Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ethos Kitchen

It was Dina Peterson's birthday. She invited friends via Facebook for an Ethos dinner and conversation celebration. I arrived early straight from work and started blocking in this sketch figuring she would push some tables together to eat with friends in the main dining area. I was wrong. I was halfway into the sketch when Dina arrived and told me she would be sitting outside. I never abandon a sketch but the dining room was absolutely deserted. My heart sank. Thankfully a mother and daughter sat at the table in front of me.

Outside several tables were pushed together and Dina's friends began to arrive. Maria, Tia and Sophia were at the far end of the table. Denna Beena was there with her fiance Travis Fillman. It was a creative, holistic, fun group. Travis had a brand new 3-D smart phone. He took a photo of Denna as she held her hand out menacingly towards the camera. The 3-D image was impressive. A train whistle blew in the distance and Travis ran to the train tracks to shoot a 3-D video clip.

Amanda Chadwick read excerpts from a diary she kept from elementary school days. The entries were blunt and hilarious. Terry arrived late and when she arrived we split a plate of vegan tacos. Terry gave Dina a birthday card with a painting by John Sloan. The painting depicted a social gathering much like this birthday celebration except the intellectuals in the painting wore turn of the century outfits. I realized that the artist must have been seated at a table away from the main gathering. I looked around and saw a table with a good vantage point but decided to relax and enjoy the conversations instead.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Sketchbook Project

The Sketchbook Project has been traveling the country hitting large cities everywhere. Now it is in Orlando for two more days. I went on Friday, the first day to see what the buzz was about. I submitted a sketchbook and it is part of this national tour. In all there are over 10,000 sketchbooks from artists from around the world. The mobile sketchbook library is being housed at Full Sail Live which is a brand new state of the art performance space on the Full Sail campus. When I arrived, Mark Baratelli and Brian Feldman were in the lobby. The first order of business was to get a library card, so I got in line to pick up my card.

Inside there are about 10 to 15 bookcases full of sketchbooks. My first impulse would be to thumb through multiple sketchbooks until I found one that caught my eye. Unfortunately you can't walk among the stacks and choose the books yourself. The Project staff have to find the sketchbook for you. You can pick sketchbooks by the artist's name or by geographic region or by the theme. I remember my theme was "Faces in a crowd." I asked for two sketchbooks with that theme. One had over rendered pencil drawings of people's faces from family photos. It had little appeal. The second book was covered in foil and had entire pages boldly painted with gouache. It was bold and interesting. Maisy and Ron Marrs showed up so I shadowed them for a bit so I could glance at Maisy's sketchbook. Her work was fun and whimsical and there was a sketch of me in there which was an unexpected surprise.

I started sketching the long line of people waiting to check out sketchbooks. I spoke with Megan Everhart who was waiting to pick up her 2012 sketchbook. She had driven five hours down here from South Carolina to experience the Sketchbook Project first hand. Her work is abstract and she also does murals. Her iPhone had died so she couldn't continue to shoot photos. I offered her my charger but I couldn't find the wall plug piece. It was somewhere in my bag, but I couldn't locate it among all the art supplies. She had a five hour drive back north so she headed out early. A former Disney colleague, Rusty Stoll was checking out sketchbooks, but after four books he was disappointed in the lack of draftsmanship. I saw Tracy Burke with her parents checking out the work. I kept bumping into people I knew, like Bess Auer of "Central Florida Top 5."

All afternoon I checked out sketchbooks and I was enthralled by the wide variety of the work. At 6pm the founders of the Sketchbook Project, StevePeterman and Shane Zucker took to the stage. They were college buddies and the seed of this project started small. They at first only envisioned 100 sketchbooks would ever be submitted. Over time they had to adjust as the numbers escalated. There are 10,000 sketchbooks now being housed at Full Sail Live. It would be impossible to view every sketchbook even if you spent all three days checking out books as fast as you could view them. The sheer volume of art is staggering. Once again the power of the Internet is making art available to the masses. You have to experience the Sketchbook Project to believe it. It is open today (7/30) and Sunday (7/31) from Noon to 5pm. Don't miss it! Listen to what others had to say...

"This event was incredible!! If you missed it today, check out Sketchbook Project this weekend while you can!!
- Tracy Burke

"The Sketchbook Project was one of the best shows I've ever been to for art! International artists and their sketchbooks and the excitement of being able to share it with everyone!"
- Maisy May Marrs

"Just got back from the 2011 Sketchbook project at Full Sail. It was awesome, so many books to look at. If you have a chance to go and check it this weekend Sat and Sun. 12-5pm. Check out Thomas Thorspecken, Peter Soutullo, Maisy Marrs and some other Florida Natives books while you are there. This is taking place here in Orlando, is free and its at Full Sail Live behind the Mickey D's on 436 and University."
- Chris Tobar

Friday, July 29, 2011

Southern Fried Sunday

Southern Fried Sunday organized by Jessica Pawli was an all day music festival and more with ticket sales going to benefit the Mustard Seed. It was Jessica's birthday and she celebrated by giving back to the community. The benefit featured 17 musical acts at 3 venues on Mills Avenue. The Mustard Seed is a furniture and clothing bank that helps rebuild lives of individuals and families who have experienced a tragedy, disaster or homelessness. When I arrived at Mills Avenue I decided I wanted to draw Wally's Mills Avenue Liquors. Women in bikinis were holding signs that read, "Free beer" and some were hula hooping. There was a long line of black Harley Davidson motorcycles parked in front of the bar. I sat down and the second I opened my sketchbook it started to rain. I rushed up the street to Will's Pub.

I was issued a tan armband. I walked into the dark room with a stage. People were seated all around the edge of the room and there were no empty sects left so I sat on my camping stool up close to the stage. Bartender Brian Hanson was performing. I didn't know if he had just started or if he was almost finished so I worked quickly. He closed his eyes lost in the music. His deep raspy voice filled the room. Sure enough he had only one song more to sing. When he got off stage he spoke to the woman seated beside me. Her name was Mech Anism. He didn't think it was one of his better performances.

"Greenland is Melting" from Gainsville Florida was the next group up. Their lively act had everyone clapping and swaying. The guy on the cello bobbed his head up and down violently, his hair a flowing mad mess.The guitarist and banjo player harmonized the lyrics. I was having so much fun sketching to the music. I could have listened to these guys all day.It was over way too fast.

"Kitchy Kittens Burlesque Dancers" wandered through the crowd asking for donations for Mustard Seed. They looked amazing in their 1940's Pin Up Girl themed costumes. They were on stage for only a minute so I didn't catch them in a sketch. I couldn't stay all day. I had time for one more sketch before meeting my wife Terry, Amanda Chadwick and Matt Simantov at the Food Truck Bazaar.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bar Louie

After a fun evening of comedy, Terry, Amanda Chadwick and I went to Bar Louie which is in the same complex of restaurants and clubs on Sand Lake Road, a neighborhood referred to by some as Sandlando. The place was packed and the music was loud. Terry and Amanda went out on the dance floor and I started sketching. There were no seats available so I stood behind an empty table that was reserved. As I worked a group of women in gorgeous dresses and men with their hair slicked back sat at the table. It must have been a retro night since some men were dressed like John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever." They had long pointy collars and vests. I started to think that some guy dressed to the nines would take a swing at me as a way to impress his girl.

