Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jules Feiffer at Rollins College

Jules Feiffer, now eighty one years old, is one of America's finest cartoonists. He has just published an autobiography titled "Backing Into Forward". He came to the Bush Auditorium at Rollins College to talk about "My Life and Funny Times." Former poet laureate Billy Collins introduced Jules to the large audience assembled. Billy said that Jules was a simple man to understand in his mind. He felt that the defining moment in Jules life came when Jules' mother gave away his dog.
Jules spoke about his childhood in the outer borough of New York as a skinny Jewish boy who had only one dream; to be a great cartoonist. His mother designed clothing and she would get just three dollars for each design. Since his father was often out of work, his mom was often the family breadwinner. She put all her hopes in her son.
Jules then showed us a slide show which offered a glimpse at the great cartoonists of the past that he admired. He showed the work of Winsor McCay who created a strip called Little Nemo in Slumberland. He showed us the early Popeye cartoons and felt Popeye was the first superhero who could solve any problem with a good fist fight. In 1937 Superman changed everything. The early Superman comics weren't always the best drawn, but they were very expressive. He felt that Superman was a Jewish boy's wish fulfillment dream of gaining superpowers to finally win Louis Lane's attention. Jules worked for Will Eisner for a while helping draw "The Spirit". The Spirit had a strong feeling of the seediness of the city with high contrast shadows.
Jules tends to like to draw kids. He feels adults over time find ways to disguise how they feel, whereas kids give it all away, their every gesture displays how they are feeling. One of the sketches from his slide show is a funny cartoon he did during the Obama campaign. After JFK was assassinated, Jules became fascinated with theater. He wrote a play called "Little Murders" which was about the breakup of his first marriage. He claims that "Little Murders is the first play to say "sh!t" on the stage. The character of the mother is based on his own mother and he had to talk her out of going to see the production. Jules later went on to write the screenplay for Popeye. This allowed him to bring to life one of his childhood heroes. He wasn't entirely happy with how the director treated his script, but he still loved the experience. Jules said that his feelings of self pity are what made him famous.
He then showed us a series of watercolor sketches that celebrate dance. He explained that he works hard to make the work look and feel spontaneous. He said this series was all about engaging in fantasies about allowing the line to dance on the paper. I was floored by his creative genius and his whole spontaneous an fluid body of work.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Urban Think

Urban Think will be closing it's doors at the end of this month. This downtown bookstore has been a favorite haunt of mine for some time. They hosted authors signing their books all the time and there have been a number of musical events and workshops held there. This book store had a personal touch you just don't find at the big mega bookstores. It will be greatly missed.
Here is a letter from the Urban Think manager about the closing...
"Now that our closing news has hit the street, and the end of the month is fast approaching, we have been hearing from many of our costumers via phone, e-Mail, and in person visits. It's amazing to know how much we were a part of the literary and social circles for so long here in Thornton Park. Being told that we were "the heart and soul of the neighborhood" is a huge compliment, and I rest in the knowledge that I and my co-workers always strove toward that rarefied height. Not many retail shops manage to become such a valued part of their costumers lives.
As manager for nine years, I've been afforded an opportunity to meet some really great readers and authors. Helping to nurture your writing dreams through our many book signings and stock of your books left me with a deep sense of satisfaction, and I saw many of your books do very well. In that respect - yet one among many - I feel like I and my co-workers did something wonderful for Orlando. Keep reading and writing!"

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mega Con

Mega Con held at the Orange County Convention Center is an event where dressing like a super hero was the norm. I went to the convention thinking I might want to pay the twenty four dollars needed to get on the convention floor. Parking however was eight dollars. Having to pay for parking is a pet peeve of mine so I was stewing by the time I got in the convention center. Besides Mega Con, there were several other events going on that day. There was some college recruitment event and a cheer leading competition. I had to walk most of the length of the hall before I found Mega Con. Rather than getting in the long line pay to pay, I wandered over near the entryway to the convention. Gathered all around the entrance were a wide assortment of individuals in costumes. I leaned back against a column and started sketching. During the course of doing the sketch I must have seen at least five different Supermen, including a little ten year old who was so muscle bound with foam that I don't think he could move his arms. Superman would often scoop women of their feet when they posed with him for photos. This sort of voguing was constantly going on as soon as a camera was seen. Cheerleaders with their glittery eye makeup, would cheer with delight if they saw a beloved character. It was impossible to avoid the cameras. Some photographer must have taken about a dozen shots of me working and I wasn't even in costume. When people struck a pose I knew it was only for at most a minute, so I didn't often try to catch those poses. I simply sketched them as they milled about waiting for the next photo opportunity. One small group was playing some hip-hop music on their radio while a young muscular Latino youth kept dancing to the beat. Cheerleaders somersaulted down the hallways.
When I finished up the first sketch I debated for the longest time about paying to get an arm band to walk the convention floor. I decided with only a few hours remaining, it would not be worth it. As I was leaving, I saw several people in costume going up an escalator to the second floor. I followed. They ended up going to a glass walkway that overlooks the whole convention floor. Here they tried to catch peoples attention by waving their arms and dancing in place. This "look at me" mentality seems to be the main point of the convention. It is Halloween on steroids. Were I to have asked people to pose, I am sure I could have had 3 days of non stop sketching fun.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fab Fringe Fundraiser

Beth Marshall suggested I stop down to the Fab Fringe Fundraiser that was held at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater. I had to attend a Bella Fleck concert later that night so I knew my time to sketch was limited. I arrived straight from downtown where I dropped off several of my prints to a client. I was a bit early and I decided to sketch, Carla Davis, the woman who sells the tickets to the event. Pricilla who had attended the Fringe eight times, was at the next table selling Fringe tee shirts and buttons. Within minutes the first Fringe button was sold kicking off this years Fringe festivities. There were three or four photographers buzzing about the event and every one of them wanted to get pictures of me at work. I am getting used to the mild distractions of the sounds of shutters clicking as I sketch. When I finished this sketch I wandered into the Patrons room where tables lined the walls of the circular room with various auction items waiting for bids. I took the business cards of any artists whose work interested me, so I might contact them and see if they were interested in allowing me to visit their studios to sketch.
Tisse Mallon found me and said I had to experience "Theater in a box". Theater in a box was a small fabric box just big enough to seat two people. A woman had just entered the theater so Tisse suggested I get some food and come back. I loaded my plate and then Tisse told me the theater was waiting. I ducked down and entered the totally dark cave sitting in the empty seat. Jeff Wirth who was sitting opposite me turned on a small pen light which was dangling from the ceiling. As my eyes adjusted, he looked around nervously wringing his hands. Finally he said, "I don't know how we will get out of here alive." Slowly our precarious situation was discussed. We were lost on a cave spelunking expedition. This improve drama required that I join in the drama offering my feeble attempts to comfort Jeff, and find a way back to the surface. We had left no trail and there were hundreds of passageways and turns. Outside our dark shelter, I could hear the crowd gathering to enter the theater, but that just reminded me of how desperate the situation was. I realized suddenly that I had bought the Fringe food into the enclosure so I reminded Jeff that at least we had some food. He pointed out that it would not last long. My only way to put a positive spin on the situation was through humor. Then the thought dawned on me, park rangers would certainly send a search team after us when we did not check back in at the end of the day. I also told Jeff that they most likely would have search dogs who would be able to sniff out the food. Jeff took two small pinches off of my roll on the plate. He gave me one pinch of bread. We toasted by tapping the two crumbs together as he said, "here is to survival".

