Friday, April 30, 2010

The Funeral

On the day of the funeral I had to arrive early as a pallbearer to help get the sealed coffin into the church. The 6 men in black suits slid the box out of the Hurst and then started struggling up the few steps up to the entrance. The black iron railings were to narrow and we couldn't fit through. We had to back it down and then go up the wheel chair ramp instead. A gurney helped when we got to the church door which we also would not have fit through. I sat in the second pew alone. My brother Wayne sat in the the pew in front of me with his wife Jennifer and two of his three boys. His wife put her arm around him. The organist began playing "Amazing Grace" and I started to well up. The organ music went on and on. A cousin of mom's sitting behind me stated humming and singing the songs to herself and I found myself getting annoyed. I kept my anger in check focusing my attention on the Hawaiian flowers on top of the casket. A large leaf had been crushed inside the coffin lid when it was closed. I wanted to go up and free it but I sat numbly.
There was a short sermon which I didn't really notice, and several hymns requiring standing and then sitting again. I went through the motions exhausted. Finally the pastor started talking about the last time he had visited Ruth in Ellen Memorial Health Care Center. He had dropped his bible as he got out of his car and he couldn't find it. When he got to mom's room he found she had her own bible on the night stand beside her. It's cover was worn and the pages tattered from so much use. When he opened it he found many passages that she loved were already highlighted. She was on morphine and not able to talk and he read to her for the longest time. When he recited the lords prayed she raised her hand up to him. He held her hand through the prayer and she smiled. She was devout and a firm believer right up to her last breath.
The pastor then asked if anyone would like to get up and say a few words. Loretta Ernst, Ruth's step daughter from her last marriage to Ken Krause got up. She began to talk about how happy her dad was when he and Ruth were dating back in 1995. She called her dad about something and he said he couldn't talk long since he was expecting a call from "Ruthy." She kept the conversation short and when she hung up the phone she realized she had forgotten to tell him something. She called him right back. He answered in a sultry voice she had never heard before saying, "Hello blue eyes." She said, "Dad my eyes are brown." Everyone in the church laughed. I laughed and began to cry. I have only net Loretta two times in my life and here she was showing me a side of my mom I had never seen.
Walter got up and said, "Wow this is harder than I thought." He started to tear up. "I knew Ruth for 44 years and to me she was and would always be mom. She was there when my mom died. Ruth and I would sometimes argue about religion. She would say, "You say your a christian but you're not living up to it." In the end I would have to admit she was right." He said, "For putting up with me, she deserved sainthood." Then he pointed out her shrill high pitched and earth shattering way that she had of sneezing. When she sneezed birds would take flight and deer would turn and bolt into the woods. Once again everyone laughed.
After the service when we had maneuvered the casket back into the Hurst, the director shook my hand firmly and said, "I'd like to meet you again sometime, well not under these circumstances mind you...Uhm you know what I mean."
That evening around the dinner table after drinking many cups of wine, all the children talked about the stupid things they had done in their youth. I found out things about my older brothers and sisters I had never known before. Walter arranged for a final farewell celebration by setting off large fireworks mortars in Ruth's honor down near the pond. There were three mortar tubes and they kept trying to set up three blasts at once. The trouble was that there were only two lighters that Walter had picked up at the dollar store. Ben instructed me to wait three seconds after he lit his mortar fuse. I waited but then could not get the fuse to light. The darn lighter wouldn't stay lit. I was still leaning towards the tube when the Ben's mortar blast sent me jumping back. The hot flash blinded me for a second and the noise caused my ears to ring. I never did light the darn fuse, and I handed the lighter off to one of the kids. The men behaved like kids and the kids tried to act like men. I just wanted to make sure I had both my hands when all was said and done. Some of the fireworks circular blasts were so close to the ground that the sparks would come withing inches of our faces and many sparks remained glowing embers on the ground. With each new mortar blast we would all shout out, "OOOOh Ahhhh, that was a pretty one." Cindy who is from California was particularly excited. Fireworks are banned out there. These sudden bursts of light and noise lighting up the cold starry sky were the perfect way to celebrate life's short journey.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Wake

As I sketched the Hessling Funeral home, groups of high school kids came running down the slanted uphill driveway. I was leaning back against a parking meter and twice I had to sit up so people could shove coins in the slot. A pickup truck pulled into the parking lot and the man pulled out a lawn mower and started mowing the lawn.
The wake was an eternally long period of sitting and waiting from 2 to 4 and then 7 to 9 PM. Ruth's body was lying in a solid and sturdy looking casket. A small table toward the foot of the casket has a picture of a neatly trimmed Christ. My sister Carol found a statue of Betty Boop with a bright red boa to put at the table at the head of the casket. Ruth was a fan of Betty Boop and had a collection of them. At breakfast in her home I put in a Betty Boop animated short and watched her sinuous cycled animation.
My sister Carol had been put in charge of making sure I did not do a drawing of Ruth in her casket. She said, "I know you love drawing, but... no drawing the coffin, I'd think you'd freak everybody out." Juanita and Gail also also kept a close eye on me. I knew Ruth would not want me to do such a drawing but being told it was forbidden made it tempting. Had I tried, I would have been kicked out of my own mothers funeral. Gail told me that if I sketched mom she would haunt me for eternity. Ruth was always concerned that she only be photographed or drawn when she looked her best. The mortician had done a good job of removing any hint of wrinkles and pain from moms face. She wore one of the leis and two others were dangling from the edges of the casket lid. Large red Victorian floor lamps lit the front of the room with a warm red glow. There were large flower arrangements from the children and grand children and people in town.
I once did a drawing of my father, Art, when he had Leukemia. Ruth found the drawing and ripped it out of my sketchbook and destroyed it. I later did more drawings of my father but all of them were from memory, done in the waiting room.
Honesdale Pennsylvania is a small town and everyone knows each other. Gail and Juanita live in Honesdale and friends and co-workers kept coming in and hugging them and offering condolences. I sat lined up against the wall with the rest of the 6 Thorspecken children and we spoke amongst ourselves never being embraced by the people from town. I realized it is hard to cry without touch. My family sat around and joked and told stories to pass the time. I couldn't take all the banter. It was all just so much noise. I just wanted to be alone with my thoughts.
I finally went to a back parlor of the funeral home and started sketching. I made sure to place a relative strategically to block any view of the casket. Old photos of Ruth were on display and a digital frame displayed photos of her grandchildren. Kyle and Jack, two of my nephews, watched my every move as I did the sketch. Kyle is a budding artist himself, and I was proud when he showed up to the second half of the wake with his own sketchbook tucked under his arm. My brother in law Walter kept borrowing my sketchbook to show to his friends. I met the owner of a downtown gallery and she was one person who held my hand for the longest time when she greeted me. I found myself talking excitedly about art for a while before, out of the corner of my eye, I again caught the image of mom lying in the front of the room alone and ignored. I did stand in front of the casket for a long time memorizing her features and the gentle turn of her thin wrists with her fingers folded calmly on her belly. This lifeless image is however not one I want to hold onto and I will never commit it to paper.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

