portrait is the most important sketch I will do in some time. It is time to pack up my supplies and get to the hospital. I approach this new found day buzzing with hope and faith. I do not want to waste a minute.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

FRESH Massage

On the first night of FRESH, I started to sketch people getting free massages. When the sketch was half finished, I decided to try a neck massage for myself. My neck always tenses up when I am sketching. I figured getting the massage was a form of research. How else could I understand how the clients felt? Naomi Bourassa worked on my neck while Denise Lefebvre worked on another client. Naomi did a great job focusing on my neck. I became disoriented at one point and lost track of where she was standing. I don't know why that was on my mind, I was trying to visualize the massage with my eyes closed. As I said, this was research. when my shoulders were loose, Naomi rolled my head, and stretched it side to side. She finished up just as the first of the audience members started to enter the theater. I felt great.
On night two I asked her to work the kinks out again . The sketch is probably more expressive since I did my homework by fully living the experience.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Nude Nite - Fuschia Foxxx

Kelly Stevens the founder and mastermind of Nude Nite asked me to stop in to the event to do some sketches each night. If you missed Nude Nite which ran from February 11-13th you missed an amazing experience. I would suggest you look up the event coming up in Tampa on March 4-6th. You really shouldn't miss it. When I arrived at the warehouse I walked in a side door and was stopped by a bouncer, I guess I had walked in the exit. Getting my hand stamped and getting checked off the list took a few minutes. The open warehouse space where the event was staged was packed. Art was to be found in every nook and cranny of the place. I wandered in a daze wondering what I should sketch first. There were live nude picture installations with nude models voguing behind gilded frames. In one corner, artists were sketching a nude model. Wandering the floor were many dancers moving provocatively and stealthily. Suddenly loud music blared from a corner stage with red and blue curtains and a gilded offset fame defining the stage.
Fuschia Foxxx a burlesque performer from Seattle took to the stage. Fuschia moved like a sensuous belly dancer. A large red skull with glowing rind stones covered her crotch. When she raised her arms, six other arms followed making her look like an Indian Goddess. Slowly and with some flair, the elements of her costume fell away and the crowd cheered as the music grew louder.
After her act was over, I started splashing color on the sketch as fast as I could so I could move on and explore some more.
As I wandered the room people I had never met before started introducing themselves to me. Getting to meet so many new people was fun and unexpected. It made me want to return again. I had come this first night after FRESH had completed its night of performances. That meant I really only had time for this one sketch and I was desperately wanting to sketch some more.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Voci Dance - iMove_2.0: iCandy Rehearsal

iMove_2.0: iCandy was built around the theme of love. Naomi Rhema and McClaine Timmeran started writing love notes on long strips of paper and envelopes as they waited for the dance rehearsal to start. The long strips of paper were used to construct a paper chandelier which hung in the center of the performance space much like an upside down wedding cake. Full Sail students were busy hanging lights and setting up a second installation with light bulbs hanging from long wires and flexible PVC zip tied to the rafters.
Actually, a female student was at the top of the ladder the whole time doing all the work while the male student stood at the bottom of the ladder checking instant messages on his cell phone. The Full Sail students all volunteered their time to get all the lighting and high tech projections in place. They may have worked several all-nighters to get this show up in time for ArtsFest.
Genevieve Bernard explained that this installation was all about technology and how it affects romance. I loved an act between dances when McClaine acted like a high school girl talking on a Touch-Tone phone. She danced around excitedly stepping over the cord and then wrapping herself up in the cords embrace. This was lighthearted fun in keeping with much of the show. There were also cell phones hung with care and some very old computers and video games.
The dancers went through a routine in which they all wear LED-head lamps. There was something haunting and tribal about this performance. Periodically, I would be blinded by a dancer,s high beam if she turned her head in my direction. When the warehouse is dark, this dance should looked amazing.
In the several rehearsals I sat in on, I only saw a small fraction of the final show. This keeps me hungry, always wanting to stick around for one more sketch as the drama in motion unfolds. This was one of my favorite ArtsFest events, and it required a whole lot of love and commitment to bring it to life.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

37th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

A pro choice meeting was held at the First Unitarian Church of Orlando(1901 East Robinson Street) to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the supreme court decision to legalize abortion in America. There were finger sandwiches and plenty of cake and cookies before the meeting. I must have downed about a dozen girl scout cookies. A sweet old lady names Shirley came up to me and introduced herself. She asked if I was a member of the church and she was warm and welcoming. A crowd of perhaps 30 or 40 people gathered and sat to listen to what speakers had to say. I found it interesting that there was a sign that read, "Republicans for Choice". When a speaker asked how many Republicans were in the room, the blond woman directly in front of me was the only person to raise a hand.
The most moving talk was given by Reverend Roberta of the First Unitarian Church. She relived an experience she had when she was in college. A friend of hers who had never taken a sex education class, ended up getting pregnant. The woman was devastated and decided she had to abort the baby. Back then abortion was illegal but was still being practiced in back alleys. She was told to wait for a car to pick her up at a specific location and she would be dropped off at the same place an hour later. Roberta was in the group of woman who picked the poor woman up. She had been told to only seek medical help if the bleeding became excessive. She was bleeding, but certainly didn't know how to define excessive. She also didn't want to go to doctors who would almost certainly figure out what had happened. Everyone in the car finally decided they had to get her to an emergency room. By this time there was no question that the woman was bleeding excessively. The friend lived but could have easily died that day.
Sue Idtensohn from Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando spoke about how right to life advocates keep chipping away at Roe v. Wade in any way they can. She said one way they found to deal with demonstrators was to have a lawn sprinkler system installed. She said the town tried to limit the days that the sprinklers are turned on. But if demonstrators are on the property, she still plans to turn on the sprinklers regardless. She feels women are entitled to proper sexual health care and advice and they should not have to walk through demonstrators to get it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Two Hearts: One Love

