Monday, January 31, 2011

Manatee Festival

For the 30th International SketchCrawl I created an event page on Facebook inviting Orlando Artists to join me on a trip up to Orange City to sketch at the Manatee festival. I had never been to this festival before, so I didn't know what to expect. Terry and I drove about an hour north to the festival which is right near Blue Spring State Park. We parked my Xterra on a football field next to Valentine Park. I was surprised when we got to the entrance to find out there was a $8 entrance fee. This was the first I had heard about an entrance fee so we paused. We found out that the entrance fee included entrance to Blue Spring as well and I knew that parking in Blue Spring is $6.There was a free shuttle bus from the festival to Blue Spring and back so we decided it was worth it. Besides I had told other artists that this was the first stop on the crawl.

This was your basic cotton candy and corn dog brand of festival. We walked around to see all the tents and then Terry informed me that Frisbee catching dogs were going to perform at 11am. She sat in the bandstands and I sat with a view of a giant inflatable dog with a Frisbee in its mouth. All the dog performers were rescue dogs. The wind picked up and the inflatable dog toppled backwards. People quickly came out and reset stakes to keep it in Place. The crowd grew thick and I only caught the smallest glimpse of the dogs running and catching Frisbees. Mothers knelt down beside their toddlers to share the moment. A man who had been building sandcastles complimented my drawing. He said he had recently taken up painting but he never realized he might have to draw anything before applying paint.

When the dog show was over I realized I had not noticed any other artists sketching. I walked around looking for anyone holding a sketchpad. Belly dancers on the man stage distracted me as the danced the train station scene from "Slumdog Millionaire." I don't know if other artists ever did show up. I was enjoying the moment and considering what to sketch next.

SketchCrawl Poster

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mob at the Mall

Call time for Flash Mob participants was at 12 noon on Saturday January 29th. The Flash Mob itself was scheduled to start at 2 pm.Terry and I arrived at the mall at noon and entered through Bloomingdale's. The first thing I saw was a bright pink short on a mannequin that said,"Mall Princess". Before we got to the central Grand Court, Terry insisted I meet the sales women at Cole Haan. Terry is on a first name basis with the sales staff and they started talking about hair styling. I was in agony wanting to start my sketch. After leaving the store Terry met a Facebook friend and she joked about how difficult it is to get me to the mall. The woman pointed out that her boyfriend loved shopping for her at the mall. Groan...

Finally I got to the spot where I wanted to set up and sketch. It was now roped off for the video camera crews. A mall security guard named Tom was watching the roped off area and I explained that I planned to sketch. He was fine with that, and he let me duck under. Having already sketched the Flash Mob rehearsal from this angle, I decided to do a sketch on the digital tablet. I am still adjusting to sketching on glass, but one feature I like is the ability to keep enlarging the canvas. I kept enlarging the canvas to take in more of the mall architecture.

About 5 times people approached me and asked if I was Thor. I had shared my last sketch on the Flash Mob event page and the volunteer dancers really seemed to appreciate what I was doing. The entire hour leading up to the performance, people gathered around the circular staging area waiting for something to happen. In this age of social networking, word had spread fast. In videos I had seen of Flash mobs in other cities, it seemed like people were caught off guard, the flash mob seeming to happen spontaneously. Here in Orlando that element of surprise was lost. I had only moments to sketch the actual performance. When the performers melted back into the crowd, I kept working trying to capture the energy unleashed.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Flash Mob!

Terry decided to join me on a trip to the Mall at Millenia to experience and dance along with the Flash Mob. When we arrived after having a nice dinner at Crave, she insisted on walking from the parking lot, through Needless Markup. The Fresh mob was going to happen in the heart of the mall, a circular central area known as the Grand Court. I circled around on the upper level till I decided on this spot as the best vantage point to sketch from. My instinct was correct since the performance was staged facing in this direction. I started sketching the space and people wandering the sidelines, while Terry wandered off to shop.

When everybody assembled, Linda Elchak, the choreographer, stood on one of the cushioned couches and she shouted for everyone to find their personal space. My own personal space got a bit crowded when a couple set up chairs right beside me and then ignored what was gong on and yacked the whole time. Luckily once the music was fired up their conversation was drowned out. In the center of the court an acapella singing group began to perform. Then from the sidelines a crowd of people filled the circular space. The music shouted out, "I can see clearly now, the rain is gone." I spotted Terry. She had joined the crowd and was picking on the dance moves fast.

Everyone raised their hands in the at and shouted out. "I had the time of my life!"People were jumping in place doing jumping jacks and executing a wave from east to west. The entire court was set up like a giant compass and people in separate quadrants often had their own moves to work on. After the performance was over, Linda shouted down to a young woman who had given a particularly expressive and emotional performance. "You! Can I talk to you after?" Who knows, perhaps a star was discovered.

The Flash Mob is happening today at 2pm in the Mall at Millenia. I plan to just enjoy the experience and leave the video cameras to document this high energy historic event. Come on out! You'll have the time of your life!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Flash Mob Rehearsal

Thanks to Facebook I found out that there was going to be a flash mob event right here in Orlando. If you are unfamiliar with Flash Mobs, it basically has people spontaneously break into dance in a public place. There were going to be a few rehearsals for the core group of dancers on the week leading up to the event. I contacted Nao Dance Collective choreographer, Linda Elchak, for details and she invited me to Studio K (12211 Regency Village Drive) to sketch the dancers rehearsing. On the day I went to sketch it was pouring outside. The drive down to the dance studio was treacherous. It was like driving through a waterfall for half an hour. When my truck hit a deep puddle the steering wheel would jerk right, due to the sudden friction. Bright blinding flashes of lightning illuminated the windshield and the wipers could not keep up. High winds kept buffeting the truck. I drove more by instinct rather than sight. My cell phone lit up and I glanced at a text from Terry, "Waiting for the storm to blow over, hope you are safe inside too." The truck hit a deep puddle and I dropped the phone, grabbing the steering wheel to correct.

The dance studio was out in the middle of nowhere down by Disney. I drove till the street ended with some barricades and then I back tracked. I lucked upon the dance studio, which was a warm inviting beacon in the storm. Stepping out of the truck I was sure my tiny portable umbrella would catch a lightning bolt. I ran to the dance studio and stepped inside shaking off the damp and cold. Linda welcomed me immediately and I felt at home. Dancer, Michael Sloan who I have sketched before with DRIP Dance company, also shook my hand. In the dance studio lobby, maybe 30 or so dancers were gathered. I imagined some might have come from the theme parks and some people just answered the call to dance just this once in a public place. Inside the dance studio a ballroom dance lesson was just finishing up. I suddenly realized I would need my stool so I dashed back out into the rain to get it. When I got back the core group was inside assembling for the dance.

A techno version of "The Sun will come out Tomorrow" began to play and the dancers elegantly raised one arm then another as their walked to their marks. An announcer said, "welcome to Orlando." The dance moves were energetic and aerobic. All the moves were straight forward and simple so many people could follow the dance when it gained mass. I followed the movements of the dancer in the green shirt. She didn't just follow the movements, she managed to give meaning to each move and had that extra elusive spark of energy. I saw Linda acknowledge her and soon Linda was shouting at the top of her lungs, "Come on people! Work it! Show me what you got!" The dancers were jumping up and down in place with their hands in the air as the music switched DJ style to "Let the Sun Shine In!" Now everyone was moving with high energy, clapping high, clapping low. I was tapping my feet to the beat fully enjoying the performance, a fantastic energy to sketch too. By the end everyone was flush as they mingled and once again melted into the side lines.

