Sunday, March 31, 2013

Queen of Hearts Casino Night


Jenny Coyle organized a Queen of Hearts Casino Night in the parking lot next to Maxine's on Shine (337 north shine ave, Orlando, Florida). Jenny organized the event to help raise money for her independent film, "Perfect Love". Terry wore all stripes looking like a zebra on steroids. I thought I would sketch her playing, but she wandered to the far table and I didn't see her again.

Shelly Maxine introduced herself saying I had sketched her many years ago as she folded napkins in another restaurant. She was dressed up as the mad hatter and her wild red hair sprouted out from beneath a cougar skinned fur hat. She and her husband, Kirt, are the best possible proprietors at this amazing restaurant. A musician was performing inside and he had just released a CD. He was performing Beetles cover songs however so I didn't get a taste of what his original music might be like. Jenny wore a bright pink queens dress. She said she felt like a five year old when she saw it.

As Jenny said, "Don't lose your head, it's only a party!  There will be: Blackjack, prizes, drinks, and live entertainment! For just $10 you got your first drink and your first few thousand dollars in funny money for the casino. We're making our money off of the buy in for the casino, and the silent auction items. Naturally this means we are trying to get as many people there as possible.  Costumes aren't required, but I might be inclined to give you some extra cash for the casino if you come out in an Alice in Wonderland themed getup."

After Terry lost all her chips and I finished my sketch, we went into Maxine's for an appetizer. I ordered some Calamari and it was great, being baked rather than fried with a sweet vinegar drizzle on top. I took the waiters advice on a beer although I don't recall the band. Maxine invited me back to sketch the restaurant interior and I will most certainly go back. The place is a real gem.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Riff Raff


Larry Lauria who I work with at Full Sail told me I had to hear Dan Rafkin play guitar. He let me know that Dan would be [laying in Winter Garden in the Plant Street Gazebo on the evening of March 8th. Dan apparently has very fast fingers and his writes his own songs.

Downtown Winter Garden is a model for how a downtown can be am ideal place to gather. A pack of girl scouts rushed past me as I walked towards the gazebo. So much of Central Florida had developed into tasteless over developed strip malls. Plant Street maintains an old town feel with historic old brick buildings and a newly built public gathering place in the street's central median.

I arrived a bit early but Dan Rafkin and the band had already set up and were ready to start their first set. The band was called Riff Raff. They sang old country cover tunes from musicians like Merl Haggard. I never got to hear any of Dan's original material. This wasn't what I expected but the crow ate it up. Larry, His wife and daughter and her son showed up and they hunted for a restaurant to eat supper. There were lines and an hour wait wherever they went. Before they got back, I finished my sketch and headed home.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Natura Coffee and Tea


When I work till 9PM at Full Sail I tend to go out and sketch Jazz which pops up all over town. Natura Coffee and Tea is a hole in the wall coffee shop right near UCF (12078 Collegiate Way Orlando, FL). The front window proclaims, "Self expression welcome." The place offers music, art and film. All the clientele are young college aged kids. Students smoked hookahs on a couch to the left. An older woman got a whole cup of hot coffee spilled in her lap. There was quite a commotion to get her cleaned up.

The jazz was lively but I never caught any of the musicians names. The guitarist just told me that he and Reagan on the keyboard had gotten the group together for the night.  I desperately want to return to sketch the students smoking the intricate and ornate hookahs. I may have to work late next month so I might be back.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Jazz at Taste


Taste Restaurant (717 W. Smith Street in College Park) is where I go to sketch on a slow Monday if nothing else if going on around town. Musicians gather at the bar and around 8PM the Jazz begins. Who ever gets to the stage first starts off the set. Frank Walter was on trombone, Miguel Alvarodo was on Tenor Sax, Tom was on drums. The place was so packed that I couldn't find a table with a view. Instead, I sat in the entryway to the restaurant.

The music flowed and swelled. sporadic and spontaneous solos ignited and then  the other musicians joined in when the moment felt right. Sets can extend forever or be over in a flash, so I tend to sketch frenetically to catch the moment before it is gone. Monday night Jazz is always a good time so it is always on my calendar as a fall back option.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Maitland Art Center Mayan Courtyard


This is the rare case of a sketch done in the quiet time between events. I had an hour to kill before the Art Critique and Conversation began at the Maitland Art Center, (231 West Packwood Ave. Maitland, FL). I wandered into the Mayan Courtyard. I'm sure that countless wedding vows have been exchanged in this outdoor garden paradise. I sketched the entry to the chapel. The Art Center was founded and designed by architect and artist J. Andre Smith in 1937. The intricate Aztec-Mayan sculpted motifs cover every surface. The Art Center is one of the few surviving examples of "Mayan Revival" or fantasy architecture in the Southeast. The Center is recognized by the State of Florida as an historic site and is entered on the National Register of Historic Places as of 1987.

A plaque outside the entry read, " I stood at the gate of life and said give me a light that I might go safely into the unknown. And a voice replied, go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God, that will be to you better than a light and safer than a known way."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Artist Critique and Conversation


Tonight, March 26th, between 6Pm and 8PM, I will be a guest panelist at the Art and History Museums of  Maitland, Artist Critiques Evening held in the Art and History Museum's Germaine Marvel Building. The event is free and open to the Public.  The Artist Critique and Conversation series, is a professional development series that offers artists the opportunity to have their work reviewed. Held on the 4th Tuesday of every month at 6 pm at the Maitland Art Center, the critiques are led by artist and arts writer Josh Garrick, along with guest panelists Thomas Thorspecken and Camilo Velasquez. Each evening is meant to be both entertaining and informative with audience participation encouraged.

Artists of every medium and skill level are encouraged to participate in the critiques.  Each critique will review up to 9 artists, and all artists MUST sign up in advance. Interested artists can sign up in advance for one of the nine slots.  Each artist can only sign up for one of the nine slots every three months.

This sketch was done at the January Critique. A nocturnal painting by Deloris Habencorn is on the easel.  Marion DeJong showed five paintings depicting life in Siri Lanka. She has just recently taken up painting and the pieces which had a folk art flair were quite accomplished. Lorain Del Wood showed several of her fashionable women in large hats. She has been offered a licensing agreement which she is quite excited about. The guest panelists that night were Martha Joe Mahoney and Dr. Victor Locas.

