Its hard to say when winter ends and "Spring" begins in Florida. I kept hearing people tell me that "winter" was over and that the flora and fauna were acting very "Spring-like".
Compared to "ice out" and 10 feet of snow melting in Maine it all seemed pretty subtle to me. The only sure sign that it is spring in Florida is when Spring Training starts and the "snowbirds" begin to go home.
The Spring Shows
This year I did quite a few craft shows in the Sarasota area (Siesta Key, Coquina, and Lido Beach), a few more in the Villages (Sumter and Brownwood), St. Pete Beach and Dunedin. The shows were good and not a single "rainout" in 3 months!
One of my favorite shows turned out to be in Brooksville, Florida. It was a well established fine art & craft show north of Tampa attended mostly by local folk. It had an "old Florida" feel to it. I felt fortunate to be there and to my surprise I won an Honorable Mention Award in the Crafts category. There's something about winning an award for your work that makes the ride home all the more enjoyable.
New Paintings Loon
I wasn't expecting to sell many of my new loon items in the south but it turns out that most of the folks at the craft shows in Florida this time of year are the from the mid-west...states like Minnesota and Michigan where loons are common. Wine and Grapes painting
Most of the items I sell at craft shows use my original watercolor paintings. The trivets, placemats and coasters are all reproductions of my original artwork or photographs on wood. But when I talk to people at shows some are surprised that most of the items actually start with an original painting and they want to know more about how it is done. So here's a brief example of some of the steps I followed in a wine motif painting I did in Florida. (The printing of the final painting on to the wood trivets, etc. is a separate process).
I used a sunny patio to stage a still life using materials I had at hand or could purchase locally..... wine, glasses, a marble table, begonia plant, etc. After I set up a still life to get a better idea of the composition I wanted I worked on the color pallet, using blossoms from the begonia plant and fresh grapes to see their true colors. And I found a big ceramic pot with green mold on it.... just the colors I was looking for. After doing a sketch using photos of the still life I "blocked" off the areas that would be the whitest with art masking fluid. With watercolor painting you can't go back and add white over a darker color. These lighter areas are the last to be worked on with the whitest areas having little or no paint at all.
Here's a few photos of some of the steps in the process:
Exploring the West Coast of Florida
The Pinellas Bike Trail runs from St. Petersburg up to Tarpon Springs on the west coast of Florida and I tried to get out there as much as possible when I was not painting or doing shows. I had some great rides with family and with old and new friends. Exploring the beaches and trails in the Tampa Bay area, kayaking the inland waterways of Homasassa, finding new subjects to paint (like the baby great horned owl at Honeymoon Island) kept me busy and entertained. I also had a chance to get out to LA to see my son, catch a Dodgers game, bike on the beach trail, check out a few art museums and spend a very happy birthday with family and friends. Can't wait to go back!
The trip back to Maine
I packed up the Jeep the last week in April and headed back to Maine but I still had one more show on the way home....The Great American Pie Festival...in Celebration, FL, near Disney World. I was told to expect about 50,000 people coming to taste the biggest selection of pies on the planet! And of course to buy stuff from a few "select vendors" that sell food related items....like PIE TRIVETS! How could you go wrong with those odds? So I printed up a lot of my cherry, pumpkin, apple and lemon tart trivets and set out for Celebration, FL. The weather was great. The people were nice. But in the end I don't think I'll have to print up any more pie trivets for the shows this fall! I've got a few left on hand!
I finally made it back to my cabin and studio in Rangeley during the first week of May. There was still a little snow in the shady spots down by the lake but the tulips were up! I got the garden tilled, the grass mowed and tested out a kayak that I might get. And in a few days I will be headed to Meredith, NH for Memorial Day Weekend. It will be the first show of the summer! Already! Check out the rest of the Shows
coming up this summer.
Its been over a month now since leaving winter behind in New England. The Florida shows in The Villages, Venice, Punta Gorda, St. Pete Beach, and Sarasota have been good and are now in the books. Getting ready now for Siesta Key this weekend.
Hanging out in the Clearwater area has been great.... the Pineallis Bike Trail, the farmer's markets, and the natural foods stores with free cooking classes (e.g. Nature's Patch) are all fantastic. Up the trail in Dunedin is the spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays! Just got tickets for some Red Sox games! Can't wait.
Check out the schedule for the rest of the Florida shows
! I've got some new items and hope to see you if you are down this way.
FYI, the cockatoo, Sydney, flew into my booth at the St. Pete Beach show. He was a real crowd pleaser!
I've never really liked the term "Snowbird" but when I left my camp and studio in Rangleley, ME yesterday for Florida thats pretty much what I felt like. I had just fed the chickadees and the nuthatches, turned off the water and the power in the camp and shoveled out. I had a wonderful holiday season in Rangeley with family and friends.... but after 4 feet of snow I was ready to head south.
