Friday, December 31, 2010

Top 10 Posts of 2010 (As picked by AADW Readers)

The Top Post is...







1
. Thor Sketches the Audience With 38% of the votes.














2
. 67 Books
With 19% of the votes.












3
.
Two Hearts One Love With 16% of the votes.













4
.
East Orange Shooting Sports With 16% of the votes.













5
.
Turned Away from the Holy Land (Again)
With 13% of the votes.














6
. Boudoir Bombshells
With 8% of the votes.














7
. FRESH - The Coffee Mound
With 5% of the votes.













8
. The Artist is Present
With 5% of the votes.













9
. Triathlon
With 5% of the votes.














10
. Orlando Improv Festival
With 2% of the votes.













11
. This wouldn't be a daily sketch blog if I didn't include a recent sketch. This one is of the Mounted Police Unit Barn right before the Citrus Bowl Parade. This year I once again rode with the Pooper Scooper Brigade! More to come... Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

SWAMI World Traveler

Infusion Tea (1600 Edgewater Drive, College Park) hosted a talk by Swami about his world travels. Frankie Messina acted as the MC for the Soft Exposure event. After studying his notes for the longest time he stood behind the mic and read a poem to start off the evening. He then introduced Swami who he had first met in 1996 at the Florida Film Festival. Swami began his talk with an image of a car crash. He had been working as a computer animator for years when a car crash caused him to re-evaluate what he wanted from life and he began traveling the world.

One of his stories was particularly compelling. He traveled to Hiroshima Japan and visited the A-Bomb Dome. The first day he went as a typical tourist soaking in facts and figures about this building which had been kept in its original condition after the atom bomb was dropped on the city. The next day he returned, intent on finding out what the monument meant to the people of Hiroshima. His broken Japanese made approaching people difficult but he persisted. "Sumimasen. Konnichiwa..." He finally spoke to a Japanese woman who was willing to share her views in her broken English. She saw the building as a symbol of peace. She asked him the same question in return and he had to admit he saw it as a symbol of devastation. She looked to the future while he looked to the past. He said he hoped t0 one day see the building as a symbol of peace as well. An old man overheard the conversation and he asked Swami if he was American. The old man lived as a child on the outskirts of Hiroshima. He vividly remembered seeing the yellow orange glow on the horizon that day. Swami expressed his wish for eternal peace and the old man warmly replied, "You good man." They had their picture taken together both men with their hands raised with the peace sign and the dome in the background.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Lights

This outlandish display is located at 5651 Garden Grove Circle just off Howell Branch Road East of 436. When I arrived to sketch the sun was just beginning to set. It was a beautiful warm day. As soon as I started to sketch, the owner of the home behind me asked, "Are you a surveyor?" I laughed and explained I was an artist. I had about half an hour of daylight which I used to sketch in the rough outlines of the composition. There was a couple working adding more lights and lawn ornaments while I sketched. The woman finally had to see what I was up to. Her name was Betty and her husband's name was Rob Peterson. They have been putting up this display for the past 18 years. "Of course it started on a much smaller scale and grew over the years." said Betty.

When darkness settled in, Rob was busy pounding in "No Parking signs on his neighbors lawn. Then he bought out orange traffic cones. It turns out he has a traffic pattern well thought out in advance which keeps cars moving in a counter clockwise flow around the circular court which avoids any problems. The lights flickered on in large chunks until the display was blinding. Cars kept arriving and children and adults piled out to get a close up view of the display. I should have counted all the Santa's that were on the lawn. There were at least 6 Santa's riding on the Ferris wheel alone. Christmas music played softly in the background.

When I packed up and left I was shocked to find that many of the neighbors had played at "keeping up with the Jones's." One lawn was just as outlandish as the next. A garage was open and a small town was crafted inside . The next house specialized in lawn inflatables. I haven't done anything with my house yet. I might light a single candle and put it in my front window on Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse Rhythm Circle

I went to Tanqueray's downtown thinking I might sketch Bad Santa and the Dirty Elves. When I got to the bar there was no Santa and no Elves. I decided to order a beer and sketch the bar so the night wasn't a total waste. The woman across from me had on a Santa hat and she was boxing her partner with Rockum Sockum Pez dispensers. Besides myself there were only four patrons in the bar. I thought I recognized one of the women to my left but I couldn't place her. As she got up to leave she stopped by to say hello. Turns out she is a Facebook friend named Jessica Pawli. She informed me that there was to be a full Lunar eclipse that night. Dandelion Communitea Cafe was having a Rhythm Circle to celebrate the eclipse. How is it I didn't know about this? I downed the last sip of my beer and immediately headed over to Dandelion.

It was a cold crisp night and the full moon was bright. The hum from several Buddhist bowls resonated right down to my bones as I approached Dandelion. Christmas lights were strung up in the trees. A hot fire pit warmed the people who sat close. Some people kept their eyes closed as they rocked and swayed to the beat. I sat near a flood light which allowed me to see my sketchbook. Everyone had an instrument of some kind. There were flutes, guitars, tablas , didgeridoos, maracas, and a wide assortment of drums. I hummed along to the entrancing sound and rhythms. A drummer sat next to me and said, "Hey Thor." I didn't recognize him at first but then he told me I had sketched his band called "The Manteis Project." He informed me that I had sketched him in two locations in the same sketch. We laughed. His son crawled into his lap and he enfolded him inside his coat. The boy, tough snug, lost patience and he ran off to play with friends. "Thanks for the quick visit." he said as his son disappeared. It was obvious that he wished he could have held his son longer.

