Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tom & Jerry's

Every Tuesday starting at 9pm Tom & Jerry's Lounge (1117 N. Orlando Ave.) hosts a Free Open Mic with Blues Mama. The Lounge is easy to spot since it has a VW Bug on top of a telephone pole to catch your attention. I pulled into the side streets and parked behind the building. I noticed that quite a few off duty food trucks were parked in the area. Inside, the smoke filled bar was quiet. I walked behind the wall of people seated at the bar. I figured I'd order a beer so I looked to see what was on tap. I didn't see a bartender so I gave up on the beer and sat at a tall round table.

Band equipment was being set up on a small corner stage. Two guitarists got the evening started with cover songs. Blues Mama followed them playing guitar and singing solo. Though the tables remained empty, the bar was crowded. When she finished her set, she walked up to me curious about the sketch. I asked her name and she shouted, "Cheryl!" over the amplified guitar music. I must say, she keeps the event humming with performers constantly lined up throughout the evening.

Terry and Mark Baratelli walked in, having come from a fundraiser at a posh European sports car dealership. They both looked sharp and a bit out of place in the grungy bar. Terry didn't like the smoke, so they immediately left. A scuffle broke out between two guys at the bar next to me. A bar stool crashed to the floor and one guy was shouting waving his finger in the other guys face, "Don't you ever touch me!" I don't know what it was about. The woman seated between me and the scuffle caught my eye and she raised her eye brows as if saying, "Boys will be boys."

A guitarist named Thomas got on stage and it was announced that this would be his last performance at the open mic since he is moving to the cold North East. My sketch was done, so I packed up and left. I had completely forgotten to have a beer.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Music at the Morse

Free music at the Morse Museum (445 North Park Avenue, Winter Park) has become a holiday sketching tradition for me. On select Fridays through April musicians perform, filling the Museum with music. Of course the last time I tried to sketch in the Morse I was asked to stop sketching since I was sketching on a digital tablet. So this time I didn't bring the tablet. Last time I couldn't use my artist stool either but I'm an eternal optimist so I brought it along. When I arrived I asked the woman at the reception desk if there was any way for me to get close to the performers. They were high up in a balcony so I hoped I might stand in a hallway up there. The receptionist remembered me from last time. I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. There was "No room up there" she explained.

I would have to settle on a long shot sketch. I sat back against a wall next to the entry door and started blocking in the sketch. After several lines a guard approached. "We need this area clear for foot traffic." he said. "I'm going to have to ask you to move forward to that part of the gallery." I negotiated to move forward just about five feet next to a table with museum fliers. This spot turned out to be better since fewer people walked in front of me. Of course people stopped at the table for extended periods filling out membership forms. I sketched around them.

A woman approached me. "Great" I thought, "Here comes the Museum Director to ask me to leave." It was actually Julie Koran. She is a Facebook friend and participates in a monthly event called Dinner and a Conversation. Jennifer Miller organized this event 20 years ago. It is always fun to meet a Facebook friend in person for the first time. She knew of my work and just wanted to say "Hi." I relaxed. The sketch was going well. The museum guard took a peak and said he liked what I was doing. Shannon Caine who was one of the flutists came down and spoke with me as I was throwing down the final washes. She was gracious and told me about upcoming performances. The other flutists were Kelli, and Mary. The Music for Three Flutes Only was a custom collection by the staff arranger. As I left, the guard held the door for me and said, "Merry Christmas." My heart warmed. We weren't working at crossed purposes. Tonight there is the Sweet Sounds of Jazz Trio (flute, guitar and upright bass) from 4pm to 8pm and admission to the museum is free. A perfect, relaxing way to prepare for the New Year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Grandma Party

This was the ninth Grandma Party held in the parking lot of Stardust Video & Coffee. As I drove past in search of side street parking I could see at a glance that the lot was filled will more tents than ever. As I approached on foot I saw that there were even tents set up in a retention ditch next to the lot. Down in the ditch I saw Patrick Greene wearing a T-shirt with a marijuana leaf boldly crossed out and circled in red. He was selling marijuana free brownies. He joked with me later that some folks were honestly upset by his marijuana free campaign. He responded to them "Chill out dude." "You'd think they would be more laid back." he told me.

I did a full tour of all the tents knowing I wanted to pick up a Christmas gift. Dewey Chaffee and Douglas McGeoch were selling handmade bird houses. Dewey and Douglas had left town to bring their unique edgy comedy to larger cities on the East coast so I was surprised and pleased to see them. I found a spot under a tree on a parking lot island and started to sketch. The billboards announced, "Committed" and "My Comfort & Joy" which seemed appropriate for this event which truly celebrated local artisans and talent. It is an event that honestly brings together a tight Knit community of people. Yet there was variety and diversity to the crowds who shopped.

Anna McCambridge-Thomas was shopping for necklaces made from bent spoons. Many were shaped into bells and she tested them to find the perfect ring. Maya Norris was equally enchanted by the sounds and she gazed up and batted a few to listen. Emily Rankin was watching Maya and she braced the display to be sure Maya didn't play to hard. There was delight in Maya's young eyes. Across from me was Leah Fairchild's booth filled with glass Terrariums filled with moss and small woodland sprites. Next to her was Misty Forest which had some jewelry for sale. Doug Rhodehamel stopped in his tracks in front of me. He always jokes about where I should place him in my sketch. We both agreed that this was a perfect warm day for a Grandma party.

I learned about an art party that happens in Winter Park every month so that is on my sketch wish list for next year. While I sketched I got to meet so many people as they shopped. When the sketch was done, I walked up to Leah's booth knowing I had to have a terrarium. I picked one that was in a flask shaped coffee pot. A bright blue creature was inside but I couldn't make it out because of the condensation. With the lid on the terrarium is a closed environment. Leah explained that it rains just like the Earth environment. Life and a complete ecosystem on a small scale, the perfect gift. Of course Ourlando Calendars are a good gift too for the new year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

NADA Art Fair

The condominium we stayed at was in North Miami Beach and on the last day we went to the Deauville Beach Resort which was the home of the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) is a not-for-profit organization devoted to giving support and encouragement to those who work in new contemporary and emerging art; facilitating strong, and meaningful relationships between members; and enhancing the public interaction with contemporary art. NADA Art Fair was founded in 2003. Members include galleries directors, non-profit art spaces, art advisers, curators, writers, museums and other art professionals from around the world.

NADA was only a few blocks from where we were staying. After a quick stop for omelets, we walked along the beach boardwalk till we found the hotel. After three solid days of looking at art, we were all experiencing art burn out. Everything started looking the same. Dealers in one booth explained to us that dealers from Art Basel liked to migrate up north to the NADA Art Fair to see something new and unexpected. He said these dealers might stop back several times that week. As he put it, "We are all learning as we go. There is no rule book."

After walking through the Napoleon, Richelieu and La Jardin Ballrooms, only one image was engraved into my memory. There was a video playing that showed a giant tortuous grunting as it tried to mount another tortuous. The person in the booth explained that there were only a few of this species left in the Galapagos Islands and they were all males kept together in an enclosure. These males were each over one hundred years old and the last of their species. With all the odds stacked against them these Centenarians were still trying to propagate their species. The shells scraped and clicked as claws lost grip and the dance began again in slow motion. Life finds finds a way.