When the band stopped, Terry and Amanda went outside. I finished applying washes to the sketch. I never found out the name of the group playing. I closed the sketchbook and went to join Terry and Amanda outside. A huge plate sized beetle was scurrying awkwardly across the pavement. It looked like it was gasping for breath through its neck. Amanda was skyping Matt in Seattle. I waved to the video image of him but couldn't hear anything he said over the crowd. We didn't stay much longer. The band was about to start another set as we walked out to the parking lot.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Big Man Little Bike Fringe Fundraiser


Jeff Ferree is no stranger to the challenge of working small but thinking big. He is known for producing a Fringe show in the smallest venue imaginable, a closet in the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, which housed his puppet theater and an audience of up to 14 people. On Saturday September 24th at 8am, he has vowed to ride this tiny red bike ten miles on the Cady Way Trail to raise funds for the Orlando International Fringe Festival. 100% of the money raised will support the Fringe. His journey will begin at the entrance to the trail at the Fashion Square Mall and will end at the Cady Way Trail bridge which crosses over 436. I asked Jeff if I could sketch him at the bridge.

The tiny red bike is incredibly difficult to ride. I tried riding it on the sidewalk and my hiking boots kept getting in the way. I took my boots off and managed to bike a short distance in my bare feet, but the tiny handlebars wobbled the whole way. My knees stuck out making me look like Ichabod Crane. Jeff will have to do some serious training if he is to go the distance.

If you would like to pledge to the
Bikeathon here is the contact info.
Orlando Fringe
398 W. Amelia Street
Orlando, FL 32801
Attn: Bikeathon

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Happy Memories

Jack Fields is working on a short film titled "Happy Memories" which combines puppetry and live action. He told me that Brian Feldman would be hatching from an egg on the day I went to sketch. John Regan III was behind the camera. Digital SLR cameras shoot quality video these days. Brian was perched on a crate covered with foam and a blue blanket. The wall behind him was painted as a blue screen so he could be composited onto another background in post production. He was dressed in long johns that had googly eyes pasted all over the surface. Whenever he moved the eyes wobbled. Jack was trying to get an eyeball hanging from an ocular nerve to look like it had popped out of Brian's eye socket. The adhesive didn't want to stick so the eye kept dropping off.

With costuming and makeup done it was time to shoot. Brian tucked his knees up to his chest in a fetal position and then Jack started wrapping him in aluminum foil. Jack stood back and shouted "Action!" Brian slowly extricated himself from the aluminum foil egg. Jack shouted "Cut!" He felt Brian had moved too slow, so he explained the pacing he needed. Brian was wrapped in aluminum foil for another take. This time the timing was perfect. They shot one more scene where Brian looked at a puppet held by Jack in shock and horror.

I don't know the story behind "Happy Memories" but I can't wait to see the final product. Jack's puppets are an intricate banquet for the eyes.

Monday, July 25, 2011

txt at Urban ReThink

Conceptual artist Brian Feldman has one more performance of txt tonight, July 25th at 7pm at Urban ReThink (625 East Central Blvd.). I sat in on the first of three performances to sketch. I have seen txt performed several times before and was entertained every time. For the first time, I signed into the proper Twitter account and was prepared to send Brian a txt during the performance to be read aloud. Brian walked out and sat at the spindly desk waiting for his cell phone to vibrate. He read, "Let's get started with a couple of ground rules." Terry was busy munching on a bag of potato chips. I wrote my first txt, he read, "Rule number 1. No eating!" He shouted it out, pointing at Terry. I placed my phone on the floor and forgot about it as I lost myself in the sketch.

"Thor is wearing a shirt he bought in North Carolina." Terry must have written that, I thought. I looked at my shirt. Funny, I don't remember buying it in North Carolina. Tod Caviness walked in late. "This guy is late," Brian announced. I raised my hopes thinking Tod would offer some literary subtlety to the strange meaningless flow of ideas. As always, the unfiltered thoughts turned to sex. "Raise your hand if you want to have a 3 or 4 way later." "Oh, there are swingers in the room?!" "Rule number 16, if no one laughs I'm going to stand on Thor's shoulders and fart in your face." Who on earth wrote that? I thought. Do I know that person. Do I want to know that person? "Rule number 237. No sex in the champagne room with Thor." What?! I blushed. Alright, who wrote that? More important was it a man or woman? I looked around for a guilty face. Where on earth is the champagne room? I need to go sketch it now."Sex in the champagne room at Hue. See you at 8." Well that answers that question anyway, Hue is a night club. "I would totally rock Thor's hammer." "OK, who mentioned sex with Thor? It wasn't his wife and if she finds you she will scratch your eyes out." "Why is everyone talking about Thor, lets chat about Green Lantern! He is great too!" Thank Odin, the conversation wasn't about me at all. I'm so vain.

Across from me Peter Murphy was sitting next to Colleen Burns. She wore a blue dress. "Hey girl in the blue dress, don't wear a bra next time." I looked up at Colleen her mouth was open, aghast. "Awkward." Brian announced. "Later on I'm going to get down with that lady in the... (my eyes are bad)... The Blue dress!" "My boyfriend is obsessed with the girl in the blue dress." "The girl in the blue dress is taken." Well that settles that, I thought. "Imagine me planking on the lady in the blue dress later. Ha!" Colleen seemed to take all the attention with humor. "I am NEVER wearing a blue dress ever again!"

With no filters, no social niceties, people don't have a need for polite meaningful conversation. The Internet has unleashed an age of unrestricted self-expression and the results are often brash and ugly. Tapping out every thought that pops into our heads isn't art. Having contributed to this performance by tapping out my one tweet, I felt a little dirty. I was complicit in the crime of random expression. This show shocked and amazed me every time I saw it. It is a guilty pleasure. Several evenings later I saw Colleen at another event. She was wearing a blue dress.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Little Black Dress Fundraiser

Blue Martini located at the Millenia Mall hosted the Little Black Dress Fundraiser to raise funds for Dress for Success. The mission of Dress for Success is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. Wendy Wallenburg brought the event to Terry's attention and she was excited to sport one of her little black dresses. She told me as we got ready, that I was a very lucky man, since I would be escorting three beautiful women. I dressed all in black for the occasion.

When Terry and I arrived at Blue Martini, we had to stay outside at the bar since they hadn't opened the doors yet. The bar was packed. We did two laps searching for a table with no luck. We finally asked to sit with an older couple. A women at the next table waved to me and let me know they were leaving soon. We joined them. Terry leaned in and gestured to the couple we had just left. They were making out, hot and heavy. "Sheesh, get a room." she joked. Donna Brooker Connors, a friend of Terry's from Book Club, joined us. A thick dark blanket of storm clouds were rolling in. Lightning flashed on the horizon. I could smell the ozone.