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Timucua - Brazilian Night

Terry and I went to the White House (2ooo South Summerlin Avenue) to experience some Brazilian Samba and Bossa Nova. The White House is the home of Benoit Glazer and his family. I know from past performances that he often plays with his children to start the show off. The performance space is in the Glazer living room, with its high ceilings and a spiral staircase that allows the audience many levels to watch the show from. Terry and I had a late start so we missed this opening act. When we arrived people were loading up their plates with the assortment of food in the entry. There was also a table where guests put their bottles of wine. The place was packed. I heard later that this was the highest attendance that the Benoit family had ever experienced. Terry grabbed a plate of food but I was anxious to find a place to draw from. I waited for her and when we entered the living room we could see that there were no chairs to be found. People were standing all along the walls. We made out way to the spiral staircase but Terry got a small case of vertigo and didn't want to go up. She encouraged me to go on with out her so I climbed up to the top floor where there were only four spectators and I had a great view of the stage from the top of the landing. I started to sketch.
On the stage Edison Campos and Katherine Brodeur were working on a large portrait painting together. The painting gas of a beautiful woman and they worked very fast. The proportions were quirky yet the overall treatment was photo real. The painting was sold as soon as the show ended. Louiz Emiliano brought in two groups to play. The first group was a bit off key, but the lively beat was fun to sketch to. I finished my sketch between sets and went down the spiral staircase to see where Terry was. At the base of the staircase I bumped into Lisa Bates who told me she follows this blog. I am always shocked that there are people out there who read this stuff. Terry was close by so I introduced her to Lisa and left to get a glass of wine. I heard they had a lively conversation and had to be shushed by a woman trying to hear the music. The second group was fantastic and Terry wanted to dance. We got out on the tiny space in front of the stage with a tight crowd and let the music move us. The trumpet player was right in front of me and I could see the sweat pouring off of his brow. This is where I should have sketched from, with the music loud and clear. This sort of high energy concert in an intimate setting is what the White House is all about.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Amanda in the Sky with Guy Mans

The Met Life Snoopy One blimp came to Orlando to fly over the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament. Amanda Chadwick approached the folks who pilot the Met Life Blimp to see if she could go along for a ride, and believe it or not they said yes! She was told to invite two friends. She invited me to sketch the event and Brian Feldman to stream the flight live on TheDailyCity.com. The day prior to our flight, I saw the blimp while I was driving to work at Full Sail, so I decided to sketch it after work. The blimp was held in place by a strong red and white mooring mast and it would change positions like a weather vane every time the wind changed direction.
I was nervous and excited as the day approached. For Amanda, this was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Brian considered flying a remote control blimp inside the gondola, but that plan had been vetoed. The three of us decided to carpool to Orlando Executive Airport where the blimp was moored. She drove to the airport bundled with energy; playing a rap song on the radio which Brian then started making up blimp related lyrics to. She called her mom and explained where her will was, should that be needed, as Brian rolled his eyes. Since I had been to the launch site the day before, I navigated to the road which leads to the air traffic control tower. There were no security fences to worry about, we just drove right up to the blimp launch site. We were shocked, however, because upon arrival there was no blimp! We scanned the horizon in all directions, but it was nowhere in sight. Amanda drove right up to the trailers parked on the launch site and we piled out thinking our dreams of flying had been deflated. She asked a man who was resting in a trailer what the story was, and he explained that the pilot had taken the blimp for a spin and would be back in fifteen minutes. We let out a collective sigh.
While we waited, we wandered out to the mooring mast and checked out the portable air blowers which they must use to help keep the blimp inflated. There was also an assortment of Helium tanks strewn about near the airport fence. Then I saw it, a small bulbous shape on the horizon. I pointed and shouted, "Thar she blows!" The wind was fairly strong so the blimp's nose kept diving down and then pulling back up as it fought it's way up wind. A crew of about 8 men and women gathered on the field and grabbed the ropes hanging off the blimp when it landed on the grass with its nose in the wind. Small wheels were under the gondola and on the bottom tail fin. The handlers grabbed ropes which hung from the front of the blimp, and then they dragged the blimp over to its mooring mast keeping the nose facing into the wind the whole time. Within moments, Geoff, our pilot, got in and we loaded in. Amanda took the co-pilot seat, and Brian and I loaded in the back along with his marquee sign.
The moment the engines fired up and we began to move was exhilarating. The nose of the blimp pointed up and we were in the air. Each of us were given headphones with mics so we could talk to one another. My mic, however, didn't work. The pilot suggested I wiggle the jacks where it plugged into the gondola. Great, things were already going wrong. What had I gotten myself into!? The blimp flies much faster than I thought it would. The pilot said we were going 45 miles an hour, and soon we were flying over the buildings of downtown. It seemed like every time we went over a lake, the nose of the blimp would point sharply down and we would start a nose dive. I had to put my foot on the back of Amanda's chair and brace myself by grabbing the window latch. Brian pointed out that I was grabbing the emergency escape latch, so I grabbed the window frame instead! The pilot would pull back and make the correction and then the metal marquee sign would fall back and hit Brian and I in the knees. I was so worried I might not finish my sketch, that I lost track of our many close calls. I wiggled my headset jacks again and finally got a crackling signal. I could hear everybody in the cabin now but they didn't seem to hear me. Isn't that always the case? Brian said he saw a man running in a parking lot with a Batman cape on. He deduced it might be a crime taking place. We finally reached the golf tournament and could see all the cars parked on grass fields. It was a quiet green automotive oasis. We were a little too high up to see Tiger Woods, but I'm sure I found the street I live on.
When we finally made it back on solid ground, I was feeling a little queasy from all the movements of the blimp. Amanda and Brian both admitted that they got a bit motion sick as well. Amanda rested on the hood of her car talking to friends on her cell and Brian talked to the ground crew and drank plenty of water. We watched for an hour as the crew loaded a large TV camera in the blimp for shooting aerial footage of the golf tournament. As I sketched, members of the field crew came over to see what I was working on. We asked a crew member if he could take a photo of us to commemorate the day. As Amanda drove us back from the airport, she leaned back from the steering wheel and shouted, "I want more adventures!" Since she is looking, she is bound to find them.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thrill Hill at the Lazy Gator Bar