In the lobby, Grant Peterson lay prostrate in a leather chair, his fedora spooned neatly over his backpack. Like everyone in our party, he was exhausted, having seen enough art to last him another year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Red Dot

The Red Dot tent was right next to the Scope tent. By now I was moving quickly focusing only on the work that interested me. There was far more representational art than in the convention center. A second large tent was connected to the first, doubling the exhibit space. Several members of our party were seated at a circular table in this back exhibit space. I was glad to join them. Seated at the table across from us was Russian artist Anna Razumovskaya with flowing blonde hair and dressed in a white business suit.. She paints romantic images of women in warm impressionistic hues. Her work exudes high fashion and excess, executed with bold brush strokes, bravado and flash. A large flower arrangement burst out of a clear vase full of green apples. A dark ballgown was exhibited as well with a giant black crinoline flower. Anna was often approached by women who loved her work. They shyly approached her, delighted to have the chance to meet the artist in person. She would pose for photos with them and was so gracious. It was nice seeing an artist being treated like a rock star.

The booth next to Anna's contained the photo realistic paintings of Ken Orton. The large paintings explored the way light dances it's way through mason jars. I'm fascinated that an artist could commit himself patiently to a quiet still life subject like that, over and over. For me, life is always on the move and I just struggle to keep up. There are things to be discovered in the quiet moments as well.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Santa at the LYNX Bus Terminal

Debbe King tipped me off that Santa was going to be in the LYNX Bus Terminal. When I arrived I sat on a terminal bench straight across from Santa. Mrs. Claus was there as well but she was constantly on the move. She shouted out, "Hey! How about another announcement!" The loud speakers crackled, "Mr. and Mrs Claus are in the bus terminal. Come meet Santa." Mothers and children must have taken buses just so they could meet him. A new mom had her two week old baby with her. She gently placed the baby in Santa's lap. He smiled at the baby that cooed playfully. A slightly older daughter was frightened of him. The man seated next to me was also watching and he laughed.

A man with a dark straggly beard and wild dark hair was muttering and cursing to himself as he shuffled by. He must have been the anti-Santa. He continued to curse after he sat on a bench. Two OPD officers soon walked in and insisted that he had to leave or get on a bus. Santa was loitering as well but his jolly laughter and good cheer left the officers laughing as well. "Ho, Ho, Ho! Write me a ticket! Ho, Ho!" As they walked away, they were smiling. A face painter created intricate holiday masks for the children. One boy left as Spiderman and his sister had delicate butterfly wings over her eyes.

A fan was pointing at Santa constantly since he is used to much cooler weather at the North Pole. A group of teenage girls approached him. "Your never to old to sit on Santa's lap!" He chuckled. The girls giggled. One of them sat next to him and whispered in his ear. He asked a little boy what he wanted for Christmas, and the boy said, "A car for my parents." "You'd be amazed at how many requests I get for cars." he replied. "I'll see what I can do." I was touched that the boy didn't ask for anything for himself. Santa's beard was real and his red nosed complexion was real as well. Perhaps families across Central Florida will experience a New Year with the freedom of the open road. If only gas was less expensive.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Decorating the Christmas Tree

For the first time in years, Terry and I decided to buy a live Christmas tree. Neither of us had seen any tree tents in our travels around town. I did notice a fireworks tent still up on Colonial Drive. I guess they will do a brisk business for New Years Eve. Terry was raised Jewish but she loves decorating the tree even more than I do. The first order of the day was to pack the back of my truck full of old computer monitors, a fax machine and and several dead car batteries. We dropped everything off at a recycling center on McCoy Road. As I drove, Terry asked friends on Facebook where they got their trees. I think Tracy Burke is the one who directed us to go to Home Depot.

A tent was set up in the Home Depot parking lot. When we walked in, the pine needle smell was intoxicating. Terry seemed to think I would be a tree expert since I grew up with the tradition. They all looked good however. We finally settled on a seven foot Douglas Fir. It was a little mushed on one side but that imperfection gave it character. We were given a ticket and we payed inside the garden center. Terry couldn't resist picking up some purple Begonias, her favorite flower as well. The tree was packed in a tight nylon net. I backed up the truck and opened the back, hoping the tree would fit inside. The trunk was thrust between the front seats almost touching the windshield. When I sat behind the steering wheel, I had to lean against the door. The sweet smell of pine needles filled the truck.

Getting the tree to stand straight in the stand was a chore. Terry held the tree as I tightened the bolts into the trunk. There was no way to check if it was standing up straight. When Terry let go and backed up to take a look, the tree fell over. I realized there were too many branches near the base so she got me some garden shears to cut them away. I tightened the bolts in a second time, having them puncture the trunk in a new spot. This time the tree stood its ground.

Using a ladder, I climbed up into the attic space above the garage where the Christmas lights and ornaments are stored in moving boxes. We unpacked the boxes in the kitchen, looking first for the lights. Foot long strands of green wire and tiny colorful incandescent bulbs fell out on the floor. Something was wrong. I neatly wind the Christmas lights around a red hanger but they were falling away in pieces. We discovered rats had chewed through the wires. I started throwing away the wires that had been chewed through. I tested the few strands remaining and only the last one partially lit up. I lay it out on the floor and plugged it in. Only half the strand was lit. I started replacing bulbs one at a time trying to revive the lights. Those little suckers are hard to take out. After a dozen bulb tests, I gave up, pronouncing the final strand DOA.

We went to a Walgreen's and got 3 boxes of the old fashioned larger bulbs. These are the types of bulbs I grew up with. I was in charge of putting the lights on the tree. When I was done, I settled back and sketched while Terry put up the ornaments. Amanda Chadwick stopped over with Baxter, her adorable, but skittish Dachshund. It took Baxter quite a while to notice Zorro, our cockatoo on his perch. When he did notice him, his ears bristled and his eyes grew wide as he thought, "Toy!" We were short on ornaments and I had to crawl back up in the attic to recover a box that had been moved by workmen running cables up there. Inside was a treasure trove of old ornaments. Terry would hold each one up and announce, "Oh, look at this one! Oooh!" Amanda napped on the couch with Baxter. We had plenty of Marti Gras beads that came back with us from New Orleans and the Gay Pride Parade. Amanda twisted the beads creating wonderful little stars. She showed me how to do it and together we created dozens of stars. Matt Simantov checked in from Seattle via Skype.

I warmed up a bottle of German mulled wine which was sweet and delicious. When the tree was fully decorated, we ordered a pizza and basked in its warm glow while listening to world beat music.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

2nd Annual Holiday Benefit Concert

The Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra performed a Holiday Concert in the Lake Eola Band Shell. The primary purpose of the FSYO is education. All programs reflect a commitment to provide young musicians with the opportunity to strengthen their musical talents and develop an appreciation of the arts through classical music.The first orchestra to perform was the Prelude Orchestra. A cow in a Santa suit got on the conductors podium as the children warmed up. The cow wasn't a conductor at all! He was a mascot for Chick Fill-a promoting the mass murdering of chickens as apposed to cows. For the rest of the concert he remained on the sidelines, occasionally throwing cow T-shirts into the audience. Beth Marshall once told me that Chick Fill-a company policy does not recognize, and opposes same sex couples so I stopped eating there.

