Tuesday, January 31, 2012

From Darkness Into Light

I went to City Hall where people were gathering for a candle light vigil in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King. As I approached, I saw a banner with Abe Lincoln, and Mahatma Gandhi. It turned out this was a small group from the Occupy Orlando crowd. The King vigil was gathering inside the rotunda of City Hall where it was warm. Teens were dressed in uniforms as a color guard and drum marching band. The rotunda was packed. Glow sticks were issued to everyone in the crowd. Considered trying to sketch but I knew the political speeches wouldn't take long. Buddy Dyer mentioned that the Circus was in town and we might be walking past elephants that were being kept in the Amway Center garage. I positioned myself near the exit.

The marching band walked out to the street. There were several police cars and motorcycles to block off traffic as we walked towards Parramore. The crowed stretched back for a block and a half. Faces were illuminated with the mysterious fire fly green glow. It was an impressive sight though impossible to catch with a sketch since we were all in constant motion. Terry was at One Eyed Jacks watching a football playoff game with Packer backers. I texted her to let her know where I was going. Our final destination was Shiloh Baptist Church (604 West Jackson Street).

The church filled quickly for an Interfaith celebration of Dr. King's life. I sat near some steel drums, figuring it was a definite sketch opportunity. The steel drummer's did play with their bright red shirts blazing. Someone sat right in front of me shooting video and rather than get annoyed, I realized he made a nice foreground element. Speakers were from a variety of religions, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Christian. Reverend Jim Coffin gave a surprising keynote speech where he recounted a time in his childhood when his family 0ffered their land to colored people for hunting. Once word spread, people from all over the state came to that land to hunt. Although they considered themselves more liberal than most, they still told jokes that were racially motivated. Change happens slowly and we still have a long way to go.

The closing hymn was, "We Shall Overcome." My sketch was done and I knew that I needed to stand and sing along. The woman in a pew across the isle reached out her hand to me and soon everyone was singing with their hands clasped and raised in joy. "We shall overcome some day. Oh deep in my heart I do believe we shall overcome some day."

Monday, January 30, 2012

Dr. Martin Luther King Candle Light Vigil

On Martin Luther King day I went to Knowles Memorial Chapel on the Rollins Collage Campus in the evening for a candle light vigil. I found a spot on an upper level baloney with it's wrought iron railing. I sketched the space feverishly as people filed in. "Bridge over Troubled Water" was echoing through the church organ pipes. The Keynote speaker was Fairolyn Livingston who is active in collection and preservation of the community’s history and is a founding member of the Hannibal Square Heritage Center Picture Collection Team. She was born in Hannible Square a segregated community for blacks. She is active in collection and preservation of the community’s history and is a founding member of the Hannibal Square Heritage Center Picture Collection Team. Thanks to the groundbreaking efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King, she was able to attend Rollins College to earn her B.A. degree.

A moment of silence was asked for in Dr. Kings memory. The church bell tolled fifteen times. There was something eerie in the sound as it filled the night then faded. The Chapel was packed. Everyone stood to sing "The Black National Anthem." Students got up and spoke about how Dr. Kings words changed their lives."Hate can not conquer hate, only love can conquer hate." Four female singers rose and sang "I Give Myself Away." Finally everyone in the church lit their electronic candles. Perhaps the image wasn't as moving as a raw flame, but the room was alive with light as everyone sang out, "Let there be LIGHT!" Everyone filed out of the church, cradling their candles, as I rushed to finish my light filled sketch.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Gospel for Teens Choir


The last stop on the SketchCrawl was the Alfond Sports Complex where there was a free concert of the Gospel for Teens Choir. After a lunch of Pita and hummus, Terry joined me as I hunted for the sports complex. It wasn't where I thought it would be so we got lost. We asked students for directions but the campus paths kept twisting and winding. We realized we must be getting close when we saw tennis courts and then I spotted the Choir's van. We still had to ask directions from a tennis player to get to the building. It turns out we had been just a short walk from the destination, but we took a long twisting loop around the campus to find it. Terry decided to go shopping while I sketched.

Two small platforms were set up on a basketball court. The bleachers were crowded with people. I found a spot on the second level when I could stand and sketch. Young women were doing a dance and I thought I might be at the wrong place still. I walked around the building some more searching for a concert hall. There was just an exercise room and empty classes. I returned. Vi Higgenson, the executive director of Gospel for Teens took to the stage. She explained that she formed the Choir to pass Gospel music from one generation to the next. Teens in the choir experience an uplifting sense of porous and pride. They come from a wide range of neighborhoods, like Harlem, Brooklyn, and even Hackensack New Jersey which is close to where I grew up.

These kids blew the roof off! To say they sang with enthusiasm and spirit would be an understatement. The audience rose to their feet, Clapping to the beat and dancing in the isles. The aluminum bleaches swayed, the whole room in motion. The choral master danced the whole time with gymnastic enthusiasm. I had to dance as well as I sketched. There is such joy in unrestrained self expression and power in faith shouted to the rafters. Let your light shine!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Knowles Memorial Chapel

The second stop on the 34th Worldwide Sketch Crawl was Knowles Memorial Chapel on Rollins College in Winter Park. I did not see any artists at the 5.2k run but I knew it might be hard to spot artists in that crowd. I had resigned myself to a solo crawl. When I got to the chapel, I walked all around the building searching for the best sketch angle and keeping my eyes open for anyone holding a sketchbook. I decided to sit on a nice iron bench and I got to work. I don't sketch buildings very often, mostly because it is so hot in Orlando. It was a beautiful clear cool crisp day and I relaxed into the sketch.

Young students jogged by and a truck full of Lacrosse players rumbled down the hill towards the lake and playing fields. A player shouted out, "Do a drawing for me!" His buddy's laughed. A woman approached from the street talking on her cell phone. I heard her say something about sketching the chapel. She put the phone away and I asked, "Are you here for the Crawl?" She didn't understand, so I gave her a flier and explained what a Worldwide Sketch Crawl was. It turned out Claire Wiley was indeed meeting people to sketch, but they were a separate group of sketchers unrelated to the Crawl. Isaac Warshow walked up and Claire shouted out, "Come meet my new friend!" Isaac absolutely loved my work so, I shared a sketchbook with him and we chatted, then sketched together. Claire wandered across the street, set up her portable artist's stool and began sketching the front facade. Brad and Wendy Ringhausen, a married couple introduced themselves then set up outside a chapel courtyard. Brad told me he planned to finish a sketch he had started a year and a half ago. Brad showed Claire his sketch and they talked for a while before he walked off to finish it.

A large van parked right in front of me blocking the lower half of my view of the chapel. The van was for the Gospel for Teens Choir. They piled out and went inside the chapel to rehearse. An hour later, the van drove off and I focused on the areas that had been blocked. Isaac had to leave to get his hair done. He had done a bold study of the Chapel tower in ink using Rapidograph pens. He used watercolor pencils to add some color. He asked for my advice, so I suggested he darken the shadow side of the building.

Terry was coming to meet me for lunch. When I started packing up my supplies, I noticed Claire across the street had finished as well. I walked over to compare sketches and chat. Her sketchbook was full of small intimate studies of architecture, trees and delicate watercolor studies of clouds. The clouds floated and filled the pages with no horizon to ground them. Because of that, they were painted more boldly and had a degree of abstraction. They made me want to look up. Wispy clouds had blown in and enveloped the sky.

She works as an interior designer at Disney and her husband does the same for Universal. She is a sketch addict. When Terry walked up and I introduced her, Claire asked, "Is it a problem for you that Thor is always out sketching?" That was a loaded question that caused me to laugh out loud. Terry responded, "It is important for couples to make time to be together." It turns out Claire sketches even when she and her husband are out to dinner. She has to negotiate for the time to finish. For some reason it makes me happy that there are other couples who share the same negotiations.