Bike week has been going on in Daytona Beach for the last week, and when I heard there was going to be a bike week party at the Lazy Gator Bar, I had to go. I met Leslie Lormann, the lead singer of Thrill Hill, the band playing that night, at the Parliament House singing Karaoke. The Lazy Gator Bar is located right on Lake Jessup which is supposed to have the highest population of alligators of any lake in Florida. I have heard that any gator trapped in any other small lake is transported here. The bar is a tight intimate space which had to use space heaters since it was cold outside. The second I walked in Thrill Hill was taking to the stage, so Lesley said hello real fast and took to the stage.
As I sketched I realized I didn't have any pencils, so I had to work directly in ink, and worse, I found I didn't have my watercolor brushes. I had left them back at the studio! Dina Peterson showed up and joined me at the front table I had scouted out as a good place to sketch from. She said she tends to usually sit at this table. Since I was struggling with the sketch, she offered me a drink and I decided to get a $ 3 bud which came in a Lazy Gator mug which I later got to keep. To add color to the sketch, I poured some beer onto my palette and mixed the colors with my fingers. That is right, this one is a Budweiser finger painting, and after all is said and done, it didn't turn out half bad.
Thrill Hill is a cover band, and Leslie sang a full assortment of modern pop songs. Several time she announced that she was going to sing a Carrie Underwood song. I kept thinking she was going to say Carrie..oke. Once my sketch was finished Dina and I shouted back and forth, leaning in to try and hear what was being said. I pointed out that it was embarrassing to have to take to a karaoke stage after Leslie had performed since she was obviously a pro. When Thrill Hills set was over, I showed Leslie my finger painting and she then started showing it to just about everyone in the bar. I was a bit embarrassed since, well, it was a finger painting. I found myself surrounded by people curious about what I do. The nice thing is that I got several leads on other possible events where I might sketch. Dina said she wasn't sticking around for the second set, and since my sketch was done, I decided to leave as well.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

DRIP - The Pollock Project

Beth Marshall is presenting a theatrical collaboration with DRIP to bring Jackson Pollock's turbulent and brilliant life to the Mennello Museum of American Art. The Pollock Project will be part visual art, part performance, part history, part dance and part music. This collaboration will explore the marriage of Jackson Pollock's art and the human condition. This Mennello Museum is now displaying "Auspicious Vision" which features works from Edward Wales Root's personal collection of American art. Jackson Pollock's work is on exhibit along with paintings by William de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Edward Hopper among other artists through May 23rd.
I went to the DRIP warehouse to watch a rehearsal for this multimedia project. In the center of the huge space was a large yellow wooden platform which had a large Plexiglas "canvas" mounted on top. The dancers were high up on ladders and Jessica Mariko turned on the recording of music performed by Phillipp Vandre and the Turfan Ensemble. I remembered this high pitched, plunking, haunting modern music from a video I had watched about Pollock when I researched his painting methods for a Halloween costume I made which I called "Jack the Dripper".
The dance begins with the dancers struggling against gravity as they slowly climb the ladders. Upon reaching the heights, the dancers begin painting with wooden stirring sticks in unison with fluid motions. The dance surged with the electric energy of the music. Watching Pollock work is much like watching a ballet. He would lay his large canvas on the floor and walk around and on the painting as if dancing on its surface. He would bend at the waist as he waved his arm like a farmer sewing seeds onto his field. He was essentially drawing with paint, the lines fluid without describing a specific form. His work was about expressing feelings rather than illustrating them.
After the dancers finished the painting on Plexiglas, I wandered over to look up at they had created. The paint was a bit too thin so it just pooled upon the plastic like mercury, not retaining any linear forms. Jessica decided next time they would have to use thicker paint. There was also some concern as to how they would clean up once the piece was done. It would be impossible to transport the huge sheet of Plexiglas outside to hose it down. I suggested they stretch a thin plastic film onto the frame and then they could poke a hole in the center when they were done and drain the paint into a paint can. I will be curious to see how they resolve this in the end.
I am very excited to see how this artistic collaboration turns out. There are only two performances of "The Pollock Project": Saturday March 27th at 7 PM and Sunday March 28th at 2 PM.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Toast to Elizabeth Maupin at the Rep

I bought some potato salad, macaroni salad and soda and headed down to the Orlando Reperatory Theater in Lock Haven Park for the toast to former Orlando Theater critic Elizabeth Maupin. When I pulled into the parking lot, Elizabeth was just getting out of her car so for once my timing was perfect. When I got inside I was directed as to where I should place my food items. I wandered the room wondering where I should situate myself for a sketch. I spoke for a while with actor, Alan Gallant, who had played Orson Wells in "War of the Worlds." I learned a bit about what it is like to try and make a living in this town as an actor. I then spoke with Zac Alfson who was just back from NYC where he attended a marketing workshop. A woman stood on the small makeshift stage and shouted "Start eating!" I admired her directness and kind of wish politicians could be that straight forward and to the point.
When I saw where Elizabeth was going to sit, I decided to go up to the second floor balcony so I could get a good overhead view of the whole scene. The railing was too high for me to see over with simply my stool. So I pulled up a chair then put my stool on top of it. This high precarious perch gave me an overall view of the proceedings. She can be seen in the lower right hand corner of my sketch with her husband and three other men. As everyone was eating, I finished up the initial line work. Brian Feldman walked in with his marquee sign. He saw me up on the balcony with hand signs, he asked me where to place it. When he found the right spot, I gave him a thumbs up. He went to the men's room and while he was gone, someone took it upon themselves to rotate the sign towards the front door. When he came back in, he looked up at me with a "what the f...) expression. I gave a hand rotation signal and he rotated the sign back so I could see. Zac came upstairs to see how my sketch was going. He asked if he was in it, and I hadn't sketched him. I told him if he socialized in the center section of the room, I would put him in the sketch. So he is in the sketch, twice actually, once standing and also seated.
When performers took to the stage I was adding washes. One song in particular was really heart warming, I wrote down the only note for the night, "Where's the challenge if you never try?" Another song spoke about how we meet certain people in our life who help us grow. My mind wandered and I reflected on the good friends I have met since I have started sketching theater productions. I felt a warm connection to this theater community. Or, as Margaret Nolan said in a Facebook status update, "The evening had a great energy and was full of heart and soul. Just what the world needs!"

Monday, March 22, 2010

TheDailyCity.com Mobile Art Show #7

Mark Baratelli of TheDailyCity.com and I discussed the idea of exhibiting my work downtown for some time, and on the third Thursday of March everything fell into place to make this event happen. Mark rented the truck and drove it to Frames Forever & Art Gallery, owned and run by Katie Windish. Katie offered advice on how to hang the work in the truck. I did a huge version of a previous Mobile Art Show sketch and I blew it up so it covered the side of the truck facing the gallery. It was a fairly easy job to tape the large sketch to the truck. I used a hanging strategy I created at FRESH where the sketchbooks were framed in shadow boxes and hung from the ceiling. The plan then was to wallpaper as much of the inside of the truck as I could with prints of sketches I had done over the last year. Hanging this work simply involved two pieces of scotch tape for each sketch; not really as much of a task as I had figured it might be.

When six o'clock rolled around, I met Mark down at the CityArts Factory parking spot. He pulled up and honked. We quickly started taping and hanging Christmas lights, wires and sketches. I managed to drop one of the shadow box frames and it shattered on the floor of the truck. I had to use scotch tape to hold it together for the duration of the show. People started entering the truck and looking around even as we worked. The prints started selling immediately. Every time I walked in the truck I sold one or two prints.