The ride from Hannah Miller's home to the Orange County Courthouse was a bit nerve-wracking, since the rain just wouldn't let up. Hannah's roommate, Caeley, drove Hannah to the courthouse. When they arrived, Caeley didn't want to leave the car since it was raining so hard. She never did get out of the car, remaining there through the whole wedding ceremony. When I got to the courthouse steps, Hannah was standing in the front entry with a small crowd of men surrounding her, admiring her dress. It was cold, so she said we should all get inside. As she made her way through security, a man complimented her on her dress and asked, "Who is the lucky man?" Hannah replied, "I honestly don't know him." She wasn't lying.
Upstairs in the Marriage License office there was a huge crowd of people all waiting for her arrival. People applauded when she entered. Then we all waited for the groom; notoriously late to his own performances. Couples were escorted periodically into the small room where the wedding ceremonies take place. With everyone talking excitedly, one of the court clerks finally shouted out, "Would you all please quiet down? We are trying to perform some REAL marriages in the next room!" I was wedged up in a tight spot, sketching right next to the door to the ceremony room. Every time the door was opened, I would have to lean to one side since my sketch bag would be hit by the opening door. Whenever a new couple exited the room, our group clapped and cheered. When a new couple would walk into the room, however, everyone was silent. Hannah said, "That is because we were all judging them." I started to get worried that Hannah might be left at the altar without a groom, but about a half hour late, Brian finally showed up. He apologized saying traffic had been crazy because of the rain. The waiting continued.
Finally, the court clerk called out the names of Hannah and Brian. About 30 people squeezed into the small ceremony room while others crowded in the doorway trying to peek in. I stood on a chair so I could see the couple and sketch.
Logan Donahoo gave away the bride and from this point on it was a traditional ceremony. Hannah struggled with her veil during the beginning of the ceremony and apologized to the clerk. When Brian was asked if he would "Take this woman" he hesitated for the longest time. He finally decided to simply say, "I do." Jeremy Seghers held the ring which was fashioned from a marriage license that had been denied to a same- sex couple earlier that afternoon. Brian said that the bouquet should be for the same sex couple who were standing at the foreground of all the action. When the ceremony was over, Brian stomped on a plastic cup and people shouted out, "Mazel tov!" Then, Brian and Hannah shook hands and went their separate ways. Hannah of course, returned to her boyfriend Jack Fields, while Brian faced an increasing barrage of interviews from local and national media. Perhaps, someday, love, will be the only criterion for people to join their hearts in marriage.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

An Orlando Cinderella Story

On the morning of Hannah Miller's wedding to Brian Feldman, a man she barely knows, I decided to go to Pinocchio's Marionette Theater to watch her work. She is shown in this sketch high up on the puppeteer platform with Jack Fields. Appropriately, I thought, they were performing Cinderella. Cinderella is, of course, unjustly oppressed and in the end offered a triumphant reward. Her hard work goes unrecognized, until one day she achieves recognition and notoriety, thanks to a handsome Prince.
Today, Hannah would marry a man she doesn't love to point out the absurdity of laws that prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. In the Cinderella tale, the Prince invites all the young ladies in the land to a ball so he can choose a bride. Brian Feldman invited all the young ladies of Orlando, via Facebook, to the Orange County Courthouse so he could do the same. Hannah was picked to be Brian's bride thanks to the spinning of an Aquafina bottle which, if you think about it, really does resemble a glass slipper. As the bottle spun, the light from the dull florescent lights overhead in the marriage license office refracted and shimmered in the multiple facets of the bottle's tight-waisted form. After the bottle settled on Hannah, she took a sip from the bottle of Aquafina but then hesitated wondering if it might break the spell.
The evil stepmother and the vain and haughty daughters in this modern day fairy tale of course are the legislators and lawyers who allow a law to be on the books that would deny loving same-sex couples from being able to marry. I hope that Brian and Hannah's brave gesture will bring the issues of equal marriage rights to the all the people in the land.
After the performance of Cinderella was complete, I saw Hannah and Jack embrace for a long time in the dim light on the opposite side of the stage. This was actually the first time I realized they were a couple. Hannah came over and said hello and we talked for a while. She said she never actually manipulates the Cinderella puppet herself. She tends to work the "heavies", since she is one of the tallest puppeteers in the troupe. She told me all about the fabulous wedding dress she had made from a $12 thrift store purchase. She hot glued pearls and other exotic items to the dress to make it something that even her fairy godmother would have had trouble creating. The bouquet itself was a work of art with rainbow colored flowers emblazoned with colorful gems and a handle of pearls. After finishing my sketch, I thought I would go downtown to listen to Shakespeare's Sonnets being read. As I exited the Altamonte Mall, The Beatles were singing, "Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been, lives in a dream. Waits at a window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door, who is it for? All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people where do they all belong?"
Outside it was raining, gray, and cold. So, as I sat in my truck, I called Hannah from my cell phone, and asked if she would mind if I sketched her as she got ready for the wedding. She agreed, and I drove over to her place. I knocked on Hannah's door and her roommate, Caeley Batten, let me in. She apologized because the heating unit had broken and she was trying to keep the place warm by turning on the electric oven and leaving the door open. I stood by the oven and warmed my hands. When Hannah arrived she asked me to make myself comfortable while she took a shower. She didn't have much time to get ready, so when I got back to her room, I immediately got to work. I love the fact that she had a garland of hearts hanging from her air conditioning unit. She collects quirky creatures, and as she got dressed they seemed to be looking on in surprise and bewilderment. Hannah's roommate helped zip her into the dress. It was time to face the music.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mobile Art Show

TheDailyCity.com hosts the Mobile Art Show every month parked outside the City Arts Factory (29 South Orange Avenue) during "Third Thursdays." On Third Thursdays, the downtown art galleries all open new shows allowing for a solid night of gallery hopping. In February Mark Baratelli of the Daily City decided to fill the truck with the posters of LURE Design. This was a simple show to hand since all the posters were about the same size and they could be hung with bull clips zip tied to the existing rubber bumpers inside the truck. January 21st is when this show of posters took place.
Mark drove the rental U_Haul to Frames Forever where Katie Windish had promised to help hang the show. Mark started taping huge sheets of brown paper on the side of the truck that was going to face the City Arts Factory, while Katie was hanging the posters inside the truck. As I sketched it started to rain. Katie told me I could borrow an umbrella from inside her show so I ran in and got it. So part of this sketch was done in the pouring rain while I hunkered under her umbrella. Then the wind started to pick up causing to rain horizontally and I dashed inside the truck. The windy deluge didn't last too long and I soon went back out to finish up the sketch.
That night I went downtown to see the Mobile Art Show in action for the first time. Brian Feldman was outside the City Arts Factory doing his latest performance which involved charging peoples cell phones. Because of the pending rain, I decided against sketching that night. This sketch would have to do for the day. Mark had decorated the inside of the U-Haul with white Christmas lights and it was really festive. I am trying to convince Mark to allow me to plaster the side of the truck with ink jet prints all 365 sketches from last year and then have the 2009 sketchbooks and some matted prints inside the truck. At the FRESH performances this month I have figured out how to offer any print from the sketchbooks by using a tablet PC and an ink jet printer. As Mark said when he say this set up, "That is bad ass!" So keep your eyes open downtown on the Third Thursday of March!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday Karaoke at the Parliament House

