blogRed Bull Cooler for Creative Block

September 02, 2016
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Hey, horoscope! You can’t read nothin’.

I’m a slightly superstitious lady and look for signs everywhere. Day-in and day-out, I am trying to find some hidden message in the world around me or in my dreams. This tendency can be amusing, sometimes enjoyable and occasionally nerve rattling. It can make or break a mood or a moment. I can be motivated by a supposed sign or paralyzed by it. Luckily, I have the other half of my brain that runs on intense logic to talk me down during those paralyzing moments. I’ve also got some solid folks in my corner who will shake me into the real world if I get too lost in my magical, mystical mind.

When I’m dealt a new project, this part of my personality doesn’t take a break. NO! In fact, it is often amplified. My Red Bull cooler for Creative Block is a case in point. I was hesitant to take on the task, mainly because my psychic abilities foresaw the surface being a Sawyer stressor. Give me canvas, give me wood, give me something with grit, but please don’t give me something slick like metal. Upshot was it was primed, which was a time-saver and made the job seem a little less daunting…at first. Upon returning home from picking up my beautiful box of metal, my inbox had an interesting little note in it. This was a super special note, an art horoscope with a perfectly timed delivery. The horoscope basically told me NOT to attempt creating anything with the hopes of it turning out well, because it won’t. I would, in fact, fail spectacularly. Now, I wasn’t aiming for masterpiece level here, but this astrological forecast was enough to shake me a bit. Then, I looked at the name of the event. Creative Block, how fitting when examining my mood and monthly creative horoscope. I was panicking! It was set, my cooler was going to suck and there was NOTHING I could do about it. Leo’s creative fate for August had been determined.

Enter solid folk(s) as mentioned above and I’m all square:
I voiced my superstitious concerns to one of my strongest allies, to which he replied, ‘You know someone just gets paid to write those things?. Of course I did, but I’m also a believer in psychic ability. Having a bit of it myself, I can’t deny it’s existence.

Cue logical side of brain:
It occurred to me that even though there are people with psychic ability, the likelihood of this particular publication employing a real-deal psychic to write monthly forecasts was slim-to-none. AND I could breathe again! (Funny thing, this whole thought process occurred in less time than it would have taken to read this post. Yeah, that’s my super-speed brain.)

With my ability to breathe being regained, I was armed with a new sense of ‘it will all be ok’. Rather than let an email dictate my fate (Yes, yes I could have let it take me over. Signs are real, I just trusted my gut here. Gut called BS.), I chose to give that horoscope the middle finger and prove I wouldn’t fail spectacularly. I used this whole hyped-up horoscope stress/doubt session as inspiration for the imagery of my cooler design.

The crystal ball is a pretty obvious psychic reference. Within the ball, there is a lion skull, a reference to my zodiac sign. It’s a dead lion, symbolic of Leo’s forecasted fate in art making. Above the ball, there is a pupil-less eye which is a reference to that negative horoscope, suggesting that the writer’s mind’s eye may be blind. Obviously they couldn’t see anything because there was no way I was going to fail. On the left and right sides of the box there are flowers that represent good luck, persistence, productivity and female ambition. On the left side, there is a curled fish and on the right, an owl, while on the front there are the iconic “yes”, “no” and “goodbye” of the Ouija Board. These two elements relate to my own personal habit of reading too much into so-called signs. From Fortune Teller Fish, to mood rings, from Ouija Boards, to spotting an owl, I will find meaning in it. I have forever and always thought “What if the universe is trying to tell me something?”, even if it’s through a toy, a piece of cheap jewelry or a visit from nature. Hey, it could happen. The universe works in many mysterious ways, right?

I’m pleased with how the cooler turned out, even though this took way longer than I wanted it to. But, as my mom always says “Shit in one hand, want in the other”. No matter what I WANTED, I KNEW it was going to be a long process. After all, the signs and my psychic ability kind of called it ahead of time.

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blogPrimary Election Playlist

June 14, 2016
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Taking that turning lemons into sweet, sweet lemonade game to the extreme.

2016 on it’s own has been rough, but add in the primary election season that led us into it and will eventually bring us near its end, the year so far has been almost unbearable. Each day, I have felt as if I was still in a bad dream. Every facet of society that frustrates or confuses me has been brought to the forefront, amplified exponentially, and dangled in my face daily. The closest thing I can use to explain how I feel would be like Blanka in the Street Fighter movie. It has brought out the worst in people and I will be thankful when it’s all over. Although the end result may prove more hellish than the current situation, I will remain optimistic that some good will come of all this hullabaloo. Until that good comes along, I will try to find amusement in it.

Disclaimer: All candidate names have been changed to Gilligan’s Island-esque titles. I will not be mentioning any candidate by name and songs/candidates are not listed in any particular order. I have my opinions, strong ones at that, but I will try to keep this as neutral as possible. I refuse (usually) to have political arguments via internet and rarely have them face-to-face. It’s a waste of time as my views will probably never sway another’s. Debating politics on the internet is brick wall syndrome times a billion. Also won’t be integrating any links to candidates as I will not assist in the their trending ability.

In honor of trying to keep my head up and things light, here comes the Sawyerfresh Primary Election Playlist…


The official theme song of this election:
La hipocresia y la falsidad by Ray Barretto
In my opinion, this is a theme song for most of what is going on in the world. All about hypocrisy, lies and how, inevitably, those who work in such ways with be found out. One the flip side, this song also speaks of learning to appreciate sincerity and those who care about unity. No song has spoken more to me in recent months than this one has.

The Woman
She’s a Lady by Tom Jones
Why? Well, because she’s a female, duh. Under no circumstances can we forget this. You know, just looking at her doesn’t make it obvious. We have to be reminded, over and over and over again. Got this on loop in my brain when I see her.

I’m Different by 2 Chains
Again, we CANNOT forget. She’s different, yeah, she’s different.

The Master of Disguise
Why the name? This Texas gem had everyone confused. There were reports of him being the Zodiac Killer, a British TV show contestant and confused with a Duke basketball player.

Brilliant Disguise by Bruce Springsteen
If a serial killer responsible for decades old killings can resurface as a Senator turned Presidential candidate or TV show contestant, he must have a brilliant disguise.

Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight by The Misfits
Come on, if he IS the Zodiac Killer, what better theme song?

Creep by Radiohead
I’m pretty sure I’m not the first person to make this connection. Sorry, but I get the total heebs. Not super neutral here, but an undeniable fact of my life.

The Rebel
Or Communist, depending on which side you’re on.

Rebel Rebel by David Bowie (I’ll settle for Iggy Pop too)

Revolution by The Beatles
Kind of a no-brainer, he wants a political revolution. I do believe that is one of the first 2-3 sentences of any of his speeches.

We Take Care of Our Own by Bruce Springsteen
Kind of a standard for his rallies, but mainly on the list because every one of my playlist should have as much Bruce as possible.

The Billionaire
All We Do is Win by DJ Khalid
Because he wins, all the time, by, like, a lot.

Tell it Like it T-I-Is by The B-52’s and/or Tell it Like It Is by Aaron Neville
Well, I’ve heard he tells it like it is. Sometimes I can’t decide if I’d rather hear that at an upbeat pace or a more chilled out tempo, so I do both because I do what I want.


The Heartthrob
He’s young, exotic and conservative. He had all the ladies going crazy.

Only in My Dreams by Debbie Gibson
Totally not because I have the hots for this guy. This came from his vibe near campaign’s end. He seemed frustrated and fed-up with all of the antics that had been going on. For a brief moment, I thought he would try to help or motivate parties to find some common ground. Then, I realized that was only in my dreams.

The Brain Surgeon
Crazy by Gnarls Barkley
Read any number of quotes and this explains itself. Then again, some geniuses were put off as being crazy.

The Charm City Charmer
It’s Not Easy Being Green by Kermit the Frog
This song has nothing to do with political position, but all to do with mannerisms. To me, he had the calm, borderline glum demeanor as Kermit. Come on, I can’t be the only one that could see him singing this.

The Little Rhody Lightweight
Betty Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes
Those eyes, that’s all I can say. Soul stealing potential there.

For most of the other candidates, and a few mentioned above…
Who Dat by J.T. Money feat. Sole
Because I repeatedly asked myself who the hell these people were.

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blogHueniverse

May 14, 2016
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Hueniverse: a colorful artistic exploration through and an homage to the world of hip hop song and lyric.

This was the second duo show featuring Tony Krol and myself, but our first at The Bricks. Hueniverse was meant to be a colorful artistic exploration through and an homage to the world of hip hop song and lyric. With our pieces, we aimed to match the vividness of hip hop lyricism with the most vivid of all art elements, color.

Because art and music are so intertwined in our lives, we wanted to have a live musical component to the event. We lucked out with some supreme Tampa talent taking part. DJ Wally Clark, Jinx (beware, this song WILL get stuck in your brain), Asher and Charles Burns were gracious enough to perform and made the night absolutely perfect. Not only are they solid performers, they are super nice people as well. I can’t thank them enough for offering their time and talent to this event.

I had a huge list of songs/lyrics I wanted to create pieces for, but only got through a small portion of it. There are a few that are “must-do’s” at some point, but the following is the “official” playlist for my series of pieces for this event.