When the heat and bustle of the rehearsal was over, I bundled up and went back outside to the real world to face the storm. There is one more rehearsal tonight at 9 pm at the Mall at Millenia . The Flash Mob is happening tomorrow January 29th at noon in the Mall at Millenia (4200 Conroy Road). I'll be there sketching and who knows, I might just bust a move.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

CarVerations

Mark Baratelli's "Mobile Art Show" had a different twist this month. Usually, Mark rents a U-Haul truck and has an artist exhibit their work inside. When I arrived at the City Arts Factory this month I found Mark unloading wrappers, newspapers and assorted bottles from the backseat of his beat up 1996 Chevy Cavalier. He put a bottle of mouthwash on the dashboard and loaded everything else into the trunk. He and Brian Feldman, a local performance artist, had decided at the last minute to create an event called "CarVersations," in which people could pay one dollar could sit in the passenger seat and have a five minute conversation with Brian.

Evan Miga showed up having heard about the event on Facebook. Mark had announced it only hours before. Evan showed me some wire that was wrapped around his backpack. At the end of the wire was a silver box with a switch. When he flipped the switch, the wire glowed a neon blue. As we spoke the neon flickered, fluctuating to the volume of our voices as we talked. He plans to use these wires to outline the corrugated robots he is creating for"Dog Powered Robot and the History of the Future" which will be in the Orlando Fringe Festival this May.He said some scenes will be in complete darkness with just the neon glow illuminating the scene. Evan wrapped the wire around the outer edge of the windshield of the car so when people spoke, the wire would glow.

Brian showed up with his portable marquee and he set it up on the roof of the car. Mark shouted to Brian through the windshield, "Three minutes to places!" For some reason, after getting in the car, Brain flipped on the windshield wipers which sent the neon wire twisting in all directions. Mark shouted, "Noooooo!" Brian couldn't figure out how to turn off the wipers quick enough. He shouted back, "How do you turn the wipers off?" I laughed out loud. It was like watching vintage Laurel and Hardy slapstick.

Several SAK Comedy Lab volunteers came down during the event to speak to Brian in the Car. Orlando Live host Peter Murphy had an interview with Brian, which the cameraman filmed from the backseat. My wife stopped by, paid her dollar and spoke to Brian for five minutes. I am not sure I gave her a solid five minutes of my attention since I was struggling with the sketch on my digital tablet. Before I knew it, CarVersations was over. Mark drove off and I continued to throw down digital washes till I was satisfied.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Caitlin Doyle

I met the present resident author of the Kerouac house, Caitlin Doyle, at Rachel Kapitan's reading of her short stories at Neon Forest. We became Facebook friends and after a quick exchange of messages, I arranged to sketch her on a Friday evening after I finished work at Full Sail. I was nervous and excited when I parked in front of the Kerouac house. It was dark outside but a warm light filtered through the 1950s styled curtains. I knocked and the old door shook on its hinges.

Caitlin welcomed me and made her way to the kitchen table where her computer and note pads were set up. She offered me water but I just wanted to get right to work. I explained that the sketch might take a couple of hours and I would be quiet as a mouse. There was some sort of scurrying scratchy noise that came from the kitchen or back of the house. I asked, "What was that?" She got up and went into the dark kitchen looking at the ceiling. "I don't know" she said, "This house makes some strange noises." She was a bit self conscious at first about writing while I sketched. She thought she might not be able to concentrate. She explained that she had been painted by an artist once before, and he talked to himself the whole time which made her want to laugh.

Soon we were both working, lost in the moment. She was working on a series of poems about objects in bottles. The poem she was working on went through multiple drafts. She worked with pencil on paper. Occasionally we both erased and made frantic adjustments. Pencils and pens scratched away in unison. A smoke detector or security device made faint chirping sounds but soon those sounds were erased from my thoughts as the sketch took form. She only glanced at the computer a few times, referring to a thesaurus. There is a shared energy that comes when creative people work together in the same room. This must be what life was like in Victorian times when people gathered in parlors and spent quiet creative time together rather than passively staring at a TV.

Later we had a fascinating discussion on the similarities between our art forms. I explained that creating a sketch on location was much like a jig saw puzzle where all the pieces are constantly in motion not only on a two dimensional plane, but deep in space. I would commit to a puzzle piece and lock it in place in the sketch making compositional adjustments around it. She said poetry is much the same only the pieces are words. Her poems have a predefined rhyme scheme but then she needs to find ways to break up the pattern making it organic and unpredictable. She erased and changed lines until the poem took form, its meaning and depth growing in the process.

After the first sketch was done, Caitlin said she had made serious headway on the poem she was working on called "The Ship." She had been so focused, that she forgot I was there. Since she was comfortable, and we were both getting plenty of work done, I asked if she minded me doing a second sketch. She agreed. I made bolder choices and allowed the second sketch to take form with ease. Caitlin had to review a You Tube video of one of her poetry readings. I leaned forward to listen. Some of the poems were light hearted and fun while others had a dark profound meaning. One poem titled "The Doll Museum" was about the lessons dolls have taught through the ages and the loss of a sister to a surgeons scalpel. Something about the innocent description of the light, lifelike doll followed by sudden loss hit me hard. Later Caitlin let me know she never had a sister. The poem was told from the vantage point of a friend who had lost her sister.

The strength of poetry is that it never feels like fiction, it strips a soul bare unquestioned. Caitlin told me her last name Doyle means black stranger. With her jet black hair and poems that have a sharp cunning edge, the name is a perfect fit. She is reading some of her poems tonight at Infusion Tea (1600 Edgewater Drive, College Park) starting at 7pm. Come on out to what is sure to be a great evening of poetry.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rachel Leona Kapitan Reading

Rachel Kapitan had a reading from her upcoming book of short stories titled, Small Town Heretics of the Emerging Sciences. I arrived a little early at Neon Forest Art Gallery, and found Rachel seated in the front row in a room full of folding chairs. She took a sip of her Rockstar energy drink. She was reading her manuscript and next to her there was a pile of graph paper note pads with strips of type written copy taped down in rows with yellow stickies protruding everywhere.

I said hello then let her focus on her work while I walked around to see the art in the room. The gallery show was titled, Grab and Go. Every piece of art was on sale for less than $100. Most pieces were around $50. Tonya Dickie entered the gallery and she spoke to Rachael about how clients she gives massages to would sometimes share their darkest secrets while lying on the massage table. Rachel had similar experiences with costumers at Infusion Tea. It is so true that reality is often so much stranger than anything that an author could make up.

Soon the room filled with people. Rachel was talking to another author about Modernism and Post Modernism. She mentioned her ideas about Poetic Terrorism which would wake people up from their complacency. She is developing a literary style she called Synthetic Fiction. It was all way over my head, but I was intrigued. I was introduced to Caitlin Doyle the current resident author at the Kerouac house.

Her first story was a straightforward reading of one of her short stories called "This is not a Beach." The story contained some sexual exploits that would have made Anais Nin blush. What followed was fascinating and unexpected. She had cut up one of her stories into 64 segments which were taped down with 8 segments per page on 8 pages in several graph notepads. She asked members of the audience to pick a number between 1 and 8 for the page of the draft and then a number between 17 and 31 representing the draft of the story which had been reordered 64 times. Based on these random choices, she read the story, titled "Jubilation Saints", out of order. There were sections of the story that would repeat again and again as if the refrain in a song. Rachel said that randomizing the story like this allowed the author a chance to re-experience the work as a reader. Even though the story was randomly shuffled, it always made sense. This story graphically related the sexual affair between two wildlife researchers of squirrels. The repeated attraction played out over and over in the reading as if this couple kept making the same irreversible choices again and again. I began to anticipate and take comfort in the repetition. As a listener I had to fill in the blanks thus personalizing the story in my mind, recreating it for myself. It was a fun exercise allowing the audience to step into the creative process.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Heat Grand Opening

Terry and I went to the grand opening of a new club downtown called Heat (55 West Church Street) which offers signature cocktails, tapas and live entertainment. The press preview began at 6pm and the general public was invited starting at 10pm. I had come directly from the Scottish Highland games so I was in jeans and a sweatshirt. It became painfully obvious that I was under dressed as soon as I saw some women regally stepping out of a Mercedes with elegant sequined gowns. Terry was dresses better than me but even she felt under dressed. The bouncer at the velvet rope could not find my name on the list but he could not deny that I had an invitation inside the gold envelope sealed elegantly with wax.