A beautiful woman stood by the fire playing a large flat moon of a drum. With her flowing robe and cloth headdress she very much looked like a romantic shaman as she celebrated the Yule festivities. I was told the last time there was a Lunar Eclipse on the Winter Solstice was 300 years ago. This was a once in a lifetime happening and I was celebrating the best way I knew how, with a sketch. The eclipse started well after midnight and the moon slowly turned a mysterious blood red. Slips of paper were available to write down thoughts and feelings that you might want to purge from your life. I filled out a slip and placed it in the fire. I watched as it withered and turned to glowing orange embers. I warmed my hands in the open flames and then started another sketch. I was shocked when my cell phone vibrated in my pocket calling me away from the festival of light. My sketchbook thankfully still smells of burnt wood and incense.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Day

As we went to bed the night before Christmas, Terry stood at the foot of our bed as I crawled under the covers and fluffed my pillow. I curled up on my side and she was still standing there staring and smiling . "What?" I asked. "Is there something on my face. I slapped my forehead 3 Stooges style and wiped. She just kept smiling like a little girl. It looked like she might burst. She couldn't stand it any longer, she said, "Look under your pillow." There was a small flat present there. It was after midnight so officially it was Christmas day. I sat up and unwrapped it. She had given me a "Toy Story 3" DVD. The next day we both watched the movie as our Christmas dinner cooked. I had seen the movie in the theater so I knew what I was in for. Even so, I got all choked up at the end when the story 's theme became clear... be there for someone, no matter what. Odd that some computer generated toys should open my heart to life's lessons of commitment and unquestioning love. That caring selflessly about someone else's happiness is more important than worrying about if they care about you and you are never abandoned if you have friends.

Other presents consisted of a fog free shower mirror for shaving and a warm silk sweater. I gave Terry a nice silver bracelet and a beautiful pink and purple hairpiece from a local artisan named Karie Brown. Terry wore the hairpiece and bracelet all day. Basting the turkey took all day as well. We thawed the turkey in a plastic chlorine bucket outside. Every 15 minutes the water had to be dumped out and new water added with a hose. I planned to relax and I sat outside near the bucket all morning. I simply watched the clouds roll by. There were no plans to sketch any cultural events. I could spent the whole day relaxing with Terry.

When she began preparations for our private Thanksgiving style dinner, I couldn't resist the urge to sketch anymore. I caught her as she pealed and cut the onions causing her eyes to burn with tears. Zorro our pet cockatoo supervised her every move and he eyed me with curiosity as I sketched him. I set the dining room table with our fine china and silverware. I was watching "Christmas Story" when the turkey came out of the oven at about 7pm and I began carving it up. The stuffing tasted amazing and I kept stealing tastes as we bought out all the dishes. By the end of our meal we were both stuffed and close to comatose. "It seems to me some fine things have been laid upon your table, but you only want the things you can't have..." Once again Desperado was ringing in my head. I believe we both felt grateful and happy to spend a whole day together. For once I wasn't running around seeking out others who love their life and work. I had time to appreciate what I had at home.

The next morning was cold and windy but I had to go for my 3 mile run to get my blood pumping, feeling bloated from yesterday's feast. I wore a sweatshirt and baggy yoga pants to stay warm. I passed a young boy learning to ride an 8 foot high unicycle which he must have gotten for Christmas. He never fell but the winds kept pushing him around precariously. The entire run out the wind was in my face stinging my lungs. How is it then that the wind was in my face on the entire run back? I passed another runner going the other way in nothing but a tee shirt and shorts. We nodded to one another. I actually saw my breath. I began to loose my will to run in the last quarter mile or so, but then I ran across pine needles which cushioned my steps. It was like a golden sienna carpet laid down for me. I imagined myself as a steam engine and in my mind I stoked the fire so it would burn brighter. For the first time I realized the street I start and stop my run at is called Windjammer Lane. I sprinted towards it knowing full well the only race I had to win was in my head.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Jingle Bell Run / Walk

The Jingle Bell Run / Walk took place early in the morning Saturday December 18th. A section of Broad Street was blocked off where all the runners gathered. I knew I was in the right place when I heard loud Christmas music. Many runners were festively dressed in red and green. The group I decided to sketch were wearing shopping bags that said, "Do not peek." The bags had Santa's and snowmen as decoration. Apparently parrot heads were a big sponsor of the event. One man wore an amazing parrot costume that made him look like a macaw. Some people jogged down side streets to stay warm and everyone stretched their calves and midsections. There were more than a few dogs there as well and they had costumes as well. When the starting horn sounded I was still busy sketching, as usual struggling to keep up with the fast pace of life.

Funds raised by the event went to the Arthritis Foundation.I was walking back to my truck when the first runners crossed the 5K finish line. I drove around Lake Baldwin which allowed me to watch the runners on the course. It started to rain and I found the roads to bring me home.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Eve at Unity

After a relaxing afternoon shopping on Park Avenue in Winter Park and a free concert at the Morse museum, Terry and I went to a candle light service at Unity Church (4801 Clarcona Ocoee Road.) Parked in front of the church was an interesting character on a souped up bicycle with a long chopper styled front wheel assembly straight out of "Easy Rider" and a sign that said "No Trespassing." It took amazing restraint to not start sketching right there. The church's warm inviting interior beckoned and we went inside. Red Poinsettias were everywhere. Reverend Bob Marshal told everyone to unwrap a paper message which had been fastened to the base of each persons candle like a fortune cookie. Terry's fortune read, "I am aglow with the spirit of God." This theme of an inner light was repeated several times that night.

Music celebrated the joy of the occasion. A husband and wife performed a duet and there were a number of beautiful solos. I loved the performance of "O Holy Night." Something in the singers beautiful voice when she sang, "o night divine", struck me and lifted me up. It was nice standing beside Terry singing Christmas Carols. It reminded me of the times she used to go caroling on the streets of NYC with a Medieval Choral group. I loved sketching those freezing cold outings.

There was a large display of candles in front of the pulpet which congregation members would light one at a time. Once a candle was lit the igniting candle would be passed to another member of the congregation and they would light the next candle in line. Each candle represented a different apostle. I was fascinated that an apostle named Bartholomeus was considered the apostle of imagination. So many of the themes expressed celebrated creativity and a glowing sense of goodwill that can be realized when that inner light is ignited and shared. The final song of the evening was "Silent Night" and Reverend Bob suggested we all keep repeating the first verse. That way we didn't have to worry about the words, and the song would almost become a sacred chant. Everyone stood arm in arm and swayed to the gentle lyrics. From a single candle, a flame was shared and slowly the room filled with light. The reverend said,"The light that shines in each of us is the gift of Christmas." Merry Christmas and help spread the light and joy today and always.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Nativity Story

As I drove North on I-4 I got nervous about going to Pinocchio's Puppet Theater since I figured the Altamonte Mall must be packed since it was the last shopping weekend before Christmas. Surprisingly it was easy to find parking and it wasn't too crowded in the mall. When I got to Pinocchio's I slipped in past the velvet rope. Sarah Lockhard and Heather Henson were manipulating several puppets, just finishing up a rehearsal. Along the side wall of the theater there was a trio of medieval performers with recorders, a vi0lin and mandolin. They were the Olde Noyse Trio. The recorder player glanced over at me while I sketched. He said, "Your Tom aren't you? I played recorders with your wife Terry."