There are many people who have known me for years who will never believe what I am about to tell you. But these events did unfold, on a quiet Superbowl Sunday, just as written . Amanda Chadwick put out an invitation to go to the Parliament House for Sunday morning Karaoke at the piano bar. Only the night before, actress, Lindsay Cohen had told me that she had once worked as a waitress at the Parliament House. I have never been, so I was curious. This sounded like a perfect sketching opportunity.
When I arrived maybe an hour late, I could hear the loud singing from the street. When I walked in it took a while for my eyes to adjust to the dark interior. The room was filled with men all sitting at the bar and in folding chairs facing the piano player. At the front table sat the only three women in the room and Amanda was one of them. She saw me and came over to say hello. The proprietor of the bar offered me a folding chair so I could sit with the 3 ladies, but I rather liked the view from my bar stool. I got out my sketchbook and started to sketch. The first person to take the stage after I started working was Dina Peterson who was one of Amanda's friends. She sang Elton John's "Your Song" and she bought down the house. All the men joined her singing the chorus and they all swayed to the music. I found myself singing along myself as I sketched, the lines flowing along with the words. To myself I sang , "I know its not much, but it's the best I can do... My gift is my sketch, and this ones for you...."
There was long break after Dina sang because the foot pedal to the piano was stuck causing too much reverberation. Leslie Lormann, another friend of Amanda's got on her hands and knees and worked on the pedal by wedging a book under it or something. One of the guys at the bar shouted out "Nice Ass, and that is some compliment coming from a gay guy!" She took it in stride and laughed it off. However it was done, the piano came back to life.
Mark Baratelli entered the bar and was greeted much like Norm from Cheers. He then got on the stage and sang "Somewhere over the Rainbow" everyone went wild. Mark added humor to the song by pushing the notes in new and unexpected ways. This was pure comic genius. By this time I had one white wine and when Mark gave the word, we all joined in the chorus. This was a side of Mark I had never seen before, and it was pure comic fun.
When his performance was over Amanda came over to see how my sketch was going. I was just about done. She asked, "Are you going to sing?" I said, "I haven't seen YOU sing yet." She said "No one wants to see me sing, trust me." Offhandedly, figuring I was safe, I said "OK if you sing, I will join you." She said, "OK, lets sing a duet." In my mind I was thinking, "What have I done?" She bought over the play list and we started pouring over all the choices. She suggested a song from "Beauty and the Beast but I said, "No Disney, I will not sing a Disney song, that might cause flashbacks." She finally chose the song, "Somewhere out There" from "An American Tail." She hesitated a second saying, "Isn't that a Disney movie?" I had to confirm that it wasn't, so I agreed.
When we got on stage, my heart was in my throat. Luckily the duet starts with the female lead singing alone. Amanda missed the first cue but then she began, her voice quavering just a bit. The good thing about this song is that it is sung by mice in the movie. Thus any tightness in the throat or nervousness might sound like we were trying to sing the song in a mouse like manner. When I started singing, I was surprised by the sound of my voice on the speakers, I moved the microphone towards and away from my mouth trying to find the sweet spot where I sounded human again. I thought we did a fine job leaning towards each other and glancing up when the moment seemed right. When we sang together we actually harmonized, in our own way. To my untrained ears, Amanda sounded great. When the chorus came around again everyone in the bar was singing along drowning out our humble efforts. It is impossible not to have your heart warmed by a room full of people singing this song. It was a glorious moment which apparently Mark Baratelli decided to record on his little video camera. Luckily his camera has the worst microphone ever made, so you will not be subjected to my singing efforts. What ever it sounded like, it felt great! Thank you Amanda for the experience!
This Sunday Karaoke Singing Session happens every Sunday from 1PM to 4PM at the Parliament House (410 North Orange Blossom Trail). This is a unique Orlando experience! Happy Valentines Day!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Woman Playwrights' Initiative

Sarah Lockhart told about a performance of the Women Playwright's Initiative that was going to happen at Stardust Video and Coffee as part of Arts Fest. I had another commitment at the time of the actual performance, but the director, Aradhana Tiwari told me I could stop in when the cast first got to Stardust and rehearsed just before the nights performance. I arrived early because I had gotten out of class at Full Sail a bit early. I ordered a Coke and sat in the room facing the tiny stage with its red metal streamers and red Christmas lights for illumination. Although not planned, this small stage with it's red atmosphere offered a womb like feeling of intimacy and enclosure. The play, or monologues, I had been told, was about women and how they faced pregnancy.
When the whole cast arrived, they went in the other room with the bar and large tables made from doors, to go over lines. The tables and chairs were then moved to make room for an audience. I started a sketch lightly in pencil of the cast going over lines at the table, but I couldn't bring myself to commit to the sketch. Aradhana only had the cast go over lines for maybe 15 minutes and then she moved everybody back to the stage. I was thankful I had held back on this first sketch. It is always hardest to know when to strike. Aradhana was constantly using the camera she got for Christmas to document this intimate show.
On the stage all 5 actresses paced nervously on a grid each of them lost in thought. A loud ticking of a clock filled the space. I only got to see small sections of the performance but I left wishing I had seem more. In the sketch Sarah Lockhard is coaching a woman, curled up in a fetal position, who has just given birth and refused to hold her new born child. Sarah said," You just have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps." Of course nothing Sarah says consoles the woman.
In another scene Lindsay Cohen and Sarah slowly walk to the front of the stage, each stopping in their own corner. Both of them are holding a pregnancy test strips and they kneel down to read them. Sarah's face lit up with joy when she saw the reading on the strip. She was quietly overjoyed and radiant. Lindsey on the other hand remained stone faced. The finding caused her hand to simply go limp and she dropped the test strip as her world turned black.
There was a mad rush to find a light to help illuminate the stage. Someone went home and grabbed a floor lamp. Then it turns out that the outlets around the stage didn't work. Finally an outlet was found and the stage was perfectly illuminated. I had to step out just as the performance was about to start. The room was packed. I am certain this was a hell of a show.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Driving Miss Daisy - Cue-to-Cue