Through Facebook, I arranged with Tamara Gray to get a model who works at Universal Studios dressed up for Mardi Gras and on stilts making her nine feet tall. The idea was that the model, Lyn Sky, would grab people's attention as they walked down the street towards the CityArts Factory openings. We invited artists to come out for a free sketching session right on the sidewalk and perhaps five or seven artists in all came out and took advantage of this free modeling offer. I started this sketch, but kept getting pulled away for radio and TV interviews. There was a Kerouac House fundraiser going on at Urban Flats right up the street. Summer Rodman and Kim Buchheit both from the Kerouac House stopped by and admired the show. Emma Hughes stopped by to pick up an original sketch I had done for her parents. It seemed like my attention was being diverted every few seconds. The sketch of Hannah Miller in her wedding dress sold while Hannah was in the truck looking at other works. She wondered aloud, "Why would they want a sketch of me?"
Just as I sat down and started putting on some final washes on this sketch, I realized the evening was over. Now we had to break down the show and load everything into my truck. After everything was packed away, Mark, Brian Feldman and myself went to IHOP for some pancakes and some lively late night discussion. The whole quirky show was an exciting whirlwind of activity, a once in a lifetime experience.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Maupin!

Elizabeth Maupin was the theater critic for the Orlando Sentinel for 26 years. She decided it was time to leave the paper and start a new chapter in her life. In honor of her final day on the job, Brian Feldman read selected reviews she had written for the Sentinel. This eight hour event was broadcast live on brianfeldman.com, Qik, Vokle and Livestream. Viewers were encouraged to request specific reviews with names and dates of the productions. When I asked Brian if I could sketch this performance, he tried to encourage me to sketch from the comfort of my home. I had to explain that sketching a computer screen didn't offer the life and vitality that I get when I am sketching places the audience usually doesn't get to see. On the day of the event he fired off the address. When I arrived I had some trouble seeing the building numbers, but then I spotted his tell-tale mini marquee sign in a ground floor window. Since he was reading all day, he simply left the door open and I slipped in without a sound. I immediately sat down and started sketching. Brian never even turned to see who had entered, he is such a pro.
The space was an amazing twisted technological mess. Wires snaked around the floor and posters and assorted paperwork were hung everywhere. It was ironic that all the audience could see was a single Shakespeare poster behind Brian. That poster was the one note of decorative calm in the storm. Some review requests were also rather ironic. For instance, a request came in to read a review that changed a playwright's life. He wrote a play and was so excited when it got to the stage. However, Elizabeth's review was so scathing, that he decided to give up the theater and work in city planning. Many of the reviews were Fringe related. Brian was constantly scanning the multiple screens and windows to bring up reviews and try and keep all the video streams working. This was a nonstop juggling act with many stops and starts.
Elizabeth has just started a new blog titled "Elizabeth Maupin on Theater", so the next chapter of her life has already begun. The theater community can sigh with relief, since Elizabeth's voice and opinions will still be heard.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival

On Friday March 19th, the 51st Annual Winter Park Art Sidewalk Festival started. I decided to go right after work at Full Sail when Kathy Blackmore told me that there was going to be a jazz band featuring songwriter Peter White kicking off the night's festivities on the main stage. I knew I had other commitments over the weekend, so this would likely be my only chance to sketch the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival. I would be exhibiting my art at the Outsider Art Fair at Frames Forever (941 Orange Avenue Winter Park). There, I plan to sketch Doug Rhodehamel, who makes his unmistakable mushrooms out of brown paper bags, and Brian Feldman, who will be performing "sleepwalk 2, i walk over you". Both of these are priceless sketch opportunities.
When I arrived at the festival, I wandered and soaked in the energy and excitement of all people gathered for the event. The outdoor cafes were packed. Conversations were buzzing. My pace quickened. As I looked through several artists booths, I ran into Terry and Rick Loewen. Terry and Rick are old friends from ORCA which stands for Orlando Reef Caretakers Association. Terry and Rick informed me that ORCA would be hosting the Marine Aquarium Conference of North America this September, so this is certainly an event I hope to sketch. They told me I could get a hotel room discount at the Marriott Resort, which didn't make sense at first. But then they told me they would have a Margarita making machine in their room and I agreed, a hotel room was a great idea! If you happen to work at the Marriott, I made that last piece of business up.
I was anxious to find my way to the Winter Park Arts Festival jazz, so I told Rick and Terry I would see them by the main stage. The lawn in front of the stage was already crowded. I walked down the sidewalk and found a spot between artist's tents where I could sit. I of course started sketching immediately since the sun was setting. A couple asked if they could sit in the spot next to me and, of course, I agreed. When I was about halfway through the sketch, the man seated next to me who was sipping a red wine, put his hand on my shoulder and said, "I love your work, can I see the sketch?" The watercolor was still wet in spots, but I handed it over. He shared it with his wife and they agreed, that they wanted to buy it. I gave him my card so he could check out the blog and told him to leave a comment if he still wanted it. I hope I have found another reader!
The Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival continues at Central Park in Winter Park through March 21st at 5 PM.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Project F - First meeting

Project F will explore the many facets of social networking and community on the Internet through the lens of Facebook using a theatrical microscope. At this first meeting, Aradhana Tiwari, the director, asked all the actors who were in the circular patrons room at the Shakespeare Theater to read a commitment contract. Actors would each read a sentence in turn when they felt inspired to do so. Sometimes several actors would jump in and read the line together...
I promise to be an artistic adventurer. I will navigate this process with the wonder of a child and the wisdom of an old soul.
I will strive to stretch myself outside of my comfort zone and expand my range of artistic identity. I will always try my best, give my all and share my utmost.
When I enter the space I will leave the baggage and stresses of the day at the door. I will breath in the energy of a blank canvas and look to paint upon it.
I will believe in the process...even when it's hard, even when I am tired, even when I have doubt.
I will embrace collaboration as a gift and tend to it with grace, patience and respect. I will be honest about my point of view while opening myself up to other's viewpoints.
I will always try. I will fail. I will try again. I will succeed. I will understand that succeeding is to try.
I will respect my fellow artisans by honoring our work with my steadfast, and punctual attendance. I will make discoveries about my artistic self and attempt to grow in ways I don't expect.
Aradhana asked the actors to split up into groups of four or five. Then she gave each group packets with 5 statuses written in chalk on black paper and assorted objects. Within one minute the actors were asked to create a scene using the props and statuses. The groups then performed each in turn as the rest of the actors sat in the audience and watched. The perfomances were fun, unexpected and at times bizarre.
Afterwards, she asked the actors what they found frustrating about the process. Actors found the time constrain rather tight and the props obscure. One actor said he was always second guessing himself. When asked if the emerged a leader within the groups, no one wanted to admit that a leader ever emerged. Perhaps there was not enough time.
Aradhana then asked the actors to walk in a grid pattern on a stage area she had set up with four chairs in a Viewpoints session. First she asked the actors to consider their tempo, how fast or slow they moved. Then they explored duration, how long they might stay in a particular speed. They were asked to explore stopping and stopping. Then they explored kinesthetic response, the physical reaction to movement outside of themselves. She asked the actors to allow everything to affect them and to be open and listen and react through their bodies. They were asked to open themselves to surprise encounters. At this point Michael Sloan and Sarah Lockhard found themselves back to back locked together like puzzle pieces. Sarah smiled and leaned her head back. I wish I had sketched fast enough to catch that moment.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Saint Patricks Day