1000 Miles of Silence


I drove straight through. As I write this I am seated in the Himilayan Institute in downtown Honesdale, Pennsylvania. The stereo is playing gentle Indian music with the distinctive sounds of a sitar and drums. A singer chants ohmmmm. The Institute's coffee bar is the only place in town with a WiFi connection. Yesterday I left Orlando at 9AM and I drove into my step-mom's driveway at 4AM . The last time I drove this route I had my stereo blasting the whole trip. I let the music sway my mood up and down the whole way. This time I drove in silence. My spirit needed the rest. I stared straight ahead a the vanishing point at the end of the infinite road ahead of me. The road soared beneath my feet. My sketchbook sat on the passenger seat as my co-pilot. I fueled myself with peanut butter cookies and Mountain Dew. Once my right eye teared up, probably from eye strain. I put on my sunglasses but soon took them off so I could see the vibrant spring colors unfiltered.
By the time I got to Pennsylvania, it was dark and many of the big rigs were parked on the exit ramps. I got lost several times, once in Baltimore and once on the hilly winding side roads around Harrisburg. when I finally found my way back to the main highway, I was exhausted. Driving past Scranton at three in the morning, my spirit soared. The highway hugged the side of a mountain and in the pitch black, I felt like I was flying. The lights of Scranton could be seen stretching out to the horizon and I was flying above them at eighty miles an hour. I imagined myself flying the Spirit of Saint Lewis safely across the Atlantic. My darn right eye is watering up again as I write this. I can still write with one eye open.
On the final miles driving through the mountainous back roads, I started to see flashes of darkness that would dart in front of my truck. I knew there were plenty of deer up here, so I would pull my foot off of the accelerator. My eyes were playing tricks on me. The dark flashes were phantoms, figments of my overactive imagination and tired retinas. When I rolled into my step-mom's empty driveway, I was ready to sleep sitting up. I opened the front door and the first thing I saw in the empty house, was a plaque that said, "Having a friend is a comfort that can never be taken away. " I have no idea what friend might have given Ruth this plaque or even if she is alive. I dropped onto the couch and fell asleep thinking nothing lasts.
The next morning I went outside to sketch Ruth's former home. Huge bumble bees crawled into the light purple blooms of the Rhododendrons near the porch. The light was radiant and bright. As I sketched, a Fed Ex truck pulled in the driveway. when the driver pulled out a package and started walking to the front door, I got up, thinking I might have to sign for it. My foot was asleep so I stood stamping, trying to bring it back to life. The driver left before I was able to walk. I realized that he hadn't even noticed I was there. I took the package to my step-sister Juanita, who lived next door. She opened it up and discovered two beautiful Hawaiian leis. My father and Ruth visited the islands many times. Ruth will be wearing these leis for her wake. Juanita asked me to bring the flowers to the funeral home downtown. As I drove I kept getting calls from my step-sister, Gail, since she was concerned that no one was there, and she didn't want me to leave the flowers at the door. Mr Hessling greeted me at the side door and crushed my hand with his firm handshake. Gail wanted to talk to him, so I handed him my cell phone. He started joking with her saying that he had given the flowers to his wife for secretary's day. He joked with me as well but I felt a bit uncomfortable since Ruth's body was probably lying in the next room.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Arts and Social Responsibility

Billy Collins the former US poet laureate, Jules Feiffer, a Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist, novelist , playwright and screenwriter and Marsha Norman a Pulitzer prize-winning playwright all came together at the Annie Russell Theater at Rollins College to discuss the arts and social responsibility. Feiffer kicked off the discussion by pointing out that most of his cartoons were about the narrative of social injustice. He was fascinated by the way politicians would say one thing and mean something entirely different. In his mind fear is the most common human emotion.He saw Death of a Salesman when he was a young boy and he was truck by the way the family in that play never told the truth to one another. He saw his own family mirrored in the hidden meanings of what was left unsaid on the stage. He felt that the play "Waiting for Gordot" was a play with cartoon dialogue which as a cartoonist he could identify with.
Marsha Norman discussed how her play "Night Mother" came to fruition. She was angry at having just lost a job and she found herself in a new city not knowing anyone. She wrote the play from that place of anger feeling she had nothing to loose since no one would ever produce the play. The play was about time and anger and the end of a certain journey. As it turns out this was the play that won her the Pulitzer Prize. She said winning that award gave her the four word title in front of her name but little else. Writing her next play she knew she had to start from scratch and anything she produced would always be compared to the former high water mark. She started discussing how the intermission is so important in a play. The audience has met the characters and seen the obstacles. She compared the audience to a jury. She felt it is important for the audience to deliberate during the intermission. When the audience returns it is important that no key moment be staged in the first few minutes since audience members are still adjusting to the seats and thinking about their neighbors and any annoyances. Then she wants the audience to feel they are on stage with the characters. She said the brains main function is to predict and at all times the audience is making predictions and judgments.
In a question and answer session after the talk, a student asked the open ended question which has the most elusive answer, "What should I be doing if I want to write a great play?" I was surprised at the simple and obvious answer Marsha offered. She said, "Write some short one act scenes of dialogue. One could be a love scene, an argument and a scene where one character wants something the other character has. Then get some friends to rehearse these scenes and perform them in public places like a cafeteria or a park. The people in these public places will be your audience and see how they react. Keep writing. Write some more."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dr. Sketchy's - Tatame Lounge

I decided to relax for an evening and work with a model. Dr. Sketchy's meets every first Wednesday of each month at Tatame Lounge (223 West Fairbanks Road). I found a parking spot right around the corner from the Lounge and when I walked in people were already drawing. With the first set of poses the model was dressed as a 1960's housewife. She had a voluptuous figure and was a joy to sketch. I quickly sketched her figure and then focused my attention on all the fellow artists at work. Seated next to me was Joey Fisher who knew of my blog and asked me about my approach to a sketch. I explained how I block the picture in and we spoke for a few minutes between sets.
A waitress explained the specials for the night and I was looking forward to getting a sake but she never came back. I think the fact that I never stop working when I start a sketch throws people off and they are afraid to approach me. The light hanging above the spot I sat at was burned out. Joey managed to get a staff member to come over and replace the bulb. After the bulb was replaced, it immediately flickered off again. Something was wrong with the bulb connection. Jennifer Gwynne Oliver a fellow Former Disney artist came over and lent me her book light. I had a book light but I liked hers better it had a gentle warm glow whereas mine was way to bright.
Towards the end of the posing session a large group entered the bar and they crowded around the back of the room where I was seated. Things got loud and soon most of the artists were chatting it up as well. When it came time for the Dr. Sketchy's competition, I was nowhere near finished with my sketch. The prize was a Disney book which I honestly didn't want anyway so I didn't compete. If you don't compete, you can't loose. Before I knew it the evenings sketching session was over. I left with a single sketch which makes me wonder if I got my $5 worth for the evenings modeling session.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Paxia