First stop...MA. I only got to Andover, MA yesterday... greeted warmly by friends...and by another foot of snow!
But I got out this morning, inching south listening to Pete Townshend's "Who I AM"... hoping to get to PA before dark. I made it OK and now it looks like it will be clear flying south on the Atlantic Flyway.
FYI, I've just finished up some new paintings to introduce in Florida!
Here's a few of the new designs and the Florida Show Schedule:
If you are on the west coast of Florida this winter check out these shows. Hope to see you there:
2013 Winter & Spring Shows
1/5-1/6 12th Annual The Villages Craft Festival (Spanish Springs Town Square)
1/12-1/13 6th Annual Downtown Venice Craft Festival (Venice, FL)
1/19-1/20 16th Annual Punta Gorda Sullivan Street Craft Festival (Punta Gorda, FL)
1/26-1/27 19th Annual St. Pete Beach Corey Area Craft Festival (St. Pete Beach, FL)
2/3-2/4 19th Annual WinterFest at the Mansion (Sarasota, FL)
2/9-2/10 19th Annual Siesta Key Craft Festival (Sarasota, FL)
2/16-2/17 21st Annual Downtown Dunedin Craft Festival (Dunedin, FL)
2/23-2/24 4th Annual The Villages Craft Festival (Lake Sumter)
3/2-3/3 17th Annual Coquina Tides Arts & Crafts Show (Bradenton Beach, FL)
3/16-3/17 Lido Beach Springfest Arts & Crafts Show (Sarasota, FL)
3/23-3/24 11th Annual Downtown Sarasota Art & Craft Festival (Sarasota, FL)
3/30-3/31 17th Annual The Villages Craft Festival (Brownwood Paddock Square)
4/6-4/7 10th Annual St. Pete Beach Corey Area Craft Festival (St. Pete Beach, FL)
4/13-4/14 35th Annual Siesta Fiesta (Sarasota, FL)
The psychologist Abraham Maslow used to write about "Peak Experiences" (http://www.timlebon.com/PeakExperiences.html
). There is no better way to increase the probability of having a peak experience than by taking a vigorous hike up a mountain on a sunny fall day! I had a chance to hike up Saddleback in Rangeley one morning this week and I can report that in the western mountains of Maine the colors this year are spectacular. It was definitely a peak experience!
Last fall I did some paintings of river rocks. On one of the paintings I laid some real leaves on the painting and then took a photo of the composite. I really liked the result and I have since used the image on my trivets, placemats and coasters.
So today I went back and took a look at some of my other fall paintings. Here's a few examples of a watercolor painting of a bed of leaves ....photographed with one or more "real" leaves laying on top of the painting. Finding the real leaves sort of reminds me of the "Where's Waldo" books! Just click on the images below for a closer view.
If you have a chance to take a "leaf peeking" drive up to the White Mountains this Columbus Day weekend please stop by the Castleberry Fall Craft Fair in Lincoln, NH! Hope to see you there! (http://www.castleberryfairs.com/index.php
As summers go, this has been a good one. I've finally moved into my camp in Rangeley and am starting to feel settled in. My goal was to create a home and a painting studio with plenty of light and some extra storage space that would make the comings and goings to the art & craft shows a little easier. Its starting to come together and it feels good!
The Summer Shows
Its been crazy trying to get the house and studio finished and do summer shows all over New England. Everything is just a lot further away when you start out this far up in Maine! And one of my biggest concerns has been whether I will hit a moose on the drive back to Rangeley!
Common Ground Fair, Unity Maine
The Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine was certainly one of the highlights of the summer shows. There is so much to learn about living a more organic and natural lifestyle and the Common Ground Fair helps to keep you informed and up to date. The show was also a feast for the eyes and the spirit and made me feel right at home. I'm hoping to go back again next summer....and bring more Sunflower Trivets!
I finally got the garden in, sang in the community chorus, had a chance to do a little reading by the lake, do some fishing, play golf, photograph a moose across the street from the camp and spend some good quality time with family and friends.
All in all its been a good summer.
Its time now to take the plants off the wood stove, stoke the fire and get to work! And now that the studio is ready I hope to get back to a growing list of paintings for the winter market in Florida and the spring in Maine. I plan to be working on coconut palms, herons, tropical fish, & loons. Can't wait to get started. Dj
At the end of my last post recapping the winter in Florida I mentioned I was planning a move to Maine. Summers in Maine and winters in Florida seemed like a nice idea. So last Friday, during a snow squall, I moved up to my "camp" in Rangeley Plantation, Maine. Fyi, up here they call most houses "camps".... no matter what the size or style.