Love is Gonna Get’cha by Boogie Down Productions
Blue Flowers by Doctor Octagon
Time to Get Ill by Beastie Boys
I Gotta Tell You by Dr Octagon
Chonkyfire by Outkast
SpottieOttieDopalicious by Outkast
Renegades of Funk by Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force
Rhymin’ and Stealin’ by Beastie Boys
WTF by Missy Elliot
Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik by Outkast


Yeah, hip-hop is a steady friend during our art making process, but there was actually a little more to the story behind what sparked the initial theme idea…

——————————————————————————————————————————

Tony Krol and I had our first conversation, or first full sentences, back in 2012 at a Bricks art event. It was an awkward encounter, but one of the most honest I had had with any person in a while. Shortly after that, we were slated to have a duo art event and had to get together and discuss specifics. Where did we meet? The Bricks. Again it was awkward, but pleasant. He talked about himself and I ate, then we parted ways. He rode home, I went home and cried because I felt like I had been conned into a date. “How dare he”, I thought, meeting with me, talk almost incessantly about his work history, then pays for my food. I was a grown-ass woman with my own money and interesting stories. What a typical man, right?

I stuck it out and we worked together on that event. During our work sessions, I learned he wasn’t doing the typical man thing. He was just being nice and was nervous. A shy guy and nice, I was floored! On one particular work night, I “lost” my phone in his house. By lost I mean I put it somewhere smart and forgot. Anyhow, he called it so I could find it. The look on his face when he heard my ringtone was priceless. As I grabbed my phone he seemed confused and shocked that I had a Method Man ringtone. Of course I did. I also had a Chino Y Nacho ringtone, nothing very impressive or cool, but for some reason he found it fascinating. About 2 months after that first collaborative event, we were married.

Roughly a year after we were married, he confessed something to me. He told me that during the night of our first real conversation at The Bricks, he had told people he would marry me. Had he told me that back in 2012, I would have laughed at him. Marriage wasn’t something I had ever really wanted or dreamed of. He didn’t either, so I guess it’s pretty flattering. Cut to 2016 and we are scheduled for another duo show, this time at The Bricks. We were trying to figure out a theme and somehow I’m hit with a new relationship revelation. He said the reason he married me was 90% because of my ringtone. What the hell?! My ringtone? Here I’m listening to all the “you’re talented, smart, gorgeous, blah, blah, blah” for 3 years and, come to find out, that’s only 10% of why he wanted to legally make it difficult to get rid of each other.  I mean, I know if he didn’t think I was all of those adjectives the ringtone wouldn’t have mattered, but the news still came as a surprise. It seemed pretty obvious what we had to do, a hip hop themed art show at the place where it all began.

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blogMoleskine Mailer Project

January 09, 2016
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100+ Moleskine Postals at Tempus Projects

Tempus Projects selected 100+ artists to fill pocket-sized Moleskine Postal Notebooks.
For those who are unfamiliar, the Moleskine Postal Notebook, is an 8-page, roughly 5x7 inch hybrid of sketchbook, journal and greeting card.

For the project, I chose to create a small book of pen and ink illustrations exploring some of the pessimistic social views I have floating around in my head. For a long time, I have felt as if I had been born in the wrong time. I don’t understand what motivates most people my age, I don’t seem to find the same things relevant or interesting and I often find it frustrating. I joke that I have been in my 60’s mentally since childhood and my spirit is from another time. With those views in tow, I illustrated a book titled Pulled From the Mind of a Cynic. A pretty straightforward title, I thought. The illustrations are titled as followed:

The Age When Hooters and Ass Reign Supreme
This one deals with the propensity for women these days to put it all out there. I’m not a prude, but ladies, we are more than just the size of our ass and chest. Exercise if you want to be healthy, do Yoga if you want to relax…but, PLEASE, for God’s sake, stop the constant show and tell (unless it’s your job). When you’re out in your Fabletics, let the other ladies in the bathroom wash their hands before you check the roundness of your rear end in the mirror or take a pre/post/fake workout selfie. We’ve got other business to attend to. And yes, this has happened to me on multiple occasions. I’m all for being proud of yourself, but at some point it becomes vanity and bragging. Oh, and dudes aren’t off the hook either, I just didn’t have enough room in the book.

The Ability to Forever Spot a Rat is a True Gift
A tribute to instinct. Many people crap on instinct and push it off as fear, cynicism or paranoia. I truly believe in instinct and that if a person has a deep understanding of herself, she can trust that instinct. Even though I understand what makes me tick and am honest with myself, I have a difficult time differentiating between instinct and paranoia. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better at it, especially with people. I pick up on energies quite well and I can tell if someone has motives other than what it being vocalized. I’ve slipped a few times, but I always knew in the beginning that there was something amiss,  I just didn’t use instinct’s lifelong counterpart, TRUST. Having that instinct is a blessing and a curse. It protects me, but it can be isolating sometimes. This illustration symbolizes my undying relationship with instinct. The lion skull relating to my zodiac sign and my third eye keeping an eye out when my other 2 have been blinded.

For Guaranteed Like, Here’s a Surefire Attention Grabber
This was a silly little number based on social media and a seeming desperation for likes, especially involving kids. I hear it at just about every event I go to. Adults trying to take a picture, kids bickering, adults yelling “Stop.Turn here. Smile. Look here. Smile.”. Here’s the deal, if you have to tell a person to smile, they probably aren’t legitimately happy at that moment or don’t want their picture taken. Smiles are natural when one is happy. That is why I prefer candid photos because they typically give a more honest depiction of what a person is feeling. Life isn’t perfect and it’s not a constant photo shoot. But, there is this push to have the image of perfection portrayed on the internet, especially in regards to children. As long as little Johnny is smiling in the photo, it gives the illusion of perfection and no one will know he was kicking Suzie in the shin 2 seconds after the photo. A child could be neglected most of the time, but as long as she is showing those pearly whites at the birthday party, no one is wise to it. So, I thought of what would get more attention than a kid forced to smile…A two-headed baby, no body, just neck. One juggling with his devil hands and the other blowing fire. Now that’s an attention grabber and no real work necessary.

Everything Would be Easier If Pulling Teeth Were Easier
Sometimes it seems like everything is more difficult than it should be and I find myself saying “It’s like pulling teeth” to every other task in my life. I imagined what would happen if pulling teeth was easier and holy crap…EVERYTHING WOULD GET EASIER! At least if I continued using the phrase.

Although not much bigger than your average postcard, the little bugger posed some challenges. For one, the paper was fairly thin and crinkled easily. NERD ALERT...I ironed all of my pages prior to submitting it. Wanting to use only the paper provided rather than gluing pages in, I had to take extra care when using drawing pens. Stippling left indentations on opposite pages, but I found the texture pleasing, so I didn’t stress about it. Raised dots were WAAAY better than ink bleeding through. Then, there were the seams. I wanted to create images that spanned across consecutive pages, rather than separate images on each page. The organizing center of my brain had a pretty hard time with that. To relax that portion of my mind, the creative side made a hand-sewn book cover that carried a seam around the book’s perimeter, making the seam appear less intrusive in each composition and tying it in with the rest of the mailer. 

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blogCarving the Elfmas Watermelon

December 02, 2015
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I may have created a new yearly tradition.

As usual, I had grand plans for Halloween. In my head, I can always get everything done. In real life, I can never accomplish all the things that seem so doable in my mind. Typically, falling behind on projects is due to losing track of time and getting a late start. This year was no exception.

By mid October, I still had my costume to put together and a massive, almost-no-sew, woodpecker costume to complete AND a I was aiming on carving a pumpkin. When carving came up on my to-do list, I ran out and purchased 2 pumpkins for the crew and 1 watermelon for me. I wanted to carve something green, but after last year’s green heirloom pumpkin fiasco, I knew I couldn’t go that route. (FYI, those heirloom pumpkins are hard as hell. Couldn’t even get the top off!) Once I got home, I looked at the calendar and realized costumes were going to have to take priority over carving. So, the guys carved, while I cranked out work on the woodpecker costume.

Days past, then days turned into weeks and my poor watermelon was still sitting on the counter. As I cooked for Thanksgiving, it just stared at me saying “Michelle, please don’t let me just rot here. I need to look pretty before I go to compost.”, so I made it a promise. I asked it to hold out until I could do all my Elfmas decorating and then I would carve it, for sure. Here it is December 2nd and I fulfilled my promise.

I have to say, watermelon was a good choice. Not only is the color better, but they are WAAAAY easier to gut than a pumpkin, less messy, they smell better and yield way more useable meat than a pumpkin. I only hit one minor-ish snag. The more than month old watermelon had gotten a soft spot at the base where it had been sitting on the counter. Didn’t know it until my gutting spoon popped a hole through it and juice began to pour over the counter, down the cabinets and onto the floor. A little cleanup and I was solid.

For the design, I went with a Maneki Neko (Lucky Cat) for two reasons.

A) I like cats.
B) I like lucky things.

That simple! I put both paws up for double luck, let’s see how well it works.

Both the watermelon and the cat took on a special symbolism for me. It’s round about this point in the current year that I start to prepare my plan of attack for the upcoming year. One thing I’m hoping for next year is a resurrection of my old super-intense work ethic and follow through. The fact that I carved this watermelon before it turned to a soggy, rotten mess on the counter gives me hope that I’m on the right track. As for the cat, it is said that a raised left paw attracts customers and a raised right brings money, two things every artist needs. The double paw raise is also said to offer protection, which is always a good thing. So, I raised both in hopes that it offers me a bit of luck and protection. Watermelon carving may be the newest addition to my list of Elfmas traditions.

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blogThe Sawyerfresh holiday playlist

December 01, 2015
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One way I keep my spirits high during the holidays.