Brad and Wendy sat in the courtyard together. He used a brown brush pen to delineate all the roof tiles and the rest of the sketch was done in muted neutral tones. Wendy was working on an interior study of a room using a photo for reference. She liked the multiple textures and experimented with ways to reproduce them in her sketch. I invited everyone to join me for the rest of the crawl, but one sketch was enough for them. Terry and I said goodbye and we walked up Park Avenue to find lunch.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Seasons 5.2k

To begin the 34th Worldwide SketchCrawl, I invited local artists to the starting line of the Seasons 5.2K in Winter Park's Central Park. I rushed out of bed with the sky just starting to turn a dark pink to get to the park by 7am. Traffic started to back up on Fairbanks, so I turned down side streets and eventually parked in the City Hall parking lot. Walking towards the park, I heard an announces say that the race would be starting in fifteen minutes. "Shoot, how am I going to catch this crowd in 15 minutes?" I thought. I decided to draw the table where the runners picked up their numbers.

Before I could add color, the starting horn blared and the runners moved on mass up Park Avenue. The theme from Rocky filled the speakers in the park. The tables I had been drawing were quickly broken down and the boxes carried away. Before I could finish the sketch, the first runners were returning, picking up bananas and drinks. Tommy Woodman was announced as having the overall fastest time. There were awards for every age bracket and every 52nd runner got a coupon for dinner at Seasons 52. Track Shack trained runners certainly won many of the awards.

A woman stood behind me and asked if she could peek. She was Jackie Nelson. Jackie is 72 years old and a survivor of Breast Cancer. She had just finished the run and was glowing. She said that when she found out the cancer had been forced into remission, she wanted to run out of the doctor's office. When she ran her first 5k, she was annoyed that people were rushing past her. That year she ran 20 5ks and the next year 26. This was her second 5k this year. I must say, she inspired me. Nothing is going to slow her down. She knew how to seize the day. One runner got on the stage to announce that this was his 700th 5K. I felt a little lazy since only my wrist was getting any exercise.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fringe First Fridays with Fialy

On the First Friday of every month, the Fringe features a $10 fundraiser show at the shakes. I decided to go not knowing what to expect. I sat in the back row of the Margisson Theater so my book light would not disturb any theater goers. I was delighted when Fiely Matias and Dennis Giacino walked on stage. I was surprised when Fiely picked me out of the crowd and told everyone to read this blog. Dennis sat behind a portable piano and Dennis began performing a hilarious song about being in love... with himself. He carried a small hand mirror around admiring his every move. I laughed out loud when he put the mirror on the floor and straddled it.

Dennis then started telling a little bit about the history of "Bitches of the Kingdom". He started writing the music as a sole show for Fialy. They were living in Portland Oregon at the time. One of the first songs he wrote was for Mulan. Lulu Picart was a dear friend and she offered to sing the song. Her performance set Dennis on a new path writing the music for women. This show has been in production for years. Dennis would write more music when a princess muse would speak to him. They have been having workshops for years refining the performances but they always saw it as a show that had to find it's home at Orlando Fringe.

Lulu came out and sang. It is a beautiful song about Chinese tradition and she wonders why she is the only princess who doesn't get the prince. The answer is obvious. She might be a lesbian. Michelle Knight came out and sang with bold bravado holding a note so long the audience started cheering and going wild. Andrea Canny is now performing as Ariel from Little Mermaid. The ironic twist to her character is that she is a kleptomaniac, stealing everything she can find from above the sea. All the princesses share a common form. In one number, Michelle Knight was scrambling trying to climb on another performers back. The show is hilarious and irreverent. It was a smash hit at Fringe.

Dennis reveled that a booking agent was coming to the evenings performance. Discussions are in the works to bring this show to Las Vegas, Atlantic City, New York City, Los Angeles and who knows where else. Dennis and Fiely were essentially told whatever you need, you got it. Dennis's mother was in the audience. When he told the good news, she shouted back, "Does this mean your going to pay back the money I lent you!" Some dreams really do come true.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Meeting at the Peacock Room

This year I have decided to make a commitment to ask actors and dancers to pose in costume long enough for me to get a bold gestural sketch that I can post to promote the show before opening night. Up until now I have always worked clandestinely by getting into rehearsals and sketching the process. Of course no one stands still, and I am used to that, but a whole new energy slips into a sketch that is a collaboration between the artist and model. It was a revelation to me that people in this fast paced digital age are willing to take time to be sketched.

I asked Sarah Lockhard if she would pose in costume for one of the upcoming shows she will be dancing. That collaboration sparked an idea in her mind. She was going to perform a Vaudeville burlesque styled act where she would read a poem titled "Live Circus". She wanted me to sketch live on stage with her while a musician performed eerie circus themed music. As soon as I listened to the Tom Waits reading the poem, I was hooked. I'm willing to try anything once. The challenge is that the reading is only 5 minutes long. Rich imagery is packed into every stanza with weather worn characters bursting with life. I became infatuated with the relationship between Funeral Wells, a knife thrower and his woman Poodle Murphy on target. I found a knife throwing scene online that was sexy and disturbing and that scene will be the inspiration for what I sketch.

I got to the Peacock Room early and got a sketch before Sarah and the crew arrived. The director, Kevin G. Becker was there discussing how the elements of the show might fall together. The show has a video game theme. Portal which can instantly transport players, ends up transporting players between different video games. Bio Shock a creepy underwater nightmare will have a huge influence on many scenes. I've seen stills, but never played the game so the conversation at times became edgy and strange. Susan Woodberry plays the part of a little sister. She has the odd roll of inducing Adam by sucking blood from fallen victims with a huge syringe, drinking it and spitting it out. The final product Adam, gives players super human abilities but takes its toll causing genetic decomposition and fast aging.

Sarah plays the part of a seductress who distracts a game player or Spice. Susan who is working on costuming described Sarah's outfit. Her costume will be a sultry torn green dress with layers of crinoline and a hoochie skirt and turquoise blue ruffled panties. Feathers will be the only camouflage for her breasts. She will perform a hedonistic dance that entices the spice, played by Corey Volence. He rips off parts of her costume. Straps are broken and torn and crinoline is ripped off. She will lung at him like a wild animal, pushing his chair backwards and then straddling him. Panting loudly, she then will stab him in the heart with a giant syringe. Things could get messy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Yum-mi Sandwiches

I had several hours to kill before meeting actors at the Peacock Room. I had seen the work being done to modernize this Yum-mi Vietnamese Sandwich Shop on Mills Avenue. I figured it would serve holistic healthy food so I went inside for a taste and sketch. The warm glow looked inviting as I approached. I read the menu for a while, not sure what to order. I finally decided a, "Miss Piggy" sandwich sounded good. It would have pork in a sweet sauce along with plenty of greens on French bread. I like coconut, so I ordered a coconut freeze to drink. Rosa Phan asked if I would like tapioca in the drink. "Sure", I'll try anything.