The first few pieces by the Symphony were embarrassingly bad yet there were enough parents in the audience to offer thunderous applause anyway. I was seated in the front row at stage right. I started sketching chairs to block in the sketch figuring I would fill them with children when they got on stage. Unfortunately the first orchestra only filled a few seats. The next orchestra was filled with slightly older children and the music started to feel more unified. A special guest was announced and Santa Conducted the orchestra. Audience members brought new gifts and donations for the Salvation Army's Angel Tree Program. The concert will air Christmas morning at 6am on WMKG-TV Local 6.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Moving a Tree

Moving a Tree was a performance art piece staged in a courtyard in front of the SCOPE tent at Art Basel in Miami Beach. There were a few couches set up in the gavel courtyard for an audience. I sat on a comfy cushion to sketch as everyone else explored the art inside.

This is what the artist, Avery Lawrence, had to say about "Moving a Tree."
"For the last five years, my family and I watched as dementia overcame my grandfather. The act of witnessing and attempting to slow down his decay brought us together. He died in January. In the 'Moving a Tree' film, installation and performance, I explore the process of creating an homage that honors his life, his passing, and the relationship he forged with my grandmother over sixty years of marriage."

"There was a dying walnut tree on my grandparents property in Central Virginia. Through the process of moving it, I created a physical struggle that enabled me to contemplate my grandparents efforts to create a whole loving family and maintain their own compassionate relationship. The characters I portray in 'Moving a Tree' represent my grandmother and grandfather, and the installation recreates my idea of their home."

I assumed the artist would be doing the performance piece non-stop. As soon as I started sketching, he stepped off and disappeared. Where was the struggle, the inner turmoil and endless contemplation? I blocked in the treadmill and all the background elements, then I went inside the tent to see some art. When I returned, he still wasn't there but I had faith that my struggle to complete the sketch would be fulfilled. As I was applying washes, he did return and I quickly sketched him in, knowing he might disappear at a moments notice.

The SCOPE tent had some of the most inspiring art I saw that weekend. I found the work of Karim Hamid and I took my time exploring his work. Karim is an excellent draftsman whose work is part collage and part expressive oil paintings. He fragments and partly abstracts the human face and form. I saw his work last year at Art Basel and this year the colors were a bit more garish.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sound Scape Park

After a solid day of viewing art at Art Basel, our group decided to meet up at Sound Scape Park, just a block from the Convention Center. Mark Baratelli and I arrived first. Videos were going to be projected on the side of the New World Center which is a performance space for the New World Symphony. The palm trees in the park were all fitted with speakers for a surround sound experience. I started sketching near the projection booth at the back of the lawn. Orange and purple been bags were scattered all over the lawn for people to lounge in. Mark and I gathered three been bags for our group. Mark was thirsty so he walked to Washington Avenue in search of sodas. I was left to guard the bean bags as I sketched.

Every few minutes people would interrupt me asking how much it cost to rent the bean bags. I guess, since I was seated next to a group of bean bags they assumed I was in charge. I would explain that seating was free. They would then reach for the bags next to me and I had to explain I was saving them. One guy grabbed one and said, "You aren't going to miss just one." It wasn't worth getting in a fist fight over a damn bag. They would have to make due. I decided it was easier to say "The bean bag chairs are $50 to rent" any time someone approached. Finally Terry and our friends arrived. They all squeezed together on the remaining bean bags, joking and snuggling.

The video I sketched was called, "I'm not much, but I'm all I think about", by Marilyn Minter. Dimensional sculpted "ME" kept falling into a viscous fluid which splashed and then enveloped the letters in slow motion. I would have to guess that it was a film about narcissism. The next film was called, "God bless America" by Martha Rosier and it featured a woman saluting who struggle to pull the saluting hand away from her face.

After the screening, Derrek Hewitt rushed off to get the car in a parking garage. Terry, Mark and I lost his group on the way. Mark and I quickly walked through an abandoned store front that was full of stitched art. Female nudes were outlined with stitching on large six or seven foot canvas sheets. Two girls sat on the floor stitching. "Great sketch opportunity", I thought but we had to find the group. After phone calls and texts, Mark and I piled into the car and we were all off to find a restaurant.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Art Basel Video Kiosks

The sheer volume of artwork to be seen in the convention center is mind boggling. These large video kiosks build out of plywood were constantly occupied not only by people curious to see the videos, but by people just looking for a chance to rest their feet. I sat on my portable artist's bench and started sketching. The video pods were playing 22 films selected by Artprojx and they played on a continuous loop. I watched one for a short while. It was a black and white film that showed a Marlyn Monroe look alike as she wandered aimlessly in a deserted city lot. I lost interest quickly and moved on.

In the background of the sketch is a black sculpture hanging by a chain from the ceiling joists. It is "Untitled #1176" by Petah Coyne made between 2007 and 2010. The piece consisted of a chandelier which was covered with taxidermy birds, candles silk flowers, hair pins, felt, thread and Velcro. I don't know where someone would want to hang the thing.

I walked around with Mark Baratelli for a while and we came to the conclusion that this was the year of broken mirrors and hair. Just as we agreed on this, we came across four woman's wigs framed on the wall. One small piece mounted inside a clear plexiglass box looked like a bar of soap carved out of a piece of wood. Mark read the plaque and discovered that the wood grain was actually a long strand of pubic hair. He enjoyed explaining the piece to two women who wandered by.

One artists work did capture my imagination. There were large plexiglass dioramas mounted on the wall. One diorama depicted a giant swirl in the ocean with two tall ships getting sucked into the "Maelstrom" by Mondongo. The colors were small strips of Plasticine. It reminded me of a 3D version of a Van Gogh. I loved how the work danced a fine line between painting and sculpture.

We went to the Wynwood Arts District in the evening to check out the vibrant galleries and graffiti art. We went to an Absolute Party, sipping Coconut Vodka while listening to musicians performing in front of a shipping storage container. Art covered every imaginable surface. The whole neighborhood was a riot of sound and color. A sketchers dream, but I was being escorted on a lightning tour of the neighborhood. We stopped in an empty lot full of food trucks. I suspect the neighborhood would be partying all night but it was time to crash.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Art Basel Miami

Terry, Mark Baratelli and I drove down to Miami to see Art Basel. Basel is a city in Switzerland where art galleries from around the world gather to show their art. This was the tenth year that the art exhibition has taken place in Miami as well. Terry's friend Elaine Pasekoff was gracious enough to let us stay in one of her South Beach Condos. When we arrived in the late afternoon we all relaxed and read the Miami Herald entertainment section to get an idea of what we might like to see. Art Basel is centered in the convention center but also has satellite tents and exhibitions all over town. It is impossible to see everything.

I was intrigued by a performance piece by Glenn Kaino. In a park near the convention center he was asking people to help him levitate a 20 by 20 foot platform with a representation of the 1934 Worlds Fair perched on top. Called "Levitating the Fair", it was to be held up for the entire four day duration of the Art Basel. Derek Hewitt dropped Mark Baratelli and myself off in the park. As Mark photographed desert food bikes, I searched for a crowd holding up the Worlds Fair. I never found it. I did see the platform but it didn't appear to be levitating. Perhaps everyone was on a bathroom break.