My camp is a re-modeled log cabin... once part of a group of fishing and hunting camps. There will eventually be enough room here for a painting studio and the business once I shuffle things around a bit and move a few things... like fishing gear... out to an old A-frame storage building on the property.
But as I was moving the fly fishing gear out of the camp I hooked my Nike's with a lure...barb and all...tripped and got the poles stuck in the door! Fortunately no one was around to witness the Maine rookie. But I laughed out loud anyway and wondered if I was really ready for this! At least I better get some real fishing boots if I'm going to be living up here. For now though I need to keep unpacking and get my first DJD order out the door.
More later from "camp".
Sitting in my studio today in Andover, MA I heard a single seagull, perched on a tower at the fire station across the street. He kept reminding me that I hadn't yet posted any sort of re-cap of my winter adventure in Florida. I did a few postings during the trip but there always seems to be that need for closure at the end of each little adventure.... especially when other pressing things are lurking... like taxes, bills, and cleaning up the studio.
So here's a few words and a few photos about what turned out to be a nice little business trip ...certainly a much more pleasant trip than the ones I used to take when working "for the man" back in my "suit and tie" days. First off, and although no one could possibly care about this but me, my old jeep serviced me very well ....carrying a boat load of trivets to the Florida Keys and back. I left in January with a hopeful "Smiley Face" of my Florida orange trivet on the dash... and returned safely to MA to a crazy combination of snow flurries and 80 degree temperatures.
The craft shows were good. Most were produced by American Craft Endeavors (www.artfestival.com) and for any craftsman looking to test out the winter craft market in Florida they are the best. They are professionals who get the people out. I was lucky I found them and took my chances with them. I did most of their shows on the west coast....Venice, Sarasota, Bradenton, Siesta Key, St. Pete Beach, Dunedin....but also enjoyed the trip through the Everglades to their east coast show in Delray Beach. 5:30 AM setups do come early but they aren't that bad once you get used to it. And to setting up in the dark. Word to the wise: bring a flashlight.
But as with any business, not every day is perfect. Days get rained out and on some sunny days folks might just rather walk the dog and eat popcorn than buy a trivet! Really don't understand that. "I drive 2,000 miles to sell you a trivet that has my original painting on it and you would rather eat popcorn"? Alrighty then...maybe next year.
Clearwater: Home Base
I thought that I would spend a lot more time painting than I did. But between the pool and the long walks to the beach over the bridge I found there was little time left in the day before the evening news. Some of my beach photos, like the sand dollars and the starfish, however, did find their way on to trivets and sold really well to the snowbirds from Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, and Illinois.
Next winter I'll have to paint some fish and palm trees. People kept asking for fish and palm trees. I took a lot of pictures of palm trees but I kept going for the unusual perspective and people just wanted the iconic palm tree. Maybe next year I'll be more disciplined.... but I doubt it.
Leaning palm tree
Very tall palm tree
Crafts & craftsmen
The variety of crafts and craftsmen on the Florida "circuit"was quite amazing. I met a lot of really talented and nice folks on this trip. Like myself, most were also "from away" so the pot-luck dinners after the shows were a welcomed hospice, thanks to ACE. There were also more "older" people hanging around than I had expected. Many were still trying to figure out what they wanted to be when they grow up but many were casually doing the retirement thing... out of their campers and trailers. Some needed the occasional nap behind the booth!
I grew up in Florida in the 1950's & early '60's. Most of central Florida during that time (i.e. before Disney World) was undeveloped. Citrus trees and cows reigned. But one of the fastest growing developments in central Florida in recent years has been...The Villages....a playground for over 80,000 retired folks. Its a "Golf Cart" community; a Disneyland for Geezers. I did two shows in The Villages and although it felt a little like a movie set, I actually grew to like the old people, especially when they came out in droves to buy my trivets. But I still wonder how many trivets you really need when you are in your 80's. A lot I guess if you like to stock up on X-mas gifts.
There were many interesting sights and sounds from the "Village People" but one of the ones I found most charming was of two guys passing the time waiting for their "I'll just be a minute", shopping wives.
"Hey Harry, there's no need to go into the mall now if we can just chat right here in our carts...right"?
FYI, I walked by a cart shop while I was in The Villages and saw that some of these little carts can run up to $20,000. As a craftsman selling trivets this is way out of my league. But its all still pretty interesting.
A few diversions
So when I wasn't doing a craft show, painting, or going to the beach I had a chance to catch a little spring training, spend time with my lovely sister and brother-in-law, find one of the old houses I grew up in, look for a house and studio (for later, maybe?), go fishing, birdwatching, take long walks in the Keys, hang out with family, check out Florida agriculture and the weird "squared off" orange trees, and look for the perfect shell.