I sat in a corner booth and started sketching while I waited for my sandwich. I paused after my first bite wanting to spit it out. "Miss Piggy" seemed to be full of thick slabs of raw bacon. I gagged. The fat was rubbery and difficult to chew. The next bite surprised me with a flaming hot jalapeno. I politely pushed my sandwich aside and took a quick sip of my coconut freeze to cool my mouth. The straw had a really wide diameter and I immediately found out why. A quarter inch wide black ball of tapioca was the first thing to pop into my mouth. It was like sipping in a dead jelly fish. I chewed the rubbery mass hoping its slimy exterior housed a tasty treat inside. No luck. I gagged again. Since all the tapioca was on the bottom of the cup, I lifted the straw and sipped just the drink which was passable. I nursed the drink and ignored the sandwich for the duration of the sketch. I tend to be like a famished dog ready to devour anything. I was shocked to find food that I just can't swallow. People were asked how their meals were and there were polite responses of, "wonderfull" or "fine". Could they have tasted the same food? I'm not likely to return. I rushed down the street to the Peacock Room to get a beer to cleanse my pallet. I hoped the enzymes in the beer would keep me from being sick.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Alice in Azalia Dickson Park

On performance day I went to Dickson Azalea Park (100 Rosegarden Dr) to see "Alice Takes Wonderland." This production featured mostly middle school aged girls dancing and performing parts from Alice in Wonderland. Nao dance staged the production with Linda Eve Elchak the company's founder and choreographer and Kim Matovina as the assistant director. When I left the rehearsal several days before, I was attracted to this view from a hill overlooking the action under the bridge.

Behind me to my right, the caterpillar was doing her contorted languid dance. I could just make her out through the trees. A crowd of mothers and children were being lead from one staging area to the next. They came to the Cheshire cat who was in a web entangled bridge. The white rabbit carrying her luggage crossed the creek quickly. She then waited near this larger bridge that I was drawing. Tweedledee and Tweedledum were up on wooden planks covered with pegs. They lounged inverted until Alice approached. Alice said good bye to the Cheshire Cat and all the children followed. There was quite a crowd, perhaps 20 to 30 people.

When they got to the large cement bridge, Alice asked all the children to stop at a line just short of the bridge because it would be dangerous to go any further. Alice coached the children to shout out, "Come on everybody!" to encourage stragglers to catch up. Tweedledee and Tweedledum got down off their pegboards and merrily sprayed the children with silly string. Alice shouted out, "Oh, I'm so sorry!" It was fun to see the children's unrestrained reactions. Soon, Alice, the White Rabbit and Tweedledee an dum were doing an energetic chorus line dance under the bridge. Then everyone followed Alice and the White Rabbit further down the trail.

Later Linda walked back towards the start of the show. She shouted up to me, "One show down!" There were four more to go every hour. Tweedledee and Tweedledum collected all the silly string and made a bright line in the trail so the children knew where to stop for the next show. I finished the sketch as the second group made their way under the bridge. McClaine Timmerman and Daniel Joyce had just seen the show. McClaine is a choreographer and I had just sketched one of her Limit (ed/less) rehearsals. They walked up the hill and said hello. The dance community is a tight knit crowd, they all support each others productions.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

First Thursdays OMA

I went to First Thursdays at the Orlando Museum of Art partly on business and partly pleasure. My first stop was the gift shop where I wanted to place the 2012 Calendars. I met with the shop manager, MaryAnn Keane, who loved the calenders and wanted a dozen for the shop. The woman behind the register said she would have to buy one herself. That was easy. I want to get to other shops but just haven't had the time.

The theme of this First Thursday was sculpture. I had read that an artist was going to be carving a large cake. I searched for him but didn't see any cake. I considered sketching in the room full of sculptures but the room was packed. I would have been confronted with many backs. Instead, I wandered back towards the music. France Neil was singing a sultry rendition of "Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones. I love Nora's sad, sweet longing music. I melted away to the sad lyrics. France has been singing at Disney since 2001 in "The Lion King." I was tempted to mention my involvement working as an intern on the film but thought better of it. I still get goosebumps anytime I watch the opening sequence, feeling part pride and part joy to have played a small part. Several band members gave me their cards. Mike Bloomer was on the cello and David Capp was on the saxophone. David seemed to be in charge of the band, letting me know that they could add or subtract players depending on the gig.

A young woman and her mom introduced themselves to me. She follows the blog and told me to keep up the good work. I never did see a cake sculptor, but I had to go and find my way to a dance rehearsal across town.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tree of Light

I was at the United Arts Grant Application meeting where I first heard of Cole Nesmith's "Tree of Light." The sketch I saw at that meeting left me thinking it was a small sculptural piece. He joked that he ended up spending way more than the $1,000 grant. I went to Cole's place on Portland Avenue to see the work in progress. I couldn't see house numbers but I knew I was getting close when I heard a power saw. Cole was cutting planks off of wooden skits while Josh Owen was holding the wooden palette steady. A large aluminum structure filled the yard. Struts rose up at angles from a metal plate and then branched organically. Electrical boxes were welded at the ends of limbs and at junctions. The aluminum glistened in the sunlight. A large cylindrical beam acted as the trunk. It would be bolted to the ground and the upper limbs would be bolted to the top of it. For now it was lying on the ground. I started sketching. It was a chilly morning. Cole confided that his roommate was a bit of a pyromaniac who collected abandoned Christmas trees from all over town to burn, but that is another story.

Apparently the day before, Cole and Josh had been prying boards off of palettes using crow bars. It was back breaking, exhausting work. "The saw improved our productivity by 500%." Cole said. The job for the day was to start screwing wooden planks over the aluminum frame. Cole and Jimmy rejoiced when one whole limb was covered. They had tons of work to do. This was no easy process. The aluminum is light, but when all the wood is screwed onto it, it will become a very top heavy tree.

Chris Clatterbuck showed up with a box full of electrical supplies. It was his job to figure out the inner electrical workings of the art piece. He knew of me because of the sketches I did of the Singing Christmas Trees at First Baptist Church where he is an audio visual technician. He disappeared up onto the porch while the tree took form in the yard. A huge Live Oak tree spread its branches over the yard and house. I was impressed by the electrical relays Chris was working on. There were circuit boards and inner workings I couldn't begin to grasp. Cole showed me the strings of diodes that would be inside mason jars hanging from the tree. When a pedestrian pulled a chord, the diodes would light up, looking like fire flies.

February 2th the Tree of Light will he unveiled in downtown Orlando. It tree will be at the Seaside Plaza at the corner of Orange and Church St from Feb 2-Feb 29. The launch party is at 8pm-10pm on Feb 2 and is open to the public! I'll be there to sketch. I have to see how it all comes together.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Drip Rehearsal

The cavernous space DRIP is renting on International Drive is slowly transforming. I went to a dance rehearsal during the week long intensive. The space was full of the debris of a work in progress. Two ropes hung from metal rafters with knots and a foot loop at the base. They were used by dancers during the high energy show. The walls are being painted black and the floor is getting a multi pigmented marbleize effect using spray bottles. Scully Nolan and Melissa Kasper were working on the space as the dancers warmed up. Melissa was constructing paint can chandeliers which will eventually hang throughout the performance space. She also took photos of the loading dock entrance which will be getting signage and a black paint job. Getting into this dark venue will be like finding a back alley speakeasy.

The dancers were making sure new arrivals were up to speed on the choreography. Videos on iPhones were consulted to clarify moves. There was athletic crab like movement followed by sweeping movement through imaginary pigments. The performance space brings a new meaning to "the splash zone" since the whole room is in the zone. I splashed watercolor on my sketch, knowing I was safe for now.

Jessica Mariko ll the dancers wore neutral colors, blacks and whites along with browns and denim. Jessica was explaining that all colored pigments in the show have meaning. Each dancer is associated with a particular color. A female dancer throwing red pigment instantly attracted the attention of a male dancer of orange. He is with another dancer but can't help but look when red catches his eye. The dance was about relationships and his need to do his own thing to make his life work.