Star Wars paratroopers were guarding the balconies of an apartment complex across the street from the park. Picasso held a house painting brush loaded up with bright pink paint. "Love is the answer" billowed in the ocean breeze. A huge Mr. Potato Head had a green Swiss alps hat on and for some reason he was pleased to be holding a squeeze bottle of ketchup. "Brainwash" was printed above the doorway. After I finished my sketch, I hiked over to the convention center. The art marathon had begun.

Monday, December 19, 2011

DRIP Dance on International Drive

Drip dance is renting a new performance space on International Drive (8747 International Drive, Orlando). I had some trouble finding the entrance. You actually enter the space via a loading dock behind a Denny's restaurant. Jessica Mariko, the dance company's founder, wants to keep the feeling that you are entering an independent, alternative venue off the main drag. Signage will help guide people back. The space is raw and unfinished, a blank canvas waiting to fulfill it's creative potential. Large plastic sheets were taped to the walls and floor in a far corner where dancers would later be photographed along with flying pigments. The space used to be an indoor miniature golf course. Large rolls of artificial grass were arranged around a square in the center of the cavernous space. About twenty volunteers sat down for an informal meeting. There was beer and snacks for the people helping make this dream a reality.

Jessica outlined Drips mission statement for the new people coming on board. "DRIP combines performing arts and visual arts to create compelling sensory-stimulated experiences that excite and move audiences. We believe everyone has the potential to succeed at whatever they desire. DRIP provides a supportive environment that encourages participants to continually develop themselves while doing things they are passionate about. We aim to become a worldwide household name that is know for innovative, captivating and stimulating entertainment." Jessica said that she is building the business plan based on shows like Circque Du Soleil and Blue Man Group. David Traver who composed the music for the new DRIP show actually works for Blue Man Group.

DRIP's opening show in the new venue will offer a "wet, raw, sexy rock 'n roll experience, that stimulates many senses. The show includes dance, acting, live music, visual art installations and a powerful story. A variety of alcoholic beverages and merchandise will also be sold at the venue." The bar is one element that is taking form fast. Jessica wants to have an urban dive bar that serves colored beers. Brian Sikorsky is in charge of trying to make that happen. Big beer companies are reluctant to have organic coloring added to the beer since taste is the top priority. Every option is being considered to make the colored beer bar a working reality.

Dancers are still needed to fill out the core group. A ramp has to be built up to the loading dock entrance, permits need to be filed, and the bar completed, all within a month's time. An explosion of volunteer creative effort is going into making DRIP an alternative hit on International Drive.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Little Shop of Horrors

Director John DiDonna staged a lively production of Little Shop of Horrors at the Annie Russell Theater in Rollins College. I love the Annie Russell's fabulous Baroque architectural touches. As the audience filled in, several bums lounged on the stage, occasionally shifting positions to get comfortable. I've always loved the music from this play. I used to blast it while I painted in NYC. I always hoped that someday I'd live somewhere that's green.

Audrey, the plant, was four different sized in the production. I ended up drawing the third largest version. When Audrey was at his largest, he filled the little shop. John took me back stage after the show to see the inner workings of the puppets. A puppeteer had to get inside the plant and bend at the waist to get the plant to talk. I must have been physically exhausting.

On stage right a chair was draped and hidden with fabric. It turned out this was the dentists chair. Today I went to the dentist and discovered I needed four wisdom teeth pulled. I was given Nitrous gas and told to relax. Old x-rays from eight years ago turned out to be from another patient mixed in with my own. As new x-rays were taken the tech told me they were short staffed. An assistant disappeared because of a family emergency. As the dentist worked on my teeth, he kept coaching the assistant so she wasn't in his way as he worked. It seemed like this was her first time applying suction. I suspect she was usually in the reception area but she was excited to learn.

The bright light in my eyes, I saw a large needle and felt a sharp burning sensation in my gums and in my cheeks. I flinched and the doc apologized. He kept the needle in and kept vibrating it pushing hard. He repeated the process on all four quadrants of my gums. The worst pain happened when he stabbed the roof of my mouth. I was fitted with a bright orange clowns nose with two hoses for the gas. My head swam and my legs relaxed. Some sort of wedge was inserted inside my mouth to keep it open.

Before he began, he advised me to take an extra deep inhale of the nitrous. I heard his stomach gurgle. The dentist started prying at my back wisdom tooth and he pushed hard under the roots. I heard a crunching noise, like a tree branch breaking and I felt the tooth give way. For an eternity he continued to pry. There was cracking and crunching as he broke the teeth free. Giant hands and tools invaded my field of vision. "I should be sketching" I thought. When he was done he patted me on the shoulder and said, "Time flies when you're having fun, kind of makes you wish you could have them all out." He loved his work.

I was left reclined in the seat to recover. My whole mouth was numb and I realized I couldn't swallow. My throat felt like it was constricting. I started to panic. I heard shoes ringing on the tile as assistants and dentists rushed from station to station. Would they notice if I stopped breathing? I gasped for air through my mouth and struggled to relax. When I was finally seated upright and the orange nose removed, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. A simple trip to the dentist for a deep cleaning turned into an unexpected horror.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Orlando Holiday Pops Concert

The Orlando Philharmonic performed a free Holiday Pops concert in Winter Park's Central Park. The lawn in front of the band shell was crowded with families with blankets and lawn chairs. In order to sketch the stage up close I sat next to the stage with a few others. The sun was setting so I made sure to sit in the shadow of a tree. Within a half an hour the sun shot out below the canopy of the band shell. I was blinded every time I looked at the performers. I shifted my attention to the audience in the grass.

Children scampered around playing tag. A young boy was seated against a tree and he was startled when a frantic squirrel charged at him through the crowd. At the last second the squirrel saw the boy and changed course to leap up another tree trunk. The music was your standard holiday fair. A youth chorus and an adult chorus joined the orchestra. Chorus members lounged on the band shell steps waiting to go on stage. Two tiered bleachers were set up on stage left for the chorus.

Of course all the upscale stores on Park Avenue were open to attract the Holiday hoard after the concert. Let the shopping season begin.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Puppets for Harbor House

The Michelee Puppets Studio hosted volunteers from Bank of America and Merrill Lynch to create sock puppets for the children of Harbor House which is a safe haven for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. Jodie Hardman who organized this volunteer effort arrived with a stack of red volunteer T-Shirts. Tracy Conner the executive director of Michelee Puppets welcomed me warmly. I had met her once before at a United Arts award ceremony where she won an award for her work in the community.

Michelee puppets teach children to respect themselves and others, basically encouraging them to be good human beings. A recent production called "Little Heros" teaches violence prevention and ways to be safe. It teaches where children can go for help. Bullying is taught to be unacceptable. Cyber bullying is apparently rampant now among children. Children are taught that words do hurt.

Volunteers provided the new colorful socks and Michelee provided sequins, googly eyes, yarn fabrics and hot glue guns. Everyone worked with focused concentration like busy holiday elves. Jody was proud of the long Pippy Long Stocking braids she had on her puppet. There was a fun playful spirit to the event. When Jodi placed the puppet on her hand she became the character. She whipped the puppets head side to side enjoying the flowing braids. The kids laughed, their guards down. Each person made about two puppets. Everyone posed for a group photo.