Like many others, I get a little down in the dumps around the holidays. To keep myself from getting beat down by the negatives I associate with this time of year, I focus on the aspects I do enjoy. One of those things is the music. There aren’t any Elfmas songs out as of yet, but I can’t deny a good Christmas song. Now, not all holiday songs are equal. Here is the list of songs I rely on to prepare me for the season. I’ve got my top 10-ish and some stragglers that are good, but don’t make as heavy a rotation in play. Enjoy the Saywerfresh holiday playlist!

1) Santa Claus is Coming to Town a la Bruce Springsteen.
This will forever and always be my favorite song and version. The song by itself isn’t much to write home about, especially with my feelings about Santa, but The Boss can make anything great. It has been my favorite since childhood. I recall going on the yearly holiday drive to visit family and waiting the whole ride to hear this come on the radio. Inevitably, it would come on right as we arrived at a destination, so I would wait in the car until the song was through. What made the song for me, even then, was the energy. Bruce sounds like he was having a blast singing the song and that little chuckle he does towards the end of the song puts an immediate smile on my face. Ugh, and Clarence’s Santa! ABSOLUTELY LOVE!!!

2) All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey.
Typically not a fan of female singers, but when Mariah songs are good, they’re GREAT! I can’t explain exactly why I am such a fan of some Mariah songs. It has something to do with her ability to reach pop perfection, even with that high pitched squeal (That squeal that everyone tries to replicate while singing along. Yeah, tell me you never tried and I say you lie!). When she hits that level of perfection in a song, it’s addicting, which is probably why I could listen to this one so much this time of year.

3) Step Into Christmas by Elton John.
It’s Elton John doing a holiday tune, how could that recipe turn out bad??? When I was a kid, my mom was either listening to U2 or Elton John, so I learned to appreciate his music early on. Not only is this song catchy, it holds some sentimental value too.

4) Baby Please Come Home by U2 or Darlene Love.
I say U2 or Darlene Love because I am a fan of the original version’s Spector sound, but for personal reasons, U2 would be my go-to. Again, this one reminds me of my mom, especially when I watch the video. I think that was her favorite Bono era, the Rattle and Hum look with the vest and hat. I just imagine him singing to her, well more like her imagining he was singing to her while she watches the video. She’s cute like that.

5) Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John Lennon.
This one makes my list for a couple of reasons. One, because it’s a bit heavier than the rest on the list. It sparks reflection and thoughts of a positive outlook on things to come. Two, because it’s way better than Paul McCartney’s holiday song (I can’t even type the name without the awful thing getting stuck in my head). Suck it, Paul! Or should I say, Faul???

6) Mr. Brownie AND La Parranda de Fania by Hector Lavoe.
Mr. Brownie is a song I only recently came upon, but I was hooked the minute I heard it. First off, it’s Hector Lavoe, that’s guaranteed goodness. Before hearing this song, I had never heard him sing in English, so it threw me off. The song has a strange blend of Spanish, English and Spanglish…even with Lavoe faking an English accent while speaking Spanish. Totally bizarre and extremely funny. The second song is on the list because again, it’s Hector Lavoe, but this time danceable. A holiday must!

7) El Burrito de Belen, AKA, El Burrito Sabanero.
This is the only religious song on my list, but it’s soooo flippin’ catchy, I listen to it throughout the year. I first heard this song performed at a school function during my first year of teaching. The song was stuck in my head for days, then I finally asked a fellow teacher what the song was. Oh, how glad I was to find out! Why? Because of the video for the version by Alex Alfaro y Los Voces Blancas. Holy crap, this kid has some moves. His side shimmy and whirly bird are on point.

8) Last Christmas by Wham!
Not much to explain here. 80’s pop legends + Christmas song = I have something to sing and dance to. Everything to be happy about with this equation.

9) This Time of Year by The Might Might Bosstones.
It’s the Bosstones and of any of the songs on the list, it best captures what I enjoy about the season. “This time of year, is my favorite time of year ‘cause all of us are here together.” I’m lucky to have such a wonderful family and awesome friends (really my extended family). Spending time with them is all I want during this time of year. Simple, sweet and to the point…this is totally me in song form.

10) Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses.
Every year I hear it and every year I have to look up who the hell does it. It has become a tradition at this point.

The stragglers, in no particular order:

- Christmas in Hollis by Run-DMC.
My aunt got me into rap and hip-hop when I was a kid. Back then, there weren’t holiday tunes in those genres, so when I heard this, I was stoked.

- I Don’t Want to Fight for Xmas by The Ramones.
This sums up what I hope for every year.

- Oi! To The World by The Vandals
Adds just a touch more punk to even out the playlist. I’ll even take the No Doubt version, it’s a bit more poppy.

- Donde estas Santa Claus by Augie Rios.
This is just cute! I mean, I get to sing “Oh Pancho, Oh! Vixen, Oh! Pedro, Oh! Blitzen,
Ole! Ole! Ole! San Ta Claus!”
. That’s freakin’ awesome.

Last, but not least…
Deck da Club by Ying Yang Twins.
Stricktly for butt shaking and laughs. Use wisely and in moderation!

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blogThey will offer you…

November 07, 2015
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title title

New piece for 23 Deck Salute at The Bricks.

Full title of this piece is They will offer you deceit and pull at every strand of your kindness, but true grace will never die.

Pardon the seemingly negative tone of this piece. Although the feelings behind it may be a bit negative or pessimistic, the intent was to make something beautiful out of an ugly sentiment.

Recently, I’ve been feeling like being nice and caring doesn’t really pay off. It seems as if many people take as much of the good that the kind-hearted offer and only give back lies and manipulation, just to milk more goodness out of a person. Sometimes I wonder if being selfish, not being caring and sensitive, and attempting to erase every shred of empathy out of my being would make life a whole-hell-of-a-lot easier. But, then I remembered that changing my nature is about as easy as making the sky neon yellow. So, with the frustration of knowing I will probably forever feel this way, I chose to find solace in my work. Rather than take my typical approach of avoiding any reference or reflection of some of the adverse social and world views I have, I chose to just throw it all out there…and it worked.

Here’s the explanation:

- The deer skull at the center of the composition is representative of the idea of grace. Deer are considered to be one of the most graceful creatures in nature and I was recently gifted a couple of deer skulls, so it seemed like a natural choice for a central image.

- Typically used in funeral arrangements, lilies fill the lower portion of the composition and a reference to death.

- Above the skull, there are Winter Cherries, which are tied to the concept deceit. The plant offers a bright red fruit that looks as if it would be sweet like a cherry, but is actually a bitter.

Not only did I work through some negative feelings in this piece, I also worked through my issues with certain colors. It’s common knowledge that orange is at the bottom of my hierarchy of colors, but purple is simply a color I struggle with. I look good in purple, but I don’t own anything in the color. I try to use it in pieces, but never quite wrap my head around how or where to use it. I broke the Sawyer Theory of Color Supremacy in this piece. I am at piece with all colors, now I just need to figure out yellow.

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blogPhilly of Bust

September 25, 2015
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Was a bust, thanks to The Pope.

There was an East Coast/New England trip scheduled for me without my input or knowledge. It was to be a whirlwind trip from DC, to Philly, to Cape Cod, then Boston and NY via plane, train, car and bus. I wasn’t thrilled about such a chaotic sounding trip, especially since it had been all hashed out without my two cents (which is usually something like seventy-five, really). The thought of traveling to 5 cities in 7 days caused me severe anxiety, plus my cat came down with pneumonia two days before the trip. I was looking forward to seven days of alone time, but after the first night, guilt started to set in and Ms. “We Can Compromise” appeared. I offered to join the rest of the team in Philadelphia, but we HAD to got to the Mutter Museum before our train to New England left…no excuses. If I was going to bend, this was my reward for playing fair.

Upon stepping into the Philadelphia airport, I noticed a large amount of Pope merchandise. I thought it was strange since he was in DC, not Philadelphia. I walked the entire length of the airport with my suitcase to get to my metro station. The train was to arrive in 20 minutes, instead it arrived in an hour and a half. I was concerned that I’d miss my museum time, but stayed optimistic. I thought the delay was due to construction, but after noticing a large number of police with K-9s, I figured something else was up. After the lengthy wait, I boarded a jam-packed train, with a number of priests filling the seats. Then, I saw the signs saying Pope Francis was coming to town and considered myself lucky that I’d miss the bigger crowds as he wasn’t due until the following day.

I met up with the team and we took the long, hot walk to the Mutter Museum. When the building was within sight, I picked up the pace, even losing a suitcase wheel in the process. As I approached the entrance, my heart sank. The gate was locked! I took my hauled my broken luggage around the entire building in hopes of finding an alternate entrance. No such luck, the place was closed and I was busting a hole in my bag. After checking the website, I learned it was closed due to the visit of Pope Francis. Should have checked out the website ahead of time. Hindsight is 20/20 I guess, but I thought I’d make the best of it and try to do some sight seeing.

I was in the City of Brotherly Love, so I figured I’d trek to Love Park and see the famous Robert Indiana statue. WRONG!!!! Next, I thought maybe the famous Rocky steps, which happen to be at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, were doable. How the hell can you close steps, right?! WRONG AGAIN!!! They didn’t close the steps, they closed all the streets. To avoid breaking my bag completely, we attempted to get a taxi ride to the steps. So much of the city was blocked off that the driver had to take us all the way back to the train station because he couldn’t figure out how to get to our destination. Spent about $30 to sit in traffic and scope a few murals at a distance. The city was on total lockdown for Pope Francis.

The 30th Street train station was the only part of Philadelphia I was able to see. Luckily, there was a Taco Bell to help me drown my sorrows and I had the flippy train schedule board to entertain me…while my train was delayed. ONLY DELAY OF THE DAY!!!