Greg Nielsen showed several small paintings of clouds. Martha liked the pieces but she encouraged him to be bold and work very large. That way he would be more physical in the creative process and perhaps bolder. She wanted him to consider the luscious quality of the paint working fat into lean, with thick juicy strokes. He took in all she said but when asked what he thought of the idea, he said, "The notion of working that large would probably scare my wife." Everyone laughed.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dedication of the Morgan & Morgan Hunger Relief Center


A new 10,0000 square Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida foot distribution center, (411 Mercy Drive Orlando FL), has just opened it's doors. I went to the dedication ceremony on March 6th. Several hundred people toured the huge facility and watched the dedication ceremony. Mayor Buddy Dyer was there and he joked that John Morgan's home was as cavernous as the warehouse. John Morgan of Morgan and Morgan Law, addressed the crowd. He mentioned that as a teen he had worked at Disney World dressing up as Pluto. He was miffed that Pluto wasn't to be found on the huge Disney mural behind him. He said that most people might say that donating the money to build the food bank was easy. Well it wasn't easy and don't be calling him for any donations soon.

A woman took the stage and spoke about her family's struggles after her husband lost his job. Being proud, it was a long time before she could admit they needed help. When she finally did turn to the food bank, she was amazed at the healthy quality food they received. Now her husband is working again and they are back on their feet.  The needs in the past four years have grown by 75%.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is a private, nonprofit organization that collects and distributes donated food to more than 500 nonprofit partner agencies in six Central Florida counties: Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia. Learn more about how you can donate. If you're interested in becoming a partner agency, click here.

Vision: A Hunger-Free Central Florida
Mission: To Fight Hunger in Central Florida
  • Providing access to food and other grocery products in order to meet the need.
  • Promoting and supporting the development of our partner agencies’ ability to fulfill their missions. Mobilizing leaders and communities by bringing visibility to the invisible problem of hunger and poverty.
  • Developing more holistic and county-specific solutions to hunger in Central Florida.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Volunteers Build a Children’s Playground in 1 Day!

On a cold and blistery Saturday,  March 2 between 8AM and 3PM, volunteers helped build a Children’s Park at Fleet Peeples Park in 1Day! The Friends of Fleet Peeples Park partnered with City of Winter Park Parks and Recreation Department to build the Children's Playground. Having won a grant by being ranked as 1 of the top Fun Cities in America by Dr. Pepper and Snapple, the materials were provided by the Kaboom Organization. The construction of the park was finished using an all volunteer force of 150 local volunteers under the supervision of trained Kaboom Park experts. Breakfast and lunch were be provided to all volunteers.

When I got there round 1:30PM, construction was close to being complete. Some lengths of fencing were being finished and a couple of workers were on the Jungle Jim tightening bolts. The biggest thing happening was that a line of volunteers were moving a mountain of sand using wheel barrels. Erin Volz was there with her 8 month old son. She had been working in the morning, but with her son on her hip it was hard to maneuver a wheel barrel. This is the type of project that really makes me believe that anything is possible in any community if people work together. A huge palm frond crashed down next to me because of the wind. It was time to get in the car to warm up. Sketching doesn't burn as many calories as moving sand.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Wekiva Paintout


On March 5th, I went to the the 7th Annual Wekiva Paintout at Wekiva Landing (1014 Miami Springs Blvd. Longwood, Fl). The  paintout is a week long Plein Air painting event with artists from across the country participating. I'm not really a Plein Air painter, I was just there to draw. I walked the property searching for artists at work. I was tempted by a woman painting next to some bright green canoes but to stay in the shade, I would have to sketch her from a distance.

As artists finish their paintings, they hang them in a tent next to the docks. Larry Moore, one of my favorite local artists had one painting on display. One woman did small paintings of turtles on logs. She must go out in a canoe to get such intimate scenes.  Now that I think about it, turtles must make good models since they seldom move. I however was hunting for the elusive artist which also stays quit still when painting.

At the corner of the parking area where a stream runs into the Wekiva River, Charles Dickson was painting alongside Cynthia Edmonds. They have been painting in the Wekiva Paintout since its inception. They didn't mind my sitting down to watch them work. Charles was working on a tiny little canvas observing the tree and river. Cynthia's canvas was a bit larger with vibrant colors. They both lamented the fact that small paintings take just as much time as large paintings.

As the sun slipped towards the horizon, no-see-ums began coming out in small clouds and nipping at my arms. Darn bugs, this is one reason I'm seldom found painting outdoors in Florida. I lost my shade and was blinded by the white sketchbook page. Cynthia saw my situation and offered me her umbrella. We attached it to a green metal hand cart that Charles had used to move his paint supplies. It worked like a charm. It was fun working besides other artists, joking and telling stories. I should look into attending the paintout next year.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fringe Fundraiser at Hard Rock


The 22nd Annual International Fringe Festival had a huge fundraiser at Hard Rock Live in Universal Studios. Several days prior, I had difficulty getting into the parking garage using my Florida Drivers license. Predicting a similar hassle, I scanned the parking voucher and changed the date to Monday March 4th. I could use the counterfeit voucher if needed to park. Walking from the parking garage, I saw "Dem Guys", David Horgan, Ed Anthony, and Myron Blattner. "DEM Guys" sponsor a venue each year at Fringe and they always had a friendly competition to see who could see the most shows. Sadly, Myron died of natural causes last weekend at his home in Altamonte Springs. He was 77.

Seth Kubersky was shooting photos on his iPhone for the Orlando Weekly. The fundraiser was a night of Music, Comedy, Dance, and nonstop entertainment from some of Orlando's top talents. The evening was hosted by The Man of 10,000 Noises, Michael Winslow. Michael gained fame from his performances in the "Police Academy" movies and other blockbuster films such as "Spaceballs" and "Gremlins", and has gone on to entertain audiences across the globe for the last 25 years. A master of vocal gymnastics, Michael can imitate over 1000 sound effects using his voice alone.

Featuring Fringe favorites The Mud Flappers and local all-star band The Downgetters. With additional performances by Yow Dance, Skill Focus Burlesque, Emotions Dance, Circus Arts, ME Dance, Misa Flemenca, Tod Kimbrow and Dorothy Massey, Piranha the Musical, Laney Jones and Matt Tonner and The Downtowners. The Downtowners are a retirement home singing group and as they sang "I want to be Sedated" the song took on a whole new meaning.

The show went on for over three hours. Had I known I might have done another sketch. Towards the end all the performers were on stage singing the Beatles "Let it Be". The song went on forever. I shouted along, "Let it Be!" meaning "Let the song end already!" The evening raised about $7000 for the Fringe which will officially start on May 15th in Loch Haven Park and Ivanhoe Village.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

20th Annual Hearts of Gold

On Friday March 1st, The Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida proudly sponsored the 20th Annual Hearts of Gold concert which featured Southern Rock classic 38 Special at the Hard Rock Live in Universal Orlando.