I loaded up my watercolor palette with the last of my sap green paint, and headed downtown right after work to see what the bars looked like. I got downtown around five thirty and things were already packed. I considered a small Irish pub down on Magnolia but I didn't notice a nice place to lean back and relax while I sketched. I walked towards Wall Street and discovered that the whole area was fenced in and a cover charge was being collected. There was going to be a band playing U2 songs later that night. I didn't want to pay a cover charge just to sketch, so I walked down Orange Avenue and stopped in the midst of three pubs in a row. I was impressed by the size of the security guard and decided he would be the anchor for my scene.
There was plenty of activity with people coming and meeting up then moving on. There were many women in very tight mini skirts even though it was a rather blustery afternoon. It actually started raining which caused me to panic a bit as I threw down lines. One fellow was shouting into his cell phone at his girlfriend. "You f*#%!ng C*#"t you are a lying piece of S%*^t. This lively exchange continued for some time, after which he stormed back into the bar. I suspect that relationship might not last too long.
As I worked I was getting cold leaning against my light post. A homeless man stooped to pick something up on the sidewalk in front of me. I am sure the drama in the scene would unfold as the night progressed, but I decided it was too cold to do another sketch, so I packed up and headed home. I still had tons of work that night to get ready for my "Mobile Art Show" across from City Arts Factory the next day.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Florida Film Festivel Preview Party

The Enzian Theater held a sneak preview of the films that will be featured in this year's Florida Film Festival. When I arrived, there was quite a crowd gathered at the Eden Bar outside. As I was milling about, I bumped into Jordana Meade, the Enzian publicist, and I was pleased and delighted when she directed me to a table inside to pick up a press pass for the festival. Back outside, Lynn Warnicke was shouting at me from behind the table where they were issuing wristbands. I thought I was above needing a wristband after getting my shiny new press pass, but she insisted I needed one and closed the deal when she told me I could get a free beer. Band me up! The free beer was being offered by Peroni and I quickly picked one up from the lovely woman behind the bar. It was rather sharp-tasting and thin for my tastes, but hey, that didn't stop me from drinking it.
In the theater, there was an area roped off for press, and it took me a while before I finally realized that meant I could sit front and center. Feeling self-conscious, I ducked under the rope. I immediately found an empty table and started sketching. Mark Baratelli and his crew from TheDailyCity.com came over to my table and joined me. They all had samples of the food being offered. I had skipped the food not wanting to wait in line. Jordana sat down with us saying, "I want to join the cool kids." She explained that the theme of the festival has to do with savoring the flavors of the south. Deena Beena had a bright pink pickle and Jordana explained that it was a pickle soaked in Kool-aid, called a Koolickle, and it was a southern delicacy. In a gift bags given to all the press, there was also Barkolate, which is chocolate covered bacon provided by Chateau Confections of Winter Park. This year the festival has a deal with Nestle and they have an endless supply of Cranberry Raisinets!
Back on stage, Governing Board Member, Henry Maldonado,gave a brief introduction to a film which highlights what the Festival has to offer this year. The Florida Film Festival allows you to rub shoulders and even share a drink with the filmmakers themselves. I know that this year I will be offering plenty of sketches from the front lines of this amazing festival which runs from April 9th to April 18th. Mark your calenders and get ready for an exhilarating experience. Welcome home to ten days of film, food and friends.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Orlando Psycho City Derby Girls

I arrived at the Universal Skating Center (866 South Goldenrod Road) straight from the Holi Festival. My neck, forehead and ears were covered with bright pink and green powdered pigments. I immediately walked to the back of the rink to the sinks that were outside the bathrooms. There was only one mirror, so I would soak a paper towel in water and then go to the mirror to see how much pigment I could wipe off. I actually think I just rubbed the pigments deeper into my skin and spread them around. Several Derby Girls rolled out of the women's room and did a double take when they saw me. I was hogging two sinks so I moved my art supplies out of the way for one of the Derby Girls.
In the concessions area new recruits were filling out paperwork. This event was a way to introduce the league to these new recruits. All of the members of the league rolled out onto the rink. The two women who had let me know about the league, were Berlin Wall and Felix Bash it. They both saw me sketching and came over to introduce themselves. They accepted my colorful garb since I was an artist. Every woman in the league has a nickname, some of my favorites were Anita Priest, Snatch face-riot, Kung-Fu Kitty and Sister Mary Mayhem.
New recruits were encouraged to join the league veterans out on the rink. Everyone formed a large circle. After the basic introductions, a fast-paced game of tag was initiated. A recruit would get up and start skating around the rink. Then on the opposite side, another girl would get up and start skating behind her. If the recruit was tagged, she lost. Several times girls without skates would get up and run around the rink and of course they were easily tagged.
Laura Kohler (Berlin Wall) invited me to come back any time. I saw dozens of sketch opportunities, and I can't wait for the main event!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Chemonologues

Marilyn Wattman, a cancer survivor, wrote Chemonologues and I went to the first reading of the play at Theatre Downtown (2113 North Orange Avenue). The play reading was supported by a professional development grant from United Arts. When I got to the theater, the front doors were locked. Tommy Wingo was also waiting with a huge collection of sound equipment. He made a cell phone call to Brian Feldman, Marilyn's son, and was told to knock loudly. Sure enough, after several loud knocks the doors opened. Marilyn immediately greeted us and showed us into the theater. Tommy set up in the center section and I sat down at stage left and started sketching the stage area. I used my time by penciling all the chairs in the proper locations and when the actors arrived I sketched each in ink on a chair. The theater is a dark intimate space and I fell in love with it immediately.
Chemonologues is set up as a cancer survivors support group. Marilyn interviewed dozens of cancer survivors in order to find the different voices in the play. She began as a reporter but over time realized she was personally and intimately involved. During the talk back after the reading, Mr. Feldman got choked up as he described how Marilyn hated going to support groups. He continued by pointing out the never-ending costs of cancer; medical bills keep piling up and there is no way for the family to deal with it.
Several times during the reading characters clashed and disagreed, but overall the play was more educational rather than dramatic. The information is presented in a preachy manner at times rather than being presented through conversation and action. For me, the play ran too long, but I can see the amazing potential in the premise. One audience member pointed out that too many of the characters in the play were in the acceptance stages of the disease. She wanted to see other stages of grief and denial, like anger, bargaining and depression. She pointed out that it would be nice to get more of a feeling of the day-to-day struggles of living with cancer, and how our health care system often leaves survivors up the creek without a paddle.
The harsh realities presented in this play are difficult to face, but I do feel I understand and can empathize more with families that have to live with the disease. Most everyone I know has had their family touched by cancer at some point and yet it is not something that we talk about very often. This play is a diamond in the rough that could still use some more polishing.
Thumbs up to the cast who only read the play once before this reading and to Marilyn who is taking bold chances, and I hope she continues to do so.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