Hooray, Philly! Me and you are going to have a better date next time. Let’s keep Francis at home though, please.

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blogCL Best of the Bay Award

September 25, 2015
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It’s not all about winning.

Creative Loafing’s Best of the Bay issue is kind of a big deal to people in these parts. When BOTB season opens up, everyone is all “vote for us” on every social media platform. I like supporting people/places that I respect, enjoy or believe in, but people get pushy. I’ve been in the position of having to ask for votes before and it made me feel weird. I’d put it out there once and leave it alone, then I would see all my competitors posting every day or even multiple times a day. That’s just not my steelo. I’ve never been very competitive, mostly because in order for someone to win, someone else has to lose. I’ve even cried at the end of sports games, not because my favorite team won, but because another team lost. So, when Tony Krol and I won a Critic’s Choice for Best Artistic Message to Greedy Politicians in the 2015 BOTB, I was pumped.

We didn’t win something by begging for votes everyday, there was no competition and no one had to lose. The award was given to us because at least one person saw our work on the Tampa Heights mural, believed in what we were trying to convey and wanted to recognize us for that. We didn’t blow smoke up anyone’s ass, butter any balls, nor did we yack in anyone’s ear about our project. We just worked and poured our hearts into it. Without submitting our names/work for consideration and without knowing we could even win anything without doing so, we were recognized for our work. I see it as more of a gigantic “Thank You” than an award. To that gigantic “Thank You” I offer an even bigger one in return.

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blogPolar Cup

September 22, 2015
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What’s on my mind when there’s a “feels like” 100+ outside.

During the painting of the Tampa Heights mural, Florida was super hot. If it wasn’t raining, the “feels like” temperature was steady around 104 on most days. Up against a brick wall, next to a busy street, surrounded by nothing but pavement, my body was telling me it felt more like a bajillion degrees outside. At a bajillion degrees, it’s important to stay hydrated, but sometimes feeling refreshed seems a bit more important. In “Tampa Death Heat”, my go-to for refreshment is Polar Cup.

Polar Cup was a summer staple growing up in Tampa. I would pass on every ice cream truck that went down the street in hopes the Polar Cup truck would come by. I’m a straight-ahead lemon fan. I may go for a cherry-lemon mix if I’m feeling saucy, but lemon is their hallmark.

With my extreme thirst and love for the lemony concoction in hand, I created a tribute to the iconic Polar Cup bear logo. I chose a more realistic looking Polar Bear rather than the cute cartoon version. It’s aggression in manhandling that lemon sums up how I felt each time I grabbed a cup of that icy goodness on those super hot days. I couldn’t get that stuff in my mouth quick enough! Total brain freeze central, for serious.

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blogLa Segunda by Name…

September 21, 2015
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Honoring my Ybor roots.

Ybor City holds tons of history, memories and traditions for me. It is where my family settled down when they arrived from Cuba. My mother was born there. Ybor is where I first started painting, where I had my first meeting with the man I married and where I eventually had my “wedding” less than a year after that meeting.

For this piece, I took a detour away from acrylics and went back to my painting roots, which are deeply embedded in the city. Back in 2002, after having issues with gaining access to required art courses at USF, I transfered to HCC and took the bulk of my prerequisites there. That was probably the best decision of my entire college career. It was at the HCC Ybor campus that I had the pleasure of having Stephen Holm as my painting professor. I had painted a few times before college, but only with tempura, which I wasn’t fond of. With Holm, it was all oils, all day. I HATED it in the beginning. The paint was slow to dry, it seemed to just slide all over my canvas, the solvent fumes were nauseating and the paint was kind of pricey. After a few rough paintings, I was hooked. I figured out which solvent worked for me. Most used linseed oil or turpentine, I went for mineral spirits. I developed a small color palette, which I still keep to. No, Phthalo Green is NOT in there, sorry Bob Ross. Holm pushed me like no other instructor ever had or would. I even stayed a bit extra after my AA, just because their art faculty was so solid.

Oil painting only lasted a short bit after I left HCC. I did a handful during a painting course at USF, but once I had finished that course, I wouldn’t touch the stuff. Now, some 12 or so years later, I dove back into the world of oils. I can’t say it was a cake walk, but it was a good time. How the smells and feeling of the paint slipping around on my panel brought back memories.

So yeah, Ybor is a pretty special place for me. Aside from those big moments, Ybor is home to some of my favorite local grub. I’ve raved about La Segunda Central Bakery in a previous post, so it’s not surprising that I chose to honor it with a piece of art. Their bread is super, coffee is great, but there is one little gem that always sings to me from behind the glass case. It is the adorable cherry cookie (red, NOT green). I’m not sure why I am such a huge fan of this cookie. I generally have a policy of no fruit in my sweets, but the cherry is so delightfully chewy that it feels more like eating candy than fruit. Then there’s the cookie part, which is crumbly, but moist and wonderfully buttery.

This little piece was such a blast to work on AND I got to eat my subject, that’s just double awesome.

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blogDevil Crab

September 20, 2015
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A Sawyerfresh tribute to a Tampa culinary creation.

One afternoon, about 3 years ago, I had a memorable encounter with the famous Ybor Devil Crab. During one of my usual Saturday morning meet-up at La Tropicana, I challenged a cast of of these crabs to a match of strength. About 2.5 Devil Crabs in, I was out for the count, sick-full and just about in a food coma. My speech was slurred and felt like I had just run a marathon. On that day, I learned how they got their name. It’s not a spicy thing, it’s because too much will make you feel like pure hell. To this day, I eat them in moderation.

Every great city has its signature food item(s). Chicago has deep dish, New York has hot dogs, NOLA has Po’boys (and a million other things), while here in Tampa we have items like the Devil Crab. It is basically crab meat, onions and tomato sauce shaped into something that looks like a small football, coated in bread crumbs and fried. Hot sauce is the go-to condiment for these bad boys.

Some people call them Deviled Crabs, but if you look at the signs for them, they are clearly Devil Crabs in these parts. Whatever you decide to call it, it’s tasty. This piece pays tribute to my city, the food and my battle with this particular culinary delight.

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blogTampa Heights mural

September 18, 2015
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Where Sawyer florals and Krol text unite.

Our aim for this project was to create an image that honored the history of the area, but had a modern feel. Being a Tampa native and Tampa Heights resident, I was extremely excited to do research for this project. Since Tampa Heights is the city’s oldest suburb, there was a ton of material to work with.

What spoke to me right off the bat was the pivotal roles that some Heights residents had in helping the city grow. Heights founder, William Henderson, built the first telegraph line. The cigar industry was, and is, a major part of Tampa culture and history. After all, we are the Cigar City. It drew people of a range of backgrounds to the Tampa. Tampa Heights’ proximity to Ybor made it an ideal place for members of the cigar industry to call home. Those facts are referenced with the left hand holding a chaveta and the right is utilizing a telegraph. Tobacco leaves and flowers connect the hands, creating a frame for the central image. Big and bold, the hands are a nod to the workers that kept Tampa industry moving, some of which called northern Tampa Heights home. 

One of the things I love most about Tampa Heights is the plant life. It seems as if every yard, landscaped or not, is overflowing with flowers and greenery. I often get distracted by it on my walks and bike rides, so that was definitely something I wanted to incorporate into the design. Plus, florals are kind of a staple in my work. Flanking the central frame of hands and tobacco, I added ferns, Carolina Jasmine and Canna Lilies, all plants that you can find while taking a stroll through the neighborhood.

Layers of text, a hallmark of Tony’s work, were used in the background to reference the history of print in Tampa. Tampa Heights’ founder also consolidated two local newspapers into one. The text spells out small bits of Tampa Heights history, from the date it was established to its nickname, “The Highlands”.

Just prior to designing the mural, we caught wind of the Tampa Bay Express Project (TBX) and the effects it would have on the city. In order for FDOT to make way for express toll lanes or “Lexus Lanes” along I-275, area neighborhoods will be hurt. After learning that Cafe Hey is one of the buildings on the chopping block with the TBX project and hearing hours of community outcry during council meetings, we knew we had to somehow address the issue in our design. For the central image, we used an image of old Tampa Heights, a view of Franklin Street when the streetcar system was still in use as public transportation, not just an Ybor novelty. There was a time in Tampa’s history that streetcars actually served our communities. It connected people of a variety of backgrounds from West Tampa, Sulphur Springs, Ybor City and Tampa Heights. Transportation literally brought people and neighborhoods together. Hearing older Tampanians speak against TBX during council meetings, I heard how adding I-275 through Tampa damaged the city and essentially split it apart. Now, decades later, our state is forcing it on us again, but with even less of a reason. There is no vote, we have no say. The state is dictating what our city and citizens need, and they are off base. What I heard from the citizens during those meetings is that they want reliable and efficient public transportation. Our city had it once, it isn’t impossible for us to have it again.

It would have been easy for us to just “do what we do” and slap “Tampa Heights” on it, but that’s not what we wanted. Our goal was to give the neighborhood something meaningful, something with heart. In the end, what we created was more than just a neighborhood welcome sign and it did more than honor the history of the area, we made a statement. The image serves as a reminder that just below that interstate and across that busy street, there is more than just a building…There is history, there are people, people who care. Tampa is more than property that can be mowed over on a whim. We deserve better!

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blogMeet Carl

July 30, 2015
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He is a human, not a problem.

Stating that he is human seems to be an obvious point to make, that is if you have a heart and some compassion.