I went to Paxia (2611 Edgewater Drive, College Park) to see the start of a $30 wine tasting crawl. For $30 these folks could order a wine at each of five different bars on the route. As I approached the Mexican themed restaurant and bar, I noticed a crowd of women strutting towards the place in tight low cut dresses. Inside I was told that tonight was also five dollar tequila night. The crowd gathering for the bar crawl congregated down at the far end of the bar. I sat in a cushy red leather chair in the corner of the room and started sketching. A waitress came over and asked me if I wanted anything, I decided to order a tequila so I would blend in. I didn't know what tequila to order so I let her pick one for me. A few minutes later my dainty little glass arrived half full of a clear pink fluid. I tool a small sip and swallowed. I had to exhale at it went down my throat and my eyes watered. I would take another sip periodically allowing the liquid to evaporate on my tongue. I avoided the whole, swallowing step, for as long as possible.
The crowd that had gathered for the crawl soon left for their next stop. Singles would sit at the bar periodically and order appetizers and a drink. Eaves dropping I found out one woman had worked as a waitress in Vail Colorado and she told the couple next to her all about how beautiful Colorado was. The couple had been to Vail and they thought it would be an expensive place to live. The woman assured them that if you know where to shop, Vail is very affordable. I started feeling like I was among jet setters. One woman ordered a drink then started counting a thick wad of bills as she sat at the bar.
Terry called from work and she agreed to come to Paxia for a drink since I was almost finished with my sketch. When she joined me she ordered a Margarita and an appetizer. I put my sketch away and turned to my cup of tequila which I had barely touched. Terry was shocked that I had ordered a tequila and she asked the waitress if she could water it down with Margarita mix. The waitress agreed to do so at no extra charge.
The TV was showing some game show where a woman was trying to blow a soap bubble through a hoop a few yards away. Three people at the bar were watching intently and shouting encouragement. The woman got the bubble through the hoop and won something like $75,000. She later lost everything when she was trying to blow a deck of playing cards off of the neck of a beer bottle without letting the Joker fall. I became mesmerized by all the close up shots of the woman pursing her lips and gently blowing. I am convinced this is card trick is impossible, and I am still annoyed that she didn't keep the bubble money. Now I know what I am missing since I no longer have time to watch TV.
The food was good and the Marguerite Terry ordered was delicious. I swallowed my tequila plus mix in one last gulp. I was really tempted to order a Margarita but I had to drive home. I left satisfied with a sketch under my arm and I am so happy Terry decided to join me on one of my outings. I suspect we will return some day for a full dinner.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Awakening the Dragon Boat

Leslie Silvia gave me a tip that a Dragon Boat was going to be launched at Lake Fairview at the Orlando Rowing Club. As I approached the park, pink balloons let me know I was at the right place. After I parked I walked up towards the lake because I could see the dragon boat on a trailer behind a pick up truck. There was a chain link fence between me and the boat so I walked the length of the fence looking for an entry. I didn't find one, all the entrances were locked up. I walked back the other way towards a crowd of people many of them wearing pink shirts. As I approached this crowd underneath a picnic pavilion, Leslie saw me and approached. She gave me a program and explained what was about to happen. Before the boat would be launched, there would be opening remarks and a performance of the Orlando Taiko Dojo. I set up and started sketching the performers. The rhythmic drumming didn't last very long and I rushed to get as much detail into the sketch as I could before they left the stage. I was just starting to apply color as the group stopped and prepared to go home. I had chosen to sit at the table where the performers had left their supplies so when they were done I found myself surrounded. A little boy saw me working and stood right in front of me watching me work. His friend tried to convince him to go play on the swings but he stood transfixed. I had to lean side to side so I could see around him.
When a new Dragon Boat is launched a black mark is painted on the center of the dragon's eye. According to legend, the dotting of the eye awakens the dragon, and grants the boat and it's racers good luck. Dragon boat racing commemorates the life of Qu Yuan who lived in the third century BC. He was a minister who advocated reforms for his home state of Chu. The king refused to listen and Qu Yuan was banished. When Qu Yuan heard his home had been invaded, he drowned himself in the Mi Lo river. Local fishermen rushed out in boats in an attempt to save him. They beat drums and thrashed the water with paddles in an attempt to keep fish from eating his body. Rice dumplings were thrown in the water to try and lure the fish away.
When I finished this sketch, I walked out to the water where a dragon dance had just stopped. All of the women in pink shirts turned out to be breast cancer survivors and they were the dragon boat's crew for the maiden voyage. I followed them out to the dock where the boat was moored and considered getting a sketch as they loaded into the boat but the moment was gone in an instant. The boat had been funded by Harriet Lake and named for her daughter and breast cancer survivor Shelly Lake and Harriet's sister Isabel Etter. The warriors paddled the boat gently off shore and then they threw pink and red carnations into the water to commemorate people they knew who had died from breast cancer. The flowers floated gently back to the dock in the afternoon breeze. The women in the boat were known as Warriors on water (WOW). A woman sat at the each end of the boat and the woman in back shouted out a beat for the rowers to synchronize to. The sun was setting creating bright orange flashed on the water, as the warriors gracefully cruised out to the center of the lake and back. I stood on the edge of the lake for the longest time thinking I might get one more sketch, but I decided it would be dark before I finished. I simply etched the image in my mind and vowed to return to sketch another day.

Friday, April 23, 2010

67 Books - The Last Book

When the reader list was first announced, Book 67 was listed as TBA. Brian had been asked all week long who the final reader would be, and ha always responded that he was trying to get a "name," some celebrity reader. But, Of course, when all was said and done, the final reader of the 67 Books project was Brian Feldman. For his hour, he chose, "The Complete Beatles:v. 1:A-I" arranged by Todd Lowry. Keyvan Acosta, (Book 62), accompanied him on guitar and they both sang their hearts out. Brian noted that Kevyan looks like John Lennon reincarnated. Brian shouted out to the people passing in the street, "Is it anyone's birthday?" Someone shouted back "Yes!" Then Brian and Kevyan broke into "You say it's your birthday, Happy birthday to you!"
Soon there was a small crowd of people gathered in the street. Some people also were gathered at the different levels of the parking garage across the street. To do this sketch I sat down on the roof and leaned back against the ledge of the overhang. I was right at the feet of the performers looking up. Tommy Wingo, (Book 7), grabbed a kite which had been used earlier in the day during the reading of "The Giving Tree" written by Shel Silverstein, and read by Davey Rocker (Book 64). Brian was dancing all over the stage and one point, fell off the back of the stage, but he was fine. During one song, he held the mic down so I could belt out a line. I sang, a bit off key at first but I recovered. I was surprised when people applauded.
Everyone loves The Beatles and the crowd responded to each and every song. When the performance was over, Brian and Kevyan walked back away from the ledge acting like they were going down stairs. Brian coached the crowd explaining that they should be going wild so they could return for an encore. The crowd obliged. After the final song, In My Life, Brian and Kevyan bowed 67 times; one bow for every reader who had contributed to the project. With that, Brian closed the book, and 67 Books was officially over.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