When we stepped inside we were greeted by a phalanx of leggy young women all in tight black skirts who welcomed us and offered free champagne. The wall behind them was brightly illuminated red and I considered sketching but I felt I should look around first. I turned down the offer of champagne but Terry decided to indulge. The interior was lit Vegas style and behind the bar a jazz group assembled to perform. I was reminded of the Cantina scene in the original Star Wars. This place was elegant rather than ominous. Within a minute of starting my first sketch a woman pushed up beside me to see what I was doing. I explained that there wasn't much to see yet at this point. Soon the bar was packed and I was being shoved by groups of people who were posing for photos. When I was getting shoved from behind by people reaching for drinks, I gave up on the sketch and found a quieter spot away from the bar. Terry was at a table so I joined her there. We were told the table was reserved so I never sat down. I leaned against a wall and tried valiantly to save my first sketch. The woman who spoke to me at the bar checked back a second time to see my progress. I was bristling, annoyed at the interruptions but I graciously showed her what I was up to.

Terry and I moved outside where space heaters kept patrons comfortable as they lounged on wicker chairs. Mark Baratelli and Terry struck up a conversation as I worked on my second sketch. Every time Terry went to the bar, someone would approach me and ask to see the sketch I was working on. One woman said we had met before and she asked if I remembered a Valentines party. I didn't remember sketching any Valentines party and just as I said this Terry walked up. The woman disappeared. Terry seemed to think I was being hit on. That seemed impossible since I was grubby with a half grown beard and jeans on. Every other man at this place was quite honestly, handsome compared to me. They had tailored Italian suits on and perfectly gelled hair. With my hiking boots and jeans I must have looked very out of place.

Terry was having a grand time people watching. Four women sat at the table next to us deep in conversation. The redhead had an intense gaze which cut through the loud ambient noise of the club. Terry seemed convinced that these woman in the backs of their minds were wondering why men were not hitting on them. To me they just seemed to be enjoying each others company. The woman who had asked me about Valentines day stumbled into the man she was talking to. The high heels might have caught her off guard. The crowd was quite diverse with twenty somethings standing elbow to elbow with women who were noticeably older than me. I loved sketching here where I could observe people up close in a crowded setting where I remained mostly unnoticed. I was glad that Terry was having as much fun as me soaking in the setting. By 10pm there was a long line of people waiting to get past the velvet rope.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

An Uncomfortable Evening with Lulu Eightball

Emily Flake who has a weekly cartoon called Lulu Eightball in the Orlando Weekly, was going to sign books and was going to offer "PowerPoint assisted hilarity and general hijinks." I had several hours to kill between 5pm when I got off work and 7:30pm when Emily was supposed to speak at Park Avenue CD's. I decided to ask Terry out for dinner at Stardust Video and Coffee. She at first refused saying she had work to do and wanted to go home when she was caught up. She called right back however and decided to join me when she was done. At Stardust I ordered a humus plate and sat down to enjoy Doug Rhodehamel's "Sea of Green". The corrugated green fish with large plastic cup top eyes were suspended everywhere, some swimming just above the floor. As I sketched one twirled slowly right beside my head. The sun set and the darkening dusk sky made it harder for me to see what colors I was using. Ironically I often like sketches I do in the semi-darkness since I am unable to focus on minor details and the colors become richer since I can't see what I am doing. By the time Terry arrived I was finished with the sketch. I put the book away and focused on her.

She agreed to join me when I walked across the street to Park Avenue CD's (2916 Corrine Drive). She drove her car over and I walked. There was a crowd of maybe 15 to 20 people passing the time flipping through albums and CD's, waiting for Emily's talk, I set up my stool and started sketching in the stage which had rows of tiny drink umbrellas hanging above it. There was a cute young woman standing beside a projector and I assumed she must be the cartoonist. I was pleased that my artist radar had been eight. When she got on stage I was happy that she faced me rather than the people out among the isles since she needed to glance at the screen behind her.

What followed was a very humerous account of her dashed expectations of luxury when she was asked to cat sit in uptown NYC. I am not sure if what she read was fact or fiction, but regardless it was very funny. It is a shame she is from Canada because this was someone who's brain I would love to pic about publishing and syndication. Her second story had to do with horrific places she had pooped. When she was finished she hurried off the stage probably sure she must have offended people. Instead there was applause. She sheepishly climbed back on stage to take questions. When asked to name a favorite contemporary cartoonist, she she loved the work of Sherri Flanigan.

When the event was over, the screen was quickly rolled up along with a mat on the stage. Calvin who was the one taking care of all this, introduced himself to me. He asked, "Aren't you that artist who always is sketching and has work in the Orlando Weekly?" he was right on one hand but the Weekly doesn't publish my sketches, so I had to correct him. Regardless he said he loved my work which is always heart warming to hear.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

McFeldman Wedding

At the start of the year I was asked to join the Feldman family as they celebrated the wedding of Adrienne Feldman to Jason McIntosh. The wedding took place at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater (812 East Rollins Street). When I arrived, I immediately went inside the Goldman Theater where the ceremony was going to take place. The Houpa was already set up, so I used the time prior to the ceremony to work out the details of the space. It was on this stage that the Feldman family once performed as the "Feldman Dynamic." This Fringe show organized by Brian Feldman, simply featured a dinner table and the family eating dinner as they always did. There was no script, this was a simply demonstration of life as theater. Now the family once again took to the stage to enact the simple drama of joining two hearts. Before the ceremony Brian paced the stage excitedly.

When the wedding party took to the stage, I started sketching frantically, since I knew the wedding ceremony would last at most a half an hour. The family had saved several seats for Terry and myself in the front row but I liked the view from the back row where I could work some audience members into the foreground. When it came time to exchange rings, a small Dachshund ran up to the stage. The dog was wearing a tuxedo and the rings must have been tied to the outfit. Everyone laughed out loud at the sight. The ceremony was quick and to the point. When Jason had to stomp on a glass, he missed on his first and second try. Once again the seriousness of the occasion was broken and people laughed.

The reception was held in the Patrons Room which was once a planetarium in the buildings past. A green laser projected thousands of green points up onto the dome shaped ceiling. Every table in the room was labeled with a month of the year. The newlyweds sat at the January table at the front of the room. Adrienne approached me and said she was excited to finally be in one of my sketches. She was upset however that only her back was in the sketch. I decided I would have to sketch her during the reception to make it up to her. The moments of the celebration seemed to fee by as I sketched. Brian joked with me that this assignment was much harder than the sketch I did of the swan boat talks. He was absolutely right. Getting this sketch was a major challenge since the reception flew by at the breakneck pace of an MTV music video. As I worked, the caterer insisted I move to make room for an ice cream table. I said that wasn't going to happens, he shoved the table up behind me. Jason's mom, Janice, tackled the job of cutting the wedding cake. She joked with me that she hadn't signed on for cake duty but she was a trooper and as the last slices were being handed out, I was finally wrapping up my sketch.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Gender in Art

I went to meet Terry at the Orlando Museum of Art for a discussion about the new exhibit at the museum which focuses on Gender in Art. There was a wonderful spread with Salmon, spinach dip , crackers, chips and deserts. A fairly large crowd filled the central atrium with the blue Chihuly chandelier. As I was eating I noticed that another crowd had gathered in the central gallery. No food was allowed inside so I gulped down my soda and crackers and dashed inside. A woman was giving a talk and she moved people around the room explaining the art. There was a Warhol print of Marilyn Monroe and some paintings of women throughout the ages. There was a long line of women's slips suspended from the ceiling presumably to hint at a woman's closet being a work of art. A small fabric doll from china had bright gold beads and pins sewn on one side and the other side had black beads in an intricate pattern. This was supposed to indicate how women are perceived and then how they are actually treated.