The puppet show began with the annunciation as an angel appeared before Mary telling her she would immaculately conceive a child. The Mary puppet was manipulated by Sarah Lockhard who panted in surprise upon seeing the angel. Mary was no more than a foot high. Joseph who was much older than Mary had a difficult time believing Mary was with child. The truth was reveled in a dream. Some children squirmed, not understanding all aspects of the story.

When the Nativity Story was complete, Sean Keohane stood at the set alter an announced that they would set up the manger scene again so children could get a closer look, and parents could take pictures. A little boy shouted out, "I want to see the baby!" When I inspected the puppets up close, a pupeteer took one of the three Magi's and she started lifting his skirt. "This is my favorite part." she said. Neatly sewn on the Magi's butt was a cloth label that read, Jim Henson's Workshop.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wheels 4 Kids Distribution

The bicycle distribution took place in front of Howard Middle School which is on Robinson just East of North Summerlin Avenue. Coming from another appointment, I arrived late. I wasn't in the best of moods. I was honestly annoyed and impatient. I didn't waste a moment. I just leaned against a tree with the full sun warming me as I worked. The wind kept blowing the sketchbook closed till I finally clipped one of my pens on the flapping page to keep it in place. I couldn't see the Mounted Police horses though I knew they must be around. Children's names were being called over a megaphone and I heard Santa chuckling in good will. A policeman kept signaling passing cars to slow down. He had to shout at times in annoyance at SUV drivers who were in a mad rush.

Patricia Charpentier walked up to me and said, "I knew I would find you on the periphery here." I showed her my sketch which only had a light blue sky washed in. She picked up several prints I had done for the LifeSketch project. This particular LifeSketch was going to be about how her parents met. Two young boys were yelling with joy behind me as they tested their new bikes on the school's running track. Patricia pointed out a little girl who was riding her tiny pink bike with training wheels and a mini child seat for a doll. She was adorable as she tried to keep up with her mothers long strides. My foul mood melted. How could I remain angry when faced with so much goodwill? Firemen posed for a group photo in front of the "Wheels 4 Kids" banner. They shouted out "Merry Christmas!" and the photographer pressed the shutter button. The Mounted Police Horses clomped in front of me. Kelly one of the volunteers riding tapped her butt and asked me if I had sketched her. I was being jokingly reminded that I had let those proportions get a bit wide in a previous sketch. Last year 94 bikes were given away and this year around 64 bikes were distributed. Perhaps people can give less but they still give. I was still sketching as the truck pulled away and people scattered.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wheels for Kids

As I approached Fire Station 1 on foot, I saw that all the trucks were parked out front leaving the cavernous new garage as a Christmas workspace. The firemen were working like greased lightning busily constructing some 68 bikes for children in need this holiday season. These guys know how to use a wrench and I had to struggle to catch the fleeting gestures as the bikes were built. I set my stool up at the base of the fireman's pole and immediately got to work. One fireman spoke to me for a few minutes. He said they love getting the chance to build these bikes each year. This is the ninth year in a row that bikes have been given away. The program began in 2002 when school bus routes were canceled from Reeves Terrace to several downtown schools due to budget cuts. Commissioner Patty Sheehan wanted to find a way to ensure children had bikes to travel safely to school.

The fireman pointed out that they have to decide each year who gets to build the bikes and who gets to give them away. Jokingly he confided that perhaps it is the "pretty boys" who give the bikes away. He took great pride in how quickly he could build a bike however. In about a week the bikes will be given away to children in Reeves Terrace community. Each bike is custom built with a specific needy child's name on it. I sketched this outpouring of goodwill last year and I can't wait to sketch it again this year. The Orlando Mounted Police escort a firetruck which acts as Santa's sleigh. The huge police horses act as reindeer. Watching a little girl wobbling on her new bike then gaining balance with the help of a fireman is a heart warming image that still lingers with me.

"We take a lot of pride in the holiday spirit this event brings to kids and families who need it most. Nearly 700 bikes have been distributed through our Wheels for Kids program thanks to dedicated sponsors, civic leadership and community commitment." said Commissioner Sheehan.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

CFHLA Gala

The Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association Gala was held this year at the Brand new Peabody Hotel right near the Convention Center. As Terry and I drove up to the Hotel, we saw a sign for free parking on the right so we took a right turn into the entry and dropped of the keys with a valet. The new hotel's lobby is immense. It has the feeling of a space station with it's tall glass facade and curved oak panels. At first the event didn't seem well attended but when we rounded a corner the crowd of black tuxedos and ballgowns suddenly appeared. People milled around the bars and the tables full of silent auction items. Terry placed a bid on a leather hand bag but was thankfully outbid. There were the usual suspects, a signed basketball, gift baskets and a few art prints.

Elegantly dressed stilt walkers wandered among the crowd. I envied them thinking it would be the perfect angle to sketch the crowd from. Hal Studholme compared the event to a party thrown by Salvidor Dali's wife. While Terry was being a social butterfly finding her friends from the Philharmonic, I agonized about what I should sketch. There was an upper level which would have given me a good overview, but Terry pointed out that the dining room doors would be opening in half an hour. Not enough time for a detailed overview. I bit the inside of my mouth and waited. She had made the right call because only moments later the doors swept open and the stilt walkers tried to convince people to go inside.

We sat at the table with the Friends of the Philharmonic. Dinner was decent. I ate quickly and started this sketch in the pauses between courses. Everyone at the table knew of this blog and that they might end up in the sketch. A member of our group joked that I should sketch the woman seated at the table behind us. She had on a tight shear dress and was busty. He said my site would get twice as many hits. I didn't sketch her. On stage there was a billboard sized check to the Orlando Philharmonic for $10,000.