67 Books - The Readers Seat

An hour after hearing my stepmother,Ruth Krause, had died, it was my turn to read on the roof of the public library. As I approached, I saw Emma Hughes reading from Perelandra by C.S. Lewis. I sat next to her grandfather, leaned over to him and asked, "Was she ever an actress?" He replied, "I'm a bit of an actor myself and taught her many things when she was younger." She came to one passage where a character shouts out "I am the universe!" She shouted it out with such conviction! It had to be a liberating moment. Sultana said to me that she had almost cried several times as she was reading "The Alchemist" since it moved her so deeply. I started thinking to myself that I just might start crying if I try and read now. I decided I would not let that happen.
I wasn't feeling motivated to give a dramatic read of the book I had bought, "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand. My growing nervousness was also fueled as a Facebook event page had been created inviting artists to come out and sketch me while I read. Nine people had confirmed that they would come out and I was thinking to myself that they might have an opportunity to watch me break down. I noticed several homeless people listening to Emma's reading and I started to consider that any one of them might be willing to read the book for me if I offered a reasonable salary. Finally, at the last moment, I convinced the sound man, Tommy Wingo, to read for me. Just as in Cyrano de Bergerac, I went out to the readers chair overlooking the street and sat down, while Tommy set up a mic at the back of the roof where he could not be seen and began to read. At first I think I did a decent job lip syncing to what he read. People walking past really didn't notice, but the artists gathered in the street soon knew what was up and they all laughed. Lip syncing actually dries out your mouth rather fast, so I took a sip of water while Tommy was reading behind me and he didn't skip a beat.
Seated on the sidewalk below, three artists were sketching: Amanda Chadwick, who was the culprit behind the "Sketch the Sketcher" event page, A.J. Martin, who is Amanda's boyfriend, and Sultana Fatima Ali who returned for the occasion. Sultana had informed me that she read "The Fountainhead" on her trip through the Himalayas. Her sketch was curious in that the banners blew in the opposite direction compared to the other artists sketches. Dan Ginader had also stopped by with his wife and daughter Jozie. Emma Hughes and Keyvan Acosta were there knitting. Since I wasn't reading, I could do what came naturally, and I started to sketch the view from the readers seat. My lips moved constantly as I blocked in the sketch. I knew I only had an hour so I rushed to get it finished. Jessica Mariko walked by and laughed out loud when she saw how far off my lip syncing was. I waved and forgot about moving my lips for a moment. It was so nice to be able to laugh. Soon there would be expectations of entirely different forms of expression.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

67 Books -The Alchemist

Sultana Fatima Ali read "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho, as part of the final day of 67 Books on the rooftop over the entryway to Orlando Public Library. I was to read later that day, so I decided I would stop and listen and sketch. Behind Sultana, beautiful colored banners fluttered in the breeze. The story immediately entranced me, holding me in its grip. It followed the story of a young shepherd boy named Santiago, who was on a journey to fulfill his personal legend. It is easy to identify with this young shepherd as he seeks to find his treasure in the pyramids of Egypt. This book has been translated into 67 languages and sold over 65 million copies. Most of these sales were all from word of mouth. The book is even available free online.
The author discussed how he had to overcome many obstacles. From childhood, he was given the idea that fulfilling his destiny is impossible. Growing up, everyone enforced this idea. The second obstacle is love, the fear of giving up everything to pursue this distant dream. Another obstacle is fear of defeat. Yet defeats will come and must be faced. When these defeats are overcome, and they always are, then life can be faced with confidence and euphoria. According to Paulo, "The secret to life, is to fall seven times and get up eight times."
I was disappointed when Sultana had to stop reading. Santiago had not found his personal legend yet, he had just started down that road. This is a book I will be picking up soon to read for myself.
After the reading was over I got a message on my cell phone. It was from my sister Carol, and read, "She passed. I'll call u when i get there and know more." This news caused my stomach to tighten and contract. She was talking about my stepmother, Ruth Krause, who I had just visited in Honesdale Pennsylvania a month before. I stood on the sidewalk stunned. Not knowing what to do, or how to act, I walked to the History Center and started sketching the high school children who were doing chalk drawings all around the public square. I pushed all thoughts of a funeral out of my mind and concentrated on the sketch at hand.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Garden Party

Leslie Lormann invited me to attend a turn of the century garden tea party which was held at The Heritage at Lake Forest. The Heritage is an assisted living facility. Only a few weeks before I had visited my step mom, Ruth, as she was moved to a nursing home in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. As I searched for Ruth in the halls of that facility, I found one resident was unable to get into the common room because a slight molding blocked her wheelchair from going through the doorway. I gave her a gentle shove and she was in. As I walked the halls, many residents were comatose unable to move in any way. They sat idly in wheel chairs or in bed, staring blankly into space. The smell of urine and decay bought back memories I had of visiting my grandmother, Josephine, when I was perhaps eight years old. I have since heard that my mom has been put on morphine because she was in so much pain from the bone cancer, and is no longer able to get around on her own. In other cultures the elderly are respected and revered. In America being old seems to make you disposable and insignificant.
When I entered The Heritage, I was shocked to find myself in a turn of the century tea party with all the women sporting gorgeous exotic hats. Leslie was dressed as Mary Poppins with a white dress and hat accented with a red belt and ribbons. Her husband, Matt, stood in the entry to the building taking pictures of residents in their finery. I wandered from room to room trying to decide where I should sketch. I finally decided that the photos being shot at the grand staircase were the center of interest. I climbed to the top of the stairs and started sketching. From this vantage point I could see the full effect of all the ovals of the highly decorated hats the women were wearing.
There were several other artists on property demonstrating their art doing easel paintings. There was a harpist who performed in the back parlor. After I finished this sketch I went back and listened to her play. There were perhaps 30 residents listening intently. I decided I didn't have enough time to sketch this whole gathering, so I waited for the singing that was going to take place upstairs. There residents gathered in a large room with an Italian landscape fresco gracing the wall. The piano player turned out to be Erik Branch who also plays at the Parliament House Karaoke on Sunday afternoons. The female singers were lively and entertaining. Theresa Segers had a quick costume change for the last number and came out in a red and white striped single piece turn of the century bathing suit. She of course then sang, "By the Sea."
As I got in an elevator to head back downstairs, a resident with a walker got in with me. She asked how I liked the event and I told her I was impressed. She said it was all very nice and they hold similar events every month or so for the residents. She said "This is the best nursing home in the area and I certainly pay for it." I'm left feeling guilt that I can not afford to help find my step mom a better nursing home.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Florida Film Festival -Ticket Sales

As evening rolled around I decided I wanted to see the documentary "Waking Sleeping Beauty" directed by Don Hahn. This film is about the rise of Disney animation in the 1980's and then its fall because of executive infighting. Having lived through that decade I was more than a little curious about this film. I arrived more than an hour early from another screening and decided to pass the time with a sketch. The screening was at the Regal Park Cinemas of Winter Park and the Festival staff had this makeshift table set up outside to sell tickets for the festival shows. As I was sketching the volunteers at the table people slowly drifted in and picked up tickets. I recognized the person I sketched buying his tickets as Bryan Brinkman an animator who had spoken at the animated shorts program the night before. Brian and his girlfriend Ashley Culver sat on the wicker bench next to me. I stopped sketching long enough to tell Brian how much I had enjoyed his animated short, Circlepic, from the previous night. To make this film Brian has put out a request on twitter for photos of anything circular people found around their house. He instantly had hundreds of photos to work with and he played with the motion and animation in Adobe After Effects. He tried to explain all the technical points of how he animated the hundreds of layers, masks and compositions but most of the information flew over my head. I actually had checked out his website and had admired a short he did called Gordy which was based on the turn of the century vaudeville show Winsor McCay had once performed with an animated dinosaur. I found it very funny but Brian said non animation types don't get the references and are confused. he and his girlfriend were also going to see "Waking Sleeping Beauty" and so I told him about my ten years of experiences at the Disney Studio. Several times former Disney Coworkers walked up to the ticket line to pick up tickets. Each time I saw someone I got up to say hello and talk for a bit. Needless to say this sketch took quite a while to finish. Brian told me that there were only ten tickets left for the showing of the film and that the previous showing had sold out. I got nervous and got one of the last tickets. As it turns out I could have gotten in on stand by but I wasn't willing to take that risk.
The film itself was really enlightening to me. It first and foremost is a story of how a group of artists hit rock bottom and then over the next decade created a series of animated hits. Finally I understood all the executive infighting that had resulted in the collapse of the Florida Studio. Jeffery Katzenburg and Michael Eisner all wanted to be viewed as the next Walt Disney and that battle of egos helped bring down the house the mouse built. The early history of the studios rise from the ashes in the early eighty's was fascinating and it goes to show that when the right mix of creative individuals get together that kind of magic can always happen. The film left me proud to have been a part of that golden tradition of animation magic and that animation is far from dead.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Florida Film Festival - Filmmaker Welcome Party