I sat opposite this wedding dress created by LesleyDillin. The dress is made from acrylic and thread on a mannequin. In 1994 this dress was worn by a model who read the Emily Dickenson poem, "The Soul has Bandaged Moments." The poem is written all over the dress in bold black paint. As the model read, she ripped the dress off, shredding it to pieces. Lesley later sewed the pieces back together with black thread.

The Soul has Bandaged moments -
When too appalled to stir -
She feels some ghastly Fright come up
And stop to look at her -

Salute her - with long fingers -
Caress her freezing hair -
Sip, Goblin, from the very lips
The Lover - hovered - o'er -
Unworthy, that a thought so mean
Accost a Theme - so - fair -

The soul has moments of Escape -
When bursting all the doors -
She dances like a Bomb, abroad,
And swings upon the Hours,

As do the Bee - delirious borne -
Long Dungeoned from his Rose -
Touch Liberty - then know no more,
But Noon, and Paradise -

The Soul's retaken moments -
When, Felon led along,
With shackles on the plumed feet,
And staples, in the Song,

The Horror welcomes her, again,
These, are not brayed of Tongue -

- Emily Dickenson

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Annulment

After being married for 11 months and one week, Brian Feldman and Hannah Miller ended a marriage that, though not entered into lightly, was not about the love between a man and woman. Rather they were married as a demonstration that a man and woman who don't even know each other can easily get married, while same sex couples who might have lived together for years are denied the same privilege and rights. Theirs was a fight for equality.

When I arrived at the courthouse on the day of the annulment there was a long line of people waiting to enter the courthouse as the sun began to warmly illuminate the granite courtyard and columns. Behind me a man dropped his cell phone. He picked it up and someone asked if it was alright. He said, "I won't be needing it where I am going. " He went on to explain that he had been pulled over and he had no registration. Which according to him, would land him in jail for 20 days. The man behind him said, "That is nothing, I drove for 19 years without a registration. I only got caught because I wasn't wearing a seat belt." Inside we shuffled through switchbacks until we came to the X-ray machines and metal detectors. My bag was pulled aside to be searched and I was patted down. In my bag the guard found some soda bottle tops which I planned to recycle. The offensive item being searched for was my palette with its menacing grid of colors. After I was asked to open it, I was let go with a smile.

Up in the courtroom 16H waiting area, I sat down, surprised to not see Brian or Hannah. Terry Olson showed up and decided to check another courtroom down the hall to be sure we were in the right place. After the announced court time had passed, I decided the annulment might not happen, so I started sketching lawyers. Then Brian poked his head out the courtroom door and signaled me to come inside. He whispered to me that I should start sketching the court room. As I debated about whether to sit in the front or back row, the bailiff officer asked if he could help me, never a good sign. He asked what case I was with, and when he confirmed I was not with the active case, he asked me to leave. Out in the waiting area Hannah arrived as did four or five friends.

People were getting divorced like clock work. Judge Maura T. Smith would ask a few pointed questions and then the divorces were granted. Finally Brian and Hannah's case was called into the courtroom. Judge Smith asked Brian to explain his petition for annulment. He explained that he and Hannah did not consummate the marriage, in fact he had only seen her maybe 10 times since they were married. He briefly mentioned that the marriage was intended as a performance piece. Judge Smith indicated that everything was in order and she instructed the couple to get the final paperwork filled out down the hall. The case could not have lasted more than ten minutes. As the courtroom emptied I stayed behind intent on finishing my sketch. Hannah signaled to me from the doorway indicating I should join them. I feared she might attract the bailiffs attention, giving him another reason to kick me out of the courtroom before the sketch was finished. The bailiff came over to see my sketch. He said, "Nice, but you left out the most handsome man in the room."

The next person to enter the courtroom was a burly man in an orange jumpsuit with his hands chained behind him. He sat down in the chair Brian had just vacated. It seemed this convicted felon was involved in a divorce even while he was serving time in jail. When I left the court room, Brian was sitting in the hallway working on his iPhone. He showed me the final document with its official seal and signatures. As we made our way to the elevators, he suddenly ran towards the window to look down at the courtyard where Hannah was going to read a prepared statement. Watching her video had me in tears, the importance of what these two had done truly sank in. Both had sacrificed their love for a cause they believed in. I hope this inspires others to stand up to this and any other injustice. Every voice counts make yours heard.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

22 Sandwiches

Terry and I planned to go out Sunday afternoon to watch a football game at a bar. Before we did we went to visit Mary Hill at her mothers home in Winter Park. I had not gone to the reception after Margaret Hills funeral. Instead I rushed home and started to write. This was the first time Terry had visited Mary at her mom's house. When we arrived Mary offered us drinks and sandwiches. Mary's neighbor Phyllis Miller was there and she used a portable grill she had bought from home to toast our sandwiches so they were nice and crunchy like Panini's. This was the first time Terry really had time to get to know Mary and they really hit it off. Mary's friend Elizabeth Cohen showed up soon afterward. Terry and Elizabeth had many things in common for instance they had both lived in Israel for a while so they were like two peas in a pod.

After Phyllis left, Elizabeth and Mary started a sandwich production line. Elizabeth smeared on some mayo and then Mary put on cold cuts and cheese. Mary had so many leftovers from the funeral that she wanted to make sandwiches and hand them out at Lake Eola, in her mother's memory. I warned Mary that there was a law on the books that said no one could feed more than 25 people in a public park in Orlando. In all they made 22 sandwiches. Terry was touched by this generosity and at first she wanted to go to Lake Eola to help hand out the sandwiches. Then Elizabeth got a call and realized that she had totally forgotten about a social engagement she had made. After Elizabeth left, Terry decided we should go with our original plan and we soon left to see a playoff football game downtown at Wild Side. Mary packed all the sandwiches into a fabric reusable grocery bag.

After Terry and I left for the bar Mary headed down to Lake Eola. The bar was really crowded but we muscled our way into a room with a large wide screen TV. I can't really relate the details of the game because quite honestly I wasn't paying much attention. I do believe the Packers won because I like the bright colors on their uniform and there was plenty of cheering whenever the bright green jerseys ran into the end zone. It was towards the end of the game that I got a text from Mary saying she had finished handing out the sandwiches.

Later I learned from Mary that this simple act of generosity was moving on so many levels. Everyone she approached was honesty thankful. One woman related that it was impossible to find food on a Sunday. She approached one group of 3 men and had two sandwiches in her hands. Two of the men stood side by side and the third was a few steps further down the trail. When Mary asked if they would like some sandwiches the first two men of course accepted her offering. The third had trouble walking and he hobbled closer. The man standing closest to Mary looked at his sandwich and then at the man hobbling closer to him. He paused and thought to himself before he decided to give the struggling man his sandwich. He looked down afterwards certain he must have made a mistake since he might have to go hungry that night. After a moments pause the man finally looked up at Mary. Luckily she had another sandwich in her bag and he was truly grateful. Mary was moved close to tears by his act of selfless giving on his part.