In the Heights - Stage

"In the Heights" takes place in the neighborhood I lived in for ten years while I struggled to make my way as an artist in NYC. The view of the George Washington Bridge and all the mom and pop shops on Broadway are all very familiar. What is new, is the vibrant score which is a mix of rap, hip hop, salsa and meringue. The sound in the Bob isn't the best, so I had some trouble hearing lyrics, but the rhythm, beat and dancing same through loud and clear. What impressed me most about the production was the lighting done by Howell Binkley. He managed to catch the early morning way the sunlight would illuminate the tops of the buildings with a warm orange glow. At the end of the first act there was a fourth of July fireworks display that was masterfully crafted using lighting and sound.
To do this sketch I sat in the back row of the balcony, in nose bleed territory. I had a book light but became concerned that it was far to bright. Instead I sketched clandestinely in the darkness. An usher stood behind me the entire time I was working. This sketch should never have been created, but I am so glad that it was. The title "In The Heights could also refer to the fact that I did this sketch from the last seat in the last row of the balcony, nose bleed territory!
The show hits so many universal themes, like yearning to break free, living up to parents expectations, finding one's place in the world and finally discovering a place where you belong, finding home. I lived in Washington Heights for ten years yet never called it home. This show made me feel nostalgic about that time and neighborhood. The show is about hope and believing you might someday be able to change the world. I love the idea that the work of a graffiti artist could cement the thoughts of Usnavi, who yearned to get away, making him realize he was already home. On the final note of the final number the whole cast stood united singing "Home" in glorious harmony. That note left me feeling a warm glow, and I left the theater humming the tunes on the whole drive home.
There are only two performances left for "In The Heights" those are today, March 14th at 1 PM and 6:30 PM. This really was a fun show that for me hit all the right notes.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

In The Heights - Opening Night Cast Party

The Florida Theatrical Association the non-profit organization that presents Broadway shows here in town gave me a tip on where to find the cast party for "In the Heights". I haven't seen the show yet but I lived in Washington Heights for ten years when I lived in New York City. "In The Heights" therefor is already in my blood. The stage set photos I have seen look like it could be from a city block just north of where my apartment was. I could see the George Washington Bridge from where I lived. I can't wait to see and sketch the show.
The cast party was held at Mucho's Mexican Bar (101 East Eola Drive) in downtown Orlando. The bar is right across the street form two floors of office spaces that the Florida Theatrical Association just bought in the Sanctuary Building. There is over 20,000 square feet of space in the building. On the ground floor there is a theater which as of now still has dirt floors and on the second floor there is the huge empty space I sketched.
When I arrived at Mucho's I was given an orange arm band and I immediately sat at a corner table and started sketching the room. Ron Leger came over and introduced himself. I was honored to find out he follows this blog and supports what I am trying to accomplish. Staff put out the salsa, sour cream and opened up the hot dishes. After 10:30 PM a large black Hummer drove up to the entrance of the bar and I knew the cast was starting to arrive. I got a beer and a plate of food before the room became packed. What followed was of course a feeding frenzy with many loud and fast paced conversations going on. The room was filled with excitement. Cast members were congratulating one another and discussing the finer points of the nights performances. Chris and Jennifer sat at the table next to me. He plays in the Orchestra for the show and I think she is his wife. We introduced ourselves but then I got lost in the sketch again and lost track of what they were talking about. A couple across the way started practicing some dance steps and then they both sat back down laughing. Much of the time as I tried to sketch I was faced with a wall of peoples backs, blocking my view. Rather than get frustrated I would glance off at some other section of room and draw that. Since I hadn't seen the show, I didn't know who any of the major players were. For tonight that wasn't my concern. I just soaked up all the energy and excitement in the room and tried desperately to get it down on paper.
As I put the last washes down, people started leaving. The lights came back up and I closed my sketchbook and headed home.

Friday, March 12, 2010

In The Heights - Chat Back

I went to a Chat Back at Barnes and Noble for "In the Heights". Rayanne Gonzalez and DeWitte Cooper sat in front of a small audience on the second floor of the book store. I arrived a few minutes late and as I sat down DeWitte was explaining how he got the part of Benny in the show. He was working for Disney in the Finding Nemo Stage Show. He got a call from a friend saying that "In the Heights" was looking for actors of his general build and age. So he took a trip to New York City and auditioned. Of the 300 actors who auditioned the first day, only five remained and he was one of those five. The auditioning continued for another three days. When he realized that he was being considered for the lead part he poured his heart and soul into the audition. He said that the cast really gets along well and that it is like an extended family.
Reyanne has a young daughter that she is taking along with her on the tour. She makes sure her daughter visits every children's museum and aquarium and zoo in every town they visit. She is hoping this education will stay with her daughter for a lifetime. When asked what she felt is unique about "In the Heights", she said the show is about community and pride in the place you live. It is about discovering what it is that makes you feel like you belong. It is about home, family and hope, all universal themes not limited to the Washington Heights community.
I lived in Washington Heights for ten years. The block this play takes place on is just a few blocks away from my old apartment. I have sketched on the streets where this play is set many times. I am very familiar with this neighborhood with its corner bodegas and backgammon played on cardboard boxes. It is a shame that when I lived there I was always dreaming of getting out of the neighborhood, to make my mark somewhere else. This play reminds me that there was a vibrant community right under my nose if I had just taken the time to get out and discover it. So now I find myself in Orlando, and now I am reaching out and trying to discover the community that I call home.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Oscar Party

Matt McGrath put out an invite on Facebook for his annual Oscar Party and my wife Terry wanted to go. Matt is the producer of Project F which is a theater production that I pan to follow closely. I had attended Holi Fest earlier in the day and I was covered with brightly colored chalks. I didn't have time to go home and change, so I just shook out my jacket, and wiped as much color off from my face and neck as I could. I went to the Viet Garden for dinner just before going to Matt's and I had my favorite dish Pad Tai and a beer.
When I parked outsides his place I could see that he was rushing around the living room cleaning up. I realized I was probably the first to arrive. The walkway up to the front door was decorated with a red carpet of sorts. It was held in place however with gray duck tape which kind of threw off any hint elegance. A strobe light kept blinking which Matt later explained simulated flash bulbs going off. The door had a large silhouette of a golden statue.
I was indeed the first to arrive, but Matt was gracious and offered me a beer and I sat at his bar in the back patio. Later a friend referred to the space as "Matt's Man Patio." Besides the bar with it's fully functional tap of Guinness, there was a stripper pole and a pair of animating breasts on a plaque. He also had one of those bar trivia games and I tried playing a game where you had to find 5 differences between two photos. I lost every time. There were four red sheets covering some of the screened windows and each had a golden statue in the center. Bright gold streamers divided the window decorations. All of the food for the party was named after Oscar nominated films, the most obvious being a stack of 7 UP cans for the movie UP.
Slowly Matt's friends arrived and surrounded the bar. We all started filling out our pics for the winning categories. I started feeling sure of myself, but halfway through the list, I was filling out answers by guessing, since I hadn't seen enough of the films to make an educated guess. Most of the people at the party were actors and actresses and there was plenty of catty remarks about the gowns being worn in Hollywood that night. A few people came to Matt's party dressed to the nines as well. I was dressed in my Sunday best but I had been covered with chalks at Holi fest that morning and I didn't get all the chalk off. Louise Bova had a friend visiting her from Brooklyn and she called me on my cell and asked if I knew of any good Oscar parties. I talked to Matt and we invited her and her friend over. My wife dressed up as Nora Desmond with an antique hat she had just bought at the Mount Dora Antiques fair. She had long black gloves and plenty of sequins. If there had been a prize for best costume she would have won.
I was drinking Guinness all night, but I still got cold outside and eventually moved into the living room. In the living room my ears started getting warm perhaps from the drink so I bounced back outside. Matt's big screen TV outside had the ability to freeze and even rewind. When I went out there I saw the same category being awarded that I had just witnessed in the living room. I debated about shouting out the winner, but held my tongue.
At the end of the night as we tabulated the results of everyone's Oscar ballots, I discovered that I only got 6 out of 47 categories right. This was a sad showing indeed. Next year I plan to study up. The winner got 13 categories right and left with a gift bag of trinkets. As he said, "Its not what you win that matters, it the winning that counts." He was sitting right next to me when we filled out out forms, I should have cheated.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Holi Festival