Right after the animated shorts screening, I rushed downtown to go to the film maker's welcome party at Ember. The bar inside wasn't very crowded, but I noticed on of the large glowing Orbs that Full Sail uses to advertise. Ember has a large outdoor area with three different bars. The woman at the entry asked if I was there for the Florida Film Festival party and when I said I was, she gave me a leather trinket which was good for one Peroni beer and a red rubber wrist band which was good for Macker's mark which is a brand of Bourbon. I immediately stepped up to one of the bars and asked for a Peroni. I then wandered around wondering what I should draw. I rather liked the tall arched architecture of this bar in the corner, so I sat at a wrought iron table and got to work.
It would be nice to say that I networked with some high powered Hollywood types but that didn't happen. There was a brightly lit area where a photographer shot pictures of people. Rather than rather than doing any high powered networking, I just sipped my beer and watched the crowd. As I was sketching in the people, I realized that I recognized a local theater producer, so I stopped sketching for a moment and wandered over to shake his hand. One of the owners of the Plaza theater also spoke to me for a while and that contact might result in my covering more musical acts at that venue.
Once my sketch was finished, I packed up my art supplies and headed home. I didn't cash in my free Bourbon, I'm not even sure I would have liked a Bourbon, I never tasted one. I will have to leave that life experience for another day.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Florida Film Festival - Animated shorts

High on my priority list was getting out to the Florida Film Festival animated shorts screening. When I was ushered inside my first instinct was to search for a place at the very back of the theater. On the way there I bumped into Anna McCambridge, Dina Mac and friends. I sat at a table next to them and talked for a while while munching on some of the free cranberry Raisinettes on the table. I started to wonder what I would draw or even if I could draw when the shorts started. I got up and wandered around looking for a subject and then found a seat way up front that was unoccupied. The seat overlooked the couches and seats in the front rows. I got my art supplies and moved. I had the sketch blocked in and was starting to ink it when the lights went down and the theater went black. I waited. There was some problem with the projector so we all continued to wait. Someone shouted out, "Well, I guess it's time for the question and answer session!" Everyone laughed. After a few more awkward moments, the lights came back up. Everyone groaned by I started sketching frantically. Once the films started I simply sketched anytime the screen was bright enough to light up the front rows. If there was an animated film that was literally on the dark side, I didn't see it.
One of my favorite films was "The Mouse that Soared" directed by Kyle L. Bell. This Computer animated short had beautiful art direction and was funny as hell. I didn't sketch the whole time it was on the screen, I was transfixed. Another of my favorites was from a filmmaker I had admired at last years film festival. Lev Yilmaz showed two shorts from his ongoing series of shorts called "Tales of Mere Existence." His Woddy Allenish dry humor is contagious. His inner monologue presented in a flat monotone voice is hilarious. I got the feeling he doesn't have much luck with any lasting relationship but I didn't have the nerve to ask him about it in the question and answer session. Bill Plimpton presented his new short "The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger". This very funny short has a bold new look that Bill attributed by a Kandinsky show he had seen. The film was drawn with sharpies. The idea for the film came to him as he was driving through farm country and he saw huge fat cows eating as fast as they could as if they were training to become the perfect steak or burger. He said he had some of the production drawings and that everyone could have a free cow drawing after the screening. For once I stood in the long line of people waiting to get a free cow drawing. I am usually above standing in line for a signature, I can draw my own cow, thank you very much. He quickly drew the cow on a postcard with about ten well placed lines. I wasn't satisfied. I asked, "How large were the production cells?" I then started thinking to myself, "He didn't use cells you dope. Why didn't you say drawings?" Bill said" Oh, yes I have some original work right here." He reached back and got out a large manila envelope. I apologized to the people behind me for holding up the line. In the envelope was a pile of signed drawings from the movie. He offered me one for a very reasonable price. At least, that is what I'll tell Terry. There was one drawing of a cow screaming that I kept returning to. I remarked, "This looks like Picasso's Guernica." He said, "You know, I hadn't thought of that, it does." Was this a smooth sales pitch, or had we just made a connection? I didn't care, I had to have it. He had to reach across the table to get the bill out of my hand because I was busy admiring the drawing. I had just bought a drawing from a long time animation idol and I was giddy! I had fallen to the level of an animation fan boy, but I didn't care.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

67 Books

In honor of National Library Week (April 11-17, 2010), Brian Feldman organized a week long performance where 67 Orange County Library System (OCLS) card holders read aloud for one hour at a time from any book they choose from the OCLS collection, on the entry roof of the Orlando Public Library downtown branch. The event is an independent production of Brian Feldman Projects and is supported through in-kind donations of area businesses and individuals, and has not been paid for by the Orange County Library System.

Every reader to this point had been taken up to the roof overlooking the entryway to the library. This area is like a large never used balcony with a grand view of the street below, and makes for an impressive staging area. Mary Hill was open to the idea of me sketching her as she read Thomas Morton's book "Contemplative Prayer." She was set up with a wireless mic and she then began to read. Speakers carried her voice to any passersby, and on rare occasions someone would look up and notice her perched high above the entry. When she reached for a sip of water, a homeless man across the street threw his hands up in the air and cheered. The sun was pounding down that afternoon and I sketched from the only patch of shade on the roof. After Mary had been replaced with another reader, she said her eyes had dried out and she had trouble focusing. She laid down for a while and rested on the concrete ledge before we both went back down to ground level using the scissor lift.

Harriett Lake is a renowned Orlando philanthropist and supporter of the arts. When I discovered she was going to be a reader, I knew I had to sketch her. Her choice of "The Catcher in the Rye" was also a bit controversial since this book at times has been banned from school curricula. Harriet told Brian she couldn't go up in the lift because of her age and slight disability. She was seated in one of the two red camping chairs Brian had set up on the street level near the computer which was mission central. Harriet needed a more comfortable chair so a wheelchair was bought out for her to sit in. Harriet's enthusiasm for the book was evident from the start as she read a newspaper article about the book and author, J. D. Salinger. She lost her grip on the article when she finished and the paper started to blow down the street. A passerby picked it up and tried to hand it back, but she was already reading the book and didn't notice him.