Mary had not had the chance to relate to anyone why she was handing out sandwiches at Lake Eola. When she handed out the last sandwich in her bag, the man thanked her saying, "You must be an angel, I was just standing here thinking to myself that I was an idiot for missing the food line earlier today and I would have to go hungry tonight. Then here you are handing me a sandwich!" He asked why she was here alone handing out sandwiches and she was able to relate her story of the leftovers after her mothers funeral. She said her mother was a generous person and she was giving away the sandwiches in her honor. The man said, "Your mother is still teaching you lessons isn't she?" "Yes, she certainly is and I'm sure she will for many years to come." Mary said.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Martin Luther King Vigil

It was 6:01pm and I sat in the balcony of the Knowles Chapel at Rollins College. At 6:01pm on April 4th 1968, Martin Luther King was shot while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine motel. He was just 39 years old. Everyone assembled stood for a moment of silence. Muffled through the thick church walls, the sound of church bells chiming solemnly filled the air. It was a quiet contemplative moment to honor someone who helped change millions of lives. We were reminded that although we might have come far, we have not reached the promised land. Rollins students gathered before the audience and sang, Lift every Voice and Sing, which is considered the black national anthem. I honestly had never heard this song before but by the end I was singing along with them. King dreamed of a world united, where everyone was engaged not as spectators but as active citizens fighting any injustice. As Baha'u'llah said, "So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth."

Several speakers mentioned that King was a man with many doubts. When he first demonstrated for human rights he was just 28 years old. He felt he had to step up. It was work that needed and if he didn't do it, who would? It was precisely his self doubt and human frailty that made his accomplishments so astounding. The key note speaker, Nadine Smith, pointed to the continuing struggle to fight for the rights of gay lesbian and trans-gender members of our society today. She spoke about an incident when she was a student when several gay men were beaten by military personal at a public event. She in the back of her mind thought, that is terrible, but these things happen. The military claimed the men were behaving inappropriately in a way that threatened family values. Family's who saw the beatings however stood up and stated that the only objectionable actions were on the part of the officers. At the public demonstration that followed Nadine saw straight and gay people arm in arm with their voices united in song. That moment changed her life. She suddenly realized she could no longer accept injustice as a fact of life. She needed to take action.

Maya Angelou said, ""When you learn, teach. When you get, give." The message of giving back as a concerned and active citizen was returned to again and again. In fact an individuals constant striving to improve the world does make a difference. The shooting in Tuscon Arizona helped people realize they should speak with some level of civility. Yet what politician ever mentions love? Martin Luther King did believe and speak of loving one another. Soon everyone in the chapel was singing, "We shall Overcome." The last time I had heard this song was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. being sung by people who had just been made citizens of the United States. My heart filled with hope and joy then, as it did in this gorgeous chapel.

As Reverend Patrick Powers read Dr. King's "I have a Dream" speech, everyone exited the church where they were given candles for a silent vigil. Soon I was the only person left inside listening to Kings resounding words. The moment felt important. Perhaps someday the dream will be made real.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Vanilla Dream

After attending a funeral, I had time to kill before getting to Stardust to see Doug Rhodehamel's "Sea of Green" exhibit. I had a note that another exhibit titled Connected by Jason Lee was happening at Rhapsodic Bakery (710 North Mills Avenue.) The five paintings shown in this sketch were the extent of the work being displayed at Rhapsodic. Prices ranged from $500 to $800 dollars. I had seen Jason's work once before at the Peacock Room. The work is surreal and fanciful often involving images of the cosmos. Since I had well over an hour to kill, I walked up to the young girl behind the counter and tried to decide on a tasty treat for myself. I settled on the Vanilla Dream cupcake mostly because I liked how it sounded. She chimed in that the Vanilla Dream was her favorite as well.

After I settled in and started sketching she started to cut up hundreds of thin slips of paper using a tiny cutting board. Each slip had to be cut separately. she had to have been working for well over an hour cutting those slips of paper never once noticing that I was sketching her. When my sketch was finished the bakery had started to get busy and more customers were coming in. I asked her what all the slips of paper were for and she explained that they were for labeling orders of baked goods that were sent out to customers. I can say with no doubt that the Vanilla Dream that I ate was delicious. Washed down with a sparkling apple juice it was a perfect afternoon snack. I felt comfortable sitting and sketching away the hours and I noticed other customers come in with laptops which they flipped open so they could pass the time.

As I walked back to my truck I noticed an open door of one of the nearby Vietnamese shops. Inside Vietnamese men were sitting at card tables playing what I presumed to be poker. Behind the card tables were several pool tables. It should make for a great sketch, assuming I am welcome. That will have to wait for another day.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Circus Abuse

I went to the Amway Center (400 West Church Street) to see if there were any animal cruelty demonstrators. Ringling Brothers Circus was in town. As I approached I could hear an announcer saying, "Welcome to the Greatest Show on Earth!" I was taken to the circus only once as a child, but the memory flooded back and my pulse quickened. There was a cluster of perhaps 5 demonstrators as soon as I arrived. I asked if there were more demonstrators and was told there were. I walked around for a bit expecting to find a larger crowd. I returned and decided this woman in the blood red jacket was the perfect subject. I let her know I would be sketching her and then got to work. She stood silently the whole time I sketched. There was no shouting in protest, just a silent stoic vigil. The photograph on her protest poster showed handlers choking and using a sharp billhook on a baby elephant. This protest was organized by the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida.

The brochure handed out by the protesters stated that Ringling had consistently racked up U.S. Department of Agriculture violations including: improper handling of animals, inadequate housing, failure to provide veterinary care and failure to allow inspections. Since 1992 twenty six Asian Elephants, including four babies, died under Ringling's care. The protesters feel circus life is inherently cruel to animals. One elderly woman took a flier and when she realized what it was about she irately gave it back. She then walked on to enter the Amway Center. As I sketched more and more people walked by to the circus. Most people ignored the demonstrators, a few asked to take pictures. It was very cold that night. I put up my hood and I imagined the woman in red must have been freezing. A homeless man from Tennessee asked me if I knew where he could find a meal. On the walk over to Amway I had noticed a long line for food behind the Greek Orthodox Church. I offered the man directions. He shook his head and walked away.

The circus animals don't perform because they want to, but rather because they fear the painful punishment they will get if they don't. Kept confined and fearful in chaotic, loud and unnatural environments the animals are always on edge. Trained to amuse they sometimes lash out against the abuse, and the resulting rampages have lead to property damage, injuries and deaths. A policeman walked up to me and asked how I was doing, we had talked at several other events and he liked my work. He asked what I planned to sketch tomorrow and I told him, "The Highland Games." He told me he is Scottish and he wished he could go, but he was always working. When I finished, I showed the woman in red the sketch and she was amused. As I walked away down Church Street, family's flooded by me all taking their toddlers to see " The Greatest Show on Earth."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Maitland Historical Society

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the Maitland Historical Society held and open house in its Victorian home on Lake Lilly. The Waterhouse Residence Museum had free admission on the day I went. The Maitland Historical Society had just recently joined forces with the Maitland Arts Center hopefully forming a more cost effective and stronger union. I set my stool up and leaned back to sketch in the residence. It was a stunning afternoon and the sun warmed my up perfectly. There were several small groups who entered the residence for the holiday tour. Every room was decorated in a traditional Victorian fashion. The shadows grew longer as I sketched and before I was done I found myself in the buildings shadow and the air grew colder.