Just before the rain hit, it was time to go in. We slipped in the back door and Terry rushed to a table at the far end of the place. I lingered behind, sitting at a spot where I could sketch the band and dance floor but then I decided to just go with the flow. I joined Terry at her chosen table. Sarah Austin joined us. She is another Book Club friend of Terry's. All the women looked amazing in their little black dresses. The women got free champagne. I couldn't hear the conversation at our table, I could only hear the roar of the room. I dashed off my first sketch as the place filled up getting louder. When the band started to play, Terry and I got up to dance. Musicology performed an eclectic blend of very danceable music. Then they played a slow song and we danced cheek to cheek. It was a blissful moment.

Back at the table, Donna had to leave since she was getting over a cold. Wendy sent Terry a text saying she couldn't make it. She was stuck up in Winter Park in the rain. Sarah and Terry compared notes on the men in the room. Sarah shared a picture of her boyfriend who has a ponytail. Then we realized there were men everywhere in the room with ponytails. A group of very busty women piled into the table next to us. A woman hugged her girlfriend from behind cupping her breasts and shaking them. Some women had impossible Disney Princess figures supplemented with silicone. There was a chocolate fountain and designer handbags. Every woman had a raffle ticket for the big items being given away at the end of the evening. Sarah had Terry and I laughing all night.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Put a Cork In It!


Amanda Chadwick invited Terry and I for a night of Absent Minded Improv Comedy at Put a Cork In It (7339 W Sand Lake Rd). One wall was stacked with fine wines and patrons are encouraged to pick their own bottle from the racks. Amanda and Terry sat in the front row in some thick leather arm chairs. I found those seats too restrictive so I found myself a table in the back. The comedy was lively and entertaining. The Absent Minded Improv Comedy Troup performs here every Saturday evening from 8pm to 9:30pm and there was a $5 cover charge that was tagged onto the bill at the end of the evening.

I drew Elisabeth Drake-Forbes and Mike Besaw as they performed a piece in which then had to say, "If you know what I mean," after each statement. Terry yelled out that the routine should incorporate a Llama. Elisabeth said, "I need to go outside and shear the Llama, if you know what I mean..." The sexual innuendos flourished and everyone laughed. The quaint space was packed seating about 20 people in plush seats arranged around coffee tables.

After the performance I sat back up front with Amanda and Terry. Comedian Drew McCalmon stooped baseball catcher style in front of our coffee table joking with Terry. Terry gave him a playful shove and his arms spun up as he tried to catch his balance. He hit a wine glass which crashed to the floor. Amanda gave Terry a time out locking her outside the wine bar. Jokingly Terry pounded on the glass doors reminiscent of the final wedding scene in the Graduate. Amanda couldn't stop laughing.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Filming Hank Williams Jr. at Full Sail

Full Sail sent out an e-mail saying they needed extras for the filming of an NFL Monday Night Football theme song by Hank Williams Jr. When I arrived at Full Sail Live there was a small crowd of people outside in their football jerseys. There was a registration tent for media and one for extras. I decided to sign in with the extras. The release basically said that when I entered the film set I would not hold Full Sail responsible for any injuries I sustained. The group of football fans were being lead inside. I quickly signed my life away and ran to get in with them. We all waited in the lobby as a stage hand explained the ground rules. Inside we could hear loud music and screaming. Someone leaned over and said, "Looks like we're missing the party." We were told that we could leave the filming area at any time but we wouldn't be able to get back in. One of the football fans started eating M&Ms from a catering table. Our guide said, "That food is for the paid extras." The M&Ms were dropped.

Once inside I separated from the group and looked for a vantage point to sketch from. I sat up on an empty stage platform and got to work. Most of the time everyone stood around waiting for the filming to begin. I had no idea if I was in the shot or not. I kept thinking someone would tell me to move closer into the crowd. I must have looked like I was part of the crew as I worked furiously on the sketch. Hank Williams Jr. ambled out with his cowboy hat, cigar and big sunglasses. He posed for pictures with a few people then got on the stage which was painted like a football field. When I sketched him, he had his back to me as he sat waiting for the next take.

Finally the cameras were ready to roll. The drummer started playing and Hank strutted around on the stage as cheerleaders danced. People were moving their lips to the lyrics but no one sang. Then sparks began to cascade from the ceiling. In a second shot everyone was warned that there were loud firecrackers above their heads. They were told they were safe as long as they stayed on the near side of a red line on the floor. I was on the wrong side of the line. I glanced up and there was the pyrotechnic device maybe 10 feet above my head. I can sketch under most conditions but this time I decided to move. The explosions were loud and everyone screamed even louder. The director called, "Cut! Alright everyone it's time for lunch." My sketch wasn't finished but I had no choice, the extras were being ushered out. I had no need to get back to the testosterone fueled NFL theme song war zone.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Creative Center’s AIR Program funded by LIVESTRONG

United Arts applied for a grant to LIVESTRONG to bring the creative process to patients at MD Anderson Cancer Center. The Creative Center Artist-In-Residence Program was made possible through a cooperative agreement with LIVESTRONG. This is the inaugural year and I arranged to sketch Andrea Canny as she brought art to patients. I met Katie Dagenais in the lobby and she arranged for patients to sign releases before leaving me with Andrea. Joan Dougherty was the patient we visited with. Joan sat in the tiny room with her friend waiting to get her chemo therapy. Andrea explained all the art supplies she had on her cart and Joan quickly decided she would do a collage on a mat for Nina, her grandchild.

I thought back to when I was ten years old waiting in a hospital in NYC, a woman invited me to create a small mosaic for my mother who had breast cancer. I became so focused on those tiles intent on creating a masterpiece for Mothers Day. My mom died the day before Mothers Day so she never saw that creation. She was just 47 years old. I wonder where that mosaic is now.

A nurse entered and hooked an IV up to Joan's left wrist. She complained briefly of a burning sensation near the IV site on her wrist, then she started cutting paper in a flurry of artistic activity. She chose a red background with organic swirls rising from the bottom of the page. She then carefully cut out butterflies which she glued in the corners. Her friend said, "I could never do something that artistic, I would rather get a beating!" We all laughed. Andrea started explaining the importance of art in schools and then she had to check in on another artist she was inspiring in the next room. The complex looking IV machine started beeping incessantly. I started to wonder if something was wrong. Joan was lost in her creative process so I relaxed. Soon a nurse cheeked in and the beeping stopped.

Andre said that research showed that patients who were creating experienced pain far less than a control group. They never pushed the red pain medication button. LIVESTRONG is a national program but funding will have to come from grants applied for yearly or private donations. Joan cut out individual letters that spelled out NINA and she glued them to the mat. Her grandchild is at a stage where everything is fresh new and unexpected. Everything is a learning experience.

When Joan was finished with her creation, I finished with my sketch. Joan has a true artistic spirit. Faint whisps of hair lay on her shoulders having fallen from under her beautiful head scarf. It was inspiring to see that art could provide strength and meaning even when life is most challenging. LIVESTRONG offers support and resources to help patients face the challenges of cancer survivorship. Andrea gave Joan a book filled with resources and information. She also gave her a blank journal where she could create anytime.

Afterwards I sketched the MD Anderson Cancer Center. It thrusts up like a towering beacon of hope to help fight cancer. A group of three people walked up beside me. I thought they were curious about the sketch but they picked up a few soda cans scattered in my vicinity and shoved them in a large black plastic bag. They then stepped through a hole in a chain link fence and disappeared.