Amanda Chadwick came over with her very frightened dachshund. She tried to calm the dog, but it would jump and scurry any time there was aloud noise. In front of the public library, there are many loud noises. Ambulances rushed by, the electronic lift screeched and groaned. People exiting the library bust out with loud laughter and joking as they escape the deafening silence from inside. Through it all, Harriet read with enjoyment the small orange paperback.

She read, "Pencey was full of crooks. Quite a few guys came from these wealthy families, but it was full of crooks anyway. The more expensive school is, the more crooks it has - I'm not kidding." Twice she stopped reading and started laughing. She shouted out, "This is a funny book, I forgot how darn funny it is." I laughed out loud as well sharing her delight. Homeless men with backpacks and business men in suits shuffled by. A few times people stopped, surprised by all the camera equipment and lights and they listened for a brief moment before hurrying off.

She read aloud, "People never notice anything." This seemed so appropriate as people rushed all around her always focused on a destination rather than savoring this moment here and now. Harriet was the last reader for the day and when her hour was up Brian approached her and let her know. She shouted back, "What? THAT was an hour?! It didn't feel like an hour!" I laughed out loud again. When you're doing something you love, time flies and life always finds a way to interrupt the process. There was magic in the moments Harriet was reading in front of the library. The fact that she was so much closer to all the activity on the street, and the fact that nothing phased her made this feel like an important and meaningful sign that art endures amidst life's chaos.

I will be reading as part of 67 Books on Saturday April 17th from 3 to 4 PM. I am not entirely sure which book I am reading yet, but in the running are "The Fountainhead" by Ann Rand and "Book of Sketches" by Jack Kerouac. Which do you think I should read, any suggestions?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hip Dog Hydrotherapy

I arrived at Hip Dog Hydrotherapy (4965 Palmetto Avenue) just as Linda Brandt was getting in the pool with her dog Otis. Otis lost his right front leg to bone cancer just over 3 years ago. At the time she was told he would probably only live 6 to 9 months. They offered to do chemo and radiation treatments which might prolong his life to 11 months. She decided to spare Otis the radiation and chemo. For 2 months after the leg was gone Otis experienced phantom pain symptoms. Linda would hear him yelp in pain for no apparent reason. She bought him in for acupuncture and she feels that helped the pain. His recovery from the amputation was fairly rapid. He was up and walking within a week.
In the pool Cherylann Blay-Marques was massaging Otis's hip joints. He floated peacefully as Linda held his outstretched paw for support. Hart Campbell, Cherylann's assistant would often also help keep Otis secure and afloat. Hart's basset hound, Brain, was curious about what I was doing. Hart warned me to watch my pallet since Brain would most likely stick his nose in it. Brain came over and sat on my foot the whole time I was sketching. In the pool Cherylynn grasped Otis at the base of the skull and he let out a moan of pleasure. When all his joints were loose Linda backed up to the pool steps and Otis swam over to her. His movements in the water were graceful and smooth even with 3 legs. He hopped up out of the pool and shook the water off of his fur. Linda went to change out of her wet clothes and he waited anxiously for her, standing stoically by the fence.
The next appointment was for Oakly a black pointer who was terrified of water. His owner Julie Thompson has to drag him to the pools edge with the leash. He dug his claws into the concrete and they scratched in resistance. He tried sitting and leaning back resisting the pressure of the leash. Julie had to lift him up and he squirmed as she placed him on the pool steps. He tried everything possible to get his feet out of the water. If Julie held his front quarters he would step his hind quarters up and out. It was a long comical struggle between owner and pet. When he went in deeper water, he panicked and thrashed his front legs high up above the water splashing like crazy. It was just like a child play acting like they were about to drown. Finally Cherylann grabbed him securely. She began to massage him and he relaxed instantly. She wanted to assure him that he was in control of the situation so she let him go and allowed him to swim out of the pool. This time he swam with grace and speed. He actually seemed to enjoy the swim.
Hip Dog Hydrotherapy has been around for 9 years. Tom Nowicki who is also an actor started the business. Cherylann started working there 4 years ago. The business has grown into a non-profit and they have helped over a thousand dogs over the years. The business rents the pool from the owner of the property and the place is now up for sale. They are now looking for a new home for this inspiring enterprise.
Driving home I was surprised when I got choked up thinking about what I had just sketched. It is rewarding to watch a pointer overcome its fears and find joy in its natural behavior. Otis proved the vets wrong and is still going strong and enjoying life. He isn't letting his small handicap slow him down. As his owner Linda said, "I'm a very proud dog mommy! Otis is my hero."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Crealde Welcome Garden Mosaic

At the last minute I decided to go to Crealde in Winter Park for a Sunday morning sketch class. When I got to the school I saw this mosaic being created and I stopped in my tracks and wanted to draw. I had come to draw from a model however, so I went into the studio and started to set up, but I couldn't stop thinking about the mosaic being created right outside the door. The model was a beautiful young girl but I finally decided to pack up my supplies and I went outside to sketch the artist at work. Her name is Lynn Tomlinson. She worked non stop for well over two hours. She would use the snippers to snip tiles and then slather on the fixative or cement and set the tile in place. The whole design was already drawn out and much of her attention on this day was devoted to placing bright yellow and orange tiles around the school name. Lynn said that she had designed the mural along with Nicki Pierson.
The Crealde Welcome Garden Mosaic is being created to celebrate Crealde's 35th anniversary. All the funds for the mural's creation came from grassroots fund raising. The mosaic has been in the works for many months now. Artists have been pressing tiles as a way to raise money for the project. An individual could press a tile for just $20 and a business could sponsor a tile for $100. These sponsored tiles are the green oval shapes in the sketch. The mosaic is taking shape quickly thanks to the many volunteers and artists who have worked together collaborating at every step in the process. I have no doubt that the next time I stop out for a sketch class, this mosaic will be finished. Besides the mosaic, recent renovations to the campus were funded by a recent $100,000 grant from the Orange County Cultural Affairs Council for a campus facelift, including a new entry that extends into an attractive patio area and beautiful landscaping bought out to the front of the property. All these changes are a huge milestone for Crealde.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Florida Film Festival - No Grits No Glory

Friday evening the Florida Film Festival kicked off with a fabulous party called "No Grits, No Glory". When I drove into the Enzian parking lot, an attendant stopped me and made sure I wasn't there to see the film that was slated for that night. He told me there had been a mistake in one of the ads and he wanted to be sure I was coming to the party. I immediately sat down and started to sketch the marquee which invited guests to the 19th annual Florida Film Festival. A reporter and cameraman set up on the steps and stood around for sometime, perhaps waiting for a live feed. The reporter then delivered his lines quickly and they both drove off in the Channel 6 news van. Lance Turner, a photographer approached me and asked if I would be doing many sketches at the festival and I explained that I intended to sketch as much as possible this year. He then took several pictures as I worked and disappeared into the growing crowd. Later in the evening, Brian Feldman told me that he had personally placed the lettering on the Enzian marquee as practice for an upcoming performance. I later saw him being interviewed by Orlando Live about his 67 Books project.
When I finished my first sketch, I went inside and sat up front near the stage to watch this amazing brother and sister singing team of Thomas and Olivia Wynn. They harmonized beautifully and the songs resonated deeply, leaving me feeling sad and uplifted. Listening to them sing was the highlight of the evening for me and the music made sketching a breeze. This brother and sister team was later joined by the drummer and several guitar players. The group is known as Thomas Wynn and the Believers. I was tapping my foot and swaying side to side the whole time. I became a believer.
The theme for the evening's food was southern and I tried a few samples, but I didn't want to waste to much time eating when there might be another sketch to be made. A server warned me that the pork was hot and boy was it! I chased it down with some shrimp which soothed my screaming taste buds. I then wandered outside and was shocked at how crowded the Eden Bar had gotten. I wandered elbow to elbow in the crowd for a while but decided after trying some desserts that I didn't have another sketch in me. I couldn't find a place to rest my eyes in this ever-changing sea of people. I decided to head home and rest. The Florida Film Festival is like a sketch artists marathon and I have to pace myself.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Philharmonic Concert