I went to the Garden Theater (160 West Plant Street, Winter Garden) to sketch a cue-to- cue of Driving Miss Daisy, written by Alfred Uhry, produced by Beth Marshall and directed by Aradhana Tiwari. The play runs from February 12th to the 28th. Beth Marshall asked me to sketch this rehearsal only days after she and her husband Chris Foster were in a head-on automobile accident with a truck that pulled onto the road without looking. Chris had a fractured wrist and both of Beth's legs were fractured. As Beth said in a Facebook status update, "We are blessed to be alive, have health care coverage, did not have any kids or animals in the crash and feel your love, energy and prayers. I write for him and he walks for me. True love."
When I got in the theater things hadn't gotten started yet. At first, I sat in the front row but then Aradhana said I should sit halfway back in the house so I would not looking up at the set. She IS the director so I obliged. The lighting designer, Amy, had bought in her baby, a small wide-eyed bundle who knowingly checked me out as I walked by. The director spent some time holding and playing with him before the rehearsal got started. Michael Mormon. who plays Hoke, recognized me from when I sketched the auditions and he walked over to shake my hand and flip through a sketch book. It turns out he is the face of Mardi Gras at Universal Studios, and he wouldn't mind getting more of this still photography work.
When the audience walks in to the theater they will be greeted by a starry night sky above the theater seats. Aradhana leaned back in her theater seat and looked up at the stars and said, "They are magical aren't they?" The stars then fade as they go to cue 2. A vintage recording of "Pennies from Heaven" filtered through the theater. One of the first scenes had the sound effect of an automobile accident and the sound was for me, jarring and unexpected. This is the scene where Daisy, played by Elizabeth Murff, runs her car off the road and thus the son, Boolie, played by Michael Lane, decides that she needs a driver. I couldn't hear that sound without thinking of Beth and Chris.
A cue-to-cue is when the actors are asked to go through each scene with lighting and sound being cued up. This is a grueling start and stop process for the actors who are sometimes just asked to stand around like mannequins while the lights are adjusted. Just as the actors get into the flow of a scene, they might be asked to stop while lighting is adjusted. Sometimes, the actors would joke around like when Michael repeatedly slammed the imaginary car door with the sound cue slamming every time. He had me laughing so hard I could not breath. After several hours of standing on stage, Michael Lane asked if there was a local who knew if the pizzeria was open. A booming loud voice came over the speaker system, "I think so." Michael said quietly, "Thank you, God." A half an hour later, everyone was enjoying the pizza on a well deserved break.
The house lights were always dark for the cue-to-cue so I had to sketch and paint in the pitch blackness. I discovered a new method of working where I turned on my tablet PC and used it as a light to work by. It is a rather high tech flashlight, but its glow worked wonders. The music that transitions from scene to scene in this show is wonderful. It sets a classic nostalgic feeling like I was experiencing the show in the 1930's. As I exited the theater with my sketchbook under my arm, Louis Armstrong was singing, "Heaven, I'm in Heaven." I had to pause before leaving. I sat down in the back row of the theater and leaned on the seat in front of me to let the music wash over me. I really didn't want to leave the theater's magic behind. I am going to try and get in opening night. I just hope it doesn't sell out.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hal Stringer's artist gathering.

At the last minute I was invited to an artists dinner party being hosted by Hal Stringer in Winter Park. Mary Hill had told me about this event once before but the last time it was held, I was driving down to the Keys. When I entered the first order of business was to walk room to room and look at all the beautiful paintings of Florida landscapes. I bumped into Don Sontag a portrait artist who I first met when I worked at Disney and later at the McARae Studios. There was a self portrait by Don in the living room leaning up against a wall and waiting to be hung. There was a blur of introductions and then I asked if I could dig into the Paella that Phillis Miller had made. I thought I was going to leave within an hour to go sketch another dance rehearsal. I was the first to load up my plate and I went into the living room to eat. I only knew a few people at the gathering and as I ate, I started to feel overwhelmed by the sound of all the different conversations. In a crowd like this I start to hear everything at once with no filter. It gets to the point where I don't even notice if someone is talking right at me. Mary Hill suggested I take a look at the artist studio in the back yard.

When I went back to the studio I fell in love with the space. It was a tiny little outdoor shack with exposed beams and a warm inviting interior. Inside a table had been set up and people were seated having dinner. The studio also had an outdoor patio with comfortable lawn chairs with a perfect view of the bright half moon. I suddenly realized I had to sketch so I ran out to my truck to get my sketchbook and supplies. The people around the table were, Elizabeth and Joe Ferber, Maralyn Masters, Sharon Osterhold and Jazz Morgan. After they finished eating they started to paint their dinner plates. All of these plate paintings were abstract and very colorful. One finished plate painting can be seen on the fireplace mantle in my sketch.

A few people became curious about what I was up to, so I found myself surrounded with people who wanted to see my sketchbook. As usual, my eyes teared up from the strain of sketching, and I struggled to recover. The host joked about how he took the longest time to join Facebook. He said "This gathering is face time, not Facebook." Mary came out with a blanket and sat in the lawn chair next to me. We joked for a while about the notion of making a B grade horror film. It is actually a really fun idea that I am now considering doing some visual development for. I was glad I had decided to stay longer at this artists gathering. I got a good sketch and met some talented and inspiring artists.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Brian Feldman Marries Anybody!