I thought back to the playful banter Andrea shared with Joan and the way that art can always enrich our lives. I hope that LIVESTRONG continues to flourish and grow here in Orlando. Not ready to die we LIVESTRONG.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Atlantis Lifts Off

A woman had a blue umbrella open and people in the crowd complained. I chuckled that such a small thing could annoy people at such a historic moment. Loud speakers in Space View Park announced the countdown. I considered jumping in the water to escape the pressing crowd but I had long pants on. I stood on my rickety camping chair to see over the crowd. Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off from launch pad 39A at 11:29am. A blazing light appeared across the river and billowing exhaust cloud crept outward. Everyone cheered and a digital salute began with everyone raising their cellphones and cameras to take a shot. When the roar of the crowd died down it was eerily quiet. Within seconds the blazing light punched through the clouds and was gone. As people turned to leave, a deafening rumble ripped across the water. It shook my chest. The noise took people by surprise. A father explained to his son that light travels faster than sound.

This launch of Atlantis marked the end of the 30 year Space Shuttle Program. This program launched great observatories, built an International Space Station and taught us how humans can live, work and continually learn in space. Terry and I lingered as the crowd cleared. We decided to let the initial rush of traffic go on without us. Terry suggested I do another sketch. I decided to draw the lemonade vendor as Terry relaxed with a magazine.

Some videographer stuck his camera in my face and started waxing poetic about how the artist was capturing the emotional context of the launch. After the initial ink work was in place, I decided I had to have a lemonade. They were out of sugar but had Sweet & Low. I hesitated but still ordered. After mixing in four packets I took a sip and cringed. Yuck! I traded Terry for a water and we were both content.

We decided to drive south on A1A once I finished the sketch to go to a Mexican restaurant someone suggested I visit. The place offered $1 Margaritas when the two minute countdown began. Driving down side streets I was almost sideswiped by a guy that ignored a stop sign. I gunned my engine and he missed me by inches. I was glad when we found a table in the restaurant and settled in for Margaritas and a delicious Mexican meal.

The TV above the bar showed mission control. A man wrapped up what he was doing at his station and he left. I felt sad knowing the shuttle program was almost over. The whole economy on the coast is about to change as all the NASA staff is laid off. We wondered if beach front property might suddenly become affordable. After dinner we took a blanket and relaxed out by the riverfront across the street. I closed my eyes and napped. I was jolted awake by a gust of wind which pelted me with sand. It began to rain and we ran back to my truck. On the drive back we listened to a book on tape called "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand about World War II POW's imprisoned by the Japanese. It was a ceaselessly brutal book but it distracted me when we hit traffic which crawled on the Beach line Expressway as we inched back to Orlando. The book is about never giving up and the power of the human spirit. We spent 14 hours or so driving to watch the 40 second launch but it was worth it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Final Shuttle Launch

Terry and I were startled awake by the clock alarm at 4am. We stumbled about getting ready to go to the space coast to see the Launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis. We planned to go to Space View Park which is right across the Saint John's river directly across from Launch Complex 39. It is as close as you can get to a launch without being in the press section. I drove east on the Beach Line Expressway while Terry snoozed. In the last few miles I asked her to help navigate me to the park. Suddenly there was traffic. Parking spaces were being sold for $20 to $30 dollars. We wandered the back streets until I found a spot on a dead end street next to a dumpster. We walked the five or so blocks to the park. The streets were crowded with families carting their picnic lunches. A homeless man snarled, "Ya'll look like a bunch of cockroaches lookin' for a scrap of bread." I didn't see that. People were excited, anticipating a historic launch.

The entrance to Space View Park was packed with news vans. The park was full of tents from people who had camped out overnight. Terry tried to walk straight out to the pier but we reached a point where we could walk no further. We backtracked a bit and I found a cement ledge to sit on and I began my first sketch. A family lounged in their camping chairs. People kept packing in. The woman behind me had a lanyard on that said she was with a tweet-up group. I asked if the tweeters were all together. She said they were scattered throughout the park. Terry forced her way out to the edge of the park overlooking the river to the north.

When I joined Terry, I could see that the bridge over the river was packed with people. Every square inch of shoreline was also packed with people. In Space View park everyone sat facing the launch pad which was visible to the eye if you knew where to look. I sat facing the crowd and started a second sketch. There were still several hours until the launch. A young couple played cards. Others read or looked at their cell phones. Some slept. There was no Internet or texting since the cell tower couldn't handle all the signals. People were left having to engage in conversations and other analog forms of diversion. A man right behind Terry talked endlessly in a monotone about the boring minutia of his job to his buddy. Terry had to read aloud to concentrate on her book. We had some apples to munch on and some humus. I was content, being able to sketch people up close and personal.

A father and son were casting a net, fishing in the river beside us. The water was just up to their knees. Soon other people waded out into the water. A crowd formed. Even photographers set up their tripods in the rivers muddy bottom waiting for the launch...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Master Playwright Residency

The Atlantic Center of the Arts in New Smyrna Beach has a master artists in residency program. Residency #142 put students in touch with three talented playwrights, Annie Baker, Heather Woodbury, and Dael Orlandersmith. The Mad Cow Theater opened its doors so these women could discuss what it is like being a playwright in America today. I arrived at the Mad Cow Theater rather sweaty and worn around the edges from several other sketch assignments that day. The lobby was packed and the room hummed with conversations as people enjoyed wine and finger food. There was a table full of name tags and I didn't see my name. This was a much bigger event than I expected, and for a moment I thought I might not get in.

Exhausted I sat on the windowsill and observed all the excitement in the room. I heard a woman say, "let me grab my wine." She reached behind me and grabbed a cup. I had almost sat on it. Thank god it didn't spill. A young woman sat next to me to relax. Mitzi, a perky young mom, started talking to her and I discovered I was sitting next to Annie Baker, one of the playwrights. Mitzi was talking about one of her children and Annie who is 30 wondered if she would ever have time for a family. Mitzi's husband, a handsome man in a light suit and dark spiked hair joined the conversation. He thought Annie was just in her mid twenties and he said, "You look too young to have written five plays."

The cow bell rang letting everyone know it was time to enter the theater. Peg Okeif was the moderator. The Mad Cow Theater will be moving this year to Church Street Station which will put it in the midst of all the new nightlife being generated thanks in part to the new arena. Excerpts were performed from each of the three women's plays. I discovered that I was seated next to all the actors who performed that night. I moved aside each time they went on stage to read. Each of the readings had an amazing blend of humor and serious drama. I was left wanting more.

The moderated conversation with the playwrights afterward inspired and charged me. Annie Baker who wrote "Circle Mirror Transformation" said, "Art is about holding up a mirror, that mirror can be smooth and representational or distorted. We try to show what peoples lives are like and what the inner landscape of peoples minds look like. Art is about chronicling." I was surprised when Dael, who wrote Yellow Man, pointed out that several college professors discouraged her writing. Heather had similar experiences. Annie spoke about a professor who wanted to share the true secret of great playwrights. The students leaned forward with bated breath. He said, "The best playwrights are the ones who read the most." Annie noted an alarming flood of people who want to write yet they have no interest in reading. Dael pointed out that the more she reads, the more she humbly realizes what she doesn't know. When asked about the artist as recluse Annie pointed out that she has the best of both worlds. She writes for months at a time alone and focused then she gets to work with the actors offering plenty of interaction. Asked how she knows her play is done, Annie said, "The play is never exactly what I hoped it would be when I started. But even though it might have a swollen eye and be misshapen, I still love it like a child."