A Beatles cover band performed as we were getting desert. Then a scrim lifted and the Orlando Philharmonic was there as back up. Soon the dancing started but I had a cold so I wandered back out to the lobby thinking I might try a second sketch. I didn't have it in me. I lounged on a large couch and watched a group of 6 or so stilt walkers dressed in 60's rainbow flavored suits as they danced and vogued.

We went up to a friends room upstairs and marveled at the TV inside the bathroom mirror and neon lights under the dresser which were motion activated. Down at the valet we found out parking was actually $10. We were Shang hai'd! My head was ready to explode and I just wanted to rest.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Manatee Viewing Center

Driving North from Port Charlotte on I-75, Terry and I needed a break and some gas. A sign on the off ramp announced a Manatee Viewing Area (6990 Dickman Road) and we decided to explore a bit. The viewing center is near Apollo Beach. Our destination was visible from miles away. We drove straight toward these billowing industrial smoke stacks.We pulled into a fenced in industrial parking lot. Zorro our pet cockatoo was in his travel cage in the back seat, so we decided to go one at a time to the viewing platform. Terry went first. Zorro and I patiently waited in the car. I noticed a "no pets" sign posted next to the gift shop. When she got back, Terry told me I had to do a sketch. She wanted to read a book while sitting on some picnic benches she had found. I carried Zorro's cage to the picnic table. People kept asking questions about Zorro when Terry wandered off to use the bathroom. "How old is he?" "13." "Does he talk?" "Yes, he says I love you and hello." When Terry got back I quickly walked out to the viewing platform.

I didn't see any Manatees in the murky green water but they were there. Manatees congregate here because the coal burning Big Bend Power Station pumps out warm water, which was used to cool unit 4, into the discharge canal that leads out to Tampa Bay. Manatees gather here when Tampa Bay's water Temperature drops below 68 degrees. On January 15th and 16th the viewing center will be celebrating its 25th anniversary. Terry called me on my cell phone just as I was starting the sketch. She was being asked by a volunteer security guard to remove Zorro from the property. I had to lug his heavy cage back to the parking lot.

I made my way back to the viewing platform and got to work. A muffled recorded announcer kept repeating facts and figures over a loudspeaker. I couldn't make out a word of it. I was halfway into the sketch when a female volunteer approached me. She asked what I was doing. My stomach tensed. Something about how she asked the question made me suspicious. I told her I was sketching. She told me that no pictures are allowed to be taken of the power plant for reasons of National Security. She told me there was a security officer at the power plant who kept an eye out for anyone taking pictures. I kept sketching the whole time she was talking. It turned out she was an artist herself. She asked me if I planned to exhibit my sketch. I decided to tell a white lie saying no one would ever see it. She tried to convince me to sketch the mangroves or drive a couple of miles down the road to sketch Apollo Beach. She didn't stop me from sketching however. When she left she simply reminded me that pictures weren't allowed. As I sketched I started to wonder if there was someone on the power plant with a sniper rifle and high powered scope watching my every move. I sketched faster. My experience has been, that after a warning, another person would invariably boot me from the property. Sure enough as I was throwing down watercolor washes, a volunteer in a wheel chair approached me. He asked, "What are you doing?" I sighed and replied, "Sketching." He went on to tell me that one of the volunteers was an artist. I pointed out that I had already met her. He reminded me that no pictures were allowed, then he rolled away, happy. A female tourist asked to see the sketch and after complimenting me she pointed at the power station and said, "Pollution."

I never did spot a manatee though I did see ripples in the water where the snouts would break the water line for a breath. I dropped the sketchbook off in the car before searching out a bathroom. I didn't want to give any volunteers an opportunity to confiscate the sketch. Terry and I were happy to drive away. I should point out that I rerouted some of the pipes and I moved the position of one of the scrubbers to confuse any terrorists who might be using my sketch to hatch any devious plots.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Tree Tent

Sometimes I spend so much time researching possible subjects, I loose sight of the quirky things that pop up around me every day. Driving into the Full Sail parking lot I noticed a large Christmas Tree Tent had been erected. An inflatable Homer Simpson offered D'0H NUTS to the incessant and furious 436 traffic. I passed this tent for a solid week before finally deciding I had to sketch it. I sat in a roadside drainage ditch to get the proper vantage point.

I had been sent on an assignment to sketch a banking CEO's home but when I got to the street, I discovered it was a gated community. I made several calls, but never got the gate code. I started to drive home when I remembered what Homer would say in such a situation, "D'OH!" I decided to make the drive over to the Christmas tent. I never realized that this tent had the best quality prices and selection! Why would people get their trees anywhere else? People must travel hundreds of miles, making the pilgrimage to this sales mecca. I had stumbled upon the Best Christmas tree sales tent in Central Florida!

The parking lot directly behind the tent was empty. I only saw one person. He came out with a gas can to fill the electric generator. The billboard was for a rape help center designed in delicate purples and pinks.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Kindness of Ravens

There was a mad rush to get things finished opening night of Macabre Vignettes #3 Snow. There was the enraged search for an electrical chord which involved throwing things out of the way and then a mad flash of black Duck taping the wiring down. Audio equipment was being moved from downstairs to the balcony in the final moments. Seth Kubersky announced, "5 minutes to open house!" A few dancers who were still dressing and applying make up said, "Thank you 5." That didn't leave me with much time to finish my sketch. Below they were working on a dance routine that involved interacting with a large raven. The dancer held two lines that manipulated the birds sharp talons. As they rehearsed, Genevieve Bernard walked quickly by getting ensnared in the near invisible lines. "My bad." she said. There was no harm done. It seemed like there were too many loose ends for the show to open on time. Leah called for a 5 minute extension. The pulse in the room quickened. Finally Seth shouted out, "House 0pen!" People started to drift in. I had a few more watercolor washes to add and I slapped them down. Showtime!