Carl has been in the neighborhood longer than any other resident on the street. Between his sometime eccentric manner of dress and collection of odds and ends, I was a bit caught off guard, but mostly intrigued, when I first moved in. On a daily basis, I would see him come and go in his big blue Chevy truck, hauling loads of items back and forth. He would carry-on with the neighbors, but he never engaged me in conversation. I was so fascinated by him, in fact, that it took me quite a while to even talk to the man. Not because I was scared, but because I didn’t want him to be freaked out or put-off by all the questions I wanted to ask him. So, for about the first year, I would wave and smile.

Once I finally spoke to him, I found out he is one of the nicest neighbors you could ever ask for. On occasion, I bring him things like cat food or breakfast. Each time I do, he is grateful and I know it is genuine gratitude, I can feel it. Not only is he a kind person, but he’s full of amazing stories and bits of information.

Recently, it seems as if the cordial nature of our little community has dissolved, all because of they way one person lives. What was once, at worst, a nuisance has become a huge point of contention between neighbors. Where there was once the sound of chatter and sometimes laughter, there are now scowling faces and yelling. Our once quiet and sometimes comical neighborhood has become a battleground and it makes my heart hurt.

This is Carl the human, not Carl the problem…

He is a man with two trucks, who loves his cats and a has a rich history in the city. His family apparently came from Spain and worked in the cigar industry. Carl is a proud Tampanian and has even run for mayor. In speaking with him I learned that, up until about 13 years ago, he wasn’t able to read or write. Now, he’s taking courses at the community college and aspires to be a lawyer so he can “help poor people like himself”. He credits the school with helping him get on track and take courses. I find that tremendously inspiring.

To simply look at Carl, one would see tattered clothes, long hair, a set of kind eyes and an infectious smile. He can make somewhere between $40-$100 a week on recycling, he works odd jobs sometimes (cleaning up after Gasparilla, delivering newspaper, etc.) which can’t possibly provide a livable wage, he has no family that I am aware of, one of his cats was recently struck by a speeding car AND he has racked up a considerable amount of code enforcement fines. Now, add to that, half of the neighbors are in attack mode, even calling news stations out to cause a ruckus. Those same neighbors that he’s looked out for for years. By all accounts, you’d think he’d have less to smile about than most.

I’m not kidding when I say he looks out for everyone on the street. When my cat ran off, he asked me multiple times a day if I had found him. When my bike got stolen, he was the only one to ask for a flyer. He promised to keep an eye out for it when he drove around. When speeding cars barrel down the street, he yells at them. I’ve even heard that he chased burglars away from a neighbor’s house with a metal pipe. Even though he doesn’t have much, he is always willing to help out or send over a sweet treat. Seriously, this is the kind of neighbor you’d want.

Yes, he has a massive amount of stuff (I have to generalize because a list of items would be too long), but no one gives thought as to why. People want to point fingers and criticize, but I doubt that any of those finger pointers have ever considered the why. They are more concerned with their property values and the way things look.

After the news came out to shoot, I promised I would write something that wasn’t spun to make him look like a complete nutcase (I know how the media does). With that promise came a great honor, he allowed me to come on his property and take photos, something I’ve never seen anyone allowed to do.

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In that brief walk, I gained some insight into possible whys…

I made a comment about the stuffed animals that were strewn about. He told me those were his visitors. That statement touched me, as I know he rarely has any human visitors coming by, other than to fight him about code violations. Carl isn’t a reclusive hermit, he enjoys talking to people. He even seemed excited to have his picture taken and to share his story. Perhaps those stuffed animals are filling a void.

It seemed as if every pile was started with an eco-friendly mindset, but his goals never came to fruition. His stack of straws was begun to, one day, raise awareness of how one small piece of waste can accumulate into a huge problem. Now, the only one seeing that message is him. The countless number of cans and glass bottles are all going to be recycled…one day. Rain water is collected in barrels to wash those potential recyclables out.

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He isn’t a lazy slob that just doesn’t get rid of things and wants to cause trouble. He is a person just trying to get by and do some good in this world. Carl may be scantily clad from time-to-time, but I’ve never been offended or uncomfortable. There’s never anything indecent going on and, quite frankly, I envy him on hot summer days. His property may be filled with what many may consider junk, but it has never been a bother nor has it caused me anger.

What we have here is a man getting through life the best way he knows how and a neighborhood divided over what the “best way” is. Does he live completely opposite of the way I do? YES, but I don’t have to live with him. I want to help Carl, not tell him he’s wrong. I am concerned about his well-being, but criticism isn’t as effective as support and compassion. He deserves to be treated with some respect. When a person can’t even keep a “slow down” sign in his yard after his cat was struck down, there is a complete lack of care and respect.

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blogWorld on a String

July 27, 2015
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Puppetry exhibit at Florida CraftArt

I have had a fascination with puppets since elementary school. First, there was an in-school wayang kulit (Indonesian shadow puppet) presentation that sparked interest in the art. Shortly after that, I took a trip to Mexico and was completely enamored with the copious amounts of marionettes found in local markets. I brought a couple home with me, determined to make one of my own, which I did and still have.

World on a String: Masters of Puppetry was a special treat for me. The exhibit showcases a wide range of puppet styles from around the world, from Burma to Belgium, from Indonesia to Italy. There were some of Mexican origin in the mix and although I have a special place for those in my heart, they were not the most impressive in terms of craftsmanship and detail. As an added bonus, there were puppet creations by local artists, including Calan Ree, Daniel Mrgan, Simon Boses and Catherine Bergmann.

This exhibit runs until August 15, 2015 at Florida CraftArt in St. Pete.

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blogDobhar chu

July 21, 2015
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New piece for Black Tides.

For Black Tides, each artist was asked to give their own visual interpretations of aquatic myth and legend. Being a lover of mythology, folklore and cryptozoology, I was thrilled to be invited to participate in the event.

With such a vast theme, I had a difficult time choosing a subject. As with selecting my animal for Creature Feature last year, I wanted to choose something slightly obscure. Mermaids, Nessie, Kraken, and anything Greek was probably going to be snagged right-off-the-bat, so I didn’t even put them on my list. Despite eliminating that batch of creatures, my initial list was still fairly long. In the end, I went with the Dobhar chu of Irish lore.

Dobhar chu is the Irish “water hound” that plagues the country’s lakes and waterways. These monsters are said to be large, around 7 feet long, with an appetite for human flesh. Physical descriptions of the creature vary, but I went with the giant-killer-albino-otter version for my piece. Although they are water inhabitants, accounts state they are able to travel well on land, making them an even greater threat. For me, the most terrifying part of Dobhar chu stories is that they travel in pairs. If one is killed, it emits a death whistle just before dying, signaling for the partner to avenge its death. There is basically NO ESCAPE from these things. The story of Grace McGloighlin chronicles such a frightful scenario and provided inspiration for my design.

Now, these things are described as cryptids and are RUMORED to have travelled as far as the United States. Given some more recently documented otter attacks, I lean more on the “they totally exist” side. Otters are cute, but they can be viscous.——(BEWARE, THIS NEXT LINK IS DISTURBING!!!)——Through this project, I learned they can even be downright insane.

For my border, I chose water and bog plants found in Ireland as inspiration. Giant Rhubarb and Ivy-Leaved Crowfoot flank the bottom, while Foxglove flowers and Hares-tale Cottongrass run along the top. To aid in giving the piece an overall dark feel, I used a black ground for my central image. My love of green is no secret, but because the story is an Irish tale, I had to channel the spirit-hue of the “Emerald Isle”. To capture the terror that these creatures have been said to evoke, I went a little more gory than usual. Sorry for the blood, it was necessary.

Black Tides will be up at Green Bench Brewing for one evening, July 25, 2015. After that, the show will be moved to Black Amethyst Tattoo Gallery until the end of August.

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blogGot 99 problems

July 18, 2015
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but stressing over a stolen bike ain’t one.

Growing up, I never really wanted things. Christmas would come around and it made me feel strange. The only thing I remember having a want for was a bike, but I don’t think I ever asked for it. I started on a red tricycle, then moved to a little bike with training wheels, also red. (Red bike kick was started thanks to PeeWee) All of the other kids on the street were either older or bigger than me, so they all rode two-wheelers before I did.  Being a determined little girl, I would kick at my training wheels to loosen them. I recall kicking one up and trying to ride, which just felt weird. One day, my uncle took the trainers off and after a couple of attempts, he let go of my seat and I was golden on two wheels.

I outgrew my first bicycle and received a new one called the Tomahawk. I don’t remember the brand, but I do remember it having purple and black zebra-like stripes. It was my pride and joy. One afternoon, I parked it in our garage and went in for a snack. While inside, my grandmother casually told me a man was riding my bike. I went outside, my bike and the man were gone. I was devastated and had a difficult time wrapping my head around why a grown man would steal a bike from me. That was probably around 5th grade and I didn’t get another one until I was able to buy it myself.

Back in 2000, I made my first “big” solo purchase…and it was my first bike since the Tomahawk was stolen. As with almost everything else, I had criteria for what I wanted…
A) I wanted red, if possible.
B) I’m small, so my bike should be small.
C) No gears. The less I had to focus on while riding, the better.

So, what did I choose? The Hoffman SD4 and it was RED!!!

From 2000-2014, that was my bike. I was lucky enough to have something a little more cushy built for me last year, so the Hoffman had recently been reserved for off-road riding with the occasional city ride thrown in. At any rate, it was in great condition for being 15 years old and NEVER being worked on.