Several young girls were racing each other on foot in the park behind me. The lake had a Christmas tree decorating a central island. I had been to Lake Lilly only once before for an outdoor artist fair. I was surprised that I had never taken the time to come to the historic home before. This is a gem that I will certainly share with family the next time they come to visit.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Sea of Green

On Facebook, Doug Rhodehamel left a message saying he would be hanging green fish at Stardust Video and Coffee all afternoon. I immediately jumped in my truck and headed over. The show he was preparing for was called "Sea of Green." When I got to Stardust, sure enough there was Doug high up on a ladder hanging green cardboard fish. Each fish is made from green corrugated cardboard with drink lids for eyes. Inside each lid was a green or blue disk which was painted with day glow paint. He had a small pile of fishes on a speaker and he would string each one with a fishing line and then climb back up the ladder to hand it from one of the steel beams overhead. It must have been back breaking work and I was there just seeing the first fish as they were hung. When he was finished, the entire room was filled with fish from floor to ceiling and wall to wall.

At the opening, Doug explained that he had gotten the idea from the Beetles song "Yellow Submarine", where the lyrics mention swimming in a Sea of Green. The room was dark and the eyes glowed eerily in the darkness. The small fish can be bought for just $5. I know this because Rachel, a ceramics artist, lifted a fish up from inside her leather jacket. The fish eye glowed even through the paper bag it was enclosed in. She took the fish out of the bag and pointed to the reason she had bought it, the fish had a light spattering of day glow paint on its body. It was this imperfection that had caught her eye and sealed the deal.

Author Rachel Kapitan was there having just come from her reading at Neon Forest. She pointed out how she loved the purity of the color. I wanted to talk to Rachel about her writing and "Synthetic Fiction", a literary style she seems to be spearheading. I never got the chance. Jessica Pawli pushed up and said hello to me. She asked if I was still without a computer and I had to relate the painful tale of living six days with no computer. It is odd that people know what is happening in my life thanks to Facebook. It certainly makes starting conversations in a crowded room so much easier. Stardust was packed. A band was setting up in the next room and every table was filled. In a crowded room I always get lost in the ambient noise of the space. I find it difficult to hear a person even when they are right in front of me. I tried lip reading. When the band started playing, I moved towards them considering a sketch. A fellow who looked like a native American Indian was playing a fiddle and the drums were pounding. It could have been my 5th sketch of the day, but I was tired and Terry was at home waiting for me. I went outside, sent her a text, and headed home. You have to go down to stardust some evening and see this amazing display yourself. You will be glad you did.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In Loving Memory of Margaret Ann Hill 1932-2010

Margaret Hill, who I had visited and sketched a number of times, died December 28th in her home on Baffie Avenue in Winter Park. Her daughter Mary Hill had taken care of her for over two years. The memorial service was held at Saint Charles Catholic Church not far from the home. When I entered the church there was a large group of people standing in the entry lobby. I noticed several of Mary's neighbors and said hello. Mary was being greeted by family members and after a few moments I was able to offer her my condolences. Actually, as I think back, I might not have said anything that would be considered a condolence. It was more the opposite. Mary hugged me and thanked me for being there, and she even offered encouragement and gratitude that I had decided to sketch the service. The service began with one of my favorite hymns, "Amazing Grace." It is always reassuring that there is hope for a wretch like me. When I hear, "I was blind, but now I see", I am always certain I never see, feel or express things clearly enough.

The sermon was conducted by Father Augustine Clark who had visited the Hill house often and therefor he knew Margaret well. Whenever I visited Margaret there were always social workers, hospice care nurses and clergy on hand. Mary had a way of always addressing the spiritual needs of her mother as well as her physical needs. "Tears are just a way for the heart to heal itself silently without words." Father Augustine was saying. He then related a story about the romance that blossomed between Margaret and Duane Hill. They both worked at Swift and Company in Orlando and there was an immediate attraction. Margaret's father however didn't approve of the relationship so they had to court each other clandestinely. They would leave love letters under a desk mat so they could secretively communicate. When she turned 21 Duane married her. The priest pointed out how much Margaret loved to garden and her amazing collection of orchids in the back yard. Whenever I spoke with Margaret in the final year, she would grip my hand tightly never letting go. She gripped on to life just as tightly. Margaret always made me laugh, she had a way of smiling slyly as she offered some barb of humor.

Margaret's ashes were buried at Woodlawn Memorial Park. I went to a Woodlawn Cemetery and walked around for some time looking at headstones decorated with angels and some with wind chimes. A dog started to bark at me from a home on the edge of the cemetery. When no other cars arrived I started to think I might be in the wrong place, so I did an internet search and found out that the cemetery I was supposed to go to was a few miles further up the road. I arrived there at the same time as Mary's oldest brother, Jean, and I walked with his family to the interment site. There was a small plastic plaque with Margaret's name on it and a shallow hole which I didn't notice at first glance. Pastor Steve Horrell said, "The fever of life is over for Margaret. We need to bury our regrets as we forgive others and forgive ourselves." He asked family members for any memories they might want to relate. Jean's former wife said Margaret was good with a hammer and saw, that she had helped build a skirt around the base of a trailer that they were living in at the time. Jean related that the family often went to Gator Land on Friday afternoons to catch feeding time.

As Mary placed the gray cylinder containing Margaret's ashes in the ground, she kissed her fingertips to her lips and then rested them on the cylinder's lid. It was after she pushed some dirt over the container that grief enveloped her. She had been organizing, supporting, greeting and welcoming people all day. Several family members held her as her knees gave way and she sobbed. Mary was able to embrace and express her emotions openly. I have always had trouble doing that, and emotions hit me when I least expect it. The most important lesson learned from this day for me is that we should be grateful for the fragile gift of life. We should be quick in giving and receiving love and always work to create new memories. Recently I heard a saying that most people sleepwalk through life while the few that do not, live in wide eyed wonder. I want to strive for that feeling of wide eyed wonder everyday, to drink it in and share what I can in my way. Seize the day and live with boundless compassion. On the drive home, my heart filled with joy remembering times spent in the Hill home and yet for the first time, my eyes started to burn.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Champs Sports Bowl Parade of Bands


The Parade of Bands took place in Winter Park on the Great Lawn of Central Park. The two bands were from rivaling college football teams that would be playing the next day at the Citrus Bowl. There was a huge crowd of people on hand to see the parade. While walking toward the event I found myself behind a man with a walkie talkie and from his conversation I overheard that the bands were late.

I sat myself down and decided to sketch the waiting crowd. An area of lawn had been staked off with orange tape which I assumed would be he final staging area for the bands. An old man probably in his late 90's was lying on the ground wrapped in a green blanket. Now this must have been a lifelong die hard fan. Many of the fans were elderly in walkers and wheelchairs. Children were also on hand running around and tossing footballs. In the sketch you can barley see a band as it marched down Park Avenue. I sketched in a hint of the tubas.

By the time the bands got to the staging area, I had finished the sketch and I started walking back to my truck. Throngs of football fans started flocking to the staging area. I had no desire to fight the growing crowd to sketch the bands proper. As I walked away, the battle of the bands was in full swing. I went home to warm up.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Deleon Springs

On a cold winter day, Terry and I drove north to go looking for manatees at Blue Springs. When we got to the suburban road leading to the state park we were confronted with a one mile line of cars waiting to get into the park. We decided to turn around and instead drive further north to Deleon Springs.