On Friday all the sock puppets created, and about a dozen mini Christmas trees, will be donated to moms and children at Harbor House.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Goonies

Denna Beena invited friend over to celebrate her fiance, Travis Fillmen's birthday. It was an evening potluck and barbeque. As soon as Terry and I arrived, it began to rain and everyone ran up the wooden steps to the second floor apartment. The first thing I saw entering the apartment was a sinister life like baby with blood stained teeth. I had seen similar babies at Spirit Halloween. Travis was at the stove preparing some deep fried pickles. I had never tasted a deep fried pickle before and now I'm a huge fan. Many of the people at the party were comedians from the SAK comedy lab.

The grill outside was kept going an soon there were hotdogs and hamburgers for everyone. There were cupcake sized cheese cakes that were to die for. Terry and Wendy Wallenburg sat together on the couch looking at shoes and other accessories on Wendy's phone.

The highlight of the evening was an out door screening of "The Goonies". The movie was a silly and fun Spielburg kids adventure. Travis had purchased a huge wide screen TV but discovered that it was impossible to get up the stairs to the apartment. The TV now lives in the garage and is rolled out for outdoor screenings. Perhaps a dozen people sat in a semi circle of camping chairs watching the movie. A cage was suspended from a tree above them with skeletal remains inside. Candle light and a string of Christmas lights offered the only illumination. I created my own second row so I could sketch.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Diviners

Beth Marshall Presents brought this Depression Era story set in the dust bowl to the Garden Theatre (160 West Plant Street, Winter Garden). Directed by Aradhana Tiwari, opening scene set the stage full of movement as townspeople went about their daily routines. A windmill stood in stark silhouette and Buddy Layman played by CK Anderson gasped awake. Walking down a dirt road was C.C. Showers played by Michael Marinaccio. C.C was a former priest running from his fathers calling. He found work with the Layman family.

Buddy Layman was a high spirited, somewhat retarded boy who referred to himself in the third person. He had a gift for divining where there was water. He used a tree branch to search as farmers followed with eager anticipation. He had a natural gift. He could feel a storms approach on a clear day. It became clear in time that the boy feared water because he once almost drowned. His mother died in that incident and Buddy was unable to accept that she would never return. Buddy and C.C. developed a bond, a brotherly friendship. Buddy's fear of water was so severe that he would bolt at the sight of a bucket. He feared he could not breath when it rained. He never washed, and that became a problem cause he constantly had itchy feet.

The cast did an amazing job with thick accents and rural mannerisms. I was particularly taken with Marinaccio's performance. When he demonstrated his father's preaching, he became bigger than life, bombastic and powerful. What he yearned for however was a simpler life away from the priesthood. But once townsfolk discovered his past calling, they wouldn't let him be. He was asked to say grace before meals and anytime he was seen with Buddy, they thought he was saving the boys spirit and that he could cure Buddy's fear of water. This conflict between too much and too little faith is what caused a tragic oversight.

The final scene of the play was beautiful and tragic. The stage was illuminated from below with a green flickering light. C.C. had lost Buddy in the river. They moved under the water and the theatre filled with the muffled sounds of bubbles and rushing water. When they burst up for air, the light burst warmly on and the watery audio stopped. When then slipped back under, the world flickered green and muffled again. They struggled against the current. Townspeople moved in horrified slow motion.

The play ended as it began, a full circle, with townspeople going about their business and then Basil, the town farmer, and Dewey, a farm hand, gave a eulogy. The weight of their words had new meaning. Amazing Grace filled the dark theater. The Diviners will run December 15 -18th. Performances are on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm , and Sundays at 2pm.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Harmonious Universe

In the beer garden behind the Social Chameleon, the DJ Mo'Negro, had a portable mixing board perched open before him. His hand rested on the earphones as he mixed the music.A young woman painted several small automobiles and then spelled out, "Bank" in bright red paint. A dollar sign was added by another gentleman later in the evening. My favorite part of the mural is a gnarly black and white stripped tree which looks like it could grow and take over the wall. A young woman with curly blond hair knelled before it and I thought she might be the creator returning to let the tree stretch it's limbs and grow. Unfortunately she just added a small detail next to the roots.

Todd Morgan got up on a short ladder to work up high. His wife Laura was going to paint, but when she was coached, she decided to sit it out. The creative impulse is so easy to break. Markus Adkins made bold large changes to the mural. He added a huge bold area of red above the large face of a woman. He liked adding paint with a squirt bottle letting it drip down. In spots the mortar of the block wall was accentuated with dark paint. The wall was compartmentalized yet in spots it began to pull together as a whole. A few more drinks and many more brush strokes and who knows where it will go. Work will continue on the mural on the evening of December 17th. Get out there and make your mark, everyone is welcome. "Be it, share it."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Milk Bar Beer Garden Mural

It had been a while since I went to the Social Chameleon. The inside of the place has been changed drastically with a large bar added. It is now an extension of the Milk Bar. I ordered a beer to sip while I worked.The front room was expanded into what used to be the kitchen. Harmonious Universe owners, Todd Morgan and Rodney McPherson, were out back getting paint ready and setting up. This wasn't the first time the mural had been worked on, it was already covered with images. Laura and Todd Morgan were just recently married and I let her know that Terry and I just celebrated our 20th anniversary. She asked advice on how to make it last, and the only thing that popped into my head was "compromise." I'm a man of few words when I'm sketching.

Artist Frankie Messina shook my hand and I later saw Pam Treadwell. I didn't notice them working on the mural. High on the mural were some roses which I believe had been painted by Libby Rosenthal.

Artists slowly trickled in during the night. A photographer had his digital camera set up to take a shot every five seconds to create a time lapse view of the murals progress. A couple sat at the table I was seated at. Trevor and Nikki Divine told me that on New Year's eve they plan to have a painting party with 60 artists in attendance. I definitely need to sketch that. They both recently had given up full time corporate jobs to peruse their art. At one artist's gathering, Trevor was told he was more expressive and painted better when he used his fingers. Now he is strictly a finger painter. It turns out I had sketched Trevor and Nikki once before at the Cameo. I need to find that sketch and post it.

When a spot opened up on the wall, Trevor and Nikki painted side by side. Trevor painted a Buddha-like face and Nikki a delicate spiraling symbol. With so many artists looking to add their mark, there is the possibility that their contribution might get covered up as the mural evolves. A young woman arrived with a tall ladder. She braced it against the wall and moved some pebbles to give it a sure footing. With a bold magic marker she drew a robotic looking face and torso of a beautiful woman with her inner tubes and pistons exposed. Her boyfriend held the ladder like a gentleman. She worked with quick deliberateness. Then just as quickly as she had appeared, she was gone.

Later as I was packing up to go home, Rodney looked at the sketch and said, "I'm glad you caught her. She came out of nowhere, like Bat Girl!" We laughed. "She had some mad skills" he added.