Holi or the Festival of Colors is celebrated every spring by Hindus, Buddists and Sikks. It is primarily celebrated in countries with large Indic diaspora populations. From what I read, I anticipated people decorating themselves with brightly colored chalks. This was something I had to sketch. I read that this celebration was taking place right here in Orlando so I packed my art supplies and drove over to the Citrus Bowl where it was taking place. That evening I was also going to a Oscars party so I put on a nice suit and dress pants.
When I arrived at the Citrus bowl, I could hear the very loud music. Parking was $10 which was annoying, but I bit the bullet and drove into the dirt lot. When I entered the fenced in area where Holi Fest was happening there were a few tents set up for food and assorted goods. There was a table full of colorful, romance filled and vibrant Balliwood DVDs. Leaning against the fence were a wide variety of paintings of Krishna, Radna and other exotic and beautiful gods. The place was rather deserted when I got there. People were just setting up and the sound engineers were standing near the stage truck and the huge wall of speakers. As I was finishing my sketch of the main stage, a woman approached me from behind and rubbed her hand along the back of my neck. I thought, well, isn't that friendly. Then when I looked back at my sketchbook, I saw that the page was covered in bright pink powdered pigments. I quickly blew off as much pigment as I could but some had landed in a wet patch of watercolor so it remained. Then I noticed that my suit jacket was also coated in the pigment. Glancing around I realized that the field was now filled with hundreds of people, most of them dressed in white and covered in various pigments.
With my first sketch finished, I stated wandering around the crowd looking for my next subject. Everywhere I looked people were throwing or wiping brightly colored chalks on each other. People were using super soakers full of pigmented water and squinting each other. I was in a colorful war zone. I backed myself up against the fence and relaxed in the shade of a tree for a while.
Rather than try and draw the huge and constantly moving crowd, I decided to approach these children who were relaxing behind the speakers. I asked I they minded me sketching them, and the young girl said, "Of course not!" I sat a few feet away and started working. I was anointed with pigments several more times as I worked on this sketch. I realized that I stood out like a soar thumb since I was the only man in a black suit and everyone else was dressed mostly in white. I slowly blended in as I became more colorful. Performers who approached the stage would walk right in front of me. They were smart, having covered themselves with long raincoats which they only took off when they got on the stage. There was music and dancing all afternoon. Songs often would have to do with the epic love story of Radna Krishna. I didn't understand the words, but the spirit and playful fun of the event were not lost on me. By the time I finally decided to leave there had to be several thousand people crowded on the field. Everyone was brightly colored and often soaking wet. The family I sketched had flown from New York State to Orlando just to go to this event. I gave the mother of the children I had sketched the address to this blog so she could get a copy of the sketch. She then offered me a huge plate of Indian food which was fantastic. There was an apricot pastry, and several really tasty Guijia, which are fried dumplings. It is often impossible to sketch and observe an event without it coloring and influencing my life. How great that Orlando still offers new and unexpected experiences. This is a fabulous, fun and free event that I certainly plan to attend again next year.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

ZOOm Air Adventures

03-07-10ZipLines
As I was sketching at the Lazy Gator bar, Dina Peterson told me about the Sanford Zoo which as a Zip line course set up. I had seen the course set up a few months ago when I went to the zoo for a party hosted by one of Terry's clients. I realized that this was something I should sketch and possibly experience. Dina and a group of friend were going to do the course Saturday or Sunday and I figured I should sketch before they all showed up. I went to the zoo two hours early to give myself a chance to get a sketch under my belt before people arrived. It was a beautiful day and I walked the course for a while trying to decide where to look. People were in constant motion as they progressed over the ropes wires and suspended logs. I finally set my chair down and leaned back against a tree and got started. Where I was seated, people would actually tight wire walk right above me. One young boy shouted out, "Hey look I am over the artist." I shouted up, "Don't fall now."
A children's birthday party was going on at a picnic table behind me. Ten year old boys chased each other around. One boy stopped right in front of me and asked what I was doing. I explained that I was sketching and he pointed at the page and said, "you drew that?" I pointed up to the platforms in the tree and than he looked up and back at the page again then ran off.
A woman and her husband were struggling to get across the wire line above me. He went first and she followed. She started shouting out, "Stop shaking the wire you are going to make me fall. That isn't funny." He said, "I'm just heavy, I can't help it." She shouted back, "I'll shake the f*#^%* wire when you are over the pavement then we will see how funny this is!" She wasn't a happy camper.
The course takes quite some time to complete. People who were just starting the course when I started sketching were not back on the ground until several hours later. I am betting that this is a good work out. An older husband and wife team came up to me after they had finished. She said, "I kind of wish I had worn hiking boots or shoes with a real solid soul. It was a real challenge at first, but after a while you get over the fear and it is fun."
The friends I was waiting for never showed up, I must have heard the date wrong. But I got a decent sketch so I returned home satisfied. Who knows someday I might find myself in the treetops.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mennello Museum Folk Festival

Thanks to Arts Fest and United Arts, the Mennello Museum was able to host a full day of folk performers at its annual Folk Festival. It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a festival with blue skies and a cool breeze. Terry and I attended last year and we both decided it is one of our favorite events of the year. There are plenty of tents set up with artists of all kinds displaying their wares. We first stopped at the Kerouac House table where Kim Buchheit and Summer Rodman were having a lively discussion. I became infatuated with a book by Kerouac called "Sketches". This is an amazing book in which Kerouac describes scenes and places in bold poetic broad strokes. All of the sketches were lifted from small moleskin notebooks in which he jotted down his notes on the spot. With words he recreates scenes very much the way I sketch every day. It is an inspiring read. I am maybe half way through the book now.
Dawn Schreiner had a tent set up with all her wonderful portraits and doodles. She was sitting in the grass with her children and sketching. Next to her tent was an artist who makes elaborate cigar boxes which are encrusted with glued on objects. I stood and watches as he made a space ship themed box with day glow paint a space shuttle and plenty of beads as planets. I wanted to sketch him, but this was Valentines day, and I had decided to stay focused on my wife and maybe sneak in a sketch of the stage if time allowed.
We had lawn chairs and set them up in front of the stage. As Sarah Purser performed, I felt myself become fully relaxed and at peace. I sat back and enjoyed the sun and view overlooking the lake. It was time to sketch. Travis Blaise who is dating Sarah explained that she is classically trained and in fact performs for the opera. Her voice is stunning and she has a lighthearted humor that is infectious. In the foreground I sketched Gordon Spears who was wearing a distinctive red hat and leaning back talking to a friend. Someone told me that Gordon booked all the acts for the event. Later that night I had to take down my display of sketchbooks at the Cameo Theater and Gordon was there helping Louise Bova as she took down her work. I had never met Gordon before, but here I was bumping into him twice in one day. This town just keeps getting smaller.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Scotish Highland Games - Caber Toss