A recording of the rock music blazed and the four female dancers did a run through of the routine. A dancer tried to figure out how high she could swing on the rope during the dance. Raw, sexy, colorful and unexpected, things are falling into place fast at what might become the hippest show in town.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

34th Worldwide SketchCrawl

Enzian Florida Film Festival Unveiling

The invitation said, "Join us for an exclusive reveal party & receive a special gift. See why the 2012 Festival will be the best yet. You’ll be the first to know!" Exciting right! I packed my sketchbooks and rushed over. As the sky grew dark, the warm glow of the marquee and the Eden Bar looked inviting. Mark Baratelli arrived and I asked him to let me know if there were any free drinks. The signal would be a thumb swipe to the nose. By the time he came back, I was finishing up the sketch. He said there had been a platter of drinks but there was just enough in the cup for one dog's tongue lapping. Suddenly I was thirsty. Amanda Chadwick was having a going away party at Blank Space and both Mark and I were heading there next. She is moving to Seattle Washington soon to be with her boyfriend Matt Simantov. I didn't stick around to find out anything more about the Florida Film Festival, but If I find out more, I'll keep you posted.

On my way over to Blank Space, I was walking around Lake Eola. As I walked past the Eola Grill, I noticed a whole bunch of red and blue blinking police car light blinking over across the street near the Greek Orthodox Church. Three men and a woman rounded the corner in front of me. They were boisterous and joking, for some reason, I felt uncomfortable. As they passed me, police officers with their guns drawn charged around the grill towards me. They shouted, "Get down on the ground, On the ground!" "Get your hands behind your back!" Thankfully the police charged past me and forced the group of people down, five yards behind me. I stopped. "Sketch opportunity!" I thought. But Amanda would only have one going away party, so I pushed on.

Amanda had hired Kelly Richards to play piano at her party and as always when he performs it was a great time. The second I got in he started playing "Somewhere Out There" and Amanda muscled me up to the microphone to sing with her. Our final, farewell performance. This time, we had no lyrics and at points we had to make up our own. The final line is "We'll find one another, somewhere out where dreams come true." Thinking back to the final Disney days, I changed the line to, "Somewhere out where, dreams die." Outside the world of Disney dreams, the Phoenix can rise from the ashes. For some reason, when I got back to where Terry was seated, she was in tears. Is my singing really that bad? I'm sure when Amanda sang "Somewhere Out There", she thought of Matt off in Seattle, but he was at the party and he even sang "Hava Nagila" which means "Lets rejoice!" All the women danced.

Kelly began playing the Peanuts Dance. Everyone danced in the style of their favorite peanuts character. I suspect I was dancing like Pig Pen. Mark sang a rousing rendition of "I'm not Going" from Dream Girls. We laughed and sang along. Across the street I could see a wall of tuxedos inside a restaurant. It was a fundraising party for mayor Buddy Dyer. Terry had been invited but it cost $250 a plate. We were having a much better time.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January Artist's Critique

Parker Sketch organizes these monthly or bimonthly Artist Critiques at Barefoot Spa (801 Virginia Dr.) I was running a bit late. I parked a block away and walked down Virginia Drive away from Mills. Belly dancers were rehearsing in a dance studio. I almost had to stop but I was late, for a very important date. I could see from the street that Barefoot Spa was packed. People were standing in the doorway. Luckily, I had my own artist's stool so I pushed to the front of the room and set my chair up in a corner right next to Parker. Ken Austin was sharing some of his more abstract watercolors and I got busy sketching. I had recently had a chance to meet Ken on a group trip out to the Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach and then I bumped into him giving a demonstration a few days later at Crealde.

Paul Martin is the artist seated to the right in the sketch with a baseball cap and flip flops. He went to UCF in the 90's and then went to Miami. The Miami arts scene is thriving but he felt he wasn't making headway. He returned to Orlando where he is combining new medias with old media. He presented a painting of a Chinese flag on Plexiglas. When he traveled in China he took photos of any graffiti he could find. It was rare and hard to find. He scrawled this graffiti onto the Chinese flag painting. He plugged the painting in and three small video screens played footage of the American Flag waving in the wind. Someone in the room wondered if the video screens had been manufactured in China. There was an irony to the piece and an underlying social comentary. Paul pointed out that a client over time might decide that new video might be needed and this painting, like software could be upgraded for a price. China Flag 2.0. Love it. Everyone in the room was mesmerized. Americans can't help but watch a video if it is playing. That in itself says something about our culture.

Matt Charlan is new to Orlando, having come from Boston. He presented a large painting of a smiling baby's face. The face filled the canvas and was offset a bit to the right. Matt talked about how he liked to paint in the dark using just flashlights. For him the act of creation is meant to be a struggle. When he paints, he actually doesn't look at the canvas. He has a video camera set up across the studio and he looks at a laptop computer to see the brush strokes he puts down. In a way he is a voyeur to his own process. He uses the cheapest house paint he can find along with pastels, white spray paint and fixatives. He started painting on uneven surfaces to heighten the effect of catching the video vantage point. While in Boston he painted a portrait of Steven Colbert on a couch. The portrait can only be seen from one vantage point. If you move, the image breaks up. A video was posted on YouTube and it got three million hits. That is huge, like instant viral fame! It gained him instant notoriety in the Boston Arts scene. Yet the couch never sold.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sam Rivers Memorial Tribute



I heard Sam Rivers play within months of first starting this blog. He performed with his band at the Maitland Art Center at a closing party for the Florida Film Festival. For me, sketching as he played, it was a liberating experience. Lines flowed and danced on the page with abandon. The sketch became about expressive vigor not clinical accuracy. Sam's music was about the freedom of loose improvisation. He was a dynamic, creative saxophonist, flutist, bandleader and composer. He died December 26th here in Orlando Florida. He was 88 years old. Over the course of his career, Sam played with many jazz legends in smokey lofts and bars including Dizzy Gillespie.

An open call went out for any musicians who had played with Sam as part of the Rivbea Orchestra, to gather for a Tribute Memorial concert at the Social in downtown Orlando. I arrived fairly early and found a table to sketch from. As band members set up, a microphone was placed stage left and people were invited to get on stage and talk about Sam and his music. One man got up and said that he found himself always holding a beer at Sam's concerts. When it came time to clap, he would slap his bald head with his free hand. Sam saw the gesture and took to clapping his head as well when he finished a set. A band member felt honored and a bit intimidated being in Sam's orbit. In one rehearsal Sam stopped and asked him, "What's that note your playing?" He responded, "E flat." "We aren't there yet." Sam said. There was a long silence, then Sam laughed out loud. He was joking with the performer. Dina Peterson had met Mr. Rivers a few times. He tended to take an interest in what she was doing and she was pleased when he picked up the conversation right where they left off many months later. Genevieve Bernard admitted that she used to go to Rivers concerts on her own when she was single because she loved the music.

The stage became crowded with musicians. The music was driven, spontaneous, raucous and free flowing. Anything was possible. Performers danced the razors edge, taking endless chances and reaching out. Cameras flashed and someone held up an iPad above his head, like a glowing billboard to catch the scene.

Sam's wife Beatrice died in 2005. The orchestra played "Beatrice" named in her honor. The gentle music filled the room. You could feel the love. This song is now a jazz standard. After that song one of Sam's daughters got on stage. She thanked all the musicians for playing his music, keeping it alive. She said that "Sam's still playing, and he's watching you." With the funeral and memorial behind her, she had to return home in the North East. I started to well up. The room was getting smokey.

Members of the Rivbea Orchestra stood in turn launching into personal solo improvisations. The focus of my sketch switched from one performer to the next as they played. The energy in the room crackled and built. Everyone swayed to the beat. Lines flowed and splashes of color were thrown down with abandon. The whole band joined together and built to a cacophonous yet structured crescendo. The room went wild. The spirit of Sam's music still ignited the crowd. The room was on fire. "Keep perking Mr. Rivers."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sharon Hartmann's Holiday Party

Chere Force told me about Sharon Hartmann's Holiday Party. Chere let me know that there would be plenty of talented musicians and a prime sketch opportunity. I had never met Sharon but Chere said she was someone I had to meet. I crashed the party. The house was in Winter Park near an I-4 overpass. I parked on a quiet side street then hiked to find the house since it was impossible to see house numbers in the dark. Most of the small homes in the neighborhood had small porches. I half expected to see musicians on porch rocking chairs when I arrived. The night air had a chill. Sharon's home had an imposing flat facade. For some reason it resembled a dentists office to me. Maybe I had the number wrong.