I walked down the web encrusted staircase and ordered a Blue Moon at the bar. Then I put the sketchpad away and relaxed on a green couch . The show had already started with dancers wandering among the audience marveling at the environment. Bloggers Jana Waring and Mark Baratelli wandered in. The dancers were in their own world never interacting with audience members. Once a dancer held a hand out towards a man walking by. He hadn't noticed her and her longing gesture lingered. When the dancers moved among the ravens, one of the control wires got all tangled in a knot among the talons. The bird hung limply just a few feet in front of me. Finally I couldn't resist, I stepped forward and untangled the poor bird and then held the control line. A dancer leaped toward me and took the line smiling. However the bird had spun so many times that he couldn't be raised any higher. The dancer valiantly held the line but the bird would only loose altitude never going back up. It finally fell to the floor and was brushed aside by Leah. I admired the dancers for adjusting to such technical problems without missing a beat.

Over time the dancing was no longer enough to hold me. I needed some thread of story to keep me engaged. I never became involved enough to suspend my disbelief. Staging the large puppets was a problem since they were best viewed from the front. They would spend agonizing moments with their backs to the audience. I walked around the room incessantly, changing my point of view. Most of the audience however remained stationary unable to see the action or gesture of the puppets. Tamara Marke-Lars stated that the large creations were sculpture first and puppets second. She pushed the boundary between puppetry and art. Sometimes for me, art isn't enough if it doesn't support a solid story.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas in the Park

A free concert in Winter Park's Central Park was the perfect way to get in the Christmas spirit. It was a very cold night for Orlando. I arrived maybe half an hour early and already the great lawn was packed with families who had come out with picnic baskets, blankets, wine and even fine china and candles for the occasion. I felt a bit unprepared with just a sketchbook, pen and some watercolors. After I set up my stool on the sidelines, Ken Sperduso walked up and said hello. Ken was a former Disney colleague and a wonderful painter. I hadn't seen Ken in ages, it was a pleasant surprise. His whole family was camped out not far behind me. Ken said he recognized me from behind because of the sketchbook in my lap.

Large shadow box containers were arranged on stage and around the lawn, housing original Tiffany stained glass windows which were created for a church in NYC in the early 1900's. At the start of the concert they all were illuminated from behind. The instant they blazed brightly, the crowd burst forth with applause. It is rewarding to hear people applaud for visual art. These amazing works had iridescent colors that only Tiffany could perfect in molten glass. This display was made possible thanks to the Morse Museum which houses the world's largest collection of Tiffany's work.

The concert featured the Bach Festival Choir and Brass Ensemble. As I sketched, I pulled my hands up into the sleeves of my sweatshirt to try and keep them warm. Periodically I had to blow into my cupped hands for added warmth. It felt like Christmas time. When I finished the sketch I walked around in the crowd for a while looking for a possible second sketch. I walked under a streetlamp so I could see the colors I had just painted for the first time. Mr. and Mrs. Claus were handing out candy to children. They were dressed in vintage 1900's red wool and white fur outfits. They looked warm as they calmly posed for family photos. I considered a sketch but my fingers were cold, and the jolly couple were constantly on the move. The Park Avenue store windows glowed warm and inviting. With all the families huddling close together for warmth and the angelic voices of the children on stage singing, I started feeling out of place, alone, with only my obsessive compulsion to sketch as company. As I turned away and walked down Park Avenue towards my truck, I pulled the sweatshirt hood up over my head and felt instantly warmer. The children's voices were still harmonizing behind me and I let the warmth spread as I walked briskly back toward home.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fisherman's Village, Punta Gorda

While visiting my Sister, Pat Boehme, in south Florida over the Thanksgiving Holiday, we decided to hit some stores in Punta Gorda for Black Friday. Pat drove us to Fisherman's Village which is a series of shops that line an old dock. The stores were all decked out with Christmas decorations. It was way too early for me to consider sketching Santa or Reindeer. I walked the length of the dock, looking in all the shop windows without much interest. I decided to sit outside behind the shops and enjoy the view of all the boats. Later this month there will be a nautical parade where boats are decorated to the hilt with Christmas lights. Stringing lights from masts certainly would make for simple Christmas tree shapes.

One of the boats motored out from its moorings while I sketched. A man was behind the wheel shouting out orders and a woman was on the bow coiling up some ropes. She was in a bikini. The warm beautiful day made it difficult to imagine that Christmas was right around the corner.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

International Cultural Drum Exchange

I woke up at 6am in order to get down to the UCF Center for Emerging Media (500 West Livingston Street Orlando). I had been given a tip by Dana Mott that a group of Nap Ford students were going to have a live video conference with a drummer from South Africa. As I drove east towards downtown, the sun rose above the horizon and expanded into a deep orange fireball. I don't get up this early very often so I was delighted, my eyes squinted and misted up to the spectacle.

It was a freezing cold morning. Alright, I didn't see any ice, but for my thin blood it was cold. The front door at the UCF Center was locked so I fired off several frantic calls on my cell. During the second call, a guard appeared and buzzed me in. I shook off the cold and made my way to the Bridge, a small auditorium on the first floor. The Nap Ford students were already seated in a semi circle around their drums. A piece of audio equipment had been Federal Expressed to South Africa the day before. On that distant continent they were reading manuals and struggling to plug everything in. Since there was no live feed, the Nap Ford students had some time to rehearse. The drums resounded jolting me awake. The room warmed and glowed to the rhythm and young voices.

The image from South Africa flickered live onto the big screen. Introductions were made and the students, most of them around ten years old, performed for the South African drummer named Lucky Paliso. As they found a resounding rhythm and sang, Lucky smiled broadly. There was magic in the moment. This was a cross cultural exchange that needed no words or translation. When they finished, everyone on the big screen clapped after a ten second lapse. Lucky pointed out that drumming is probably the worlds oldest form of communication and it is universal across all cultures. He told everyone how much he enjoyed the performance then he offered advice on interlacing rhythms within a beat. To drive his point home he taught the children a beat which they repeated. Then, as they continued to play, he performed an intricate rhythm that wove in and around their beat. It was playful, spirited, uplifting and inspired.

Jennifer Porter-Smith, the Nap Ford principle, thanked everyone who helped create an experience the students would certainly remember their entire lives. Lucky told the children that they were fortunate to be part of an ancient cultural tradition. In Senegal not anyone can play drums, they must be born a drummer. He said, "You can take an African out of the bush but you can not take the bush out of the African." The students flipped through my sketchbook hungrily after the event was over. I got one of the best compliments I have had in a long time when a ten year old gave me a high five.