My wife had tickets to the Tribute to Leonard Bernstein concert at the Bob Carr performing arts center. We were seated back in row N. I felt quite claustrophobic, unable to move my arms without bumping the person seated next to me. Terry also acknowledged that these seats were a tighter fit than usual. I knew what to expect with the first half of the concert since I had sketched the rehearsal the night before. When the intermission rolled around I was glad for the chance to stretch my legs and arms. Terry lead the way up to the patrons lounge where people were lined up for champagne and wine. When we returned to the theater, we sat in the front row so I could do a quick sketch of this historic performance.
This was the last performance by conductor Andrew Lane at the Bob Carr. He was resigning from the Orlando Philharmonic which he had helped foster and grow for the last 17 years. For this reason the concert had a bitter sweet feel to it. When Andrew waved and walked off the stage it was for the last time. The orchestra and audience gave him a long standing ovation. Toasts were offered in his honor at the back stage gathering after the concert. There were plenty of rumors circulating about reasons for his departure, but the bottom line remains the same, Orlando has just lost a great conductor who helped inspire the orchestra to push themselves to new heights. I for one will miss him.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Philharmonic rehearsal

I went to the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center to watch a rehearsal for "A Tribute to Lenny" conducted by Andrew Lane. In the lounge there was a younger crowd than usual having sandwiches and drinks prior to the rehearsal. I thought I was going to an event that is usually attended by board members, where the board members are invited to sit on stage right next to the performers. I quickly made my way onstage. I was surprised to find none of the other patrons back stage. I got a chair but when I sat down, I couldn't see over the whole orchestra. I decided I had to sketch standing up.
This concert was a tribute to Leonard Bernstein, with selections from Candide, On the Town, and West Side Story. I love the overture to Candide and it helped me relax as I blocked in the sketch.
Soprano Angela Mortellaro was standing right behind me as I worked. I started feeling self conscious thinking I might get kicked out of the wings when Union stage hands realized I was in the way. I even thought Angela might ask me what I was doing and ask me to leave. When she walked onstage to sing Glitter and be Gay from Candide, she turned to me and smiled as she walked by. I realized she had much more important things on her mind. Her performance was stunning she has a range that the music fully put to the test. The song left me felling joy and excitement mixed with a deep sadness.
As is typical in a rehearsal there were many stops and starts. The harp player didn't play for the longest time. I had planned to sketch her playing but instead she sat through most of the rehearsal reading a magazine. I patiently waited to catch her performing and then I sketched frantically thinking she might stop before I finished. The same was true for the string players who would remove the instruments from their chins and hide it in their laps. I was just about finished with my sketch when half the program had been performed. The orchestra went on a break and I put down my final washes and packed up. I decided this sketch was enough for one night. I planned to see the concert the following evening with my wife.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Zora Neale Hurston Festival

The Zora Neale Hurston Festival is held in the final weeks of January. The festival is held in the small town of Eatonville which is just north of Lee Road. Eatonville is the the oldest incorporated African American municipality in the United States. Zora Neale Hurston is one of most significant authors of African-American culture in the world, and many of her works celebrate her hometown of Eatonville, right here in Central Florida! 2010 marked 50 years since Hurston's death.
The event features museum exhibitions, public talks, panel discussions, workshops and concerts. It culminates with a three-day weekend Street Festival of the Arts, which features everything from literacy programs for children; performances by local, regional and national acts; Juried Arts competitions, presenting fine artists with their original artwork in competition for cash prizes; an international marketplace, where visitors purchase wares from around the world, an international food pavilion featuring an array of food options and more.
When I got to the Eatonville, I found Kennedy Boulevard, the main road, closed to traffic. I pulled into a small churches dirt parking lot. I walked down the boulevard past a local bar and many small somewhat rundown wooden homes. Soon there were vendors tents and I walked the length of the vendors area looking for a subject for a sketch. I finally settled on this collection of large wooden sculptures. The proprietor wore a brown leather jacket and light brown pants. Once in a while he would move some of the larger pieces, I suppose figuring the new arrangement would draw in more costumers. Periodically people would look over my shoulder to see what I was up to. One woman told me all about a silk painting she had bought for really cheep. She later returned and showed me the artwork she had bought. The image is created entirely with thin strands of colored silk pasted down in a spiral pattern. The silk caught the light and sent it back to the viewer with a bright shimmer. Another family stopped to look, and it turns out the young boy has been teaching himself Flash animation on the computer, so I explained about how I had worked for Disney Feature Animation for ten years. They asked me for advice on any books about animation I might recommend and I gave them my top pics.
There was plenty of color to be seen at the festival although my sketch seems to only demonstrate a sea of brown. I ordered some food from a vendor and listened to some gospel music before I headed home.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Doggie Door

Debbie Hayle invited me to go to the Doggie Door (329 North Park Avenue, Winter Park) to go to a meeting of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel club. The King Charles Spaniel is the same breed of dog that Charlotte York became obsessed with in "Sex and the City". When I arrived there were a few dog owners in the store but over time more and more Spaniels and their owners arrived.
Debbie had a cake made with a photo of her first Spaniel on the frosting. These dogs are a very excited and active breed. There was plenty of sniffing and tail swishing going on. Some owners were not content with just one dog and they walked in with a pack of spaniels. The bull dog in the sketch is actually a ceramic sculpture.
One little spaniel started growling and snapping at the other dogs. The owner immediately took the dog outside. Debbie had invited a professional animal trainer to come in and give a talk. He approached the woman with the aggressive dog and then demonstrated how she should be training him to stop the aggressive behavior. Rather than remove the dog from the situation he simply tugged at the collar to get the dogs attention. He would then reintroduce the dog to the situation where the aggressive behavior was initiated. If the dog behaved he was rewarded, if it was aggressive again he tugged again to get the dogs attention. The dog soon knew without a doubt what the trainer wanted it to do. Within a minute the dog was no longer being aggressive towards the other dogs.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A DRIP Day-glow Paint Surprise Party