At Deleon Springs there is an old mill which has been converted into a pancake house where you grill your own pancakes at your table. We were told the mill would be closing in an hour and that there was a wait to get in so we gave up our pancake dreams and instead relaxed by the spring. The spring is surrounded by beach sand and the the water spills over creating a nice little waterfall. A walkway crossed over the spillway and a father and son were fishing the while time I sketched. The wooden mill wheel doesn't actually turn since the stream no longer runs beneath it. Terry wandered one of the hiking trails while I sketched. I was sitting in the direct sunlight which kept me warm. The fishermen must have come from up north since they were comfortable in their shorts. Two children looked in the bucket to see the fish that had been caught. The father watching from the walkway had to intervene when the little boy pulled the large fish out of the bucket and let it flop around on the grass. He apologized to the fisherman profusely. When I was done with my sketch, I texted Terry and let her know. As we were heading back to the parking lot, we poked our heads inside the mill to look around. The restaurant was closed but the gift shop was open. We vowed to return and try the pancakes some day.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Philharmonic Rehearsal



I went to the Shakespeare Theater to sketch the tech rehearsal for the Playwrights' Round Table seven short play's launch for 2011. I hadn't been given a time so I was guessing what time the rehearsals would start. Peeking in the theater B, I found the space empty. As I walked out of the building I noticed someone approaching with a large cello. I decided to follow him and he lead me to a room where Orlando Philharmonic musicians were gathering. There was twenty minutes before the rehearsal started and so I sat down and started lightly sketching in the space. As musicians arrived I placed them in the sketch using ink. When everyone was present, conductor Christopher Willams suddenly appeared. The musicians all found a common tone, then Christopher raised the baton and the music began.

They were rehearsing Shumann's Symphony No. 2. There were a few stops and starts but in general the music flowed and I let the lines I was putting on the page flow with the same fluid tempo. When the symphony was complete, Christopher said, "My theory is, that in this room you should just keep playing." I believe he meant, that in such a small room it might be impossible to gauge proper levels to the various sections. After one moving section, he praised the strings and he remarked that they were pulling together as a unified whole.

When the break rolled around I was finished with my sketch and I decided to talk to Caroline Blice for a while. She had been at my 2 year anniversary party for AADW a few days before so we talked about he party.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Toasting Competition at Will's Pub


Todd Caviness hosted a Toasting Competition at Will's Pub this holiday season. Seated up front were the judges for the evening, Seth Kubersky, Mark Baratelli and Jordana Meade. There was a gallon of spiked egg nog on the judges table and everyone had a beer in hand. I arrived a little late and the competition was in full swing. I muscled my way back to the bar and got myself a beer from the tap. The event was packed so I was forced to stand in the back of the room to sketch.

Competitors were given a prompt and had to come up with a witty toast on the spot. Hannah Miller went head to head against her boyfriend Jack Fields. When given a prompt to toast Orlando, Hannah turned the competition o. It's head by not taking the opportunity to lambaste her home town. She actually praised Orlando even in her inebriated state. After each toast the competitors would raise their glass and everyone in the bar would toast and drink. Judges commentary was often just as funny as the competitors themselves. I am glad I wasn't dragged on the stage because there must be an amazing amount of pressure to say something funny. One competitor stood in the spotlight and after agonizing minute, had to admit he had nothing. This in itself was funny, so I guess no one ever really lost.

After the competition there was an open mic. A poet gave an amazing surreal account of his father's attempt to sell his old car. Truths were stretched to the point of snapping and the entire account was laugh out loud funny. Mark Baratelli had to follow this amazing performance and I am sure he was pulling my leg when he asked me what he should do when he got on stage. Of course when he got up there, he lit up and the audience was laughing along with him the whole time.

I am writing this blog post entirely on my iPhone so I apologize for the Fat fingered flubs I must be making.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

De La Vega Restaurante Y Galeria

Terry and I took a day trip up to De Leon Springs. On the drive home we stopped in downtown Deland which is one of the few places in Central Florida which still has an old town feel. Christmas lights decorated all the store front windows. The old City Hall had a wonderfully designed dome and the bells were ringing announcing the hour as we waked down the main street. I was surprised to see several portraits by Tracy Burke a talented Orlando artist in a quaint ice cream shop in the corner. We stopped in front of the Del La Vega restaurant (128.North Woodland Boulevard, Deland) and read the menu. We expected a Spanish menu but instead found a Mexican menu. It was ladies night with women offered buy one get one free margaritas and sangrias. Buy the time we placed our order the place had filled up to capacity.

Some guy was shooting video with a tiny hand held video camera. Terry waved. We were half finished with dinner when the musical performer for the night got up on stage. His name was Michael Petrovich and he played acoustic guitar with some sort of synthesizer as accompaniment. The music consisted of covers of popular music like Time After Time and Stairway too Heaven. The young woman in the brown leather jacket recorded his whole performance on her iPhone. I sketched in the musician at the very last moment having left a space open where I assumed he would eventually perform. There was a football game playing silently on the big screen TV above his head but I didn't sketch in the players since the game didn't interest me.

Terry and I ordered appetizers but they never arrived. The waitress apologized later and offered the appetizers for free. Terry said, "I don't mind if they make a mistake as long as they make an effort to fix it." The food was fabulous. With delicious artfully arranged portions on the plate. This was classic Mexican food not the sloppy Tex Mex we are used to being served in fast food joints. The appetizers were small light disks of fried dough with black beans and tomato salsa. This place was a real find and I wouldn't mind making the drive back north to eat there again.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Chips and Salsa


It was Cinco de Mayo at Pancho's Mexican Restaurant, on 436 near 17/92. This was the first time my wife Terry decided to participate in a Brian Feldman performance. She had told me that Brian was a bad influence on me since at times I would sketch his performances very late at night. She changed her tune however after spending an hour eating chips and salsa with him. Brian spent the entire day in the restaurant while a new participant would sit opposite him every hour. There was a video camera set up and masking tape was on the floor marking the active staging area. I grabbed a chip every once in a while as I sketched. I didn't pay close attention to their conversation but I know Terry was glad to have had the time to sit down and get to know Brian. In this age of virtual friendships it is rare for people to sit down and get to know each other face to face. Even when they do, too much time is spent staring at cell phones. The art of pleasant personal conversation seems all but lost. The restaurant was never very crowded. Terry put on a tiny plastic sombrero for kicks. Brian had hung decorative chili's strung in the window behind the table. When the next person came in to sit opposite Brian, I ordered a chimichanga for lunch and continued adding watercolor washes to the sketch.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Walkman Muse

On the third Thursday of December, Asaan "Swamburger" Brooks was in the Redefine Gallery working on a series of canvases showcasing his brand of Urban Art. The evening before he had done a large mural on the wall opposite the one I show him working on in this sketch. Redefine Gallery is in the front room at City Arts Factory. I arrived early to find Swamburger busy at work on a large canvas. He was always willing to take the time to stop and chat when people like myself would interrupt. He gave me a warm handshake and briefly explained the premise of the show. None of the pieces hanging was completely finished. He continued painting throughout the evening and he worked in rotation from one painting to the next. He let the music inspire and guide him. The space in the gallery was tight and there was no where I could stand without standing right in front of a painting, so I stood outside sketching through the glass door. The RE logo was printed on the door. Swamburger used one of the printed invitations as his makeshift palette for the evening. The boom box was constantly playing.

The gallery got more and more crowded as the evening progressed but I kept my focus on Swamburger as he stood on a chair to reach the top of his painting. One of the outdoor vendors introduced himself saying he follows my progress here online. We became instant Facebook friends. Another artist started talking to me about a drum circle down in the Keys that I should get down and sketch someday. All the art in City Arts Factory was on sale for less that $200 that night. After the sketch was complete I wandered through all the galleries getting a bit depressed that artists were willing to sell their work so cheap these days. Outside the mobile art show which is hosted by Mark Baretalli in a rented u-haul truck had a large quilt titled HOARD, by Tess Bonacci which was made from hundreds of stuffed cat hides. For the first time Mark was charging people $1 to walk up the ramp into the truck. Someone lent Brian Feldman $1 so he could walk in and take a look. I didn't go inside. I met Terry and we went out to get a bite to eat. After dinner, Terry went home and I wandered over to Avalon to see the Group show there. The place was pretty deserted when I arrived but a musician was still playing in the bar area. I considered sketching but figured he would most likely pack it up soon since no one was listening.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Speed Painting

DRIP held a fundraiser for it's new show titled RIFF at Blank Space (201 East Central Boulevard). Besides musical performances by Britt Daley and Thomas Wynn, visual artists were in the house. Tony Corbitt set up his painter's easel and put up a large sheet of plywood which had been painted black. He cued up some music and explained that there were no gimmicks in what he was about to do. He then ripped off his shirt, distracting every female in the room. Using a photo and bold splashes of white paint, he quickly painted a portrait of a Kiss band member. I had to sketch just as fast to keep up with his hectic pace. There was non time for planning or delicately balancing the elements, I had to react and throw down lines and tone with abandon.