I rang the doorbell and then tried the door knob. It was open. Sharon shouted down the hallway, "Come on in!" A dozen or so people were gathered in the kitchen. I introduced myself to Sharon but I got her name wrong, calling her "Shanon." I'm such an idiot with names. She asked if I was Irish. I explained that my name was German but my mom was Irish. Though the math is probably more complicated, I consider myself half Irish. I tried a pita chip, dipping in some humus. Whoa! It was hot! I rushed around and quickly poured a sangria. Joe Waller was talking about a young musician he met who could learn how to play any instrument with strings just by picking it up and experimenting. "He could play a banjo and make it sound like an acoustic classical guitar performance." Joe makes Cheer Wine in his home state of North Carolina. A collage aged girl told him that she and her classmate would hoard Cheer Wine when they found it. One boy confessed he had a picture of Cheer Wine as his desktop on his computer. Joe said it is being sold in Publix now so I have to get me some!

Jubal's Kin arrived with a crowd. A woman joked with Gailanne Amundsen that it must be cold since Gailanne wasn't bare foot. There was a feeling of a tight knit family gathering. Folks hugged and caught up. I felt a bit like an outsider but I sensed that once all these talented musicians unpacked their instruments, there would indeed be, "a joyful noise." In the kitchen, I spoke to Brian Smalley for a while. Brian explained that Orlando is a town whose music is built off the glitter and flash of the tourist trade. For that reason grassroots home spun folk music is rare. If you head up north, people love the honest sounds of acoustic musicians. Most music played downtown at night is about raw volume.

Joe Waller lead the way upstairs to a large family room that had banjos, fiddles and guitars hanging on the walls. The place was like a museum. Chairs were arranged in a circle and slowly musicians made their way upstairs. Two huge bass's were carried up the narrow stairway. Wednesday Tunes made his way up the stairs in his moccasins and red socks. He was the elder statesman among the musicians and he was treated with reverent respect as he was helped into a leather recliner. His white mustache was waxed and curled like Dali's. His bow was raised to his fiddle and the music began. There was no sheet music, everyone found the beat and melody and just joined in. Much of the music had ancient Scottish and Irish roots. This music was handed down through the generations. The music was exhilerating, raw, homespun with ancient cultural traditions. It is music that binds people together. It was a joy to sketch as everyone joined in. Mark Brannan played a Bodhran which is an Irish drum made by a good friend that lives in Galway Ireland.

The music continued and I started a second sketch. A group splintered off and started playing outside on a patio. From where I stood I could hear both groups playing. A photographer with a flash wandered everywhere. The light would blind me an when I recovered I'd continue sketching. Terry was going to join me but she ate or drank something downtown that made her sic. A co-worker had to drive her home. She would have enjoyed the music and probably could have joined in. When I was done sketching, I had a great conversation with photographer Jean Guenther Brannen. She didn't use a flash and she caught some great shots. We talked about how different yet similar our mediums were. It is always fun to compare notes with another observer of life. I hope I can catch more of these impromptu musical gatherings. The sketch opportunities are limitless, and the music exhilarating.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Museum of Arts & Sciences

Chere Force and her husband Rory sent out an invitation to local artists to join them on a trip to the Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach. About six artists answered the call and we all decided to meet in Altimonte Springs and car pool from there. The morning we left it was incredibly cold for Central Florida, down in the 30's. The main reason for the trip was to see Reflections II: Watercolors of Florida 1835-2000, from the Collection of Cici and Hyatt Brown which is on exhibit through March 25th of 2012. I was particularly excited to see work from Andrew Wyeth. I piled into the back of the Force family van and was soon joined by Dotti Stickly. Dotti and Chere are both members of the Central Florida Watercolor Society and they have exhibited work in the same shews. The rest of the artist drove to Daytona in another SUV.

At the museum, we all split up and explored the museum on our own until it was time for lunch. I spent the morning examining all the watercolors up close. The Wyeth was a bold image in black and white washes of a pirate on a beach. Andrew was just 13 years old when he did it and his father's influence was strong. Humbling and inspiring work. I was disappointed that only one of his watercolors was on exhibit.The large room with warm yellow walls had perhaps a hundred pieces on exhibit. I was excited to find a painting by Thomas Moran, a Hudson River School artist whose work I admire. The painting was called Solitude, Fort George Island. All the paintings were done in Florida. One of the highest prices paintings was a study of Spanish Moss in Tampa Bay by Winslow Homer done in 1886.

After examining all the watercolors I walked out of the gallery and was immediately confronted by this Volusia County Giant Sloth skeleton. Time to sketch. This 13 foot tall skeleton is the best preserved and most complete fossil of this species in North America. It has been in the Museum of Arts & Sciences for the past 30 years. Chere remembered seeing the Sloth as a child. Children who saw the Sloth for the first time would stop in their tracks shouting out "Whoa!" They would scamper around the base trying to see the beast from every angle while mothers waited patiently. Before lunch, we took a group photo in front of the Sloth.

For lunch, our group went to a Tai Restaurant where I had a fabulous Pad Thai. I was suffering from post holiday starvation and perhaps I had been staring at bones for too long. I was famished. When we returned to the museum we were given a tour of the watercolor exhibit by a docent named Tom Davis. The exhibit showcased work from artists over a 168 year span. 23 women artists were represented and three living artists. Tom was a painter himself and much of the time he outlined the differences between oil painting and watercolor. The obvious difference being that watercolors are painted from light to dark while oils are painted dark to light. I'm not sure he understood he was talking to a room full of artists. I sat in a leather chair in the center of the gallery and spun around following his progress. I had already seen the work up close. He did say something that I have since been experimenting with. He pointed out in one landscape that there were essentially only two colors, red and green. To get darker greens, red washes were applied over the green. I've started applying this principle of applying complimentary color washes over areas to build up darks and it is a quick effective way to build a sketch. There was some amazing work in the exhibit and some work that didn't have strong enough value changes to have a solid punch. Watercolorists have to be fearless because changes can't be made after a wash is applied. I use the medium because I can fit the palette in a pocket and sketch anywhere.

A mother walking with her children dismissed the exhibit saying, "Oh, those are only watercolors."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Musical Mondays, The Abbey

Terry and I went to the Abbey for Musical Mondays. It was a cold walk from the car. Temperatures were going to drop down to the 30s, and in Orlando, that is big news. There weren't many people there when we arrived. Kelly DeWayne Richards, Orlando's Piano Man, was trying to get the piano audio connected to the sound system. He introduced me to Emily at the bar and I recognized her but I couldn't figure out why. I ordered a beer and found a tall table with a good view of the stage while Terry was in the bathroom. Amanda Chadwick arrived and she and Terry sat in one of the cushy leather sofas in front of the stage. While the place was pretty empty, Terry got up and sang, "Soon or a Later." I placed her in my sketch as she held her glasses and tried to read the lyrics. The stained glass ceiling slowly changed colors from cool blues to hot reds.

Kelly called up Emily from behind the bar to sing. She sang, "Someone Like You" by Adele and suddenly I realized I had heard her sing before. She has a strong, silky, emotive singing voice that just bowled me over. Her full name is Emily Heffelfinger and getting to listen to her perform was a treat. I can't believe a talent like that works the bar. As Kelly said, "She's a great singer and she mixes a mean martini." Kelly gave her a hard time and jokingly she shot him the finger.