Post script:
The artist scaling the ladder was Morgan Wilson. I had seen her work one other time when Sam Flax was having artists paint murals on the side of the new store. The mural depicted here was later white washed when new owners bought the building.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Faith Arts Village

Faith Arts Village (221 East Colonial Drive) is a ministry of Park Lake Presbyterian Church that provides a place where the faith community and local artists can work together to share their gifts of inspiration, beauty, and spiritual expression to promote peace, understanding, and well-being in the larger community. As a 'village' it will emphasize the activity and integration of many constituents: local artists, church members, community patrons, schools, and civic groups. Faith Arts Village Orlando may include:

* Studio space for artists
* Green and exhibit space for community gatherings
* Meeting and classroom space
* Gallery space
* Open air markets
* Outdoor performance space
* Cafe space for refreshments
* Possible future residential space for designated guests
* Teaching art as an expression of faith

When I arrived it was dusk and the old motel loomed dark before me. Its dark iron gates made it resemble the Bates motel on the deserted side of the motel I approached from. I heard music however and then the hum of a food trucks gas generator. In the parking lot behind the motel there were folding tables and chairs set up. The ground floor motel rooms glowed warmly. I walked into the various rooms to inspect the arts and crafts. I spoke with one artist and she told me that rent for one of these studio spaces would be $300 a month. Considering she wasn't selling much work, that price would be too steep for her. Donations were accepted for Second Harvest Food Bank.

At work Larry Loria told me about the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria Virginia. There, an old factory was converted into artists studios. Artists were only charged $50 a month, so they only needed to sell one piece of art to cover the rent. That project revitalized the historic district and now it is an expensive and exclusive neighborhood. I wondered if Faith Arts Village could do the same thing. It is located just a few blocks away from an intersection where I always see people with cardboard signs begging for money from cars at the stop light.

In another room, Mary Hill was helping children paint picture frames with bright tempera paint. I love watching kids paint. They have no preconceptions and they work with raw abandon. Mary rushed to fill cups with paint. One boy asked for gold and she was pleased to find she actually had gold paint. I leaned forward and dipped my brush into some of the bright pink paint. A little blond girl looked at me with a touch of anger, her lips pouting. "Mine!" she said. He mom coached her that it was polite to share. Will Benton, the executive director of the village welcomed me warmly. He asked me to paint something on his T-Shirt. An infinity symbol was already painted, so I added a fish symbol with a single brush stroke.

The Village seemed to have more of a flavor of a family friendly crafts fair rather than a serious place to create art. But of course that might change as the place grows and as artists start using the studios. The motel is still being refurbished and all the artists were only there for the duration of the event that night. This could be the seed of something Orlando desperately needs, a true arts district. The event was part of the monthly "Third Thursdays" downtown gallery hop but the motel is so far from downtown that it was invariably isolated from that event. As I left, a father asked if I would show his son a sketchbook. The boy was delighted flipping the pages like he was devouring a comic book. A new urban sketcher might have been born that night.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gay Pride 2.0

The Gay Pride Parade had been rained out a month ago, so this was a second attempt to celebrate tolerance, equality, and diversity in the City Beautiful. I went down to Lake Eola to sketch the preparations for the Gay Pride Parade and Terry came down when the sketch was done. I parked on Cathcart Avenue a fair distance from the celebration. Walking down Cathcart I ran across these Wells Fargo horses and knew I had to sketch. The old stage coach was just being lowered out of the 18 wheeler when I arrived. Then the horses were walked out and they happily munched on the grass. Every yellow wooden spoke on the wheels was polished by a cowboy. Music began to pulse behind me and I texted Terry to let her know I was done with the sketch.

A young girl help a half inflated balloon on her chest and she squeezed it saying, "My booby balloon is sad." Rainbow colors were splashed everywhere. There was a phalanx of scooters with pink ribbons tied to the handle bars. Macy's had a giant red star in the parade, just like they have in the Thanksgiving parade in NYC. Disney was out in force with voluntEARS helping, and rainbow Mickey Mouse bobs being thrown out to the crowd.

With a series of texts, I found Terry and we found a spot curbside to watch the parade. Churches were out in force in the parade. The First Unitarian pointed out that this is what Jesus had to say about homosexuality, "Zip. Zilch. Nada." What he did promote was justice, equality and compassion. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence marched by with their colorful makeup and habits billowing in the breeze. People shouted "Hey hey, ho ho, Homophobia has to go!

Candy and bead necklaces were thrown into the crowd. Terry did an amazing job of catching most of the loot. She caught some condoms. I saved all the fliers, sure that they offered hints to future sketching opportunities. Tiny beach balls bounced into the crowd. A Labrador retriever across from us bit a beach ball and ripped it apart. Loud motorcycles roared by. Eliot and Fern rode together in a convertible. They have been together 48 years.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving, Terry and I drove down to Port Charlotte to visit my sister Pat Boehme. The two hour drive was surprisingly care free. Terry slept most of the way down as I drove. We were surprised we didn't hit traffic around Disney or near Tampa. Zorro, our umbrella cockatoo, made the trip as well, hanging upside down from the bars in his travel cage most of the way. When we arrived, Pat told us that the turkey was ready. She had prepared a delicious traditional feast. I love those crunchy bits she puts on top of the green beans. After several servings of turkey and stuffing, we all started to slow down.

I did dishes while Mike Napolitano showed Terry some of the new plants in the backyard. Then we all retired to the living room. Mike watched football games on TV. Terry reclined on the couch opposite me and drifted off in a tryptophan induced sleep. Zorro was happy as he could be perched on her knee.

The road Pat and Mike live on is going to soon be expanded with a traffic circle added to the corner they live on. When all the construction is done, their little slice of tropical paradise will have been decimated. Most of their side and front yard will be gone and the drainage ditch will be right next to the house like a medieval mote. They are afraid that the homes foundation might be compromised. They had hoped the town or county might buy the property so they could afford to move, but no offer has been made. An Orlando lawyer is now involved on the case.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

2D Animation

Last month we had a husband and wife learning animation together in the front row. They gave their all and produced some stunning animation. In general the whole class was full of aspiring animators and there was friendly competition to come up with original and inspired ideas. I'm starting to get used to drawing on the tablet. I just need to put the lines down quicker letting them slide over the glass. With my water color sketches, I have a very limited palette. Suddenly on the tablet I have millions of color choices. That alone causes me to slow down.

I am now at Art Basel Miami Beach and I realize that I can't yet scan the drawings I have been doing. I just searched the hard drive to pull up this digital sketch. I'm considering bringing the tablet out to sketch today. We were walking all day yesterday from 11am to well past midnight and I know I only saw a fraction of the art. I don't like the notion of carrying it around after the battery dies however. A sketchbook that dies after several sketches is a pain. Yesterday I did four sketches. The tablet would die after two sketches.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Storytelling Drawings

In the 2D Animation Lab at Full Sail, students returning from the lunch break are asked to do a storytelling drawing. They are given a theme and asked to do some thumbnail drawings and pick one idea to execute. The drawings aren't supposed to be highly rendered works of art, but rather simple, playful ideas. Sample suggestions include, standing in line, waiting for an elevator and moving something heavy. At the end of the 10 classes there are six or seven examples from each student and the best three are graded.