All ticket sales and silent auction items benefited the Coalition for the Homeless. The elite All-Access VIP Reception in Hard Rock Live's Lennon Room included an exclusive meet n' greet with the band members of 38 Special, complimentary beverages and hors d'oeuvres. When I got to the White Lennon Room, the band members hadn't arrived yet so I sketched out on the balcony. As I was working, one of the volunteers for the event told me that she had bought a record album for the band members to sign. A security guard had confiscated the album from her saying that there were to be no autographs. She met the band members and one of them said he would have gladly signed her album. When I was waiting for the elevator downstairs, the volunteer was desperately trying to get her album back. I don't know if she ever retrieved it.

The CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless was on stage before the concert thanking the many corporate sponsors who helped make the event possible.  Top sponsors included, Bright House, Disney, Hilton Grand Vacations, Starwood Vacation Ownership, and Dellecker Wilson King McKenna Ruffier & SOS, now that is a mouth full.

The 38 Special concert was great with plenty of hard hitting rock and roll. I didn't recognize every song from the group, but obviously many hits had been on the radio. An older couple seated next to me were having a great time. The man was bobbing his head and rocking out. This obviously had been one of his favorite bands as a teen. A woman seated 5 seats away won the raffle. They kept calling her number but since she was in the rafters, they didn't notice her from the stage. Finally when the house light went up they saw her screaming and shouting with her section shouting as well to help her out.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Universal Parking Nazi

On March 1st, the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida hosted a fundraising concert at Hard Rock Live. Hard Rock is located at Universal Studios City Walk complex. After 6PM, the parking garage becomes free for Florida Residents. I left home later than usual to make sure I got to Universal after 6PM.

There was a long line of cars waiting to get past the parking admission booths. When I got up to the booth, the collections agent asked me for my Florida drivers license which I was happy to show him. Now my license isn't the prettiest thing in the world. It is dog eared at the corners and the renewal stickers that Department of Motor Vehicles keeps sending tended to slip a bit from being in my hot wallet too long. Anyway, I'm holding my license out the window and he barks at me that he needs a FLORIDA License. "It is a Florida license." I respond. He frowned and took the card from me, then handed it back. "I can't use that". He said. After some arguing, he did admit it was a Florida license, but he said "I can't scan that." "What? You didn't even try!" was my response. "It is valid till May of 2013, read the back." I got five bucks out of my wallet since there seemed to be no way to reason with this Parking Nazi. I held my bill out the window but he took so long with the car on the opposite side of the booth, that I changed my mind. "I'm leaving." I told him. He slapped a ticket on my windshield under the wiper and pointed me towards the exit. I turned on my wipers to send the ticket flying as I drove away.

After leaving Universal and cooling down, I decided to return to the parking garage but this time I would look for a female parking attendant. I figured a female attendant would be more reasonable than the Parking Nazi. It was quite a drive on side roads and a very crowded International Drive. When I drove up to the female attendant, she gasped when she saw the card, but she did let me into the garage. I probably wasted an hour of drawing time by arguing and driving in circles, but I was in. I stayed off the moving walkways and used the steps rather than the escalators, for the exercise and to warm up. Besides walking is often faster than the moving walkways.

There was a metal detector to get into Hard Rock Live. The security guard said, "You can't bring that chair inside." "Your kidding." I replied, "What am I supposed to do with it?" "You'll have to bring it back to your car." If you've been to Universal, then you know that the parking garage is a loooong walk. If I had to walk all the way back, I'd probably leave in a huff. This was the last straw. As I was debating what to do, a second guard said, "Let him in." I set off the metal detector then emptied all the art supplies in my pockets onto a table. Finally I was in.

Betsy Dye who had recently started working for the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida greeted me in the lobby. Her warmth and cheer melted away my frustrations. I went up to the White Lennon Room where people were able to meet the band members of 38 Special. The band members hadn't arrived yet, so I went out on the balcony and sketched there. It was a cold night, so I drew fast.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Saint Patrick's Day


Terry and I went to Ollie's Public House, on the corner of Edgewater and Par, on Saint Patrick's day. Terry had two free tickets for some reason. The parking lot was packed when we arrived. There were green shirts everywhere. Terry brought a beach chair and I had my artist's stool. We sat fairly close to the outdoor stage. We both ordered a Shepard's pie which was good and quite filling. Neither of us drank any beer, but there was plenty of Guinness all around.

The first band on stage was "Off Kilter". They performed Irish traditional songs like, Danny Boy and then went into rock and roll cover songs. We bumped into Kathryne Sullivan, Mike Underwood and their friends Joe Busdecker and his wife Leann Siefferman Busdecker. I spoke with Katheryn a bit but it was impossible to hear over the bagpipes. Women started dancing in front of the stage.

After Off Kilter, the Orlando Fire Department Bag Pipes and Drums Band gathered in front of the stage. There were maybe a dozen bag pipe players and just as many drum players. The crowd gathered around them. The loud shrill sound was quintessentially Irish. The crowd clapped to the beat as the firemen picked up the pace. They played "Amazing Grace" and then doubled the beat. The book light I was using to see my sketch died, so I decided the sketch was done.

It was a fun night. Some people staggered and fell while dancing. One woman had to be helped into the passenger seat of her car by a security guard. T-Shirts read, Kiss Me, Pinch me and I'll punch you. There was a long break after the Firemen so Terry and I headed home. Just as we drove off, the bag pipes started up again.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Soft Exposure


On February 27th, I went to Soft Exposure at Infusion Tea (1600 Edgewater Dr, Orlando, Florida).
Naomi Butterfield and Frankie Messina  hosted this monthly event that features the writing of local and visiting authors. Soft Exposure happens every 4th Wednesday. I ordered a delicious vanilla tea and a humus wrap and found a spot with a decent view of the podium. Terry arrives just before things got started, but she wasn't feeling well so she relaxed on a sofa at the back of the room. Author Karen Price joined me at my table.

Janna Benge was the featured author. She and her husband Geoff run a monthly Silver Fern Writing Workshop out of their winter Park home. The couple hails from New Zealand. They became accidental authors and accidental immigrants to the United States. Janna has ghost written about 100 books; she and Geoff co-wrote two historical biography series which has 61 title, and three million copies in about 15 languages. She is now working on a fictionalized memoir of a Victorian murderess. She read an excerpt from that book. Written in the first person, the woman agonized over her need to confess what she had done. The murderess was based on true events that Janna researched and then fictionalized.