Sharon and Kelly stood at the microphones and sang a moving rendition of, "The Rose." The place slowly filled and singer after singer got on stage to sing. Some kept their hands tightly tucked in pants pockets while others clutched the microphone. Some voices were shy and tentative while others belted out the lyrics. Musical Monday is a great way to kick off the week. The festivities start at 7pm so I'd suggest having dinner downtown at a nice restaurant and then have a musical nightcap at the Abbey.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Jeremy Seghers invited me to sketch the dress rehearsal for Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Abbey. I was excited because Joshua Eads-Brown who plays Hedwig had agreed to let me sketch as he put on his make up. When I entered the Abbey, a rock band was warming up on stage. I didn't know where the dressing room was but, I assumed it had to be back stage. When I tentatively peaked around the back curtain, I practically ran into Joshua who was wearing a knit cap over his hair and not much else. His whole body seemed to be covered with a white dust. The stage manager took me back to the dressing room.

Janine Klein who plays Yitzhak was working on getting her hair tied up. She was dressed as a man. The dressing room was cramped. I stood right behind Janine as I sketched Joshua's metamorphosis from a man to a woman. He had a bright pink zebra patterned makeup case and open pans of color were scattered on the counter before him. The face makeup was applied thickly. He darkened under his jaw line and boldly accentuated his cheeks with Alizarin Crimson. He put crimson and blue around his eyes then bright red lips outlined in black. His lips and eyes sparkled. The fingers of white gloves draped over the counter's edge. Janine was getting into a leather jacket and Joshua delicately used an eyeliner brush to give her a mustache and goatee. She became handsome and rugged while he became gorgeous. Large fake eyelashes, the wig and a red white and blue gown finished the transformation. She slipped on the star shaped sun glasses and went on stage.

The dress rehearsal was delayed because a guitar player hadn't arrived yet. I used the time to block in a second sketch. Hedwig came out wearing a large red white and blue cape. He raised his arms and on the inside of the cape, the words, "Yankee Go Home", "With Me!" was emblazoned.

The show is staged as Hedwig's musical act in which he tells his life's story. He was born in the divided city of East Berlin. A U.S. Soldier falls in love with Hedwig. To get out of East Berlin, a sex change was needed. As he put it, "You must give up part of yourself for love." The operation is botched leaving an "Angry Inch." The soldier leaves Hedwig after a year for a man. Recovering from separation she form a rock band called, "The Angry Inch". She meets Tommy Speck and they write music together. Tommy never accepted Hedwig and he leaves her taking all the songs becoming a very successful pop star.

Yitzhak was a cross dresser. Hedwig insisted he must never again wear woman's clothes if they were to be together. He would have to give up that part of himself. All her life Hedwig searched for her other half. She couldn't find anyone who could make her whole. The revelation is that she needed to accept herself. Once she did that she was whole again. We can't fall back on others to complete ourselves. In the final scene Yitzak came out on stage dressed in a gorgeous black gown with a slit reveling her left leg. She was resplendent and whole. The audience went wild.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is being performed at the Abbey through January 23rd. Check the website for dates and times. This musical will blow your socks off!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Alice Takes Wonderland

Alice Takes Wonderland is being presented by NAO Dance Collective at Dickson Azalea Park (100 Rosegarden Dr) on January 13th. I had never been to the park before. It is gorgeous with a stream meandering down its length and dirt trails over small hills and under a bridge. Tr3 Harris an Urban Artist designed and painted this backdrop. When I arrived, people were crowded around a U-Haul truck. Linda Eve Elchak the company's founder and choreographer, was standing next to the drivers door and she jumped, squatted and stretched. She shouted, "Getting pumped up! Getting ready! This is the fun part, watching it all fall together!"

They unloaded Tr3's panels and dancers and choreographers walked the parks narrow paths to get the set in place. Linda shouted, "Look at us, Navy Seals!"When the panels and red bench were in place, Tr3 spoke with me about the panels. This is the largest panels he has worked on to date. The white markings on the black ground were inspired by Mayan, Egyptian and Urban graffiti roots. He mentioned the work of an LA graffiti artist called LA II. When I mentioned Keth Haring's work Tr3 pointed out that LA2 was responsible for much of the sort of numeric letter imagery Haring adopted. Hidden in Tre's panels are words which are hard to find. LINDA is on the right side. There is a reverse square root sign and the word LOVE on the lower left. Letters are broken apart and sometimes reversed. When I blurred my eyes then the word would magically appear. He sketched in my notebook showing how certain letters were reversed in an old English style.

With my sketch finished, I decided to follow along as they did a full run through of the show. Micihael Sloan had a portable backpack sound system on his chest. He worked it using an iPhone. Each scene along the trail would have its own soundtrack. The test audience of stage moms and me waited at a small footbridge that gave access to the park. Alice, played by Catlin leafed through a book dreaming of what might lie on the opposite side of the bridge. Megan as the white rabbit hurried in frantically out of time. Reluctantly Alice followed. She turned to us and said, "Come on kids!" How wonderful, I thought, I'm a kid! Kim Matovina the assistant director of Nao took notes as we walked along following the performers..

Alice and the rabbit did an inverted mirroring of each others performance in front of Tr3's wall. I was really impressed by the sinewy, fluid contorted dance of the caterpillar metamorphosis by another Catlin. She arched her back and twisted in an amazing series of moves all while delivering lines. Most of the dancers in the show were young girls. Evelyn Reynoso who played the Mad Hatter was most seasoned and experienced dancer. She is also working with Drip Dance on International Drive. She wore a sporty blue beret and had blue lipstick to match. Her costume had fun quirky colored patches. She told me she would be pushing for a touch of French affectation because of the beret. In her performance she would freeze any time Alice wasn't touching her.

Megan as the Cheshire Cat straddled a small foot bridge which was trans-versed by a series of webs. Alice then met Tweedledee and Tweedledum under a large arching overpass. This scene offered some of the most energetic and humerus choreography. The show had a playful innocence to it with improvised dialogue and well rehearsed dance. Alice Takes Wonderland explores what it means to ‘grow up’ by taking a sentimental look at the value of childhood. Though geared for children it is suitable for all ages.

January 13th Show Times:
first show walk thru:
10:00a.m.-10:45 a.m.
11:00a.m.-11:45a.m.
12:00am-12:45p.m.
1:00p.m.-1:45p.m.
2:00p.m-2:45p.m (last show of the day)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Limit (ed/less)

I made my way to an industrial complex in Pinecastle where Limit (ed/less), Directed by McClaine Timmerman, was holding a rehearsal. This show will include modern dance, multi media, and spoken word exploring the limitations and limitless realities of our daily lives. What a perfect way to bring in the new year brushing away past regrets and striving towards a limitless future.

It was after dark when I arrived, and the building looked ominous and deserted. I searched for the "A" unit where the rehearsal was to take place. A black truck was running, parked in front of the entrance. As I walked around it, the brake lights went on and I was afraid it might back up into me. As I walked past the passenger door, I heard someone say my name. Brittany Wine was in the drivers seat. She let me know that McClaine hadn't arrived yet. I sat in my artists seat, leaned against the building and took a phone call. McClaine and all the dancers seemed to arrive all at once. Inside was a typical office building. Rehearsal was held in a large empty conference room.