Such multi-cultural exchanges feel like a jolt of collective good will, a promise of fulfilled potential. There should be less reason for misunderstandings or conflict in a world filled with music. On the drive to my next sketch location, I felt happy and oddly at peace. What a great way to start the day!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Twelfth Night

There was a free staged reading of Twelfth Night at the Shakespeare Theater (812 East Rollins Street.) There was an inspired twist to this performance which peaked my interest, the entire cast was male. In Shakespeare's time this is how the show would have been cast. In the beginning there was surprised laughter and murmuring in the audience but then as the plot unfolded people settled in and the honest and unaffected performances helped suspend disbelief. It became obvious that Shakespeare wrote the play with an all male cast in mind. Many of the comedic moment became even funnier knowing a man would perform the part. The play is full of women disguised as men and men disguised as women. Thus the audience had to accept a man playing a woman disguised as a man. This sort of multi-layering was surprisingly simple and fun to follow. I highly respect the actors who played the female rolls. They played their parts with dignity and grace never pushing towards stereo typical flamboyant feminine performances.

"Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. " I have heard this quote before but never seen it played out to its full comic effect. The words were uttered by Malvoio, played by Eric Zicot, is pretentious, ambitious and very full of his own self worth. Merry makers play a trick on him by writing a love letter that Malvolio believes is written by Countess Olivia, played by Timothy Williams, whom he serves as a steward. As he recites these lines about his greatness, he is strutting before his Countess like a peacock wearing outlandish bright yellow socks, and everyone knows Olivia abhors yellow socks. This over the top performance was the funniest moment in the play.

After the the show there was a question and answer session with the cast. Again and again women in the audience complimented the actors for how well they played the women's rolls. Michael Wanzie a pruducer, director and radio personality, noted how clever and funny the play was when performed soley by men. Added humor and heightened meaning comes to the play when performed by the male cast. It is as if Shakespeare is poking fun at the theatrical traditions of which he was a part. Romeo and Juliet will have a similar all male cast reading at the Shakespeare Theater on Sunday, March 13, 2011 at 7 p.m. Mark your new 2011 calenders, you don't want to miss it!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pulse of Miami

On our final day experiencing Art Basel in Miami, Terry and I went to Pulse. This contemporary art exhibit was in a huge warehouse which is normally used for photo shoots and large parties. At the entrance I went through the routine of getting my press pass which landed me a VIP card. The previous evening Terry had been handed a ticked by some guy on the street who had already been to the show. The building is surrounded by a stone wall and the gated entrance lead us to a nice grass lawn with some sculptures and hammocks tied between the palm trees. It was a perfect lazy morning so I decided to start off by kicking back and relaxing on the lawn. There is nothing better than sketching to settle into a place. I was fascinated by this small red European car which was perfectly symmetrical, having steering wheels and headlamps in both the front and back of the vehicle. Re-imagining automobiles seemed to be a running theme this year.

Many people entering the PULSE galleries stopped stared and took pictures. Signs on the car's seats however asked that no one sit inside the vehicle. In front of the car was a sculpture by Orly Genger titled "Beefcakes 2010." It was made from miles of white rope woven together like it was crocheted. It's spiraling form looked to me like Hokasai's "The Great Wave at Kanagawa." Similar rope sculptures were scattered around the lawn. Children couldn't resist sitting and playing on them. Soon parents relaxed and sat on the sculptures as well while they discussed their last European vacation.

Two of Terry's friends showed up and we all sat down to have lunch. Over lunch I was told about some Graffiti artists who were working over on 23rd Street. As soon as I finished eating, my mind wandered and I got antsy wanting to get another sketch done. When the conversation turned to fashion, Terry suggested I take off on foot to sketch. I didn't need to be told twice. I hiked past a cement factory and several automotive cut shops. The buildings got dingier until I hit the first patch of bright graffiti color. Suddenly every building was covered with pop images, Henai Anime, and bold tags.

When I came across a group of artists busy tagging a wall, I settled in to sketch. The artist working in the foreground is named "Clever." I could smell the aerosol fumes the whole time I worked. The distant artist used a face mask and Clever wore a purple surgical glove on his spray can hand. People occasionally would stop and take pictures of the artists at work. Paint cans and other supplies were neatly arranged on a large trailer bed. The trailer bed just happened to be parked there offering a nice platform to inspect the work in progress.

When I was done with the sketch, I shared my work with the graffiti artists and then wandered the neighborhood some more. Galleries popped up left and right. The buildings exploded with color and were filled with art. Music blared from boom boxes and then I came across a large store front that was being covered with graffiti. Grazyana Kleinman, an Orlando photographer was there taking photos. I stopped to talk for a while. Grazyana has shot a whole series of photos of graffiti artists at work. She was ecstatic, in her element soaking in the vibrant street scene around her. Terry drove up thanks to several text messages and Art Basel was over. I certainly experienced more this Year than last, but three days just isn't enough time.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

CEO Stagecoach

There was so much more going on in Miami besides the art on display in the Convention Center for Art Basel. I spent an entire day trying to track down and sketch the CEO Stagecoach. In the morning Terry and I went to the Rosa Dela Cruz Gallery (23 NE 41 Street ) along with Elayne Pines, Bob Newlen and Derek Hewitt. I quickly ran through the 3 floors of modern art and decided I had to draw this furry Sasquatch with mirrored staircases spiraling in and around it. A female guard stood vigil in her white suite beside the sculpture the whole time. The wall behind was covered floor to ceiling with colored mirrors which appealed to many a vain patron or photographer. Periodically a patron would walk up to the furry monstrosity and snap a photo using their iPhone. To me the sculpted creature looked very annoyed at all the attention he was getting. Black ooze dripped from his fingertips and where the fur was stripped away the flesh was pink and raw. I wondered if his privates were the focus of these photos but I couldn't see from where I was sketching half way up a staircase. Just as I was finishing the sketch, I got a text message from Terry letting me know she was relaxing having a free coffee and cookies out on the back patio. After I tried a few cookies myself, we went to a staff member of the gallery and asked about the Stagecoach. He didn't know where to find it but he did an exhaustive internet search. It turned out that the artist was giving a talk about his creation at the LIONS Gallery at Museovault(346 NW 29th Street) and the coach was slated to be there till 4pm. Terry and I got back in her car and rushed over to that gallery.