After Janna read, the mic was open for any author to share their work. There is something very rewarding going out and hearing fiction and poetry from local authors. Soft Exposure is Orlando's kinder, gentler spoken word night. Much of that comes from Naomi's quiet inspiring words and Frankie's bear hug of artistic inclusiveness.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Emotions Dance Audition


On February 26th, Larissa Humiston, the Artistic Director of Emotions Dance, held an open audition for dancers at Turning Pointe Dance Studio (470 E Lake Brantley Dr. Longwood, FL).
Emotions Dance was seeking professional level dancers (age 18 and over) to audition for their 2013 season. the dance company requires strong technical dancers willing to take artistic risks.

The audition began with all the dancers at the ballet barre.  Emotions Dance cast participated in all the exercises along with the ten or so dancers who were auditioning. Several male dancers were auditioning as well. Larissa stood at the front of the room demonstrating the exercises she wanted everyone to do. The ballet barres were moved aside and then small groups of dancers did progressions across the floor with turns and jumps, a contemporary dance combination, and improvisational movement inspired by "Apologies" by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. One of the male dancers asked what the song was about. Larissa explained that the female singer was apologizing for a messy break up. The dancer wanted to know if he should be expressing the emotions of the female singer or the guy she was breaking up with. The hurt and fear is universal.

Dancers came prepared with a professional resume and head shot. There was a $10 audition fee to cover insurance and processing fees. One dancer had not renewed her contract which meant another dancer had to learn her routine in a mad rush before a performance a week away. Emotions Dance had three spots open for females, three spots open for males, and one apprentice (between ages 12-18) spot available. I was still working on my sketch as the cast and Larissa discussed the performances by the dancers that auditioned. The bar is set high and not every dancer has that expressive spark that is hard to define but is instantly recognized when the magic is there.

Upcoming Emotions Dance performances include...
April 6, 2013 - HATCH Series in NYC
May 7, 2013 - Relay for Life Event
May 15-28, 2013 - Orlando Fringe
June 1 & 8, 2013 - Element Earth

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Children of a Lesser God


The Garden Theatre announces Beth Marshall Presents' production of the powerful drama, Children of a Lesser God by Mark Medoff sponsored by Progress Energy, March 15-30, 2013, at the Garden Theatre (160 West Plant Street, Winter Garden). On Friday, March 22nd at 8pm, there will be a fully interpreted American Sign Language performance in partnership with the Center for Independent Living. Winner of the Tony Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award and the Drama Desk Award, Children of a Lesser God is the powerful drama by Mark Medoff.  The show is being directed by Brenna Nicely and Beth Marshall, sign language direction was by Joe Kramlinger. This is the first time Beth has directed a show at the Garden Theatre although this is the eighth show produced by her here.

I went to the Garden Theatre to sketch the dress rehearsal. The front door to the theatre was locked so I walked around the building clockwise to try and find an open door. I climbed two flights of a stairwell before realizing it wouldn't lead to the theater. The stage door was in the back and thankfully it was open. I stepped right into the actors green room. There was one door leading to the stage. The black curtains disoriented me. I stepped out and saw Will Hagaman who plays James Leeds, as he instructed Mike Deaven as Orin Dennis on how to speak. I realized that I was on stage and quickly stepped back behind the black curtain. I scooted along the wing to the front of the stage but I couldn't go down the steps into the theater without stepping on stage again. I waited till the scene being rehearsed was finished. Beth shouted out, "Come out of there Thomas."

As I found a seat, I saw the James Leeds on stage embracing Sarah Norman played by Eliza Steves. They signed to each other intimately. Beth warned me that a sign language interpreter would be standing right in front of where I sat. In the show, James is an instructor at an institute for the deaf. Sarah has never spoken. She refuses to try and do something if she can't do it well. She signs faster than an interpreter can speak. James falls in love with her and they get married.
 Sarah Norman is performed by Eliza Steven
Every married couple has their differences, communication is the anchor to any relationship but a common ground is hard to find between silence and sound. I found myself rooting for the couple hoping they could mend their differences. Their love story revolves around the politics within the deaf community about bridging the gap between the hearing and deaf worlds. The show packs an emotional one two punch that overwhelms to the point of tears. It glows with radiance of hope and abandon and then the depths of despair. As Sarah stood and signed without an interpreter, I felt the undeniable urge to understand. The set was minimal with no props. All the attention is spent on the spark between James and Sarah.

Besides myself there was only a row of acting students from a States Acting Competition. We all stood and applauded. This show leaves you thinking long after you leave the theatre. Will Hagaman did an amazing job as James. He not  only had to learn his lines, he had to learn sign language. Eliza Stevens did an astonishing job expressing her emotions without a word. More importantly the couple had a spark that ignited the emotional engine of the show.

Show times are Fridays at 8PM, Saturdays at 2PM and 8PM,  Sundays at 2PM and Thursday March 28th at 8PM. Tickets are $25 for adults and $21 for seniors and students. The show runs through March 30th.Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm, plus Thursday, March 28 at 8pm. Tickets are $25 for adults, $21 for seniors/students. For tickets, visit gardentheatre.org or call the Garden Theatre Box Office at 407-877-GRDN (4736).


Friday, March 15, 2013

Drip Comic Art Party


Mega Con is at the Orange County Convention Center this week and Drip is throwing a huge party every night of the week. On Wednesday March 13th, Drip (8747 International Dr. Suite 102, Behind Denny's and Senor Frogs) had a Comic Art Party. I decided to participate by doing life sized chalk drawings of anyone in a comic themed costume on the black walls of the bar. Through March 16th, Drip is performing special Comics and Sci-Fi Shows at 8PM and 11PM each night. Tickets are $35 for the show or $43 for the show and a white Drip T-shirt. You will want the shirt because you will get wet.

Artists were invited to show any work they might have that had a comic, sci-fi or Japanese Anime theme. All mediums were encouraged. The only sketches that I could find I had done at Mega Con a few years ago. I framed them and brought them along. When I arrived, attendance was pretty thin. I asked for some chalk and waited for my first model. The dancer who performs as red, Brigetta Frias, was my first model. We both stood on a table and I sketched her life sized on the black wall. When we hopped down to see what the sketch looked like I was surprised to see how large I drew her head. That was because we were so close as I sketched her. Next, blue, Meagan Nagy, posed and my skill at drawing so large improved. All the Drip dancers wore capes. Yellow, Jessie Sander, was running around all night just to get the cape to flap in her wake.