The show has a cast of eight with Jimmy being the only guy. The women dancers warmed up and stretched behind four movable panels of bars. What followed was a quick walk through of the show. Scenes weren't acted out, they all were just piecing the show together paying attention to the overall flow. Then dancers changed and they began a full run of the show. This was the first time all the dancers were together. At first everyone walked on stage, questioning to themselves their lot in life. They froze in shapes of thoughtful contemplation, searching for memories. As each dancer in turn stood center stage and spoke of hope or questioned courage. Dale moved swiftly, a space eater. Two dancers performed a pained piece where they mused that perhaps, "It didn't happen." They didn't ask for it to happen. The dance expressed deep regret and pain. I welled up, my mind shifting to a horrible incident that I had heard about.

I was thankful when humor flooded the next scene. The four panels enclosed the cast in a tight elevator and each persons inner dialogue played on a sound track as you could read their subtle expressions. They were uncomfortably close. Kim grimaced when Jimmy brushed her hand. Had someone not bathed? Who farted? A romantic solo dance in a blue dress with tons of tool was charming. The dancer just wanted to be wanted. There was humor in the way she expressed that she would be missed. Would she be remembered?

McClaine and Jimmy Moore sat center stage as an established couple. Tall white letters spelled "LOVE" on her black T-shirt. She wanted him to express his inner feelings to her and quite simply he didn't get it. She felt like she was having a conversation alone. How often have I been there. They both read. She asked him to massage her knee. As he did, a tall leggy dancer in a form fitting black dress asked him for a light. She flirted and his head turned to watch her walk away. Again and again, beautiful dancers in leopard print got his attention. Looking up from her magazine McClaine asked, "Why are you sweating?"

McClaine Timmerman is a master at being able to express a universal inner yearning using modern dance and spoken word. A solo dance she performed in which she struggled against the constraints of a corset seemed to me to be the signature dance of the show. In a struggle, laces were loosened and in spoken word she mused about freedom to change and yet wanting to keep the unfailing consistency of her identity. In dance, she reached out in supplication. She threw off her period high heals but in the end, sitting like a rag doll, she reached behind her and tightened the corset back up. This is a raw honest show that pushes the limits of what can be expressed through dance.

Performance Dates:
January 13th 8pm
January 14th 8pm
January 15th 2pm

Location:
Orlando Rep Theater (The Black Box)
1001 East Princeton St
Orlando Fl 32803

Tickets:
$15 cash or check only
call or email McClaine for reservations (not required)
407-721-3617 mrougemac@me.com

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Flat Mountain Men

Every Monday from six to ten in the evening, the Audubon Community Market is held in the parking lot in front of Stardust Video & Coffee. On this particular evening I was going to be able to see the first run of 2012 Ourlando Calendars hot off the press. Julie Norris who did an amazing job designing the calenders had yet to see the calendars as well. A table was going to be set up in the market to sell the calendars. I spotted Julie and her daughter, Maya, at the Big Wheel food truck. I ordered a stuffed avocado dish and then joined Julie and Maya inside Stardust to eat. The avocado was delicious. Emily Rankin entered Stardust carrying a heavy box. She split the tape seal and cracked it open. Inside were the first 50 calendars. Julie and I each grabbed a calendar and started flipping through. I was happy to see the final product but I felt uneasy. The colors were more saturated and darker than I would have liked. I held my tongue, then Julie said, "What do you think?" I had to admit my concern and she agreed.

We were on a tight deadline to have the calendars ready for the holidays. The rest of the printing run was on hold till the morning while the printer ran another job. An employee was at the printer so I drove there to be sure the rest of the print run wasn't as dark. A sample calender had been printed 10% less dark. I decided it was good enough. I then drove back to Stardust to sign some calendars and enjoy the music. Julie was leaving because Maya was tired. Emily was at the table selling the calendars and I signed a few before sketching the Flat Mountain Men. The parking lot stage consisted of a card table with an inverted cowboy hat and a stool. The music was rustic home spun fun. Folding tables were set up in front of the band where people came to sit and enjoy their food and the music. The two women seated right in front had known the musicians ever since high school. The band played "Walking the Tightrope" as the sky grew dark and the evening cooled.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Terry's Office

After a day of searching for Citrus Floats, I decided to meet Terry at her new office at Merrill Lynch. The firm is located on the eighth floor and Terry's office has a view of the new Amway Center. Terry was one of maybe four or five employees who were in the office between Christmas and New Years. Terry looked up a press release on the computer for me and then went back to work. Amanda Chadwick said she had something planned that she wanted to do that night. She wanted to keep the destination a secret from Terry. We all decided to meet at a Mexican Burrito joint on Colonial.

After dinner, we all piled into Amanda's car to first pick up Mark Baratelli and then go to the final destination. On the drive south on I-4 we passed the neon rainbow studded Bungee Sling Shot on International Drive. We convinced Terry that was the destination but Terry insisted she would keep her feet on the ground. A "Screaming Gator" zip line adventure over the teaming swamps around Gator Land elicited the same response. Our true destination however was Disney. Amanda was concerned for my mental health, fearing I might experience flashbacks. Mark had a season pass which got us into parking for free.

We took the Monorail to the Polynesian Hotel where wWe sampled some pineapple slushies, called Doles, before heading out to the beach. There we sat on wet beach lounges and waited for the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom. Boats on the lagoon kept honking their horns and we screamed back at then to "Keep it down." It's not like there is any traffic on the lagoon. The fireworks were stunning, with Saturns, cascading waterfalls and immense blooms. The piped in music was faint and the explosions came long after the flash catching us off guard.

After the display we began a quest for hot chocolate and soft serve ice cream. There were plenty of photo opportunities with the huge Coronado Christmas tree. We laughed endlessly as we searched the Coronado Springs Resort. As Mark put it, "Its not the journey that is important, it's the destination." The drive back had us all singing like Young Frankenstein to pop hits on the car radio.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fresh from Florida Parade

I woke up late on Saturday morning and realized I had to rush downtown to catch the parade formerly known as the Citrus Bowl Parade. I knew where the parade assembled since I had sketched the police horses the prior year. I parked north of Lake Eola and walked to Orange Avenue. I could hear the college bands playing as I approached. A lanky man walked up behind me and said, "Looks like you got the best seat for the parade." "Well it's the cheapest." I replied. He started complaining about how the parades name had changed. "They always have to fix things that aren't broke." He said. He broke off to head south.

I wanted to sketch the assembly area since folks would be standing still waiting for the parade to start, which makes sketching much easier. A Nebraska band stood in bright red and white uniforms. Majorettes practiced twirling their batons. It was a warm beautiful day. I'm sure they were glad to be removed from the cold Nebraska planes. Since I was late, I knew I wouldn't have enough time to sketch a whole band. I needed to find something bigger, bolder and less likely to march away.

I started to sketch people holding Macy's balloon styled "Power Ball" red orbs, but then the parade started to move. They walked away. I erased them and walked a block back to start the next sketch. Old cars caught my eye along with women on stilts. Who can resist sketching women dressed up as candy canes on stilts. They were on a side road waiting for their turn to get on the parade route. I soon realized these were all performers from Universal Studios.

Bands marched loudly by. Shriner's in mini automobile go-carts buzzed around in circles in the intersection. The police horses clomped through the intersection but they weren't in the parade this year. They must have just been there for crowd control. When the parade had past me, a street cleaner immediately got to work brushing it's way north up Orange Avenue. I realized I hadn't had breakfast. I ordered a hot dog from a vendor across from the Court House. Being in the staging area, I got to see the whole parade and I wasn't in a crowd that could block my view. As I walked back to my car I could see where the parade was ending. People had paid $23 to sit in bleachers and the intersection was mobbed with people. I wasn't tempted to shove my way in.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Citrus Floats

I spent an afternoon searching for the spot where volunteers rubber band thousands of citrus fruits onto wire meshes to create the floats for what was formerly the Citrus Bowl Parade. The new name of the parade is the "Fresh from Florida Parade." I heard volunteers would be working feverishly at the old Amway Arena. I went there assuming the floats would be inside the Arena. I was surprised to see that the Arena was surrounded by chain link fencing and it is considered a construction site. lt turns out the Arena is being demolished to make way for a Creative Village. The interior is now being demolished, and the building is slated to be rigged with explosives and will implode in March of 2012. I walked around the fenced in Arena. A security guard in the parking lot asked if I was going to the game. "No." I replied. "I'm looking for volunteers working of floats." He directed me to the opposite side of the Arena. A huge crowd was gathered in a line going through a security check point. They were being scanned for explosives by the Department of Homeland Security and local police. "This is a rather big fuss for a few floats." I thought. This turned out to be parking for the college football game happening at the Citrus Bowl. People had to go through security before getting on a bus to the Bowl Game.