That was until about 2 weeks ago, when I once again had my bike stolen. I was robbed a few years ago, with almost everything of value being taken from my home, but this hit me a harder. The only reason I could figure was because of the sentimental value. All of those other things (stereo, camera, luggage, computer…) may have been more expensive, but I knew they could be replaced. My Hoffman couldn’t be replaced. I still went through the same emotional cycle though: surprised, then annoyed, then sad, then completely pissed. A couple weeks out and I’m still pissed that people steal in the first place, but I figure whoever did it must have needed it WAY MORE than I did.

Thieving bastards may have taken my old friend, but I quickly made a new one. I happen to know one of the sweetest people in the world. He felt so bad about what had happened, that he went searching for a Hoffman and surprised me with a newer, similar bike of the same brand. Today, I took my new friend out for a spin through the Florida wilderness and he treated me well. With a lighter frame, dirt tires and no pegs, this new ride seemed to glide over the rocks and hills. I had so much fun, I couldn’t be disappointed when I noticed it was actually Hunter Green, not Black. This was the first of many adventures with my new off-road partner.

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blogLargest Skeleton Museum in the country

July 11, 2015
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and it’s right here in Florida.

Back in January, I came across a news blip about a skeleton museum coming to Orlando. The news came as part of a promotion for a new Orlando tourist attraction of magnificent scale…The Eye. I’m going to be honest, the whole giant ferris wheel with air conditioned pods thing didn’t do much to spark my interest. Even though I was amped that something as cool as a skeleton museum was arriving nearby, I was skeptical about it living up to my expectations. Orlando is flashy, with each business trying to catch the eye of anyone willing to spend money. International Drive is particularly “eye-grabby”. I’m not a tourist, I usually have a game plan for being there, and I still am overwhelmed just walking down the strip. So, I figured the museum could potentially adopt some sort of cheesy, flashy gimmick rather than showcasing bones. What I can say about it now that I’ve been is that it’s the most interesting thing in all of Orlando AND it exceeded my expectations.

Skeletons Unveiled wasn’t a room with a few resin skeleton. It was jam packed with over 400 specimens, all beautifully displayed. Visually, it was impressive. All of the skeletons were painstakingly placed in active positions, giving the feeling that they were still alive. This museum had just about everything from domestic animals to exotic, animals from the tropics to the arctic…and the majority of them were real! For those curious about the HOW of the place, there was a video on the process of getting a skeleton to display point. There was even a small tank where I was able to watch beetles clean skulls. What may have been the best part of the experience was the staff. Each person I spoke to was knowledgeable and interested in speaking about the subject, which is not something I expected.

My premonitions for the eye may have been spot on, but I’d say Skeletons Unveiled is a definite must-do while in the area.

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blogAmping up Meteor Watching Day

June 30, 2015
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with some planet watching.

All things space related kind of freak me out. Don’t get me wrong, I find topics like space, time and the universe highly intriguing. I’ve spent a good number of evenings having discussions on such matters. Nonetheless, whenever I discuss, hear about, or even think of these subjects, I become overwhelmed by the vastness of it all. Often, people throw the term “humbling” around when speaking of space and the Earth’s place in it. Humbling it is, but I also find it borderline terrifying. In relation to the rest of the universe, our solar system, every star and every galaxy, we humans are tiny. So minute, in fact, that it makes me ponder our significance, our purpose and how much we don’t know. Basically, space opens up a giant can of mental worms for me.

Despite the anxiety it can spark, my interest in the topic usually forces me to face my fears. Lately, it has been hard to avoid any outer-space dialogue at the home front. I blame the dynamic duo of Jupiter and Venus for that. Someone in the house has fancied himself as an astronomer these days, so when he found out that the planetary tag-team was getting cozy up there in space, it was on. Every nighttime drive, ride or walk has included a bit of planet gazing.

Seeing the planets didn’t bother me much, it was rather neat. I think it didn’t cause me stress because they basically looked like super-bright stars, making it easy for my brain to forget that what I was seeing was actually gigantic planets that were HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of miles from us.

Yeah, all that no-overthinking ended tonight when I went to a planet viewing at St. Pete College. The best way I can put it is, things got real…REALLY REAL! I don’t recall ever looking through a telescope prior to this night. Perhaps a toy one as a child, but nothing that would allow me to see a planet or make out craters on the moon.

This is how much stress it caused:
As I waited in the line to view the Jupiter/Venus conjunction, my eyes were fixed on the glowing orbs in the sky. I couldn’t wait to get a better look through the telescope. Skies looked clear, so my chances of a good view seemed high. All of a sudden, Jupiter disappeared. Then Venus faded out. I honestly thought they had disintegrated right before my eyes, which would throw the entire solar system out of whack. In my mind, we were all dead. Turns out, it was a just a cloud. Go figure.

Once my heart rate came back down after the short panic attack, I was back to excited mode. Looking something like a printout taped to the lens, the view of the planets wasn’t quite what I expected, but still intense. In addition to Jupiter and Venus, Saturn was also on view. Plain and simple, I was awestruck. Even as a small, yellowish circle surrounded by rings, it was remarkable. I was looking at a real planet, one that is almost 800 million miles away from me! I will say, the Moon stole the show. It may be in plain view almost every night, but seeing it through a telescope was amazing. I felt so close to that pearly glowing ball, as if I could touch it. A simply beautiful night.

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blogMy First Custom Domino Table

June 18, 2015
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Finally getting to build stuff.

I play dominoes regularly. Almost every family function, at least 1 game is played. I have 6 sets, including 2 mini sets to carry in my purse. Yes, I carry a set around in case the opportunity to play arises. I even have a few tattooed on me.

A couple of years ago, I had a conversation about creating a domino table. I was interested in the idea, but never allotted the time to plan and create one. Well, time went by and eventually the inevitable “I WANT you to make a domino table” request was made. See, sometimes I have ideas but don’t follow through because there isn’t a hard deadline or request made. Once a request is made, I typically have to follow through.

A few years prior to the conversation about making tables came up, I did a portrait of a drummer, a conga player to be exact. This was something that I had completely forgot about. When I asked what the theme or inspiration of the table was to be, I was told “I want the picture of that conguero”. He wanted a conga player because the table was a gift for a music loving, domino playing family member in Puerto Rico. The downside was that I had no photograph of that original piece. I did my best to recreate the look and it was a success.

I used the conguero as the central image as that was the only “must have”, everything else was up to me. Since this was going to Puerto Rico, I incorporated elements from the island in the layout. Obviously, I had to include the flag. With the flag as inspiration, I used a limited color scheme of red, white, blue and a bit of gold. In the background, I created a simple mountain landscape to reference topography. For the foreground, I added the national flower, the Flor de Maga, flanked by a border of golden palm fronds.

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blogRescuing Burt Reynolds

June 02, 2015
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Late night dog rescue with a happy ending.

What started out as a quick, late-night trip to the corner store turned into an intense animal rescue.

Down the street and over the bridge we went. As we reached the bottom of the bridge, there was a dog limping through a construction zone. We passed slowly, but noticed the animal was walking in-and-out of oncoming traffic, leading us to believe there was something wrong with its vision. Being the forever softy and animal lover, I asked to turn the car around. Now, I’m not a dog person, but this one looked like he was in trouble.

As we stepped out of the car, the dog kept walking into traffic, trying to avoid us. I had to pull out my high-pitched animal talking voice for this one. There I was, in the rain, trying to keep a dog, that was probably my weight, from getting struck down. After a few minutes, he was laying down in the backseat of the car, the squeaky voice tactic worked. He was wet and smelly, but I was relieved that he was safe. Then, the “What do we do now?” set in.

Once we arrived back home, we opened the car door and anticipated he would jump out. No such luck, he wouldn’t budge. We tried food and water, he wasn’t moving.  I was freaking because I helped rescue a dog when I was a kid and ended up with scabies...no fun! My heart wanted to just grab him and pull him out, but my brain was all “You’re going to get scabies if you touch him!”. After about an hour, he came out and made his way to his temporary home.

When morning came, the reality of the situation hit home. This was an older dog and wouldn’t likely be adopted if taken to animal services. It was go time. We HAD to find the owner. I couldn’t let him be put down.

The night of the rescue, I had posted photos and information to Lost and Found Pets of Hillsborough County. As of the following afternoon, I had no leads. I made flyers and sent them to Humane Society and Animal Service, still nothing. We even tried to find a caring person who could potentially foster him, no bites. Once night fell, we had made the decision that the dog had to be taken in the following morning. So, we washed and brushed him to get him looking proper. That was no easy task as he was a bear of a dog, with thick bushy fur. During the cleanup, we started thinking of names, as if we could keep him. We started with Smokey, because he was dark and looked like a bear. Then that went to Bandit, because of Smokey and The Bandit. In the end, I said we should just call him Burt Reynolds, and that’s where it stayed.

Feeling defeated, I went inside to check to see if I had received any new information. To my delight, I had gobs of people saying they recognized him and a voicemail from the owner. She lived not 10 minutes from us and was able to pick him up just after his bath. The most interesting part was that his name was Bandit. I was overjoyed to see him returned to his family.

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blogFlower Days of May

June 01, 2015
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April showers bring May flowers, for sure.

Flower Days of May was my second attempt at social media as a creative outlet. This time, participants had to photograph and post flowers they see. Again, the aim was to find the beauty around us, whether it be a blooming weed to a flowering tree. It was also an attempt to redirect our minds in a more positive direction, as many close to me had a trying April. This was not quite as difficult as the first Instagram creative challenge I proposed, but it was equally as enjoyable AND there were a few more participants.