When I sketched Tracy Lulu Brown everything clicked into place. Tracy's goth fetish outfit with a plaid skirt and fishnet stockings seemed natural rather than a costume. It wasn't until I was sketching, that I noticed she had horns. I exaggerated forms and the chalk lines flowed with a gestural ease. I think the fact that she was an artist put my mind at rest. A fire alarm had to be incorporated. Tracy is now working for Drip making sure every performance flows without interruption. Every action is set to a musical beat. I met Tracy's husband AJ who had a black mask painted on his face and black dog ears.

Shane Malesky and his wife Heather were there showcasing his Chronic Damage ArtChris Tobar had a series of his gas mask paintings across the room from me. One artist that I didn't get a chance to meet was doing little four inch square paintings of cupcakes on canvas. A make shift screen was set up where people could play a Super Mario Brothers road race game. Balloon artist Bruce Carr  had eight balloon arms that sprouted from his back. His entire head was enclosed in a white balloon helmet. He posed for me and his arms snaked all over the wall. He spent well over an hour creating a balloon mask inspired by one of Shane's paintings. It was an impressive reproduction of a red face screaming. When Bruce took off his balloon helmet he broke his glasses and I believe he had to be driven home since he wouldn't be able to drive.

I met Lynann Barr who is a beauty and special effects makeup artist. She had worked at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights where she had to crank out hundreds of face makeups a night. This was her first time doing body painting but when the evening was over she realized it had been a walk in the park. It was a first for me as well to do life sized drawings, but it was a blast. Although attendance was light, I was busy all night adding giant figures to the wall. There wasn't an artist on hand to sketch my performance. Drip is bringing Sexy back to International Drive.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

La Femme Fondue


Christie and Evan Miga needed time off after the mad rush to bring Dog Powered Robot to Fringe last year. They had four months of extensive rehearsals and a whole cast of cardboard robots that were built. They were constantly managing people. After the show they decided to live in Paris for two months. Fisher Miga, the dog behind Dog Powered Robot went with them. Christie said that within four days they had settled into the Parisian lifestyle. Three days a week Evan freelanced for the design firm he was working for in Orlando. Though he was living in Paris, he worked Orlando hours, sharing his work via the Internet. That left the rest of the week open for the couple to explore Paris. They discovered quirky arts outlets that few tourists visit. Christie loved a tiny Museum of Magic that had rooms filled with mechanized tin toys. Right next to the Eiffel tower was a sumptuous garden that only Parisians frequent.

 When Christie Miga returned to Orlando she started a series of paintings inspired by the trip to Paris. Though abstract, the work is autobiographical as she explains with pure color how Paris inspired her. This series explodes with rich vibrant color. The blue is the exact color of the Mediterranean and the bright magenta reminds her of tight bright magenta pants that many women were wearing in Paris. Provence inspired her use of bright yellow and orange. She mixes her own water based paints and she has some idea how the paints will interact when they are poured on the canvas side by side. The word fondue is the feminine of the French verb fondre ('to melt'). The colors seem to melt an flow together on the canvas. The paintings are abstract yet they feel like violent storm clouds on a distant planet or the delicate vibrant colors of a butterfly wing. The black dripping motif is used often and it reminded me of a piano keyboard as I tried to sketch it. Ironically, earlier that day, I had been writing about color for a Book on Urban Sketching. Christie's bold use of fluid primary colors offered amazing insights about how colors interact. She worked to modern pop French music.

Many of the pieces have bold urban graphic elements that look like graffiti stencils. For instance one canvas has a bold image of the Eiffel Tower that then melts into vibrant dripping colors. Subtle blue lettering in French says, "This is not the Eiffel tower." A bright splotch of moon then drips as well. Once Christie starts one of these liquid abstracts, she has to finish it while the paint remains wet. Amazingly she finished her canvas in the same amount of time it took me to do the sketch.

La Femme Fondue is being shown at the Timucua White House, (2000 South Summerlin Avenue, Orlando FL), on March 22nd starting at 7:30PM. This reception is one night only. The artwork and prints will be for sale.The White House is a fantastic venue to see Christie's work since the spotlight literally make her canvases glow.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Harp & Celt

Kevin Hing informed me that musicians from Ireland were going to perform on February 23rd at Avalon Gallery. The concert was sold out, but the performers and local musicians were all going to the Harp and Celt, (25 South Magnolia Avenue), afterwards for a traditional Irish music session.

When I got to the bar, I didn't notice any musicians. I ordered a pint of Guinness at the bar and asked the bartender if he knew of any musicians coming in that night. He broke into a loud rendition of "Oh Danny Boy" in reply. Everyone at the bar had a good laugh.

I settled in at a table and waited. Within half an hour, musicians started arriving. They moved many tables together and soon the place was filled with music. Kathleen Cavanagh explained that the Irish musicians had come to Orlando to teach Tionol Irish Music Workshops that she had organized. She plays Irish bagpipes. She was particularly excited because her idol had agreed to come to Orlando to teach at the Geneva School. She tried to relate her excitement. Some people spend a lifetime trying to find the one thing that brings them happiness and a sense of accomplishment. She had just discovered Irish music in the last few years.  I recognized some local musicians like Vicki Gish on fiddle and Scott Vocca on guitar. Other musicians were from as far away as Maryland.

The Irish musicians were next door at the restaurant. I put the pencil down and just enjoyed the music. This music seems to resonate deep inside me, perhaps it is because my Grandfather on my mom's side came from Cork Ireland.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dish Mobbed

Restarants.com brought a “Dish Mobbed” Event and Dine Local Movement to Orlando Area. On February 20th, I went to Casey’s Sports Bar and Grill, (1335 Tuskawilla Rd. Winter Springs, FL), where the "dish mob" event was being held. The Orlando Dish Mobs event was part of a nationwide movement organized by Restaurant.com and local community members and organizations to inspire residents to dine out and boost business at local, independently-owned restaurants.

A small group of female bloggers was seated at a table with several dishes from the restaurant. A news anchor, Mike Holfeld, from Channel 6 News was interviewing participants. He conducted several interviews with representatives from Restaurant.com as well as bloggers. I didn't see the news that night to see the news story. The only item I tried was a coconut crusted shrimp. It was decent but it wouldn't inspire me to make the drive out to Tuskawilla a second time.

 Each year, Restaurant.com helps to fill nearly 5.5 million tables at independently owned restaurants nationwide. To further the company’s mission to support businesses at the local level, Restaurant.com is launching the second, Dine Local Dish Mobs campaign – an effort to further encourage diners to dine local at independently owned restaurants in their communities from February 20th through March 1st.