I hiked down to the new Amway Center searching for floats as well. No luck. I visited Terry at her downtown office and she located a press release online. It turned out the floats would be at the Amway Arena the next day. At least I got plenty of exercise. So the next day, I hiked to the Arena and I could see the bright orange and yellow citrus peaking through the foliage around the parking lot from a block away. I settled under a shady oak and sketched. I had expected more floats. Volunteers were still securing fruit to the wire mesh with rubber bands but the floats looked pretty complete. The construction had occurred for two days at the Convention Center. They were then driven to the Arena for final touch up before the parade the next day. I wondered what roads they must have driven. Did they scream up I-4 at 55 miles per hour? Wouldn't the citrus bounce off causing a catastrophic citrus pile up? More than likely they took side roads creating a minor traffic back up.

As I was finishing up the sketch, someone drove away in a golf cart to get dinner for the volunteers. The sun blazed warmer as it moved towards the horizon making the oranges even more orange as the shadows lengthened.

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year's Day Party

Terry and I hosted a New Year's Day party to celebrate AADW's third anniversary and to ring in the New Year with friends. We shopped for hot dogs and hamburgers the day before along with beers champagne and orange juice. On the morning of New Year's day, I went to Panera to pick up a large order of bagels and pastries that Terry had called in the week before. Panera's was packed. Everyone seemed to want bagels that morning. There was a separate line for pick up orders but no one was at that counter. The place was understaffed and chaotic. A twelve year old girl in line in front of me held a puppy she must have been given for the holidays. The woman next to me said, "I'm just waiting for that pup to pee. That's what they do. There's a sign on the door that says no pets. My mother would be having a fit right now." I laughed wondering if the puppy would prance around on the pastries when the girl got to the counter.

The cashier didn't know about my order. One woman searched, but came up empty handed. They waited for the manager who was at a register. We waited. He finally looked in the same place as the other woman and pulled out the large bag. The next stop was Publix for some lox and cream cheese. At home everything was spread out on the dining room table. Candles and the Christmas tree were lit. The invitation was for noon till midnight. Since no one had arrived yet, I started writing a blog post. Half way into the post, the doorbell rang. Our first guest was from Terry's writing group and Terry immediately put him to work cutting tomatoes and an assortment of last minute preparations.

All through the day people arrived at various times. In the evening, Kelly DeWayne Richards stopped by with his portable piano. Terry was the first to sing. She sang, "Soon or a Later." I was outside scrambling to get burgers and hot dogs on the grill. Amanda Chadwick got up to sing "Somewhere out There." I don't know how this tradition started, but I always get called up to sing with her. I will spare you the audio. Amanda then called Matt Simantov in Seattle via Skype. She had me hold the cell phone while she sang to him. Britt Daley sat behind the keyboard and began singing "Anything But", one of her original songs. Everyone stopped to listen. There was magic in that moment. What an amazing way to start the New Year, with authors, artists and musicians. So much talent in one place made my heart warm.

Then Terry insisted I sing "Hold On" by Michael Buble. I hid in the kitchen. Though Terry couldn't see me, Amanda could. She shouted at me to "Get in there and sing!" I don't know the lyrics and when I perform, I like to know I'm well rehearsed. I messed up the lyrics several times and couldn't find my way back to the refrain. Luckily no one was in the room but Terry and poor Kelly at the piano. She was seated on the couch in her wedding dress, listening intently. She had changed her outfits five times that day to everyone's delight. After the song, she knelt down in front of me and said, "Marry me." We had already renewed our vows on our 20th wedding anniversary. People shouted out, "Again?" The writers looking in from outside found the image of Terry kneeling in front of me suggestive. When I realized why they were laughing, my face flushed red.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

We Buy Gold

Most people refer to him as "The Gold Guy". The Diamond Exchange (3016 E. Colonial Drive) was right behind him, ready to exchange cash for gold. When the economy tanks, gold seems to be the one standard people hope will maintain its worth. He stands on the corner of Colonial Drive and Maguire Boulevard all day. I pass him all the time on my way to work at Full Sail. He wears a gold mask and is dressed head to toe in a gold suit and pants. As cars pass he quickly tips his golden hat with a flourish. I parked at the Florida Mall across the street and walked across this rather dangerous intersection. At first I thought I would sketch him from a distance with a inflatable sock Santa in the foreground. Unfortunately "the Gold Guy" walks away from the intersecting toward traffic. He disappeared behind a palmetto and I moved. I decided I had to sit in the parking lot to catch him. He always faces on coming traffic so I would only be able to sketch him from the back.

Within 15 minutes he started to leave. The sketch was far from finished. He noticed me and approached. He smiled when he saw the incomplete sketch. All of his teeth had gold caps. He takes his golden role seriously. He let me know that I could find him there every day, all day. I just happened to show up when his shift ended. When he left, I kept working on the background and I painted as the intersection grew dark. A little red compact car parked right in front of me blocking my view. Rather than getting annoyed, I decided to incorporate it into the sketch, then I shifted over to regain my view. I rather like painting nocturnes. I can't always see the page and colors are put down with vibrancy that I don't really see until I get back to the studio and see the sketch in the light.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Grove

The week following Christmas, my event calender was empty. I had to get out of the house. I took my sketching supplies and just started walking north. I stopped when I saw a sign that said, "Sidewalk Closed". A large piece of land, on the corner of Conroy and Apopka Vineland, once covered with trees and foliage had been stripped bare. Ironically the name of this development moonscape was, "The Grove". When Terry and I moved into this neighborhood fifteen plus years ago, we used to bike on the rural side roads. There were orange groves everywhere. Today groves are rare.

I pulled my art supplies out of my bag to start sketching. My watercolor palette landed on a large ant hill causing a sudden surge of activity as hundreds of ants started moving grains of sand, changing the landscape. On the construction site there were a dozen or so bulldozers, escalators cranes, graders, and continuous tracked earth movers. An escalator's claw scraped and grabbed at the sand. One truck was used to moisten the sand so it wouldn't blow away causing sand storms. C&C Silt Fencing was tacked down all around the scared lot. The construction company was JR Davis Construction from Kissimmee Florida.

A sign of the corner at the stop lights announced the wonders that were to come. There would be retail stores, restaurants, and office space. Specifically there would be a Panera, an LA Fitness and Windermere Village Dentistry. Ironically there are several deserted store fronts in the strip mall adjacent to "The Groves."

On the walk back home, palmetto leaves rustled in the wind sounding like rain striking a tent. The horizon was a dark steely blue. I heard the distant rumbling of thunder. A snow man made of white metal mesh had blown over, his head separated a few feet away. In an inflatable nativity, Mary's veil had blown down over her face and all the wise men and animals vibrated in the wind. When I got home, Terry was in the driveway scrubbing rich green moss off of rocks I had used to build a waterfall in the garden. I rather liked the moss, it made the waterfall look overgrown and ancient. Oh well, it will all grow back in time. As I relaxed on the back patio it began to rain.