Now this is a manly sport! Heavy men in kilts competed to see who could toss this heavy pole end over end. A perfect score is achieved if the end of the pole the handler is throwing ends up furthest away from the thrower at 12:00 on the hands of a clock. For the duration of this sketch, not a single contestant managed to toss this caber end over end. There were a few agonizingly close attempts, but the fact remains that no one ever flipped the caber. I missed the finer points of judging but the winner would have been the man who got his pole to face closest to 12:00. A judge always follows closely behind the thrower and once, a contestant was off balance and the huge log almost clobbered the judge. His reflexes saved him. Another contestant lost control and somehow he found himself straddling the end of the caber as it hit the ground and then it bounced up and hit him between the legs. There were a number of jokes told for the rest of the afternoon in high squeaky voices.
After the days events were over, we were allowed to walk on the field and test out some of the equipment. I could barely lift the end of the caber off the ground. There is no way I would be able to lift the darn thing and throw it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Swan Boat Talks

At the start of the new year, Brian Feldman set about meeting with ten different artists to discuss ways in which they could collaborate in the new year. These meeting were held on Lake Eola's swan boats over the course of a month. I finally had an opportunity to go out and try and sketch one of these meetings when Brian met with Anna McCambridge. I had sketched Anna before when she was working with three other women on an artistic collaboration called "A Confluence" where all of the artists worked on the same paintings together.
It was a cold, brisk day when I got down to Lake Eola. I watched the pigeons cooing and bobbing their heads. If someone walked by, the whole flock would take off and swoop out over the lake and then return once they realized it was safe to do so. A squirrel boldly approached me on the park bench, twitching his nose in annoyance when he realized I had no food. I saw Anna over by a swan's nest. She was taking photos of the little newly hatched swans that looked like little fur balls with beaks. I hadn't even noticed the nest, so I walked over to take a look and say hello to Anna. Anna always offers a warm hug, and on a cold day it certainly was appreciated. The small lakeside bar was just opening and Anna asked if they had hot chocolate. We ordered two. Brian, as usual, was late for his own meeting. When we were just about done with our hot chocolates, he wandered over to the dock and put down his miniature marquee.
I explained to him that I planned to paddle out on a second swan boat and follow them around while I sketched. Brian was quick to point out that if I paddled a swan boat alone I would just spin in circles. I needed a co-pilot. Brian and Anna made a few cell phone calls to see if there was anyone nearby who might be willing to paddle. They came up with nothing. Brian then decided to run to the far side of the lake along the path hoping to find someone at the Farmer's Market who might be up for the task. It was easy to follow his progress since he was wearing his bright orange life vest. On the walk back he found Mark Hackaba, who looked just like a longshoreman with his blue coat, skull cap and gray beard. I suspect Mark was homeless, but what the heck he seemed up to the adventure.
Brian and Anna's boat seemed to paddle much faster than ours did. It was a constant struggle to stay on the same side of them as they moved around the lake. The wind was blowing hard and would cause our boats to float off course. Mark was a trooper doing his best to keep us on course. I was sketching the whole time while paddling in an attempt to keep up with Brian and Anna. There are plenty of smudges and fingerprints on this sketch as I kept sticking my fingers in the wet paint. Anna was taking video the whole time with her iPhone and Brian stood up once, almost falling overboard to get a shot of me and my deck hand. The sketch might not be worthy of a major museum, but the experience required to get it? Priceless. This may be the most difficult sketch I have ever had to do!

Friday, March 5, 2010

McRae Art Studios Open House

I always love to sketch artists at work in their studios. So when I found out McRae Artist Studios in Winter Park was having an open house, I headed right on over. The first artist I visited was Dina Mack who is an abstract painter who also teaches a course called Destination Journal. Dina had a set of colored pencils that were made from tree branches and we debated for some time how they got the leads inside the pencils. It made sense for them to have drilled out the center then shoved the leads in, but the branches sere gently curved to a straight drill bit would have been useless. I decided they might have grafted the leads onto the sides of trees and let the branches grow around the leads, but that would take too much time. Another studio visitor wandered in and conjectured that the colored pencil leads might have been molten or liquid and allowed to dry, but that still doesn't account for the hollow space needed to pour the liquid into. Quite simply, it is an unexplainable miracle.
After wandering around a bit I found that there was always a group of people standing outside the studio of Susan Bach. Susan is a potter who makes wonderfully ornate funeral urns and vases. She was demonstrating how she throws a pot on her potters wheel and she sometimes invited passers by to try the wheel for themselves. Hal Stringer, who I had met a few weeks before when he hosted an artists gathering at his home, decided he would give the potting wheel a try. He struggled with the clay at first, using a bit to much brute force to try and keep it centered on the wheel. Susan encouraged his to relax and close his eyes. Then with just his sense of touch he gently began to build the form. He did a fine job, and Susan placed his piece aside so she could fire it and glaze it later.
A crusty old fisherman who used to be a captain of a fishing boat on the Bearing Sea near Alaska stopped to watch Susan work for a while. He told her about how he was the only captain who had an all woman crew in the cold arctic waters. This is a fine example of artists and patrons sharing and learning from each other. This was a fabulous event where it was possible to see artists as they work. I hope the McRae Studios continues this tradition.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Yow Dance

Shortly after getting back from Pennsylvania, I went to a performance by Yow Dance at Seminole State College of Florida. Yow dance is Orlando's "Traditional modern dance company", which sets it apart from the other dance companies in the area. The company tends to gravitate more towards dance elements that were seen in the early 20th century when Modern Dance was first founded as a rebellion against traditional ballet. Eric Yow pulls his inspiration from this era in his choreography, which often will echo the influence of the founding pioneers of Modern Dance, such as Martha Graham and Paul Taylor. He also looks to one of his favorite choreographers of present day, Mark Morris. The style of Yow Dance has been described as “classical” and “traditional” in comparison to other companies.
Throughout his career, Eric has performed with various companies around the country. Including; the Martha Graham Ensemble, David Hochoy’s Dance Kaleidoscope and Pascal Rioult. He takes stock in what he has learned and melds it with the stories he is compelled to tell through dance.
Seminole State College of Florida’s presentation of Spring Into Dance was a very special opportunity for Eric to showcase his work with Yow Dance. Seven pieces were showcased during this run of performances. They included the premieres of Summer Suite and Tango of Ember, along with a personal and moving solo performed by Eric, himself, entitled, The Fisherman. And though Yow Dance is only in the middle of its second season, audience favorites have emerged from previous performances. Compromising Raven and Tabula Rasa are back after receiving rave reviews during Yow Dance! and the Thang Dao Contemporary Dance Festival in New York City. Other new works will be performed as well that will depict Eric’s light-hearted and humorous side.
While sketching this performance, I noticed a dancer collapse in the wings. A stage hand went over to her to see if she was OK. As other dancers exited the stage they clustered around the fallen dancer to offer their support. No one in the audience could see this scene unfold, but I was up in a balcony seat which looked straight into the wings. I got an e-mail from David Mooney that night informing me that, although there was some concern, the dancer was alright.
The performances were at times light hearted and sometimes lyrical and mystical. I stopped sketching to watch the dance I had seen rehearsed several weeks ago. With the addition of strong orange lighting against the dark stage, the scene became mesmerizing. I feel so privileged to watch a performance like this develop over time.