As we pulled up to the Museovault, Terry pointed and shouted out "There it is!" The horse drawn art was on the move however. I was despondent. It was leaving. Terry suggested I get out and run after it, but I haven't figured out yet how to sketch while running. We went inside to ask about the piece anyway. The space had a fun quirky collection of art. There was a radio that once belonged to Robert Maplethorpe that Kieth Haring had drawn a few of his white stick figures on. I was informed that the CEO Stagecoach was going to pick up the artists parents and it would be returning. I sent out an excited tweet just in case any other artists had made it their mission to sketch the coach. I paced the gallery nervously waiting for my moment to sketch. Terry had one of the curators looking online for handbags and concertinas. I felt at home in this gallery which was humble compared to the circus of excess at the convention center.

The CEO Stagecoach was created by artist Jeremy Dean. He got the idea of cutting a Hummer in half and rebuilding it as a stagecoach after he read about how people bought cars before the Great Depression of 1929 and then they could not afford to pay for gas. All over the south Americans converted cars into horse drawn carts. These cars were referred to as "Hoover Carts", after President Edgar Hoover. The Hummer has become a symbol of American excess in the 21st century. Jeremy ended up spending his wife's life savings to buy a brand new Hummer to deconstruct. Luckily the piece was immediately purchased by a museum in Kentucky. After all the modifications the vehicle weighed in at 18 hundred pounds which isn't much more than a standard cart. The gorgeous Belgian Draft horses didn't seem to mind. As Jeremy said, "This is an exploration of historical amnesia, the culture of excess, financial collapse, sustainability and the future, through leather, steel and chrome." Jeremy is planning to convert a Cadillac Escalade next. I asked Jeremy to sign my sketch. After his talk a bicycle rolled by on the sidewalk riding on its rims with no rubber tires. There was something surreal about the moment as both vehicles made statements about want and economics.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Murder of Crows

Alright, so they are actually Ravens but I felt Murder needed to be in the title. I returned to Macabre Vignettes #3 / Snow on the last day of rehearsals. Black ravens circled ominously over the Voci Dancers as the worked out the kinks to their dance routine. Once again Leah Marke was offering constant suggestions and encouragement. Each of the dancers was given a filament line that would control the height of one and sometimes two ravens. As they loosened the lines which were secured to the stylized trees, one raven dropped quickly grazing Melissa Medina's hair. She shrieked in surprise and then laughed loudly. This routine is complicated by the fact that the lines often limit possible movement because they come down at obtuse angles. Every movement of the dancers affects the movement of the ravens. They had to balance a fine line, being puppeteers and dancers all at once. Dancer, Amanda Oost Bradberry, who is now pregnant wore a large ravens head mask. This was a stroke of pure genius, she is beautiful in the outfit, her distended belly and wide stance complimented the form of the head. With her arms over her head she resembled an infant in her proportions.

The staircase to the second floor was now enclosed and surrounded by an immense spider web. I had to duck to climb the stairs. Macabre found object sculptures were now hung gallery style against the back wall. It was a humbling and frightening collection. Downstairs Tamara's mom was seated on a green cushion and organizing strings of Christmas lights. Tamara was high up on a ladder draping fabrics from lines. The environment she was creating had taken on so much form and structure since the last time I sketched. I doubt she ever slept. I know the true magic will happen as she creates and refines the final ten percent.

For the final dance routine, Leah let me sit right in the center of the action. Genevieve said, "This is only because you are at the rehearsals Thomas." The action happened all around me. In the beginning the dancers were suspended from bolts of green fabric which hung from the ceiling I-beams. They hung from their hips dangling horizontally like limp dolls. Laughing, Leah was revolving uncontrollably until Lisa Nakayama stopped her. The large hunchbacked blue puppet walked around me reaching longingly in the air his sad expression registering resignation. It took three puppeteers to move him . Suddenly all the dancers were crouched around me and one got caught in a fearsome exchange with the creature. I of course was struggling to catch a gesture, or moment in the action. I already had one sketch under my belt however, so I finally relaxed and enjoyed the performance.

Admission to Macabre Vignettes #3 is $20 cash at the door, at Urban ReThink (625 East Central Boulevard), which used to be the Urban Think bookstore. Doors open 30 minutes prior to curtain time. They suggest getting your ticket early and then catching a bite to eat at any of the fabulous restaurants in the neighborhood.
Show times are:
December 11 (Today!) at 8pm and 10pm
December 12 at 2pm and 8pm

Friday, December 10, 2010

Stendhal Syndrome


In the nineteenth century a French author named Stendhal was traveling in Florence Italy and he was so overwhelmed by all the art and beauty that he became dizzy, faint and physically sick. After a second solid day of chasing art in Miami I believe I might have suffered from this Stendhal Syndrome.

This sketch was done in the convention center. This installation caught my attention because inside people were sitting and gently playing a drum. The piece was called Circleprototemple by Ernesto Neto. A thin shear red fabric was stretched over wooden forms which created what in my mind resembled a heart or very large strawberry. This wasn't an organized performance, rather curious passers by would enter the oval portal and sit on the wooden benches inside. A single drum mallet was suspended from a bungee chord over the drum. If the mallet was lifted and dropped it would bounce up and down striking the drum. Some people went inside not to play the drum, but to sit and finger their iPhones and PDA's . I was surprised when Orlando photographer Grazyna Kleinman stopped by while I was sketching. She told me about her crazy night of partying till 4am. She was running on pure adrenaline. As we spoke an exhibitor told me to move my chair out into the exhibit floor walkway. He felt I was blocking a painting by Brian Calvin called group smoke.

I got two press passes to see SCOPE, a huge collection of work from contemporary artists in a large outdoor tent. Here I found the work of an artist whose paintings truly caused my heart to race. His name was Karim Hamid and he paints large figurative works with oils on board. His work is expressionistic and resembles the work of Francis Bacon to some extent. This work fired off something inside me, a new flame ignited. This is why I had come to Miami!