Throughout the month of May, there I was, taking photos of flowers everywhere I went, from the post office, outside the grocery to a water park.  Since I’m not one to post numerous times a day, many of my photos were never posted and are now in a reference image folder for future works, BONUS!!! I think I had developed some sort of flower radar because I even seeing types of flowers in my yard I had never noticed before. By initiating this flower challenge, I also unintentionally started a gardening addiction at the home front. Can’t really complain about that though, the front yard is looking wonderful!

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blogCoral Castle

May 30, 2015
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The place gets a little more weird when The Ghost Child appears.

Visiting old-time Florida attractions is one of my favorite activities. Coral Castle has all the trappings of a classic Florida tourist stop. It’s quirky, it has an interesting and mysterious back-story and it’s in a strange location. That’s the trifecta of vintage Sunshine State adventuring. The boys in the house had never heard of the place. Once I mentioned it, it became an automatic must-do trip.

Ed Leedskalnin’s story has fascinated me for years because I am a sucker for conspiracy theories and unsolved mysteries. His ability to single-handedly create such a structure, the theories behind how he was able to do so, speculations as to why it was constructed and the use of a stone of “unknown origin” are all together a recipe for Sawyer intrigue. Aside from all that, it is just a pretty place. The stony edifice, surrounded by tropical vegetation and crawling with African lizards gives a somewhat otherworldly feeling.

From the beginning of the tour, I could tell this trip was going to have an extra bit of bizarre added in. As I walked through the turnstile and towards the tour guide, I saw something strange moving against the dark, craggy castle walls. Pale in color, could it be a ghost? Upon closer look, I realized it was something much more terrifying, it was a little towhead boy. (Secret: they scare the hell out of me. Probably some Village of the Damned association on my end.)

The boy might as well have been a ghost as the rest of his party was not interacting with him and he was trying his hardest to get attention from someone, anyone. Even though he was being slightly obnoxious, I felt for him. I’m pretty intuitive and have a fairly good track record of understanding kids, so I had an idea as to why he was acting out. It was difficult for me to not be sidetracked by his antics, in fact, I was a little embarrassed. He climbed on anything he could despite the signs saying not to and yelled “Look at me” and “I’m the king” throughout the tour.

After the tour was over, I noticed he was sort of hovering around us. I couldn’t see his party, so I tried to keep an eye on him. Gradually he came closer and started asking questions and I was happy to answer. It was clear he just wanted someone to show some interest and care. I thought he would eventually wander off, but he stuck with us, even chiming in with input on our discussion on the why’s and how’s of the place. Then my heart kind of broke a bit. While we were taking photos, he asked if I could take one of him. He was so excited to feel like a part of a group that I couldn’t say no. Shortly after that, he was reunited with his party.

Since I started working with kids while I was in college, I have felt the need to help as many as possible. I wanted every child that walked through my classroom door to feel valued and respected. Yes, I wished I could do more, but I gave all I could. This trip brought me back to that place. I may not be able to make that one kid’s life altogether better, but I was able to make it better for a few moments…an added bonus of an already fabulous trip.

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blogBackwoods BMX Adventure

May 25, 2015
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A surefire way to get bruises in unexpected places.

My typical bike ride is a city ride, but I am always game for a woodland adventure. The last time I went “off-roading”, it was 90+ degrees, the trails were made of loose sand AND I had about 5 pounds of french toast in my gut. This time, I came a bit more prepared. Well, prepared to expect loose sand and heat.

What I got was the same heat, a tiny pinch of loose sand trail and a heaping ton of not-so-easy on a little BMX. Although I could move a whole ton faster on the Alafia River State Park trails, they were much less flat and much more treacherous. Take the fact that I’m slightly accident prone, mix in trails filled with knobby roots, steep inclines, and large rocks…I was in for it. Luckily, I was up for the challenge. I even brought water this time. Take that for outdoors preparedness!!!

Throughout the ride, pro-status bike dudes kept commenting “You’re doing this on a 20 inch?”, like we were crazy. I got a “You’re a bigger man than I am” comment. I took it as a compliment. Admittedly, there were a couple of drops that I had to walk my bike down. I don’t press my luck when I knowingly have the wrong equipment AND have a track record of hurting myself in such situations.  Even still, I managed to get banged up pretty well and it was totally worth it. Next day, I was nursing bruises in strange places and my legs looked like they had been clubbed with a small bat.

Can’t wait for the next excursion.

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blogWorld Museum Day 2015

May 18, 2015
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A visit to the Tampa Museum of Art to check out some Rockwell.

Norman Rockell, when I used to think of him, I would think of idealized suburban culture. I would think of happy families and freckle faced kids,Christmas gatherings and baseball games. The term “All-American” would come to mind. I’ve always loved his style, but never felt fully connected to the subject matter. Well, that’s simply because I hadn’t seen enough of his work.

As a portrait artist, Rockwell is outstanding. His use of color and layering in his skin tones give the “feel” of real skin. He is a master visual storyteller with the majority of stories being told by the life-like expressions on his subjects’ faces.

First off, I was surprised by the looseness of his work. Interestingly, I had a conversation with my step-father a few weeks prior. We were discussing his own artistic style. Somewhere in that conversation, he made a comment about Rockwell being much more loose. I chuckled and may have said “You’re crazy”. Well, looks like I’m the crazy one.

What I learned about Rockwell and what has made me appreciate his work more than ever was that he was a bit of a rebel. As an artist, I have been put in a position of trying to balance staying true to myself, while not alienating a client base. Being an illustrator, Rockwell was in the same boat, but on a much grander scale. He had to cater to publishers and attract the majority while maintaining his integrity and beliefs. Thinking about his work as illustration rather than just art, the idealized subject matter was unavoidable. Looking at works like Uneasy Christmas in the Birthplace of Christ and The Problem We All Live With, I saw how as a traditionalist and illustrator, he teetered the line of being controversial and appealing to the masses.

The museum offered a large room filled with magazine covers illustrated by the artist. Seeing that quantity of work of such quality was remarkable. I’ve lived in an age where most magazine covers are photographs. To stand back and see years worth of covers that look like photos, then to remember that one man hand-painted each of them was truly awe inspiring. All I could think was, “No magazine these days would be willing to pay someone enough to do this”.

Then there were his notes and reference photos. Getting to see the lifecycle of a piece is such a treat for me. This is the closest one can ever get to being inside someone’s brain.

All in all, World Museum Day 2015 was inspiring. Can’t wait to see what next year has in store.

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blogZoominations at Lowry Park Zoo

May 10, 2015
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Completely beat my expectations.

A couple of months ago, I saw an advertisement for a Chinese lantern display coming to our zoo. In my head, I imagined a cheesed-out Asian-inspired party on weekends, full of decently constructed paper lanterns and regionally inspired fancy drinks. After repeatedly passing a billboard for it, I finally looked into the event and my interest was piqued. Not being a fan of shelling out major dough for lackluster events, I was skeptical about it being worth the price. In the end, I decided to go with the “You won’t know unless you try it” motto. Turns out the motto is still a good one, because this event was nothing less than stunning.

My eyes were dazzled from the moment I reached the park entrance. The entryway, which is typically just wood, plants and signage, was lit to the nines and resembled a traditional Chinese building facade. Not only was it visually impressive, so was the construction. Again, my brain jumped to conclusions and I figured these structures would be cheaply made and haphazardly assembled. Yes, I did the nerdy thing and examined portions to see how it was made. Seeing that the light was shining through colored fabric (not plastic), which was set inside of ornate wooden cutouts (again, not plastic), I was feeling pretty optimistic about the event being worth the visit and the cost.

Hands down, this beat any light display I’ve seen…and I love hitting up light displays, especially during the holidays. It was more than just colored lights, it was art, a bit of history and a ton of fun. There were lanterns made of fabric, some made of tiny glass jars filled with colored liquid, even one comprised of multiple towers, all constructed out of porcelain flatware…PORCELAIN FLATWARE!!! Once we made it through the zoo gate, that particular lantern took center stage and rightfully so. It was gorgeous! Around every turn and down every walkway, there was something equally as beautiful and interesting as what we had already seen. This event was definitely a feast for my eyes.

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blogNational Train Day 2015

May 09, 2015
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Second year and officially a tradition in my life.

Another year, another National Train Day in one of Tampa’s prettiest little buildings.

A perk of celebrating Train Day in Tampa is that our train station is absolutely beautiful. Now, I am a fan of the event attractions…They have LEGO train sets complete with a downtown Tampa LEGO model, an array of different size model trains zooming through painstakingly created landscapes, a telegraph center and interesting bits of train history.  This year, they even expanded the LEGO model of downtown Tampa by adding the Marriott (oddly enough, with The Beatles walking out of it in Abbey Road formation). Even with all that going on, the station itself always tends to grab my attention the most. 

Built over 100 years ago, this charming brick building is one of my favorite in town. I remember a time when the station was in such disrepair that it was taken out of operation. With so many older buildings in the area being demolished, I am grateful that people saw the beauty in this structure and fought to preserve it. Not only is the building fabulous, but a ride into Tampa on the Amtrak offers a bit of amusement.The Silver Star enters the station in reverse. I always giggle when we reach Ybor and half of the passengers get up to grab bags, then the train starts to reverse and the freak out begins. Gets ‘em every time.

National Train Day 2015, good times and great memories!

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blogAn evening of art and lucha

May 05, 2015
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The only time I’ve ever gone out on Cinco de Mayo and it was good, really good.