Brian Feldman put up an event page on Facebook announcing that he would marry any woman who showed up to the Orange County Courthouse at 3PM on February 8th to get a marriage license with him. They would then have to wait three days before officially tying the knot in a small room in the marriage license office. Brian said this arbitrary marriage would point out the insanity of a state system that will allow total strangers to get married as long as they are of the opposite sex, while denying marriage to same-sex partners who have been together in a loving relationship for 20 years.
When I arrived at the courthouse, Amanda Chadwick was there waiting for Jeremy Seghers. Jeremy arrived and then a Central Florida News 13 cameraman. We spoke with the cameraman for a while and he told us his first marriage had been a mistake. He said the last nine years of that marriage had felt like he was living with a roommate. Jeremy called Brian to see where he was and he said, "only a few blocks away." Brian did not have the cash for the marriage license so he was thinking of calling the project off. Jeremy immediately said he would pay the $93.50 for the marriage license, and that he had better show up! When Brian arrived, the news cameraman interviewed him for a while, before we all made our way through security and up to the third floor.
The hallway and inside of the marriage license office was packed full of people. I wedged myself into a corner and started sketching the marriage license counters, figuring I would catch Brian and his future bride when they finished their paperwork. Three woman stood in front of me with every intention of marrying Brian. Julie Norris, a talk show host for Front Porch Radio, with her 5 month old baby strapped to her chest; Hannah Miller, a puppeteer at Pinocchio's Marionette Theater; and a third woman, Mary Ann Marks, who had heard about the wedding in the newspaper, holding a heart-shaped box of chocolates for Brian. I picked out a delicious round chocolate with caramel inside, after Brian offered them to the crowd. Elizabeth Maupin, the theater critic for the Orlando Sentinel, was also on hand to watch the license signing. She has known Brian since he was a child performer and has always had an interest in his career.
Brian purchased a bottle of Aquafina from the vending machine in the office and then proposed throwing the bottle over his shoulder, having the women catch it like a bouquet. Julie protested, however, thinking her child might get hit in the head. Someone in the crowd suggested he spin the bottle instead, and after a moment's hesitation, he agreed. The bottle spun about four times on the carpet before settling on Hannah Miller.
After completing the paperwork, the couple sat in a waiting area, while the county workers filed and stamped all the necessary documents. Hannah called her father to tell him the good news. There were three video cameras on her the whole time as she spoke to him on the speaker phone. He took the news well saying he just wanted her to be happy. When he addressed Brian he called him "son." Brian fielded several interviews. The couple really didn't talk much.

In a Facebook note, here is what Hannah Miller said about the event...
Why I'm Getting Married To Someone I Don't Love
We're doing it for love... just not ours.
I believe in marriage.
I believe that marriage is a public way to declare the very personal commitment that two people make to one another; to proclaim that their hearts are so incomplete without the other that they must legally bind their property and lives to ensure the union's safety.
I believe that denying same-sex couples the same 1,000+ rights given to couples of opposing genders that choose to marry is tantamount to declaring that GLBT relationships are not valid--or, at the very least, not AS valid as heterosexual relationships. I believe that marriage equality ensures the health and happiness not only of same-sex partners, but also their families. I believe that the denial of marriage rights to GLBT individuals is a denial of the elemental protections the State and Federal government should provide to all individuals, regardless of race, gender, religion, or any other arbitrary defining factor, like sexual orientation.
I am marrying Brian Feldman, a man I don't love, because I BELIEVE.
I hope you believe too.
Please come to our wedding, 3pm at the Orange County Courthouse in downtown Orlando. And please show how MUCH you believe with careful voting choices, letters declaring your beliefs to your State and Federal representatives, and generous donations to a pro-marriage-equality organization such as Brian's favorites, below:
Equality Florida
Human Rights Campaign
P.S. When Hannah Miller got back to her car, she found a $28 parking ticket since the meter had just run out. The costs of getting married just keep climbing!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Guitar Hero

As part of Amanda Chadwick's Seven Days of Celebration, she invited friends over to Rockin Joe's Coffeehouse + Bistro to play Guitar Hero. January twelfth was the actual day of her birth so this day of celebration would count as the official birthday celebration. Rockin Joe's is located in SODO (South of Down Town Orlando). I had never been to this part of town before and I was shocked by the huge Target store that greeted me as I tuned the corner. I could almost hear the heavenly hosts. This mega store stands out like a monolith beckoning shoppers to it's doors. The coffee shop is located on the shopping district built around the Target. It is small and quaint. At the front of the shop is the eclectic sofa, arm chair and coffee tables shown. Jeremy Seghers is seated in the arm chair plotting to take over the world. Once again many of Amanda's friends were SAK comedians so there was plenty of playful banter.
Having never played Guitar Hero, I could not tell you who was winning or who was loosing. Amanda seemed to hold her own but I think she might have had her ass whooped by the more experienced players. While I was sketching I decided to order a peanut butter cheese cake. It was sooooo good! I might go back again just for that cheesecake. Amanda was given a cupcake and we all sang Happy Birthday. As her friends started to leave, Amanda stood on a chair to show a very tall friend of hers what it was like to hug him. When I finished my sketch, people were already starting to drift away. Amanda said I should try Guitar Hero, but I didn't want to make a fool of myself. She was encouraging and supportive, but I think Guitar Hero will have to wait for another day. I don't think being a Rock-star is in my blood.

Monday, February 8, 2010

iMove_2.0: iCandy

The romantic and playful evening of iMove_2.0: iCandy has come and gone, so now I must simply report on what you missed. The multiple dance routines took place in a large open warehouse. My wife, Terry, and I were the first to enter. Brian Feldman was on hand to offer any crowd control that might be needed. There was no assigned seating. As a matter of fact there was just one couch, so for the duration of the evening people milled about gathering in different areas of the warehouse to watch the various dances. I said hello to Zac Alfson who was busy seeing if he could get his tweets up on the big screen. I think he also was taking photos with his phone all night.
What I loved about the show is that art truly imitated life in this open and vibrant setting. The dancers between dances, would mill about the room checking their iPhones or chatting playfully on old telephones with cords! It was fascinating because many of the audience members were themselves tweeting or checking Facebook status updates. They bowed reverently to the glowing information presented on palm sized screens. Terry can be seen checking her iPhone to the right. A screen on the far wall scrolled tweets and movies were projected on large seamless walls. A kissing booth was set up but it offered no actual privacy so I think it went unused. The Twitter bird icon was animated, flying about the room on the walls. Love letters and long streamers with love notes and hearts were everywhere. I picked up a strawberry flavored heart lollipop and put it in my pocket for later.
I sat on my portable stool next to Genevieve Bernard, the choreographer, and I heard her say "Nice choice" when a dancer had to adjust her movement to avoid running into the crowd. Genevieve said she was nervous right before the event because she was concerned people might not understand this open playful way of presenting a performance. Once she saw everyone was mingling and sipping wine, she relaxed and enjoyed the show. She even went out of her way and got me a red wine while I sketched. I spilled a little on the sketch in the upper left hand corner but I don't think it hurt anything.
Doug Rhodehamel, an amazing local artist, stopped over and said hello. I have been trying to arrange to sketch him hard at work on his Spore Project. He explained that there might be a mushroom making party next week sometime, which would offer the perfect sketching opportunity.
My favorite dance routine of the evening involved three dancers who began the dance seated in three chairs. Two of the dancers, Leah Marke and Amanda Oost Bradberry, were constantly drawn to each other in romantic embraces circling and becoming closer, while the third dancer, McClaine Timmerman, would try and get close to the couple while never fully becoming part of the couples dance. In the end she remained alone, her staccato movements reaching towards the heavens as if imploring, yet never answered.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