The Chambered Nautilus
On my way back I stopped at my sister and brother-in-law's home in Georgia for a few days to re-group before driving back to MA. So it was both surprising and ironic that after looking for the perfect shell in places like Honeymoon Island, off Dunedin, FL, I found the perfect shell in a bathroom in Georgia. It was a chambered nautilus, hanging there in a skylight.
The chambered nautilus has been revered for centuries... from sailors to scientists. It has been written about by poets and painted by great American artists. I didn't know this. How could I not have known this?
I have so much yet to learn I guess.
So... when I read Oliver Wendell Holmes poem, "The Chambered Nautilus", it all started to make a little more sense to me that my trip was, in part, about moving on.
P.S. When I got home to my studio apartment everything was in shambles after the pipes had blown. I ate out at restaurants for a few days. But I then decided to move on up to my cabin in Maine....to build a new chamber there...to a bigger and better one than before.
Like the chambered nautilus, there's no turning back now.
I can't wait to get started!
The Chambered Nautilus
BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES SR.
This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign, Sails the unshadowed main,— The venturous bark that flings On the sweet summer wind its purpled wingsIn gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings, And coral reefs lie bare,Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.
Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl; Wrecked is the ship of pearl! And every chambered cell,Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell, Before thee lies revealed,—Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!
Year after year beheld the silent toil That spread his lustrous coil; Still, as the spiral grew,He left the past year’s dwelling for the new,Stole with soft step its shining archway through, Built up its idle door,Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.
Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee, Child of the wandering sea, Cast from her lap, forlorn! From thy dead lips a clearer note is bornThan ever Triton blew from wreathèd horn! While on mine ear it rings,Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:--
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last, Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast, Till thou at length art free, Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!
"Every Friday, the Little Bliss List provides a chance for us to celebrate the little things that brought us hope and happiness this week. I do believe when we focus on the sweet stuff of life, the sweet stuff multiplies. And by sharing those small gifts in our lives, we help others notice the gifts in theirs.
From Liv Lane’s blog at http://blog.livlane.com/2012/03/the-little-bliss-list-rock-on/
I like to follow Liv Lane's Friday Bliss blog... so when I saw her "Life Rocks" posting today, I wanted to share an experience about one of my recent paintings and a blissful little experience I had this week out in the Florida Keys!
Last summer a fellow craftsman gave me a rock....the type that he and his wife use in their jewelry craft. Like the ones in Liv's photo. It was a small river rock with white lines running through it. I really liked it and used it as the basis for a watercolor painting. I wrote about this in a blog post last fall. It has since become one of my favorite paintings.
So when I took a little break from the craft shows this week and drove down to Marathon, Florida to hang out for a few days with an old college buddy I brought him one of my "Rock and Leaf" trivets as a house warming gift. Actually it was a boat-warming gift. Because my friend lives on a houseboat.
We were in a folk singing group in the '60's, went through a hippie and Captain America phase and rode motorcycles together in Europe in the '70's. We definitely had some "bliss" back in those days too. But catching mackerel and blue fish 4 miles out in the gulf this week made us feel like real rock stars once again! Now thats some really "sweet stuff". Life Rocks!
The expression "Peace Out" is often used to say goodnight. So when I left the Osprey Trail on Honeymoon Island in Dunedin, FL tonight and saw a peace sign that someone had left on the ground at the end of the trail I was reminded of this. It was a fitting sign at the end of a walk through one of Florida's great State Parks.
I had never been to the Honeymoon Island State Park before but had heard that it was a great place to photograph birds and collect shells. So I went up there today and saw Osprey, Armadillos, two Bald Eagle chicks and numerous shorebirds. It was a good day.
Here's a few shots off the trail.
A few days ago I posted a little note about the value of patience, and a little good luck, in wildlife photography. Today, as I was walking along the fish pier in Clearwater Beach I think maybe I saw the reverse of that! Wildlife being patient! A fishing boat had just come in to port and the Brown Pelicans were waiting, patiently, for the fresh Bonita! Sure, they scuffled a bit when a fresh piece was thrown their way but basically they just sat there in a tidy little row, waiting for the handouts! "No, please, you first..." Wow! Being from Boston maybe I'm just not used to that sort of civility...but I certainly didn't expect it of Pelicans! I'm used to seeing the wild and crazy "feeding frenzies" of pelicans as shown on the nature channel. But these guys were just "chillin"! Waiting their turn. They could have just as well been wearing "Life Is Good" T-shirts!
Anyway, the Pelican "feeding frenzy" turned out to be a nice opportunity to photograph a few other birds that joined the crowd. Here's one of my favorites... "Egret on the Runway"!