After the TV news crew left, the restaurant started filling up for the noon rush. Buzzing on several cup of Coke, I finished the drawing and made my way back home. Rather than a "Mob" this felt like a small coffee clutch, but I like the "Eat Local" mission statement. Ironically this family owned restaurant was right next to a McDonald's.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Spacebar Tournament Marvel vs. Capcom


On February 19th, I went to the Milk District's Spacebar,( 2428 E. Robinson Street, Orlando), to sketch an arcade game tournament. The grand prize would be a $25 bar tab. The event started at 10 p.m.I had never been to Spacebar before. The bar was super crowded when I entered. One wall had vintage arcade games like Ms. Pac Man and pinball machines. The Marvel and Capcom machines I believe were first person fighters although it was hard to see the screens from my vantage point.

Since there were no seats available with a good view, I sat on my artist stool next to the door. The proprietor asked me what I was up to. I explained about the blog since he might have been thinking I was some weird homeless guy who brings his own seat into bars.  I asked for a light fruity beer and he suggested a German beer called Wittekerke. It was good. I sipped it slow as I sketched.

It was hard to tell exactly when the tournament began since there were always people playing. Artist, Chris Tobar stopped by to say hello. He has work scattered all around town in a show he calls "The Adventures of my Dexterous Shadow" and he is having a scavenger hunt where art patrons have to take pictures of each piece to prove they saw it. The winner would get a free print.

The crowd had thinned a bit by the time the tournament began at 10p.m. In the end Paul Andrade won the grand prize. As I was packing up, the proprietor and his lovely bar maid stopped over to see the sketch. He hadn't expected to see color. When I asked how much I owed for the beer, he said it was on the house. Whoo hooo! We have a winner!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Taste of Jazz


Every Monday night starting around 8PM, there is a jazz jam at Taste Restaurant (717 West Smith Street).  I arrived straight from work. The drum set was just being set up, so I sketched the pieces as they fell into place. Several performers were UCF professors. Tracy Alexander performed on the drums, Greg Zabel on upright Bass, John Krasula on guitar and Joe Young on Trumpet. As the evening wore on more musicians entered the bar and they would step in on different riffs. I ordered tater tots and a Blue Moon. The dipping sauce was on the hot side so I needed the beer to negate the heat in my mouth.

I recognized some of the regular patrons from past sketching trips to Taste. The guy seated next to me asked a question I hear quite often, "Did you do that here?" Since the sketch is of the musicians we both just saw perform, it would seem quite obvious that I didn't do it out on the sidewalk or in my car. Anyway, the music was great. Each performer in turn launched into a long solo and when the moment was right the rest of the performers would join back in. I stepped out after the first set to rush back home.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

College Park Brunch Market


Mark Baratelli, Owner The Daily City, has taken over College Park Farmers Market and turned it into "College Park Sunday Brunch Market." The Market happens in the Infusion Tea parking lot (1600 Edgewater Drive, College Park FL). It happens every Sunday from 11am-3pm.I went to the inaugural opening to relax and sketch. Robert Thompson was playing guitar and singing in an outdoor tent. Mark greeted me and pointed out Orlando's very first fashion truck called Lollipops and Pistols.

Kristin X sat in a lawn chair beside her vintage fashion store on wheels. She is a stay at home mom mom, living her dream of being an artist and creative freak. She studied commercial illustration in college, many moons ago, but it seemed too structured for her. Her true love is designing invitations and stationary goods. Oh and thrifting, lets not forget thrifting. Several women got lost in the trucks vintage clothing for quite some time. Kristin's son took an interest in my sketch and at one point, Kristen's husband took her spot in the lawn chair. He joked that I shouldn't put his beard on his wife.

When I finished my sketch, I went to the Local Roots tent and ordered some shrimp and grits along with a strawberry Mimosa. It was a delicious treat made from all local ingredients.  Mark had his 60's themed plastic chairs set up around a patch of fake lawn. Some Kerouac House authors were having a heated discussion presumably about literature. Mark was busy sending out tweets on his cell phone. If you are looking for a unique place to have brunch on a Sunday then stop by the Brunch Market.

Friday, March 8, 2013

DRIP Valentines


After returning from Mount Dora, Terry brought her out of town friends to International Drive to experience DRIP Dance. DRIP had a special Valentines show that featured a full color themed diner along with the full floor show. Tickets cost more for this Valentines show but Jessica Mariko, the company founder, pulled out all the stops to make it a memorable show. Her boyfriend David Traver was back from being on tour. He composed all the hard hitting rock and roll for the show. We all had to sign wavers when we went in acknowledging that we knew we might get paint drenched. Yellow, Jessie Sander offered each of us a white DRIP T-shirt. I opted for the DRIP logo up on my shoulder. A brightly colored oxygen bar complimented the beer and wine bar.

As the room got crowded, and the music pulsed, Miranda Snow got on the bar holding a mango.  She did a sensuous dance with the fruit. She ripped it open and devoured it as the juices ran down her cheeks and on to her tank top. I never realized there was so much juice in a mango. When she twirled, the juice splashed onto the patrons. Dinner was served in finger food portions. My favorite item was the coconut crusted skewered shrimp. Instead of a colored beer, I went with white wine. There was a table with dozens of Valentines cards along with necklaces that featured a heart shaped bottle cap. Miranda began painting herself with red paint. My shirt had gone unscathed most of the night until she danced behind me and ran her blood red hands down my back.

Blue, the male dancer, Marcus Alexander Cartier, was performing for the last time on this evening. In the show, Blue and Yellow fall in love. Together, the two dancers create green. However, another woman, Red, Brigette Frias, catches Blues attention and they have a sordid purple affair. In future shows, Blue is being performed by a female dancer named Meagan Nagy. Meagan explained that audiences welcome the idea that two women dancers fall in love. If anything, it makes the scenes hotter.

After the show, John Frank performed on guitar. I quickly worked him into my sketch and then rejoined our crew. Everyone was paint covered and hot wired. what a night! I ended up leaving my polo shirt behind. Lovers will often forget an article of clothing when the want to return for more. It was the wettest, hottest, sexiest Valentines ever.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Lakeside Inn


Once a year, Elaine Pasekoff, Bob Newlin and Jill Ziegler make a pilgrimage to Central Florida to attend the Renningers Antique Market in Mount Dora. The last several years Terry has joined them in their all day shopping fest. She has started collecting antique women's compants encrusted in jewels. Last year she also came home with a huge railroad crossing sign. Bob who comes from Washington D.C. collects antique silver. Elayne comes from Miami and usually walks away with some Teddy Roosevelt memorabilia. Jill, also from D.C., has joined in the last several outings collecting fine china. I didn't spend the day shopping, but I agreed to meet the exhausted shoppers at the Lakeside Inn where they were staying the night so they could continue shopping at the Renningers flea market the next day.