FRESH - The Coffee Mound

In the final hours before the opening night performance, Jessica Mariko had the dancers do a full run-through of the whole show. I had spent most of the day setting up my art installation of the 2009 Sketchbooks in the entry room. I had fun using a whole lot of junk found in my garage to create my odd, somewhat alienish installation. In the main room I leaned up against a wall and started to sketch. Everyone was rushing around to clean up before the first audience arrived. Bob Kodzis asked Christie Miga where a garbage can was. She pointed towards me and said "Over there next to the artist sketching." It is humbling being a landmark for garbage. When Ashley Kroft and Tin Tin started to explore the coffee mound which is the stage for one of the dance routines, they discovered rocks and glass in the dirt. Ashley, and several other volunteers, had to sift through and remove as much glass and rock as possible. They can never be sure they sifted every inch. Lighting was being installed and aimed right up until the last second. There are no dressing rooms in the Cameo theater so for the rehearsals the dancers changed in the man's room and the women's room became the bathroom. I only discovered this when I had to actually use the bathroom and I almost walked in on a costume change. Right before the performance Jessica poored a whole bag of raw coffee grounds on the mound which filled the room with the distinctive pleasing aroma of coffee.
There was a rumor that someone was going to propose marriage to his girlfriend this night so I had my eyes on the lookout for who that couple might be. For an additional fee some couples were allowed to wander through the Willy Wonka like edible environment on their own before the main crowd arrived. The more daring also had their bodies painted and got Henna Tattoos. This was a small group of couples and I figured the marriage proposal would be among them. Tisse and I debated on which couple it might be and we agreed on a slender young woman who was getting a Henna Tattoo. Her boyfriend however was in his iPhone not really paying attention to her. I wrote this behavior down to nerves and figured he was texting a friend to try and decide when he should pop the question. I kept my eyes on this couple for some time but then out of the corner of my eyes I saw a glint of gold and a woman hugged her fiance and kissed him. I had missed the main event! Bob, who was acting as the MC, announced the proposal and acceptance, and everyone in the room applauded.
If you want a unique sensual and pleasurable evening with your true love, then FRESH is without a doubt the hottest ticket in town!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Yow Dance - 3 In Motion

Tonight - Saturday, February 6th, at 7 PM, Yow Dance will collaboratewith with Valencia Dance and the Dr. Phillips High School Dance department at the Dr. Phillips High School Auditorium (6500 Turkey Lake Road) at part of Arts Fest. This is the sixth year these three dance companies have joined together on the same stage.
Yow Dance marks itself as Central Florida's most dynamic modern dance company. I went to a rehearsal at the Center for Contemporary Dance in Winter Park. Artistic Director Eric Yow was nice enough to take the time to explain a little bit about what they were rehearsing the night I sketched them. "We were rehearsing "Compromising Raven", a favorite piece of older repertory. The music was by Philip Glass. The theme of the piece is quite dark. Iit is about rising above those oppressive feelings that may come about from any of the many variables around you."
Besides drawing dancers at rest and stretching in the background, I sketched a section of the dance where the dancers would be on their knees and bent over in what looked like a position of reverent prayer. They would then slowly rise up into the position sketched and then roll over and repeat the movements. These dancers put in some long hard hours. I had arrived a bit late to the rehearsal since once again, I got lost looking for the place. But I think that panicked, rushed quality to the sketch actually helped breath new life into the sketch.
One of the dancers had her son on the sidelines as she rehearsed. As expected, he became infatuated with what I was doing. He stood beside me pointing to each of the dancers as I drew then and he would identify them for me. When he stood in front of me, David Mooney had to come over and pull him aside. The boy had a non-stop stream of questions and I patiently answered them, but it was a little distracting at times. Dance rehearsals are always inspiring with the non-stop movement and high energy. My sketch developed in pieces as I caught dancers at different times during the rehearsal freezing them at the moment when they best filled their role in my composition. In this way sketching is alot like theater viewpoints exercises, I try and capture scattered illusive moments in time as the action unfolds quickly before me.

Voci Dance - iMove_2.0: iCandy

Sketching Voci Dance rehearsals for iMove_2.0: iCandy, which has its final performance tonight, has been a pure joy. I sit still for so long in the wings, and I am so quiet that I think the dancers forget that I am even there. This suspicion is confirmed when the dancers start joking with one another about their boobs getting in the way during certain dance moves. Genevieve Bernard, Voci's artistic director and choreographer, shouted out to me from where she was sitting, that such discussions are quite common among the dancers. The choreography is athletic and challenging but the dancers fearlessly push themselves time and again until the moves are worked out. This routine being worked out was being co-choreographed by two of the dancers, Leah Marke and Amanda Oost Bradberry. When giving notes, Leigh acted like a Russian taskmaster for a moment; saying, "You must focus!" (pronounced fuckus). Everyone laughed. McClaine Timmerman said to the choreographers, "You must get twice the pay, as dancers and choreographers." Later Genevieve explained to me that everything in this show had to be begged for, borrowed or stolen. This was being thrown together on a showstring with love and faith that it would all fall together come performance day.
The music for this piece was a light enjoyable song with the refrain of love, being sung seven times. One challenging move took the longest time to develop. It involved Kathryn Tosh lying on her back, and Naomi Rhema running towards her crouching down and allowing her pelvis to be supported by Kathryn's feet. She would then use her legs like springs and launch Naomi backwards and up. Other dancers supported Naomi, allowing her to gracefully float back and then land. I didn't try to catch the dancers in moments of fast motion but instead focused on their relaxed poses as they discussed notes and shared ideas. This was a constant collaboration; ideas came from everyone. Critical thinking was relaxed so they could explore and find new territory.
In the spirit of audience interactivity toward which the event is geared, a cell phone photo contest has been initiated in which you could win a date with a Voci dancer. Darn technology is always stealing the thunder from urban sketchers. Tonight is your last chance to see this amazing show and shoot some sweet cell phone photos.