Later, Terry and I offered Brian Feldman a ride out to Miami's South Beach. He had a case of Art and culture induced hiccups. He spent the whole ride telling us about the performances he was planning for the 2011 Orlando Fringe Festival. Every sentence was interrupted by a new and peculiar hiccup. Each interrupted thought caused us all to laugh to the point where it became hard to breath. I tried to share with him a time honored family cure but the incantation alone didn't work without a cup of water.

Terry and I met two couples for dinner at a Cuban Thai Restaurant after dropping Brian off at South Beach. He was still hiccuping when he jumped out of the car. I had a spicy and delicious Pad Thai. When we called it a night and started the drive back to our friends home for the night, I suddenly felt ill. My stomach churned and I felt my innards turning to mud. Terry drove around the block and dropped me back at the restaurant. I ran back inside. Too much rich food, art and running around. I wouldn't be documenting any naked bonfire parties this night.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Art Basel Miami

As soon as I entered the Miami Convention center I searched for the media accreditation area. It was up an escalator on the second floor of section D. I had drafted my own press pass request letter with a nice Analog Artist Digital World letterhead. I was shocked when the young girl at the reception desk accepted my credentials and send me back to have my photo taken which was then printed out on a crispy new press pass. Blogs are slowly gaining ground as legitimate news media. Entering the convention floor, I had my bags checked by security. Terry, her friend Elayne and Bob had purchased tickets while I got my press pass so I tapped out a text message to Terry to find out if they were on the Convention floor yet. Actress Susan Serandon walked past me with an entourage. When I spotted Terry I told her about my star sighting and she quickly wandered off to gawk. I texted Brian Feldman to let him know I got my press pass. He had coached me on who to contact about getting the pass.

I wandered off in search of a spot to sketch. The narrow halls didn't offer much room for me to sit myself without getting tripped on. Art covered every wall so it was hard to find a spot to sketch from without sitting in front of a painting. I finally found this grassy knoll of artificial grass. I set up my chair and sketched the people relaxing around me. The painting on the wall opposite wall was the work of Eddie Martinez done in mixed media. Figge von Rosen Gallery had a series of photos on the wall of Mexicans dressed in colorful traditional outfits. A couple next to me were discussing the Picasso's and Magritte's they had just seen. To my right there was some metalic silver looking fabric suspended on a stick. The stick would spin and the fabric would loft up, looking like a spinning pizza and then a UFO. This huge show often left me wondering, just what is art these days. Every woman wandering the halls looked like a fashion model. I have never seen so many beautiful people all gathered in one place in my life. Someone estimated the valve of all the artwork assembled in Art Basel at over three Billion dollars. If you looked at the value of all the women's high heeled shoes walking Art Basel they might rival that value.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Macabre Vignettes #3/ Snow

I got up in the middle of the night I woke and walked blindly to the bathroom, my bare feet slapping on the cold tiles. Not wanting to blind myself I didn't bother turning on the light. Seated inside I stared at my wife's white bathrobe hanging from a hook on the door. As I looked, half awake, I saw a dark form move in the crevice of the sleeve. A large dark spider slowly crawled out. Part of me wanted to pull the robe from the hook and stomp on it, but I was transfixed, the two or three inch spider was only a foot from my face. As I focused my eyes I saw a strange cylindrical web resembling a CD storage case, which ran up the sleeve. It had a strange consistency like it was made of small compartmentalized soap bubbles. The spider crawled around the outer edge and when it got to the top, the web collapsed in on itself and the spider moved around inside. I began to question what I was seeing, so I finally flipped on the light. The robe flashed a bright white and I had to close my eyes. There was nothing there, no web, no spider. Yet, it had been so real! I turned off the light and as my eyes adjusted to the dark again, I saw movement in the shadows a second time. The spider was even more tentative, but soon it was out again moving swiftly over its diaphanous web. It seemed to know I was watching . I didn't bother switching on the light this time, I simply accepted this strange macabre waking dream. I returned to bed unable to sleep...

At Urban ReThink (625 East Central Boulevard), I crouched on the upper floor looking at the beautiful and grotesque sculptural puppet parts for Macabre Vignettes #3 / Snow. A soft babies head had its eyes sewn shut, a black bird perched menacingly inside a wooden box full of found mechanical objects. Below me Tamara Marke Lars, her husband and a third helper are struggling to hang a large birdlike puppet from a taught fly line. Tamara asks me if the line looks level from where I stand but I am indecisive. The space for now is disorganized, full of the bits and pieces that when assembled, will bring her unique vision to life. She is a master of the macabre and this unique show will most certainly fall outside any of your typical pedestrian Christmas offerings.
Tamara's sister, Leah Marke, was in charge of bringing the six or so Voci dancers up to speed on how they will be staged as they interact with the giant puppets. She was a whirlwind, constantly on the move coaching and inspiring her fellow dancers. She spoke on her cell phone trying to help a dancer that was lost. Her eyelids glittered as she was giving turn by turn directions to the rehearsal. Afterward, she picked up two huge chicken feet and shouted out, "Look here, I gots me some darn big chicken feet." Her affected southern accent caused me to laugh out loud. Turning to me, she finished with, "And you can quote me on that!" One of the dancers kept laughing with childish delight whenever Tamara would move a puppet she was working on. I shared her delight as I struggled to record the creative genius amongst the chaos. Tamara picked up the sickly looking blue child puppet from the rocking chair. In her warm, full arms the limp puppet looked like a frail cold Pieta.

I saw the Voci dancers rehearsing a dance that involved them wrapping themselves in fabric that hung from the ceiling. It took three puppeteers to move the large blue puppet. When they started grunting and playing boisterously the giant began to come alive. This show promises to be a surreal experience and I for one will not miss it.

Admission to Macabre Vignettes #3 is $20 cash at the door, at Urban ReThink which used to be the Urban Think bookstore.
Show times are:
December 10 at 8pm
December 11 at 8pm and 10pm
December 12 at 2pm and 8pm
*Doors open 30 mins prior to curtain