I got to the Inn a little early and decided to sketch the building. A women stopped to admire the sketch. She told me that a friend of hers was an artist. Teachers bought the girls work. In time however, the art student sold her soul to the devil and became a graphic designer. The crew parallel parked across the street from me.  They unloaded their haul for the day and made their way to the hotel's front porch for "Show and Tell." There were several people smoking cigars, so we all moved to a smaller porch on one of the hotel's smaller buildings.

Elaine advised me to come up with "Best Of" categories for the best buys of the day. Last year Elaine won my vote by getting four French diorama scenes that were multilayered, adding depth to the scenes.This year Terry won the Sci-Fi Award for her purchase of an unused Star Trek board game. Elaine won the Best Teddy Award for a bust of the president. The Steal of the Day Award went to Jill. Bob's knockers won my pick for the Best Overall Award. The mini working door knockers were on a tie clip.

We all watched the sun set over Lake Dora and then went out to dinner. We all stayed at the Inn, which is the longest standing working Inn in Florida. The next day as the troops rallied to shop again, I drove back to Orlando.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mad Tea Party


On February 8th, Kathryn Sullivan celebrated a very happy not-so-un-birthday at her Winter Park home with family and friends.  I was one of the first to arrive at the Alice in Wonderland  themed party. Kathryn and her boyfriend Mike Underwood know how to throw a party.  Kathryn was in a fabulous Victorian red dress with black lace and Mike was dressed as the mad hatter.A long table was set up for guests.

At the head of the table was a large flat screen TV with a digital camera above it. Mike explained that this was a  PhotoMingle that he had invented from scratch in his garage. The TV interface was just like the touch commands on an iPhone. Images on the screen could me moved, rotated and sized with the swipe of a finger. It was also possible to draw on the photos with your fingers. Mike is marketing this device for weddings, parties and all social gatherings. The uniqueness of the interface makes it an instant hit with guests. This device is pure genius and Mike is bound to make a fortune if he can increase his market before others create cheap knock offs based on his idea. As guests arrived they would pose before the TV for a fun photo session. This thing should make photo booths obsolete.

William Mabery trumped every one's costumes when he arrived as Alice. Derick Taylor took a seat next to Alice with his Top hat and a bright red ascot. LeAnn Siefferman Busdeker wore a pillow case adorned with black spades. It was an ingenious and quick way to become a playing card. Her husband John's costume had me stumped for a while. He hopped into the room in a sleeping bag. I later learned he was a caterpillar.

Playing cards were placed on the table to play, Kings, a drinking game. I had never played a drinking game before in my life, but since I was sipping coke, I didn't mind playing as I sketched. One card involved everyone at the table raising three fingers. The person who drew the card had to mention something that they never did before. If you did that thing then you could fold a finger down. Once someone folded all three fingers down then the next person picked a card. I never fully understood the rules but it was a fun way to get to know people.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Speakeasy: The Crush Edition


Tod Caviness hosts the Speakeasy every second Tuesday of the month at Will's Pub (1042 N. Mills Avenue, Orlando, Florida). The theme for February was: The Secret Crush.Tod is engaged to be married to Yow dancer, Christin Marie. When I arrived, Tod and Christin were at the bar. Christin told me a bit about Yow Dances upcoming Fringe show. Apparently this year there will be magic as well as dance. I'm curious to see what that involves.

I decided to sketch Michael Pierre as he read on the stage. He look good in a black jacket and black shirt, which separated him from the rest of the authors in jeans and T shirts. His girlfriend, Amanda Millar got on stage right after him. She reminded me before the show that I had sketched her as she was being converted into a sexy zombie nurse. She read about a crush she had on a collage professor. She outlined the intricate planning that went into her always being at the same place at the same time as the professor. All her plans paid off when the professor gave her his card.

The funniest reading came from "Reverend" Trevor Frasier warned Todd and Christin about the perils of getting married. "Let me outline the good points should you decide to have children..." He stood silent for the longest time until everyone in the room was laughing. He obviously couldn't think of any good points. He warned that they never again could look at someone of the opposite sex and think, "Damn they look hot!" He also warned that marriage would be the end to any hot sex they might be having now. He had a slide show to go along with his presentation but unfortunately I couldn't see the screen.

Curtis Meyer read a lust filled poem about a sexy pop star. He just wanted her to write songs about him. It seemed only fair since he had written a sweltering poem about her. I slipped out after my sketch was done. This evening was certainly a fine warm up for Valentines day. I had to take a shower when I got home to get the smell of second hand cigarette smoke off of my skin. The sketch itself is like a scratch and sniff reminder of the evening.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Brain That Wouldn't Die


On January 19th, I went to the second installment of Trash Cinema 101 at The Venue (511 Virginia Drive, Orlando, Florida). Trash Cinema 101 is a live, interactive experience, with bad films, good friends and ZERO class! Each month, Logan Donahoo guides you through his own cinematic wasteland, and brings you out the other side with drinking games and trivia - all wrapped in a campy, lewd, irreverent shell! The January film was "The Brain That Wouldn't Die!" In the lobby of the Venue, one woman came in with a basting pan around her neck.

The film was laugh out loud funny. That wasn't the directors intent but with Logan pointing out all the intricate flaws, the evening became hilarious. A Doctor and his wife go for a car ride. There is a crash and the one thing the doctor recovers from the wreck is his wife's head.  In his basement lab, he keeps his wife's head alive in a basting pan with tubes of goo snaking all over the place. He spends the rest of his time searching for the perfect new body for his wife. Where does he go? To a burlesque show of course. There is a classic cat fight between two dancers where the camera literally zooms in on a picture of a cat and a cats meows on the sound track. The fact that there were Skill focus Burlesque dancers in the audience made the scene even more hilarious. At one point when a doctor gave up on a patient on the operating table, Ruby Darling shouted out, "That's not how it works on House!"

The wife's head in the basting pan kept muttering "Let me die." Everyone had to sip their drink every time she muttered that phrase. Trust me, everyone had a good buzz thanks to that undead brain. Besides keeping his wife's head alive, the good doctor also had a deformed Frankenstein monster in the closet. The monster was never seen, but the wife's head insisted that together they had to stop the doctor from killing in the name of science and sex. You will have to see for yourself how it ends, but even without a body, the wife was a cunning schemer. Most women would die to get a better physique.