Friday, February 5, 2010

FRESH - Building a Tree

Becky Rankin is seen here adding the finishing touches to a huge tree trunk that now acts as the centerpiece to the FRESH performances now going on at the Cameo Theater. I watched Becky as she delicately interwove branches into the rope and potato sack-like structure. In the background, Christie Miga, one of the DRIP art directors, is working on a waterfall installation which is also part of the show. Christie put out a request for various forms of junk which she wanted to use as the raw materials to built the set pieces. I bought in a VCR and an old air conditioning unit. My VCR can be seen in the foreground of the sketch with its various wires now acting as the delicate inner workings of an exotic plastic flower made from a soda bottle. Using everyday objects in unconventional ways is seen throughout the DRIP installations. Tree branches which had been painted white can be seen at the front of the warehouse. I find myself drawn back time and time again to see what they will come up with next.
Evan Miga told me it took two trips in a U-Haul truck to transfer all of these creations to the Cameo Theater, where they then had just two days to set everything up and make sure it all worked. Evan said that he had tree branches sticking out all around him as he drove to the Cameo in the truck.
I spent all of yesterday at the Cameo setting up a display of my 2009 sketchbooks. Keeping with the theme of the whole show, I ended up hanging my work in a rather unconventional way using found objects and plenty of creativity. I thought it would take only an hour to hang the show, but when the ideas started flowing, I found myself lost in the process for the whole afternoon. From my garage, I bought in some folding closet doors that had been sitting unused for years. I also bought in various Indian drapes and pillows to decorate the space. I had decided to share the space with photographer, Tisse Mallon. She hung her photos from vines made from rope and fabrics. I was delighted at how seamlessly we designed the space. I was amazed that Louise Bova, another exhibiting artist, had bought in folding doors almost identical to the doors I had decided to bring in. This sort of melding of creative minds happened more than once, making it seem like these choices were preordained.
The first run-through in the Cameo Theater in front of a select audience was thrilling to say the least. FRESH indulges all the senses so you really have to experience it for yourself to truly understand it, but I will be sharing many sketches in the next few weeks since FRESH is as exciting as the Moulin Rouge.
Dinner events for couples:
Feb. 5-6 8PM
Feb. 11-12 8PM
Feb. 13, 6:30PM, 9PM
Feb. 14, 6PM, 8:30PM

Brunch events:
Feb. 6th Kids FRESH 11AM (Presented by PLAYGROUND Magazine & Misty Forest Enchantment Center)
Feb. 13 Friends and Singles 12PM
Feb. 14 Big Gay Brunch 12PM

Complimentary Childcare during dinner events on Feb. 13 & 14. (Provided by Misty Forest Enchantment)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Emotions Dance

Larissa Humiston, the artistic director and choreographer of Emotions Dance, invited me out to see the rehearsals for "Muddle" which will be performed Saturday, February 6th at 7 Pm and on Sunday, February 7th at 7PM. "Muddle" combines live music by Damien Simon with a series of dances that illustrate the struggle between the seven sins and seven virtues. Inscribed on one of the dancers shirts read "Evoke emotion through motion."
When I arrived the first day, there was a couple finishing up a ballroom dance lesson in the studio; a lesson on the box step. As dancers arrived, they started to warm up. Larissa welcomed me immediately with a hand shake and said she was excited to see what I do. At first, dancers worked on individual sections working out minor kinks. Later, Larissa had them run through the entire show. This is when the emotional impact of the show truly hit me. I had written down the sins and virtues as a guide, but it was fun to just watch and guess the sins and virtues based on the performances. They were: Temperance & Gluttony, Kindness & Envy, Charity & Greed, Chastity & Lust, Pride & Humility, Sloth & Diligence, Wrath & Patience.
I really loved watching Wrath & Patience. This dancing combination had the greatest contrast of emotions and Dion Leonhard Smith did an amazing job expressing Wrath. She transformed into a vicious beast, her back bending backwards at impossible angles and her hands clenched in fists of rage. The Chastity & Lust performance was also fun for a similar reason. The contrast was extreme and entertaining. For this performance, Dion would be on point as a ballerina, her hands graceful and demure, in stark contrast to her later performance. Cindy Heen did a wonderfully lustful dance that should please any boyfriends who were talked out of watching the Super Bowl.
When the run through was finished, Larissa asked the dancers to gather into the "Circle of friendship." All the dancers sat around in a semicircle and Larissa offered notes and suggestions. To Amanda Cariotto she said "Remember you are humility, you need to be soft in the face. It is all in the line of the body as well, humble soft, eyes down." As a general note, Larissa reminded the dancers to be mindful of what they express through their face as well as the dance. She was very worried that people might show up at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center on Virginia, which is the home for the Orlando Ballet. The Dr. Philips Center for the Performing Arts they are performing at is located across from City Hall at 455 South Orange Avenue. She was also concerned that the performance on Saturday would be packed and Sunday's performance empty because of the Super Bowl. So any women out there reading, if you want to know just how much your man loves you, ask him to come out on Sunday to see this amazing performance. He will be pleasantly surprised.

P.S. I tried to convince my wife to see this dance performance but she insists on watching the big game.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