Later in the evening, dates with DRIP dancers were being auctioned off. Darcy got the hefty sum of $100. Then Michael Sloan one of the male dancers was put up for auction. Bidding started slow and remained slow. a Date with him went for only $25. Seems the ladies were shy about spending their cash for a wonderful night on the town with a talented DRIP dancer. Tony bought in his two speed paintings and auctioned them off. Terry shouted out, asking him to take off his shirt again. He obliged. As expected, his paintings didn't bring in very high bids.

Thomas Wynn performed "When I Paint My Masterpiece" which I had never heard before. I really loved this piece especially with his single acoustic guitar and deep piercing voice. Jessica Mariko performed an inspired improvisational dance as he played "It's Alright". Her movements were yearning and quick reaching for the heavens while grounded to the earth. Her movements at times seemed random and inebriated and at other times purposeful. The last time I had seen her perform solo was at Slingapours and she always amazed me.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

RIFF Fundraiser Body Painting

When I arrived at the DRIP Fundraiser at Blank Space, I was told my Melissa Kasper that the dancers were in the back room being painted by Christie Miga. Sure enough, in a narrow back room behind a curtain, Darcie Ricardi was being sectioned off like a beef diagram by Christie. Evan helped me to find a spot where I wedged myself for the duration of the sketch. I thought the marijuana leaf was a nice touch. Different sections could be painted by patrons at the fundraiser with more private parts bringing in the better cash. Christie was still painting as patrons entered the event. There was plenty of joking as the flesh masterpiece took form. When the outlines were finished some prices were added and other prices were left open for barter.

Steven Johnson was the next dancer to be sectioned and priced. He wanted to be pained and sectioned up like a superhero. Painting the cape on his back was the biggest challenge for Christie. When she got to his flesh briefs, he wanted her t paint his cheeks as if he had them clenched. She insisted he model this clenched stance and then she painted his cheeks to match. Someone had blown up a balloon and then let it go and it flew around the space makings its wet sticky noise that startled everyone and caused endless laughter. Darci waited till Steven was finished since she didn't want to go out on the fund raising floor alone. Later that evening a date with Darci was auctioned off for $100. She was only modestly painted by patrons and she wished more people had painter her since the paint helped keep her warm.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Censor

Hannah Miller invited a small group of her friends to a birthday dinner at Little Saigon. The dinner conversations were lively and animated. Then the conversation turned to an unexpected topic, namely art censorship in Orlando. Jessica Earley had a painting of hers on exhibit at Pom Poms Tea house as part of a group show called "The Happy Glitter Show." It is believed that a costumer at the tea house took it upon themselves to censor Jessica's painting by placing a round bright yellow sticker on the piece. The painting depicts a group of women and written across the chest of one was, "Do the dishes. Feed the cat. Don't be a C*nt." Ironically Jessica had already censored herself by placing an * in place of the vowel. The management of Pom Pom's was very apologetic and they removed the sticker once it was discovered.

As an artist I find the willingness of people in our community to deface and censor artwork very disturbing. Jessica was soft spoken and sincere as she expressed her concerns, "Someone in the community put the sticker on my painting. And business owners are afraid of what the people in our community might think of provocative or questionable art, so they ask that you don't hang it in their business. We as a community are censoring ourselves and keeping our minds closed." Her work deals with and respects woman's issues. "It really is interesting to me, because there are a lot of artists who will portray women in very objectified ways through their art (pin up style art, etc..), and people most often will find this to be OK, because it has sort of seeped into being the norm. But if I make a painting dealing with some real things that women go through, for example, menstruation, then my painting won't get hung."

The options for exhibiting artwork in this town are limited to say the least. Artists must face the risk of exhibiting in bustling, sometimes smoke filled restaurants and bars just to get their work seen. The chances of work being damaged escalates in these crowded insecure settings. Now it seems people feel the need to censor and deface art that they do not understand or appreciate. "This blows my mind because I find my work to be quite innocent and respectful to the female. It's very frustrating, because the work I do is very personal to me, but I'm not trying to be purposefully shocking in any sort of way. I've had a few different instances where I've felt cheated or censored." Jessica said.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

James Bond New Year's Dress to Kill

At home I helped Terry apply the last of her golden makeup. Her entire face, neck and hands were covered in golden theatrical paint and she wore a golden one piece dress and carried a golden hand bag. I simply wore a warm golden suit and tie. When we arrived at the Enzian Theater, I picked up our tickets and we went up to the bar to order our complimentary drinks. The drinks consisted of Bond themed names from, 007 Classic, a Vodka Dry Vermouth with olives to the more exotic drinks like, Diamonds are Forever. I ordered a Miss Moneypenny which was a champagne topped with apple pie liqueur. Very tasty. Terry without a doubt was the best dressed, Bond Themed woman at the party. I had to draw her, although it is hard to capture all the glittering gold in a sketch. Matters were complicated by the fact that people kept walking up to Terry and asking to have their picture taken with her. Apparently Myth Busters had debunked the idea that a woman could die from being painted head to toe in gold paint. Every woman was indeed dressed to kill with high heels and plenty of leg.

When it got really crowded outside we went inside to look around. There was a DJ mixing the music and on the movie screen strippers were pole dancing and crawling on all fours. We thought we might get a beer inside but the bar was packed and so we went back outside. A photographer asked to take Terry's photo on one of the red velvet couches. I started my second sketch out in the Eden Bar. The bartenders were in constant twirling motion. They performed an amazing ballet of mixing, shaking and pouring. The bartender I sketched was wearing a Russian spy's Siberian winter wardrobe with a fur hat and a tightly cinched waste. I waited for some time trying to get a bartenders attention with no luck. Terry took my place and within a minute she was served drinks. It is hard to miss a golden woman ordering drinks.

With 15 minutes remaining till midnight we made our way to the dance floor. The big screen flashed brightly with various pornographic images. Breasts, hands, gyrating hips, tongues and nipples. At first the images were live action closeups and then fast paced animation took it's place. When the animation repeated, I managed to tear my eyes from the screen to focus on the dance floor. There was plenty of smooching and dancing, a wild Bacchanal. Balloons were batted around above peoples heads the shadow playing on the movie screen. When the countdown began at around 30 seconds, the screen switched over to a live feed of Times Square. Above the dance floor a huge net held hundreds of balloons waiting to drop on the packed dance floor. Ten, nine, eight... Everyone shouted along and then the ball dropped and everyone shouted and cheered dancing with our arms raised. Couples embraced and kissed. I kissed Terry carefully but ended up with golden lips and a golden nose. The balloons above us never fell. Terry found a red feather boa on the dance floor and wrapped it around her neck.

When we got off the dance floor Terry told me she was starving. We drove down 17-92 till we found a Taco Bell where we ordered some tacos to ring in the New Year. Only the drive through window was open so we ordered and then parked in the parking lot eating in my truck. A humble ending to an amazing night.