Pirates of the Caribbean had just come out in movie theaters. Larry Lauria came up with a new theme called "Pie Rats of the Caribbean." Dan Riebold likes to tackle each storytelling himself on the white board. His whimsical sketches help inspire and challenge the students. Often there is a movie screen which he works behind like the Wizard in the "Wizard of Oz." Dan was drawing a rat which had just been punched by a slice of pie. The vicious pie had not been sketched yet. Larry likes to do small sketches as well. When the students were finished, they were asked to tape it up on the white board. Of the ten to twenty students it is always fun to see all the different ideas that students generate.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Britt Daley Music Video Released!

I did a series of sketches the day Britt Daley's music video was being shot in the Orlando Repertory Theater. Since that day, Scott Wilkins, the writer and director, has been working feverishly at an editing bay to polish the final cut. This video was shot gorilla style in one day featured the talents of some amazing local performers who volunteered to create some fun lighthearted magic.

Britt invited cast and crew to her parents home for a special advanced screening. People brought side dishes and Britt's dad lit the grill for a barbecue. Terry and I arrived first and Britt showed us her private recording space in a room beside the garage. As more people arrived, they hung around the kitchen counter before retiring to the screened in porch. Scott arrived later and when he tried plugging in the hard drive, it didn't work. It was assumed that the adapter on the hard drive was broken so he rushed out to see if he could find a replacement at a Radio Shack.

The food was served, and periodically Britt got a call from Scott who was having no luck finding an adapter. He eventually returned, annoyed and defeated. After dinner Britt pulled out her laptop which had a very early edit. Scott explained how he intended to multiply shots and he was embarrassed that a more polished edit wasn't available. We also watched a blooper reel with silly outtakes. There was plenty of laughter. The next week it was discovered that a breaker had burnt out in the Daley residence. The adapter was fine, they just needed to find a working wall outlet.

Now all the blood sweat and tears has paid off as the final edit is now going viral on You Tube. Enjoy the latest from Orlando's own electro-pop goddess!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Drop Cloth

A refreshing breeze blew through the barn. A drop cloth was nailed to the rafters. The steam rising from the boiling cauldron full of sugar cane juice, had to be protected. They didn't want it to cool too quickly. There were Krispy Cream donuts on the table. It's a shame I wasn't hungry. The man seated next to me was a virtuoso with a fly swatter. He killed every fly that landed anywhere near him. I feared that if a fly landed on my sketch, he would react, and with a flick of the wrist, leave a bloody mess on the sketch. I occasionally waved a fly away from my face. Glass cups and boxes were repositioned on the table to widen the killing field.

I was offered some boiled peanuts which I never tried before. They were wet, salty and delicious. The next time I see a boiled peanut stand on the side of the road, I am stopping. Orange County Sheriff Justin Barley drove up in his patrol car. He introduced himself to everyone in the room and then there was a lively conversation about petty crimes in the area. More sheriffs arrived. I think they came for the food.

Patrick Greene's mom started putting out a lunchtime spread. There was a mound of crispy fried fish, the tails still intact. There were cornbread nuggets also fried, and a beef stew that was thick with Lima beans, thick cuts of meat, and an oily sheen. I waited till all the helpers had served themselves and then I tried a little of everything. I kept sketching as I ate. A hound dog curled up on a rusty bed spring behind me. Chickens were clucking in a coup. Distracted, I mistook their clucks for the sounds of children in a playground.

Several of the men started checking out the sketch. The fellow with the grizzly black beard asked, "How long you been in Florida?" I knew where this line of questioning was leading. I said, "Over twenty years", perhaps stretching the truth a bit. "Well," he said, "Not a bad sketch considering you're a Yankee." The man across from me commiserated. "I've been here 49 years and they still consider me a Yankee!" We laughed.

When I had to leave to get to class, I shook the hand of Patrick's step dad. I hadn't been introduced yet, but I suspected that this stoic man was in charge. His face glistened as he stood beside the cauldron, the steam wafting in front of his face. Patrick explained that the steam from the cane syrup actually leaves a sweet crust over everything it touches. A rural Midas Touch.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

AADW 2012 Events Calendar


Buy Now

This calender is only available through pre-order and at special events.

From Julie Norris on behalf of OurLando,

Ourlando had a brilliant idea that I think you will be interested in partnering with as a fundraiser for your organization. We took Thomas Thorspecken's brilliant sketches of Orlando area arts & culture events, and used them to create a MUCH needed 2012 Event Calendar. Plus we made it a fundraiser for area organizations with a custom cover = the local arts lover dream gift that gives back to great independent organizations and supports Thor's work!
We just put the final touches on the the project and are planning to go live with pre-orders as early as this Monday (12/5/11). I wanted AADW readers to be one of the first to see the partnership opportunities to either get your event listed and or have a custom cover.

If you know of a local arts organization who could benefit from this fundraiser, then please have them take a thorough look at this partner's page, and then fill out this form to reserve a space. Since we are working on such a tight holiday deadline, the sooner the better for this information to be returned to us. We will let you know as soon as your partner info is updated on the online store so you can send an email blast to your list to fulfill pre-orders.

Please note, this is produced as an Ourlando publication and we are asking that all partners become a member of Ourlando and join with us in support of local & independent efforts (if you aren't already). Please sign up online now if you can, otherwise we just need your commitment that you will join and we can deduct your membership fee from your donation when we pay it out in January.

We know that this is a tight turnaround, but we just came up with this idea mid-November and are so passionate about Thor's work and promoting all the local goodness we just couldn't wait until next year to do it. This is a volunteer undertaking by myself and Emily Rankin on behalf of Ourlando and in support of Thor. I will be handling the design and website and Emily will probably be communicating with you about this moving forward.

Thanks for all you do to co-create a better Ourlando and have a fabulous day!

Julie Norris
Consultant, Writer, Adventurer & Ecopreneur
http://julienorris.wordpress.com
Dandelion Communitea Cafe, Co-Proprietor
Front Porch Radio, On Air Host
Gaia Mama, Holistic Blogger
"Be the change you wish to see." Mahatma Gandhi

Boiling the Cane

Patrick Greene told me about his family's tradition of harvesting and boiling cane in late November. I got up at the crack of dawn and drove east through downtown. There was a violent panic to the traffic as people rushed to their jobs in the city. I drove till the East West Expressway ended and then continued east. I missed the farm's driveway on my first pass. I turned around in the parking lot to a natural preserve. I wasn't sure how far to drive down the dirt road, so I followed it back to a barn. When I got out of my truck a hound dog let out a hollow howl. He was harmless, he came up and sniffed my hand.

A dozen men, many with cowboy hats, sat around several tables swatting flies. I asked for Patrick and they directed me back to the house at the road. I drove back. Patrick greeted me at the front door. His mother was in the living room and she apologized for the mess although everything looked in it's place to me. She is an artist herself and she pointed to several rendered pencil drawings that she had done. They were framed and looked good against the dark wood paneling.

Patrick walked back to the barn with me and introduced me around as "the artist." The cane had already been harvested. Then joked that we should have gotten up much earlier to help with that. The cane was crushed by a mechanical crusher and the sweet liquid was gathered. My sister Pat Boehme had some cane growing in her yard in Port Charlotte. I asked to cut a stalk so I could see how it tasted raw. I cut out the soft inner pulp and chewed on it. Raw cane is delicious but once the initial burst of flavor passed, I had to spit out the chewed pulp. A neighbor said that as a child, he was given raw cane as a treat instead of candy.