February's screening was "Plan 9 From Outer Space", the next screening is March 16th at the Venue. Tickets are $10 and there is plenty of free parking and an open bar.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Dragon Parade: Lunar New Year Festival





On February 10th, I went to the Mills 50 District to sketch the Dragon Parade Lunar New Year Festival. The Lunar New Year is the most important festival celebrated in Asia.  In countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States, although Chinese New Year is not an official holiday, many Asian organizations hold large celebrations and parades to share the culture. I parked on a suburban street behind Sam Flax and walked towards the sound of firecrackers exploding. A woman gardening in her front yard looked down the street to see what the ruckus was about.

In a parking lot behind a Chinese restaurant a crowd was gathered to participate in the parade. There were martial arts groups, Taiko Dojo Dancers, girls Demonstrating Chinese YoYos and a long dragon boat.  The second I sat down to start sketching, the parade started moving onto the street. I panicked sketching as fast as I could. I was still sketching long after the last parade participants had left. The dragon itself was animated by a crew of puppeteers who each held a stick that was attached to a section of the dragon. As they waved the sticks left and right, the dragon slithered in a sinuous dance down the street.

2013 is the Year of the Snake. The Snake, also called the Junior Dragon,  is the sixth sign of the Chinese Zodiac, which consists of 12 Animal Signs.  The Snake is the enigmatic,  intuitive,
introspective, and refined.  Ancient Chinese wisdom says a Snake in the house is a good omen because it means that your family will not starve.  People born in the Year of the Snake are keen and cunning, quite intelligent and wise.  They are great mediators and good at doing business.  Therefore, you should have good luck if you were born in the Year of the Snake. When I finished my sketch I went to Sam Flax to get some new brushes. I met former Disney background painter Xinlin Fan. He still lives in Orlando and he teaches painting at Guangzhou University in China part of the year. His English is rusty and broken but it was wonderful to see him.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Artists Process


Each month Urban Rethink (625 E Central BlvdOrlando, FL), invites artists to show their work, and discuss their process. A computer was set up s that the first artist, Bob Snead, could share his work with us from New Orleans via a Google + video chat. The computer screen was projected on a screen so everyone in the room could see. The problem was that no one knew how to get the Google chat to work. Pat Greene started asking everyone who entered the event if they knew how to work the program. Finally someone did mess with the settings and Bob's face filled the screen. Bob does representational that is autobiographical and often funny. For instance one self portrait had, "My father gave my mother syphilis." written on it. Bob couldn't see all of us as he showed his work and if we weren't laughing, he couldn't be sure we were still there.

Some of Bob's art is performance oriented. He once staged a "Pro Wall mart" demonstration. With Clark Allen, he set up a toilet paper roll assembly line in which everything was made from cardboard. A cardboard pickup truck was displayed in a gallery. He later had to abandon the truck leaving in in a public space. A week later it was mangled beyond recognition.

 The second artist was Kevin Paul Giordano,  who is a writer, journalist, musician, photographer, and filmmaker. He began his career as a writer in New York City, publishing in the New York Times, New York Post, New York Sun, Salon.com, among others. He also worked as an editor at such magazines as Vanity Fair, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, Vibe, Spin, among others. His musical-play “It Must Be Love” appeared on Off-Off Broadway in 2002. He has received grants from Glenville State College, West Virginia for research on a book on the American Rust Belt. The grant offered him a car and a camera, so he set out to document an abandoned part of US history.

He screened a half hour documentary that explained the history of Rust Belt cities like Paterson, New Jersey. My father worked in Paterson, New Jersey his whole career, so I was fascinated to learn the city's unique history. The city was founded by Alexander Hamilton, and his Society of Useful Manufacturers, to be a manufacturing mecca. Steam locomotives were built here as the nation pushed west. Then the city turned to silk weaving using the power generated by water from the Paterson falls. An intricate system of canals moved water to all of the manufacturing plants. In the 1960's Rayon eliminated the need for silk. Much of this countries deindustrialization happened in the 1970s. Today all those plants sit empty and abandoned. More than 25% of the people in such abandoned cities are below the poverty line. The story is much the same for each Rust Belt city Kevin photographed.

There is a beauty in the way the rusting decay is being taken over by nature. Railroad lines lead nowhere with weeds and grass disguising the rails. Pealing paint creates intricate patterns and some tools remain where they were last used decades ago. Today we live in a computer society that fosters the free exchange of ideas. This free exchange doesn't always make people money. By looking back, Kevin helps us look forward so we all can change and adapt.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Patriot Garden


I went to the home of Jennifer and Jason Helvenston in College Park on a small dead end road that stops at I-4. Walking through the suburban neighborhood, I saw many blue yard signs that promote "Patriot Gardens". I was at City Hall the day before at a demonstration where people demanded the right to keep their vegetable gardens. The Helvenston's grow dozens of vegetables organically in their front yard in Orlando. But in November, the city—which aspires to be the “Greenest City in America”, notified them that their harmless garden violates city code, and they have to tear it up and replace it with grass or face fines of $500 a day.

I looked up their home with a Google map street view and the photos showed a barren yard before the lush garden was planted. The garden is now bursting with an abundance of vegetables and herbs. Jennifer backed her car out of the driveway as I was sketching. She recognized me from the protest at City Hall and she explained that many of the citizens that went to the City Counsel Meeting got up and spoke eloquently for the right to grow food. She felt the meeting went well but the battle wasn't yet won. City government is a slow moving beast upholding decades old landscaping codes drafted before homeowners recognized the advantages of using native plants, creating natural habitats for butterflies and birds and sustainable organic gardens that put food on the table.

Sketching, I was surprised by the deep trenches between rows of vegetables. I assumed this was extreme raised bed gardening. Jason came out and explained that the soil had developed plant parasitic nematodes, or round worms. They had dug the ditches extra deep to try and eliminate this garden pest. Next week the garden will be completely overturned and replanted, He plans to plant the rows in rainbow arcs radiating away from the home so that the rows will no longer be noticed from the street.

All the Helvenston's want to do is use their property peacefully to grow their own food. Their front yard garden has become a battleground in a national debate.  Planting the garden changed the couples life because they now interact regularly with their neighbors. They spend most of their time in the garden stopping to talk to all the people coming by, which they love.  Who stops to talk to someone mowing a lawn? Having sketched the lush garden, I can say it is far more interesting than a lawn of grass. Americans spend an estimated $30 billion annually on lawn care with huge amounts of water and fertilizer wasted. If you have a sunny spot on your front lawn, consider planting your own Patriot Garden. Plant a seed, change the law.