Heather Woodbury's plays are created on the web allowing a full view of her creative process. Her serialized ongoing online videos create a world she hopes people will want to return to again and again. She plays every roll. I'm fascinated with the way she is embracing and recreating her art for this new digital medium. There was concern that only the rarefied elite go to plays anymore since ticket prices are so high. Great plays speak to everyone. By the end of the evening I felt a glowing kinship with each of the playwrights. I wish I could have talked to each at length but when the evening ended they were surrounded. I rushed out of the theater after grabbing a card from Heather and walked the streets downtown feeling rejuvenated.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Blank Canvas at OMA

On the first Thursday of every month the Orlando Museum of Art opens it's front gallery for local artists. It is an evening of art, food, drink and entertainment. This evening featured ten artists who would begin with a blank canvas offering patrons a chance to see their creative process. Walking the room, there were several painters, a print maker, jewelry maker and a sculptor working in the center of the room with a model. The model was all legs in a bikini. I circled around the sculptor and his model several times but I couldn't find a place to plant myself so I moved on.

The print maker was using leaves and other natural found objects to begin her multi layered prints. A painter blocking in a traditional portrait didn't appeal to me. A young woman strummed her guitar. I finally settled myself next to a jewelry maker to sketch this group of artists working on three large space themed canvases. The closest canvas depicted a satellite circling Earth. The painter let a little boy put down some bold strokes of blue on the painting. The planets on the central painting began as faintly fogged in orbs on a dark canvas. As I sketched the planets were painted in thick impasto.

Denise Lebenstein a friend from college days was in town and she leaned against the wall behind me. I hadn't seen her in 20 plus years. I interrupted the sketch to give her a hug. I told he I'd seek her out when I was finished with the sketch. She checked out the museum with her friend Patti while I worked. Joe Rosier took a break from selling drink tickets and he shook my hand. Laughing, he wanted to know why I wasn't sketching the beautiful model in the middle of the room. A puppeteer from Pinocchio's Marionette Theater introduced herself. She said she saw me sketching a performance of Aladdin's Magic Lamp. I don't remember ever sketching that show. As she spoke, I kept wracking my brain, confused.

As I finished up, Denise stopped back to check on my progress. I put away my sketchbook and ventured out into the rain with her and Patti to get some Vietnamese food at Viet Garden. We had fun recollecting memories about our times in art school in NYC. It's odd how selective memories can be. She remembered that we once went to a Broadway show on New Year's eve. Watching the play we could hear the crowds gathering in Times Square. The play over, we ventured out into the massive crowd. We tore up our programs and used them as confetti at midnight when the ball dropped. I had totally forgotten about that night. Neither of us could recall the play.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Orlando Weekly "Best of Orlando" Party

Each year the Orlando Weekly publishes a "Best of Orlando" edition. There is a category for Best Blog, but this year I threw my AADW votes to The Daily City. Even with my support, The Daily City only got 2nd place. Some Republican political blog won 1st place. Anyway, I was asked to submit an illustration to this edition of the paper and part of the compensation was two comp tickets to the big bash at The Beacham Theater. The Beacham is newly renovated, and I was curious to get a glimpse inside. When I arrived, Brian Feldman was getting ready for his performance piece, "The Boxer." He was going to hand out copies of the Orlando Weekly from inside on of their red newspaper boxes. Since I was early, Brian walked me inside and up to the balcony where I had a view of all the action below. He said, "This is the first time I've been in this theater since I was 11 years old." He went back outside to continue setting up, and I started sketching on my digital tablet.

The bands were doing soundchecks. One group had urban tap dancers and plastic paint cans as drums. As I sketched, people started to trickle in. Busty barmaids in slick black dresses vogued as they shot photos of each other. Soon the place was packed. The bar became a hive of activity. Blackjack tables started getting busy. Entry to the event entitled each person to 1,000 units of Casino Chips, which could be turned in at the end of the evening for prizes.

With my balcony sketch finished, I went outside to sketch Brian. Terry was at the bar trying to shoot photos of Brian Feldman and Mark Baratelli's awards as they popped up on a large video screen. Outside, Brian was in the tiny red box right at the entrance. That meant I had to sit on the sidewalk to get a view of him. I wedged myself against the red velvet rope and got to work. There was maybe two feet of space behind me to the curb and I had to shove forward several times to let caterers by with huge vats of food. I think Brian's presence threw people for a loop and some searched around for another way in. One woman cooed to Brian, "Oh, you're so cute." When she was gone he pointed to the back of his throat and gagged. He had trouble keeping his head up and he napped between groups of people entering the club. People kept offering him food and drink. He always refused. I , on the other hand, was actually quite hungry and parched.

The sketch was going good, the ink work finished, when I heard a voice behind me. It was a policeman on a bike. "Oh no, not again ." I thought. He asked me to, " Move along." Since I wasn't finished with the sketch, I asked, "Can I sit out in the street to avoid blocking pedestrian traffic?" "No," he said, "Then I'd be concerned you might get injured." I just sat for a moment, thinking. He said, "Is he on a time out?" It took me a moment to realize he was referring to Brian in the box. I explained that it was performance art and for a second I thought he was going to ask Brian to move along as well. He didn't. He asked me to move again, then biked off. He didn't say I couldn't stand where I was, so I stood and started quickly throwing down watercolor washes. I worked fast since I figured the bike cop might just go around the block and check back in on my anarchist sketch in progress.

David Plotkin, the new art director at the Orlando Weekly, introduced himself to me just as I was finishing up the sketch. I flipped through my sketchbook to show David and his lady friend my work. I was still rattled thinking the police might return. My wife Terry had just left and I was feeling guilty for not spending more time with her inside the party. I went back inside and made myself several soft tacos from the decimated food table. The stage was empty. I wolfed down the tacos and typed a text message on my cell to Terry, "Heading home." I left, still feeling persecuted by the law. Besides, I wasn't a winner.

Friday, July 15, 2011

White House Concert

Satuko Fujii Ma-do, an experimental jazz quartet from Japan performed at the White House at an unusually early 3pm show. The White House concerts are free, being hosted by Benoit Glaser and his beautiful family. The concert space was designed by Benoit and it is acoustically exceptional. Benoit is the music director for Cirque du Soleil.

When I entered, I immediately wandered up the spiral staircase to the top floor where I filled my watercolor brushes with water in the bathroom. I found a seat right up against the railing overlooking the stage. I love this "god's eye" view. Robin Maria-Pedrero was the visual artist who worked next to the stage. Robin's canvas developed quickly as she brushed in large bold blocks of color. Under these colors was some masking agents which she rubbed off revealing hidden shapes and forms. Her bright multi layered work was a good match to the abstract experimental sounds of Satuko Fujii Ma-do.