Back in the barn a large cauldron full of cane juice was boiling. Thirteen rows of cane were not harvested since they had plenty of cane juice for the boil. The heat was intense and the steam rose. Several men were always on hand to skim the surface removing the debris and thin film that rose to the surface. All morning the furnace blazed. An inner metal cylinder was placed inside the cauldron and mesh was wadded up and inserted around the edge to soak up more of the film. A breeze began wafting the steam away. Several men tacked up a green drop cloth to block the breeze. It seemed the steam needed to linger and rise straight up for the boil to be most effective. By the end of the day all that would be left was a thick syrup which the women would bottle. This is a true old Florida tradition, a look at an art form that is fading away in our fast paced times.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Gratitude Bonfire

Julie Norris opened her home on a cool crisp evening for a front porch party. Terry and I arrived in separate cars after a farewell reading at the Kerouac house. There was a wide assortment of whole fresh foods on the porch. Julie is helping me assemble a 2012 Calendar, so I handed her some design elements she had asked for. Julie asked Terry if she wanted some cider and they went into the kitchen to heat some up. I heard music out behind the house so I wandered outside. Julie had a large vegetable garden and I avoided stepping on several large leafed pumpkin vines as I made my way toward the singing.

Perhaps a dozen people were seated around a fire pit, basking in it's warm glow. There weren't any chairs, so I went back to my truck to get my artist's stool. In the light of a street lamp, I was thrilled to see my breath as I exhaled. I rushed back to the fellowship of the fire to warm up. After several songs, I decided I had to try and sketch. When Terry came out, I was surprised that she sat across the fire from me. I relaxed when she started singing and even leading, by looking up lyrics on her iPhone. After we all sang Fulsom Prison Blues, by Johnny Cash, a woman to my left said we had to see this song sung by a five year old on You Tube. She said it was the funniest thing she had seen in a long time.

Roger and Gailanne Amundsen of Jubal's Kin were relaxing beside the fire. They had just performed at a huge concert at the Citrus Bowl. Gailanne came over to glance at my attempt to catch the firelight. She had seen a previous sketch I did of Jubal's Kin at Urban ReThink and she liked it. It made me happy to rub shoulders with so much raw talent in the hidden dark corners of undiscovered Orlando.We all sang "Hallelujah". Even our imperfect broken harmonies sounded divine. I felt grateful and warm. Perhaps I am in the right place at the right time in this chaos of life. "It was a cold and broken Hallelujah!"

An improvised blues song began and everyone wanted Julie to make up some lyrics. When she sang her blues everyone clapped along with the beat. People joined in adding their own blues to the mix. The warm voices filled the cold void surrounding the fire. Terry was tired and wanted to go home. I rushed the sketch so I would get home soon after her. I hugged Julie to say goodbye and turned my back to the warm glow.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Seven Lives of Chance

Dina Peterson told me that a film was being shot at Urban ReThink (625 E. Central Boulevard). I had several hours open before I went to Full Sail that night. She told me that an entire room would be filled with balloons and that there would be a line of extras waiting to get inside. There were no actors around when I arrived, so I sat across the street and started blocking in the architecture. The last time I drew this building it was the Urban Think bookstore which had to close because of the recession. It was a vibrant artists hub then and it is even more vibrant today. This is where I would experience a fraction of Seven Lives of Chance.

As I sketched, Banks Helfrich, the writer and director, parked his car and pulled out a dozen balloons. He and an assistant were dropping off some equipment at Urban ReThink. He stopped over to say hello and let me know that the cast and crew were right down the street shooting outside a Publix supermarket. I don't know the story behind Seven Lives of Chance but there are plenty of balloons involved. Banks described the first day of shooting which involved recreating a digestive tract using urethane foam. As he spoke the balloons he was holding kept getting blown in front of his face. He batted them aside.

Rather than rush down the street, I decided to keep working on the sketch I had started. Banks let me know they were coming to shoot at ReThink next in half an hour. They were a little behind schedule. Actor, Richard Regan Paul, said hello. He seemed to know me, yet I couldn't place him in my rattled brain. He was in a scene with Jodi Chase. The scene was shot from inside a ReThink conference room looking out at the actors on the sidewalk. After a take, Banks ran out to the actors on the sidewalk and he described their motivaion with animation and plenty of gesturing.

Dina Peterson waved hello and she shouted out the shooting schedule to me. The line of extras wouldn't arrive till after I was gone. Dina directed several extras who walked behind the actors in the scene. As one shot was being filmed, Dina raised her arms in panic. A pedestrian was walking right into the shot. She couldn't stop him. This was a small production that couldn't afford barricades. Perhaps this unsuspecting extra will end up in the film.

A giant red balloon was inflated in the conference room. It must have been incorporated in the shot somehow. The sound man kept the mic above the actors out of the shot. I couldn't hear the dialogue, but it looked like Jodi was ready to leave and Richard wanted to tag along. When I finished my sketch, I crossed over to thank Dina for inviting me. She was discussing schedules with the extras and she looked like a thousand derails were buzzing in her brain as yet unresolved. This was a 90 minute feature film being shot in seven days. They had just one chance to get it right.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Improv at Full Sail

As part of my continuing education at Full Sail I took a two hour workshop that taught the basic principles behind improvisational performance, and how to use the hidden communication framework within improv to connect with students.Ten to fifteen Full Sail instructors and staff gradually filtered into the classroom. Adam Bellis and Simon MacDonald, both SAK comedians were at the front of the classroom. They asked people to sign in as they arrived. They had a few power point slides but from the start it was obvious that participation would be needed from everyone. Everyone was asked to stand in a circle to participate in an acting warm up exercise.

The game was called GO! The premise was simple, you must point to someone in the circle. They would say "Go" and then you would walk to take their place. They would then point, seeking permission from someone else. It was surprising how tricky this was. You really had to listen. There was a sense that decisions and permissions were rushed. In another pass the verbal, "Go" was replaced with a simple nod. Being a visual person I found this easier yet following the flow sometimes left me glancing around aimlessly. Was I making a fool of myself? Was everyone thinking the same thing?

The next exercise was called, "The Name Game" or Johnathan's alliteration. You had to state your name and then add a descriptive action while acting it out. Everyone in the group had to repeat the name and action. I think I said something like, "Thor is thirsty" as I acted like I was sipping tea. What was I thinking? Everyone repeated the action raising their pinkies delicately. By the end, I felt I knew the people around me. This was a perfect ice breaker.

Adam and Simon then conducted an improv where they were puppets being manipulated by audience members. I volunteered and controlled Adam. It was fun raising his arms to gesture as he spoke. They worked together building a sacred bridge of trust. They validated each other and forwarded the story by creating new options. It is easier to tear down a bridge than to build it. Everyone in the room was free to openly express themselves which was a good environment to communicate and learn in.

It turned out that Simon is producing a Fringe show this year which is a Star Wars musical. I love the premise and I hope to sketch rehearsals as it develops.