This sketch was done a while ago as DRIP prepared to perform at the City Arts Factory. Evan Miga is busy preparing the printing press while David Traver is working on hanging mirrors from the rafters. Samantha Hudson is the dancer waiting in the wings. For this performance the dancers used the press to print edible ink on small cakes that were then offered to the audience. After this sketch was done Jessica Mariko asked to see what I had done. As I was showing her a City Arts staff member approached me and said "Excuse me this is a veeery exclusive event, you will have to leave." Then with a flick of his wrist he said "Shoo!" My sketch was finished and I was ready to go anyway, but once again I found myself not welcome.
Months later I was invited to go to a surprise birthday party for Evan. The party took place in a small children's art studio off of Colonial Drive called "My Art Studio" ( 4401 East Colonial Drive, Suite 106). I arrived early as instructed with a towel and a change of clothes. I entered an empty room where dancers were painting Happy Birthday in day-glow green paint on the walls. I helped by painting a blazing sun under the birthday lettering. Terry stopped in but she was still in her work clothes. I suspected things would get messy. I decided to leave my sketchpad in the safe room. When the main lights were turned off and a black light turned on the lettering glowed vibrantly. Jessica informed us that Evan was on the way and so we all hid behind a table for the surprise. We all crouched behind the table in the dark for the longest time, the anticipation growing. The plan was that Christie would walk Evan to the center of the room and then the black light would flick on and we all would shout surprise while stripping Evan and getting him into grubby work clothes. Then he was doused with a full bucket of watery paint and hit with silly string.
Paper was taped to the walls and we all painted at each and had to move on when the music changed. The music changed often until there was barely time to get one stroke on each page. Soon we were just throwing paint at the walls. Then the paint war began and I was caught in the cross fire! Everyone started throwing sponges soaked in paint at each other. Then paint was thrown straight from the bottles. Syringes were used as high power paint pistols. Before I knew it I was soaked head to toe, a living day-glow Pollock painting. When there was finally no paint left, Evan started hosing people down. For whatever reason this room had a garden hose and a drain in the center of the floor. He hit me with the cold spray and I washed the paint off my head and arms as fast as I could. Afterward we all lay down on the wet floor and had a group photo taken with Evan in the center. DRIP certainly knows how to throw a creative birthday party! It turns out anyone can plan a paint party at "My Art Studio."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rebounderz

Rebounderz (408 South Ronald Regan Boulevard, Longwood) his an indoors trampoline arena with 7,460 square feet of rebounding surfaces. The trampolines not only cover the whole floor, but also the walls. This was my second time going to Rebounderz. Katie Windish first told me about Rebounderz, and I finally went, thanks to a facebook invite from Amanda Chadwick. The first time I went, I didn't do a sketch, I simply jumped for as long as my body would allow me. You rent shoes just like in a bowling alley and are given a wrist band with a number which allows the staff to know how long you have been bounding. I was given a quick series of lessons from one of the "referees". I was taught how to roll and advised against landing straight legged on any of the green mats. I was told that if I wanted to do somersaults, I should ask for more advice. I had no intention of doing somersaults.
I limited my activity to bounding straight up and down trying to gain more height by throwing my arms up as well. Within ten minutes I was exhausted. I tried bounding off the walls, but I tended to just go splat and then slide straight down till I found myself seated on one of the mats. While seated I watched one guy bounce off a wall and then bound off the floor trampoline and complete the circuit by bounding off the other center pyramid shaped trampolines.
During the course of doing this sketch two girls had to be helped out of the room being supported by a friend and one of the referees. They hopped on one leg just like a football player being guided off the field. I don't know how serious their injuries were. You might notice that the line work in this sketch is a lot more hectic than usual. That is because when seated on the green mat, I would be violently bounced around anytime someone bounced on the trampoline in front of me. Rather than loose patience, I simply learned to stop drawing when they bounced and then put down a quick pen stroke before they bounced again.
How often is it that you get to do something completely new? Rebounderz was certainly a new experience for me, and it is a really good workout.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spring Awakening

Jeremy Seghers invited me to go to a rehearsal for "Spring Awakening" written by Frank Wedekind. The reading took place at the offices of Broadway Across America right near Lake Eola. When I walked into the conference room where the rehearsal was to take place, I was surprised at how many of the actors were high school aged. Everyone introduced themselves around the table and talked about what shows they had last been in. Many of the students were working on a production of "Rent" for the Fringe and many also all seemed to be putting on a high school production of "Moby Dick."
As we all waited for the last of the actors to arrive, Sean, picked up his green water bottle and the cap flopped off spilling his water all over the table. He jumped up screaming and apologizing as he ran into the next room looking for paper towels. He had been nervously talking to Sarah who was wearing a loose low cut shirt that made her look like she had just come from a job as a bar maid. His comical timing and actions were worthy of Chaplin. Everyone burst into laughter. When the reading started the mood grew more serious. Spring Awakening deals with a group of German students who for the first time face their sexuality and passions. One scene between a daughter, Wendla, played by Sarah Villegas and her mom,Frau Bergmann, played by Nicki Darden was both humorous and sad. The daughter wanted her mom to explain how babies are born. Although the mom wanted to tell he daughter everything, she found herself unable to.
FRAU BERGMANN: Come here, child, come here, I'll tell you! I'll tell you everything--... In order to have a child -- one must love -- the man -- to whom one is married -- love him, I tell you -- as one can only love a man! One must love him so much with one's whole heart, so -- so that one can't describe it! One must love him, Wendla, as you at your age are still unable to love -- Now you know it!
In the next act the daughter finds herself in a hay loft with a boy and then ultimately pregnant.
In another scene Sean Flinn contemplated a painting by Palma Veccio titled Venus. His impassioned plea to this goddess was so lascivious as to make any audience member blush. This play has often been banned for its sharp, pointed look at the hypocrisy of a society that felt that children should grow up ignorant of their sexuality. The play also deals with very serious issues of rape and suicide. The language in the original play is beautiful. Originally staged in 1906, the play is amazingly contemporary. In 2006 the play was bought brought to Broadway, this time as a musical by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater.
This reading of Spring Awakening is a joint venture between Heidi Dog Productions and Kangagirl Productions. This reading will be a continuation of a series of "Queer Quills" readings. You can see this staged reading on April 18th at 7:00 PM at the Breakthrough Theater (421 West Fairbanks Avenue Winter Park). A suggested $5 donation will benefit the Paul Wegman Scholarship for actors at Valencia Community College.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Writers Workshop - Non-Realistic Writing


Alicia Holmes, writer in residence at the Jack Kerouac House, held an abstract writing workshop. This workshop was organized by Mary Ann de Stefano of Mad About Words. When I arrived at the Kerouac House, the writers, all of them women were already hard at work. They had been encouraged to incorporate some element of the mythical into a short story. I started sketching as everyone was writing in the living room. When I was half-finished with the sketch, Mary Ann called all the writers into the living room to share their work.
One woman wrote a story told from the point of view of a modern day Medusa. She complained of all the statues that littered her front lawn. Neighbors would stop over and admire how lifelike the statues were. Medusa, of course knew they had all been alive. She considered a plane flight to get away from her troubles, but imagined getting upset with fellow passengers and turning them all to stone so that mode of transportation was not an option. If she got upset, the plane would certainly drop from the sky like a meteor.
Kathryn Sullivan, wrote a haunting story about looking at a painting in a museum. Her mind wandered and she felt at peace as she approached the work. In her mind she imagined the work as peaceful and violent all at the same time. She felt that if she reached out, the painting might heal her. She was transfixed and drew closer. Suddenly alarms sounded and a guard asked her to step away from the painting. She had reached out and touched a Jackson Pollock painting. The painting was titled "Lavender Mist."