The music was often dissonant and disjointed. The trumpet was used to create squealing wet sounds that caused some audience members to laugh uncomfortably. It was fun to sketch to and the rising swell and thrust of each piece inspired the lines I was dashing off on the page. Terry showed up late and her friend Wendy Wallenberg was there to joke around with us as we stood around the snack table after the concert. Wendy took over the hostess duties by straightening up and rearranging everything on the table.

I spoke with Robin the visual artist after the performance. She explained how she likes to find recognizable forms in the abstract brushwork she first puts down. She pointed to a canvas on the wall and said the rabbits were such a revelation to her. I didn't see the rabbits at first and I was surprised when their tiny forms jumped out at me.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Waiting for the rain to stop

As the 2-D Animation class wound down, I heard thunder and the distinct sound of rain hitting the building's flat roof. I didn't have my umbrella. Kathy Blackmore, the Course Director, suggested I could dash out a little early but I didn't want to get drenched. More importantly, I didn't want my tablet PC or sketchbooks to get drenched. I lingered after class straightening up the classroom at a leisurely pace. When I finally got out to the lobby, I stopped in my tracks.

Looking out the large glass doors was a view of a cascading, torrential waterfall. I couldn't even see the nearest cars in the parking lot. I always park at the furthest parking spot away from the building under a shady tree. I like the walk and I always know where I parked. Now that was a problem. I decided to sit on the floor and sketch. There were quite a few students who waited along with me. Occasionally a student would run in soaking wet and laughing. one particularly wet girl followed a classmate around offering a hug. Kathy decided to make a run for it.

As I finished up the sketch the rain began to slow. I walked out to my truck in the faintest drizzle just having to avoid the lake sized puddles in the parking lot.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Meeting Mr. Mennello

I went to the Mennello Museum to do a few more sketches for the mural. Genevieve and her husband Seth Kubersky posed for me in the museum. When I arrived at the museum there was plenty of activity. There were several large trucks in the parking lot and a mobile crane was moving around behind the museum. Seated inside the museum at the large bay windows in the Cunningham gallery, Mr. Menello watched as a large sculpture was being positioned over a cylinder shaped concrete podium. The artist, John Robert Wolfe was kneeling and trying to position the base of the sculpture on some small base support pads. One man held a rope to keep the large sculpture from spinning while the crane lowered it down gently. The process took several hours with a crew of five or so men. This bright primary colored sculpture moved in the breeze like a Calder mobile. It is an abstract representation of Mr. Mennello. He explained that the companion piece which represents Mr. Mennello's wife is in the front yard of his home.

Mr. Menello joked and talked as I was sketching Genevieve and Seth. Seth used his cell phone to check into the Mennello on Four Square. He was surprised that my wife was the Mayor of the Museum. Mr. Mennello inspected the overall plan for the mural and he decided he wanted to be sketched. Unfortunately Genevieve had arranged for me to sketch several children that afternoon for the mural so I didn't have time to sketch him right then and there. He would have been cutting in line. Isabelle, a young artist who helped me on the first day I started the mural, was next to pose. She stood with a dynamic line of action from her head right down to her toes. She looked just like Dega's "Little Dancer." The sketch I did of her was effortless. Her sketches which I saw that first day were nice. We chatted about art as I sketched. Her mom and younger brother watched all the activity around the sculpture being installed outside. Isabelle enjoys drawing animals and I insisted that she start taking life drawing classes.

The next day I sketched Mr. Mennello in his home. He has a wonderful art collection. It was a humbling experience beginning my sketch. Behind Mr. Mennello was a blue glass sculpture of a woman looking upward with her mouth open. On a thin glass table was a sculpted bust of a young Grace Kelly as a princess. A little jumping bean of a dog bounded into the room insisting I play ball with her. As I left I walked past the companion piece to the sculpture just installed at the Mennello Museum. Titled "Grand Dame" it abstractly and colorfully represents Mrs. Mennello. Her playful forms will dance in the breeze for eternity.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Isle of Palms

Terry and I drove to Isle of Palms early in the hopes of avoiding the July 4th traffic rush to the beach. Since we were several hours early we found the Sea Island grill and sat outside by the pool to relax. Terry ordered a coffee and I ordered a very weak lemonade. After the first tasteless sip I forgot about my drink. There were very few people seated outside so I focused my attention on Terry who was reading her New York magazine. If we ever move back to NYC she will have insights to every neighborhood. She has been reading that magazine since we met 23 years ago.

Terry's cousins own a condo right on the beach. Barbecue hot dogs and burgers were being prepared. After a few snacks and sodas everyone headed down to the beach. I slathered some sun block on Terry's back and we ventured into the water. Robbie who is a journalist waded out with us. The water was much colder than the water at Coco Beach in Florida. The first tentative steps were the coldest. Once my bathing suit was wet it was easier to dive in all the way. Well, I didn't actually dive, since I had on a baseball cap and my glasses. I wanted to be able to see the waves. I love jumping up with each swell trying to ride over the wave before it breaks. One wave was just too large. It caught me by surprise causing me to tumble backward doing a flip under water. I felt my glasses flying off underwater and I reached out blindly and they danced on my finger tips before I grasped them. The cap found it's way to the surface later and I scooped it up from the foam. We decided to go back to the beach towels and drop off the glasses. We rushed right back out.

I enjoy the persistent strategy of trying to predict and ride over each wave. It reminds me of dodge ball which I used to enjoy playing in gym. Terry was enjoying the surf as well and for once we could laugh and play like kids. Robbie was talking about his proposed blog so much that I lost sight of the waves behind me and I was again swamped and tossed like a rag doll. Each time I was caught by surprise I would sputter and stand up to the continuing onslaught with renewed enthusiasm. I saw Terry go under as well, and she also faced each new wave with childish buoyancy and delight.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Naval Shipyard

Terry wanted to go for a walk so my sister Shirley drove us to the Naval Shipyard in Charleston. The Shipyard was in operation from 1901 to 1996. A developer by the name of Noisette had a vision to develop the former shipyard into a hip urban neighborhood with luxury condos and a trendy shopping district. Money to finance this Dubai dream ran out. The one thing that was built was the riverfront park which honors Navy veterans through the years. One feature I really like is a black concrete rivulet which runs in a gentle arch from a main fountain. I was drawn to this statue of a couple re-united after war. It reminds me of a famous V-Day photo taken in Times Square.

This park was going to be the home base for a fireworks display on July 4th. There were several dozen construction site mobile lighting units waiting to be set up. Shirley joined Terry on the walk and I worked quickly. I read one plaque that said that this Naval Shipyard was a major manufacturing site for naval mines. When Terry finished her walk, it was time to go.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Shut Up & Play Sketch Marathon

Music was being performed constantly for 12 hours at 11/12 Lounge. Artist, Dawn Schreiner had to move her easel and art supplies off stage two as all the musical equipment was changed out. The next band brought in another drum set so there was plenty of activity on the stage. I was still adding watercolor washes to a sketch as all the sound equipment was being carted away. Lynn Halter Birdsall told me to inform Dawn that she could set up on the stage across the room since the other artist was done with his painting. When I sketched the Forefathers, she was at her new post. With all the activity, I abandoned inking in my drawings and just scribbled away with my pencil. I started to love the freedom the blunt pencil offered.