iMove 2.0: iCandy


Genevieve Bernard invited me to stop in and sketch some Voci Dance rehearsals. The first rehearsal I sketched was at a dance studio in Baldwin Park right near Colonial Drive. As often happens, I had trouble finding the place. I actually pulled right into the parking lot, but the door said it was an art gallery so I left and searched for another building. I finally returned and opened the gallery door. The art gallery was dark. In the far back corner of the gallery I saw a bright light coming from a back room and I noticed mirrors and realized I was at the right place.
When I walked in, dancers were still stretching in the back room of the art gallery. Since rehearsal hadn't started yet for these dancers, I decided to sketch them as they warmed up.
The first dance routine they started rehearsing involved the dancers sitting in chairs in a large circle. I was still finishing up the first sketch when Amanda Oost Bradberry asked if she could use the chair I was sitting in and she offered me a cushioned folding chair as a replacement. I was glad to oblige. I rushed the gallery sketch so I could get into the dance studio and see what they were doing. I often find myself struggling to finish my art as life plows forward.
The chair routine was graceful and a joy to watch. I liked seeing how the dancer's backs arched and their arms flowed in serpentine patterns. In a part of the routine the dancers ran their fingers through their hair as if they were sensually washing it.
The dance studio had one mirrored wall and it resembled a stage even having curtain dividers going back stage. A large black garage door could be opened to join two studio spaces making one large space if needed. There was a playful experimental quality to the whole rehearsal. There was a constant high energy as these women pushed the limits of what was physically possible in dance. I grew exhausted just watching them work and stretch themselves, yet I could not convince myself to leave. I constantly felt the next moment would hold yet another great sketch opportunity.
iMove_2.0: iCandy will be performed February 5th and 6th at 7:30 PM at the Say it Loud Warehouse (1121 North Mills Avenue, Orlando). The building is bright orange on the corner of Highland Avenue and you can not miss it. The first 50 tickets each night are free from the United Arts web site. Otherwise, $10 at the door. There is parking on Mills and all the side streets. This promises to be an amazing event. More posts to come...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Highland Cattle

At the Scottish Highland Games I noticed some people wandering around with these placid quiet cattle on a tether. I didn't get too close since the horns looked very sharp. At the crest of a hill beneath a huge Oak tree, I found this small enclosure with several adults and quite a few calfs. Even though there was plenty of hay to eat in the enclosure the cattle would always approach anyone who held a handfull of hay for them to eat. They kept sticking their wet noses through the bars near me and looking at me with their sad eyes. I guess they thought I had some tender morsel hidden in my sketch pad. Karen Cali, a fellow urban sketcher, was also at the Highland Games and when I told her I had sketched the cattle, she said, "They are hairy and horny just like most men I have known."
Later near the games fields, I was walking over to the food booths, one of which featured a picture of one of these cattle, and the sign said this was the finest, most tender beef you would ever eat. They were selling Highland Beef burgers, but I didn't have the heart to try one. As I got closer to the burger stand, I almost stepped in a large pile of dung. I wondered aloud, "They must have been bringing over one of the cattle on a tether and he read the sign and realized his fate."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Carousel of Progress 35th Anniversary

To commemorate the Carousel of Progress' 35th anniversary at the Magic Kingdom, Brian Feldman decided to experience the ride, his favorite, for as long as the park was open that day - 11 hours straight. In order for me to sketch Brian's performance, I had to arrange some way to get into the park without paying a fortune. I put out a request via Facebook, and Lon Smart, a former Disney Feature Animation colleague, offered to get me in. As I was driving down World Drive toward the Magic Kingdom, Brian Feldman gave me a call and explained that he had arranged for a travel agency to supply him with a ticket. When he got to the Disney World will call ticket booth, he was asked for his ID or drivers license. It was only then that he realized he had forgotten his license, at home: it was sitting on the kitchen table. Brian's performance had been on the news that morning, yet the Cast Member stood fast and refused to give him the ticket.

I called Lon who was converging on the Magic Kingdom on his motorcycle, trying to explain the situation, but our connection was cut off. When I met Brian at the Monorail, I told him Lon might be able to save the day and get both of us in. As we waited at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom, Brian and I both noticed a man holding a black box with a yellow cord hanging from it that looked suspiciously like a fuse. I was standing near a trash can and the man approached me and dropped something inside the can. Needless to say,I backed away from the trash can quickly. The man later handed the black box to someone else who walked away with it. We never did find out what was in the black box.

Lon arrived and was happy to get both Brian and myself into the park. As we walked down Main Street, U.S.A., Lon explained to us that the Carousel of Progress is slated to be disassembled and moved to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. He knows what will replace the attraction, but is sworn to secrecy.

There was no line to get on the Carousel of Progress. Brian and I entered the theater the first time with six or seven other people. A Cast Member announced, "Please no eating, drinking, video or photography." They did not say anthing about sketching, so I immediately set up my portable stool so I could look down the front row of the theater with Brian in the foreground, and started to sketch. The Carousel tells the story of the evolution of technology in 20th century America. According to the show introduction, "The Carousel of Progress has had more performances than any other stage show in the history of American theater". With robots.

After the first performance of the Carousel was over, Brian and I remained seated and waited for the next audience. A few people trickled in and the show began again. A Carousel Cast Member approached me and asked, "Is that Fred?" I responded, "No." He then said, "I heard that someone named Fred was going to ride the attraction all day". I then introduced him to Brian. Brian was not pleased that I had blown his cover. I had placed the entire mission in jeopardy. As I sketched, I noticed video cameras positioned in the corners of the attraction to watch the audience. After the next performance of the Carousel was over, two more gentlemen approached us and said they were there to help us. My sketch was not finished yet, and I was suspicious. "May I help you?" usually means quite the opposite. They said we could get on the ride all day, but we would have to exit each time and then re-enter. They told us we could stand at a roped off area so we didn't have to get to the back of the line each time. But really, come on... "what line?" This was the Carousel of Progress, not Space Mountain!

With the next performance, the ride broke down, and the audience was treated to the same performance by the same animatronics a second time. Over the PA system, a woman who sounded like a flight attendant, asked everyone to quietly and calmly exit the theater. We found ourselves on the backlot and had to walk around to get back in the park.

We didn't know how long the ride would be down, so I started a sketch of Brian as he checked his iPhone and talked to the friendly Cast Member informing gusts of the ride's temporary closure. Before I finished the sketch the ride began again, so it took a little less than two hours for it to be fixed. All during that time, people had to be turned away. Buttons were being handed out in the park announcing the ride's 35th anniversary, so some people were curious.

It took me a while to find Brian again since there are five different theaters, each letting the audience exit in different spots. I experienced the ride a few more times to finish the sketch. It broke down once again, this time in the living room of tomorrow. In this scene, the oven is programed to work via voice activation, and as the family of tomorrow jokes about a high score on a video game, the oven raises the temperature to match the game score, burning the dinner. Smoke billows out of the oven. We had to sit through the same scenario several times, each time having more smoke fill the theater. One woman rushed past me saying, "I'm getting out of here!" When I got out of the theater, I decided my sketch was finished. Brian continued to ride the attraction for the rest of the day. This might be the most daring and dangerous performance he has ever done.

"There's a great, big, beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of every day. There's a great, big, beautiful tomorrow, just a dream away!"