The Forefathers performed in the red glow of stage one. Their music had a mystic lyricism. Jupiter Groove on stage two was the last act that I sketched. Their driving riffs had elements of Progressive Fusion and Jazz. The seemingly improvisational performance influenced every line I drew. I kept beat with the flow of every line. I had arranged to get Terry into the concert. She finally texted me saying she was on her way. After my sketch was done I contemplated getting a beer and relaxing a bit. But Jeremy Birdsall was on stage playing keyboard and guitar at the same time. He was jamming with two other musicians he had just met. They improvised with absolute joy and abandon. I stood at a table and swayed to the beat. People at the bar were clapping and shouting encouragement. The place was buzzing and vibrant. I just soaked it in.

When Terry arrived she wanted to immediately go out to get a bite to eat. I left on my wrist band figuring I could return to the festival which continued until 2am. After dinner at Dexter's we went to Karen Russell's opening at Mother Falcon. Quite a few of her pieces were sold. Terry talked to Karen about possibly getting a tattoo. We went home. It was a good day.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fireworks

Fireworks were for sale all over Charleston. This modified 18 wheeler cargo bin did a booming business the day before July 4th. Terry suggested I sketch early in the morning before we left to visit her relatives. The tree I leaned up against had a line of ants crawling up and down the trunk. I discovered this when they decided to crawl down my neck and bite me on the neck. My niece and her husband were going to shoot off fireworks on the 4th but we went to visit Terry's cousins at Isle of Palms beach. The military flew five jets over the beach at 1:15pm. Terry has so many southern cousins. It was impossible to keep all their names straight.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Charleston S.C. Fountain

Terry and I drove to Charleston, South Carolina for the July 4th weekend. The city was jam packed full of tourists probably because there was a Carnival Cruise ship docked on the riverfront. We sat on a park bench and watched the ship pull out while hundreds of people on the dock waved. Terry suggested I sketch the fountain while she strolled around and looked at the riverfront architecture. This fountain was constantly filled with screaming children. It was like having 20 fire hydrants turned on all of them pointing towards a central platform.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cocktails & Cosmos

Terry had purchased tickets to Cocktails and Cosmos at the Orlando Science Center. After we got our arm bands we wandered into the main room on the second floor. Terry made a bee-line to a table that offered clothing for sale and I was immediately intrigued by a mural that was in progress. A guitarist played all night near the mural as guests took red plastic cups of paint and brushed their chosen color onto the canvas. The canvas had two guitars painted in vibrant warm colors and an all seeing eye dead center. The company that organized this community painting was Harmonious Universe. The company's motto is "Be it Share it." They say the motto is alive in the moment. So whatever "it" is to you, then that is what you are to "be." To fully "be it" you must "share it." I identify with the motto since each sketch is incomplete until I share it's story.

There was a fashion show which featured men and women's fashions from the 60's to the present. Peter Murphy introduced the show by telling everyone in the audience to put their hands in the air. He then said hug your neighbor to your left. I was at the end of the row so I had no one to hug but Nikki Mier gave me a warm hug. It was a fun and lively show with each model walking in character from demure 60's flower child to surly rock and rollers. I spoke to Nikki between fashion decades and it turns out she is a store manager for Fairvilla Megastore. I informed her that I once planned to sketch in this adult mega store when a porn star was in town offering autographs. I chickened out or didn't consider it blog worthy at the time. Nikki and Wendy Wallenberg were texting important information throughout the fashion show. I asked if her store contributed items for the fashion show. Unfortunately they didn't, but some of the fashion items in her store are similar. She suggested I sketch Fairvilla before Halloween because the store gets crowded with people trying on costumes. I enjoyed telling her about how I earned money to get myself through college by working as the art director for Oui magazine. I was perhaps the only virgin to ever art direct a Men's magazine. I never discussed this darker side of my career when I worked for Disney.

Carl Knickerbocker was at the event and he wanted to see the iMax movie "The Ultimate Wave Tahiti." I joined him downstairs as the women chatted upstairs. Jelly fish sculptures made from found objects were suspended from the ceiling. They were the work of local artist Doug Rhodehamel. I bet they glow in black light but unfortunately only florescent lights were on. The movie in the three story high theater was mind blowing. I got dizzy a few times as helicopter shots flew over the ocean. I was constantly twisting my neck trying to see everything in my peripheral vision.

Terry, Wendy and a group of women kept laughing as staff rushed around folding chairs and putting away tables. We were the last to leave. I felt like I was watching an episode of Sex in the City. I snapped a photo of them in front of the mural that everyone at the party had helped paint. I take that back, Carl and I never lifted a brush.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Verdict

It was the start of a highly contested battle. In the morning I went for a run. I ran to close to a mail box and its metallic handle caught my T-shirt sleeve, ripping it. After writing several blog posts I decided to go downtown and surprise Terry by stopping by her office. Walking downtown I noticed the constant sound of helicopters. They were hovering by the courthouse and I realized that the Casey Anthony trial must have come to a close. I walked towards the courthouse. I knew that Brian Feldman had gotten into the courtroom so I texted him to find out what was going on inside. I didn't know this at the time, but the verdict had been read several hours earlier. When I didn't hear back from Brian, I turned off my cell phone.

A hot dog vendor next to the courthouse was arguing with a costomer at his stand. He said, "I can't believe they found her not guilty of child neglect!" That was the moment when I knew the verdict. I saw a crowd of people outside the Bank of America building and I wondered what was up. News anchor Geraldo Rivera shuffled out of the crowd onto the street. A man rushed up to him and asked for a photo.

Across the street from the courthouse there was an empty lot full of news vans. I sat in the shadow of a fence and started sketching the channel 13 news crew. A female newscaster practiced for her report. Crowds of people rushed around shooting photos and home movies with their iPhones. A man walked by holding a sign that said "Murderer!" He raised it over his head pointing it towards the circus of news vans in the empty lot. The woman with him shouted out with a drawl, "Come out of there Geraldo!" She must have been angry about the verdict and blamed the messenger. Two bystanders shouted out "Hey Casey's parents just got in that Black SUV!" The SUV drove off and they waved. The windows were tinted so I couldn't see inside. An ant bit my hand and I flicked it off.

Terry and Amanda were meeting for Margaritas at Paxia. I decided to join them. As I walked away the sounds of the helicopters slowly dimmed. Here one day, gone one night.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Shut Up & Play Instrumental Music Festival

Shut Up & Play was an all day music festival held at 11/12 Lounge (843 Lee Road Orlando). There were three stages with music being performed non-stop. As one group broke down their equipment on one stage musicians would be set up and ready to go at the stage on the opposite end of the room. People seated in the center of the room only had to rotate their chairs. The first performer I saw was Dominic Gaudious who had an amazing branching Didgeridoo which had a deep mesmerizing tone that complimented his guitar playing. I had seen him perform once before at Downtown Disney. Bruce Bentner was the artist on stage. He used a projector to transfer the Shut Up & play poster onto canvas. He used black light paints to give the painting some added punch.

Lindy Romez, a fabulous trumpet player was seated right in front of me as I sketched. She and her Sol Y Mar band jumped on the stage once Dominic was finished with his performance. I had sketched Lindy Romez & Sol Y Mar once before at the White House.

Across the room Decoy Beat performed. Jeremy Birdsall who organized the whole event was on guitar. Jeremy was a consummate performer, arching his body to the flow of the music. He was fun to sketch. When he introduced the group he thanked his wife Lynn Halter Birdsall who had worked so hard to make the event possible. There was plenty of applause. I glanced over at Lynn who was busy getting a band checked in. Lynn had given me a slick Shut Up and Play lanyard that proudly announced that I was an artist. It was such an awesome design that I wouldn't mind wearing it all the time. If anyone were to ask if I were an artist, I could just point to the lanyard. Come to think of it, mo one ever asked if I was an artist at this event.

Dawn Schreiner was the artist hard at work as Decoy Beat played. She finished a quick portrait she had started of Martin Luthar King by adding radiating lines around his head. Then she started a whimsical piece with a turn of the century couple and birds. I loved the way she boldly drew in the faces with a brush. Her lines danced.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tranquility Garden

I read that there was going to be an open house celebration for a new cremation garden complete with free family portraits. I drove to Oaklawn Park Cemetery to sketch the festivities. Part of me hoped there would be lines of zombie families waiting to have their decaying corpses photographed. I drove into the cemetery searching for the "Tranquility Garden." I found a "Garden of Eternity" but no tranquility. I figured I might be in the wrong cemetery so I pulled back onto CR46-A and started driving. That is when I noticed the Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home across the street. I did a u-turn and pulled in the parking lot. Two hearses and a limo were parked in the car port. I was greeted at the front door by a very old gentleman in a black suit. There were a dozen people dressed in black in the entryway. When I asked to see "Tranquility Garden" I was introduced to Ed Johnson.

Ed walked me past the room where the free family portraits were being taken. I asked how many people they were expecting to photograph and he estimated 300 people would show up. We walked through offices, a kitchenette and a break room before going outside to hop on a golf cart. He drove me back into the cemetery and we stopped near a beautiful fountain. Behind every gray tile on the fountain there was a cavity for cremated remains. There was a row of small grass plots for interments. Several plots had large granite headstones. A huge dark granite rocking chair could hold a couple's ashes in two square canisters at the base of the chair. No, the chair did not rock.

A staircase followed a nice flowing waterway they added to the landscape. There was a putting green set up and a sculpture of a golf bag was there to house a happy golfer's remains. There was a scoreboard to keep track of the eternal game. There was a fish sculpture for a fisherman and a chess piece for a chess master. There was an area dedicated to war veterans, with simple stone monoliths where individuals would each have their own tile. There was a wishing well where it would be possible to have your ashes co-mingled with other peoples ashes. Perhaps in this age of social networks that is an attractive sales point.

I told Ed I would like to do a sketch. He seemed perplexed. As I worked a black sedan pulled up next to me and the two men inside watched me intently. They must have been sent to make sure I wasn't a vandal. I sketched faster thinking I might be asked to leave. It started to rain. I ran up to a gazebo and continued to add water color washes there. When it stopped raining I returned to my original spot to finish the sketch. On a distant hill the Virgin Mary held her hands open in supplication. The sun blasted through the clouds baking my black wet shirt.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Gallery at Avalon Island

On the Third Thursday of every month the downtown galleries have openings for new art on display. I tried to sketch the gorgeous architecture of the Gallery at Avalon Island once before but it was winter and I couldn't finish the drawing with my cold hands. The green building is covered with intricate metalwork. The Rogers building was built in 1886 by architect William Mullins. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

As I sketched the sun slipped to the horizon creating a golden glow. When I finished I went inside to look at the art. On display were photo real paintings by Doug Bloodworth. Many of the slick glossy paintings were done with airbrush. Classic black and white movies seemed to be the predominant theme. If I had a home theater I wanted to decorate, then I suppose they would do the trick.

Terry Olson saw me working and said hello. He was off to see the Red Chairs which were being displayed in City Arts Factory. I had watched Genevieve Bernard as she decorated the Mennello Museum Red Chair with hundreds of red and gold buttons. There was a bustling crowd inspecting red chairs which were decorated by each of the arts organizations in town. Terry wanted me to join her for an Orlando Philharmonic event so I didn't stick around to do another sketch. I quickly glanced at the artwork at Blank Space as I walked back to my truck.

DJ Big Makk

The closest place to grab a bite near "Stick Em' Up" was a MacDonalds. Starving, I had eaten a Big Mac for the first time in years. The taste lingered all night. I found it ironic that the DJ was known as Big Makk. I was fascinated by his small features nestled in the open expanse of his face. His small hands gracefully worked the knobs, dials, digital turntable and Makk computer. He played a combination of hip hop and rap. Several mics allowed people to shout out their own rap. The mics didn't work very well and they were abandoned.

I sat at a central table where people were making their own stickers using colorful markers. Most stickers looked like graffiti from a NYC subway. It was suggested that I make a sticker but I'm not sure my sketches are appropriate to be stuck. Maisy wanted to get some Monster stickers but the $10 price tag seemed steep. She was asking just $1 for her radioactive snail stickers. I liked the large JR Tolkenish Ent painting on the wall next to the DJ. Smoke billowed out of the tree's nostrils and it cradled a flame in its knobby fingers.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Stick Em' Up


The Stick Em' Up event was going to happen at the Cameo Theater, but the Cameo was shut down due to fire code violations. The event was moved to an urban warehouse on John Young Parkway just south of Lee Road. The warehouse is used as a graffiti sweat shop. In the front room rows of spray paint cans were for sale. A robot designed by an infamous NYC graffiti artist named Chico was on display. In the back of the warehouse preparations were underway for a mad party. The large loading dock door was rolled open. The walls were painted black while some old graffiti peaked out above the darkness. In the corner of the room this couple lay comatose in the 69 position. Noel, a hug bear of a man, said, "I just threw them in the corner. That is how they happened to fall." I didn't know if I should believe him. Since I had arrived early, I couldn't resist sketching the couple. They are sculpted from found objects. For instance the women's pants are sofa cushions.

The bright magenta and yellow painting above the couple spells out something. I recruited several other people to try and read it for me but no one could. Other colorful urban art covered the walls. After the sketch was done, I drove up the street to a MacDonald's to get something to eat. I ordered a big Mac and fries but I didn't super size the meal. I rushed back to the warehouse just as it started to get crowded. People who entered the event got "Hello my name is..." stickers. Maisy May Mars and Travis Smith were outside behind a card table with their stickers on display. Stickers are quick, meaningful temporary works of street art that are designed to be seen by the masses. At this event stickers could be bought or traded. Maisy had "Radioactive Snail" stickers. Her stickers are found in cities around the world thanks to the Internet and an active artist community that has helped this artistic craze go viral. Maisy and Travis were selling stickers for just $1. Travis drew a hammer on a "Hello my name is..." sticker. I put it on my bag. I was tagged.

Artists spread out in the parking lot and started making art. I sat next to Maisy's table and sketched an artist as he spray painted intricate yellow circular patterns on a large sheet of canvas. People stood around and watched him as he worked. Inside the DJ started cranking up the volume on the rap and hip hop music...