Cinco de Mayo, one of the few holidays who’s festivities I am not typically eager to participate in. It’s in there with Valentine’s Day and is much like St. Patrick’s Day except there’s neither emphasis on green NOR luck (two of my favorite things). This fact automatically places Cinco de Mayo as the lesser of the two “I’m celebrating a holiday I don’t understand by getting boozed up” holidays. It’s a shame too, because I so enjoy the colorful flower decorations,  just not the nonsense that comes with it.  Well, there was one thing (two, if you count the Choco Taco) that got me out of the house…lucha libre. Pale Horse Lucha to be exact.

This was an outstanding event where performance art played out the story told in the visual art which was on display. That concept is something I appreciate an respect. A damn fine idea to say the least. Given that this was a Pale Horse event, the artwork was guaranteed to be crazy good. Added to that, the theme was something I could really sink my teeth into.

In elementary school days, I was a WWF (now WWE or something) and was exposed to lucha libre during a family trip to Mexico. While on my trip, I found oodles of lucha masks. Being a fan of costumes too, I was hooked. I bought a few for me and a friend. I wore mine ALL THE TIME! On occasion, we would even wrestle in the backyard. Needless to say, this was definitely my cup of tea (or horchata). I even sported a luchador mask and traditional Mexican dress for the occasion.

It’s always a pleasure to see artists working their asses of and accomplishing great things. What’s even better is when there is a truly collaborative effort. Everyone from the artist to the athletes put in major work, and it was clear. An absolutely inspiring and enjoyable time.

...the Choco Taco wasn’t bad either.

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blogTampa Gets a Downtown Carnival

May 02, 2015
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and I get pretty pumped!

I walk or ride the Tampa Riverwalk a few times a week. I am also a fan of celebrations. So, when I heard that the city was celebrating the new additions to the Riverwalk with a series of events at each park along the path, I was jazzed. Then I found out a carnival was involved and I was elated.

With my love of city and celebrations, Team Awesome made the bike trek downtown. Maybe the smell of a Mac and Cheese festival in almost 90 degree heat wasn’t great for my stomach, but my nausea was immediately cured by something of creative beauty…a walking version of Tampa’s iconic Beer Can Building (Sykes Tower). Being a costume lover, I had to give respect to this creation. One, if not THE best get-up I’ve ever seen!

So, with my enthusiasm in full gear, I made my way down the walkway, enjoying music, sunshine and great company the whole way. Through Curtis Hixon Park, beneath bridges and past the Convention Center, the destination was reached. I think I regressed in age to about 6 when I turned the corner at Cotanchobee Park and saw balloons and rides. THE COLORS WERE BEAUTIFUL!!!

There weren’t many rides and I thought there would be a Ferris Wheel, but it was a carnival and I was happy. Each member of the team chose a ride for us to go on. First pick was the Fun Slide. I tell you, I’ve never seen a grown man smile and laugh more on a kiddie ride. Absolutely precious! Then it was my pick. I chose the spinning swings, which I thought would be a safe choice since it was way smaller than the fair version. WRONG! About 20 seconds in, I was done. Quickest bout of motion sickness ever and luckily, it was a long ride. Took my usual rest on a cool surface, then I was back in the game. Last choice went to the kid. He picked some spiny carouselly pod number, which looked fun, but I wasn’t sure how much stomach would handle. Just my luck, he was too short. I really lucked out because as we were checking height, a kid came off and immediately puked. The Universe was totally looking out for me.

A few more rides, some games and the crunchiest lemonade ever… we had dominated that Downtown carnival. Even with the nausea, sugarade and seeing vomit, I was pleased. It was a classic carnival experience in a new space. Hoping they bring this back next year, or a Ferris Wheel, permanently.

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blogMay Day 2015

May 01, 2015
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Some flowers and good cheer. Making simple and sweet cool again.

I first learned of May Day back in 2008, during my first year of teaching. The holiday has been around for WAY longer, but fizzled out of tradition before I was even born. I owe my knowledge and appreciation of this holiday to a co-worker who kept the spirit alive. I remember her talking about May Day in her class and establishing a yearly tradition where the girls would anonymously leave flowers for the boys in their class. I thought it was a sweet gesture, but wasn’t sure how it was going to work, especially in a time when the average person (or middle-schooler) isn’t impressed or moved by the simple gift of a flower. It did work and it was super cute! Everyone was all smiles and not a one person was left out. From that first May Day on, I have tried to celebrate in some form each year.

First year, I sent her flowers because I thought she’d be the only person to appreciate it. Two years ago was the first time I ever gave flowers to a guy. I had become very used to men not being very sentimental, so I saved the flower deal for my lady friends. That year, I was so excited that I gave the gift on March 1st, not May 1st. It was a drawing of flowers, which luckily needed a bit of color, so I took it back and painted it for the REAL MAY DAY. Embarrassment aside, the gift was cherished. It still sits in front of his desk and I laugh each time I look at the date written on it (3.1.13 to 5.1.13).

This year, that same gentleman and I were mid yard revamp when May 1st hit, so I had a good reason to get live flowers rather than doing a drawing. I picked up some mini pink pentas to add color to the yard and to hopefully lure some butterflies in. That sparked a flower planting frenzy. At this rate, there won’t be room for more flowers by next May Day.

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blogHonesty Day 2015

April 30, 2015
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Making Connections: Sometimes you need to feed your soul, not your ego.

“Making connections”, a phrase I have heard many times in my life. It’s a phrase that makes me cringe a bit, not because it’s a bad thing, but because of how people choose to define it. To most, “making connections” means to interact with people with an intended gain in mind. That gain can be monetary, social or professional. Whatever the gain, it has to be something that is measurable. The connection has to be proven and worthy, otherwise it is just a person, and that’s not good enough. The connection maker has to be able to say, “this connection got me here”, “that connection helped me with this”, and so on.

Spending the bulk of my adult life as a teacher, that traditional definition of what it means to make connections just didn’t matter. I did all I could for every student that passed through my door, and that meant the world to me. It was often a thankless job, but rewarding and worthwhile. “Making connections” in the traditional sense didn’t matter because I was making the kind of connections I cared about. I was making human connections. Each day, attempting to encourage and inspire, trying to build up those who were down and support those who were already excelling. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone and I wasn’t trying to climb up any professional ladder.  I didn’t buddy up with the higher ups or become best friends with the senior staff, in fact, we often disagreed on things. I was good at what I did and it showed, that’s what counted.

It wasn’t until I took the art leap of faith that I struggled with the concept of connection making. I’m not a faker, I don’t force things to happen, I’m not an attention whore and I’m honest. Those character traits don’t necessarily work well in the traditional connection making department. Now that I am out of the teaching circuit, I see how the rest of the world functions. It’s not about working with people because it feels right, it’s about working with them because of how it looks or sounds. If by being associated with someone makes another seem more professional, interesting, likable or exciting, it’s considered a valuable connection. It’s all about social status, not soul status, and I have found it disheartening.

It boils down to intent...

- I don’t offer to buy meals for the homeless because they may give me a shout out tweet, telling everyone how great I am. If people got something like this in return: “Big-ups to @sawyerfresh for the grub. #winning”, I’m sure more good deeds would be done, connection would be made. I do this type of thing because I value people. If I can help, I’ve made a connection.

- I didn’t spend years working with kids, some of whom never learned anything about the word respect until they met me, because I thought all the thousands of them would eventually friend me on Facebook and I’d seem more valuable. No, I did it because I understood that those children would be adults one day and how I treated them would have a direct impact on who they would be as adults.

- I don’t have lengthy conversations with people like the “Troubadour of Ybor” because he’s going to take a photo of us, post it to Instagram and tell everyone how great I am. “Hanging with @sawyerfresh in #ybor. #goodtimes #boom”  No, I do it because that may be the only conversation he has for the day, or week. Hell, I may be the only smiling face he sees all day.

- I don’t help or give to others because they may promote my work. I do it because I care and I know that one good deed can spark a chain reaction of other good deeds. Even if it doesn’t, the attempt was made.

This isn’t to say traditional connection making is all-together bad. It has value and is necessary in certain instances. What I’ve noticed, is that a good number of people operate mainly on the “where can this get me?” mentality. None of the above mentioned examples “got me” anywhere, but they were real and honest actions. My social status didn’t change, but my soul status did. That feeling when my heart swells and my chest feels warm with fulfillment, that’s when I know I’ve made a real, human connection. Remember to take time out to feed your soul, not just your ego.

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blogCicada

April 25, 2015
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New piece for Garden Art Party.

Going into the Garden Art Party, I had anticipated creating a floral piece, but was asked to create a featured piece inspired by an insect instead. That totally threw my brain for a loop. There I was, gearing up to do some pretty flowery number and then just “nope”. Don’t get me wrong, I find insects to be pretty in their own way, I’m just a sucker for plants and flowers. Can’t say I had ever incorporated an insect into any piece. So, what to do. Ladybugs and butterflies were out for me and I wasn’t feeling adventurous enough to tackle a roach.

What bug meant something to me, what insect could I relate to?

THE CICADA

Growing up in Florida, cicadas have always meant warm weather to me. Each summer (and spring down here, their sounds echoes through each hot, humid evening. Nature’s thermometer reminding everyone of the perks (and sometimes the drawback) of Southern climate. Seeing as how winter was fizzling out and we were seeing a relatively hot start to spring, I thought it was a great fit. Researching for this project, I came to find that cicadas are more than just noisy, ellusive, summer loving bugs. They are truly amazing creatures.

This piece is a sort of life cycle of the insect. At the top of the piece, in the tree branch, there are eggs…the first stage. Then, beneath the tree, there is a cicada nymph. I felt it important to incorporate a tree into the composition, as it is underground, in root systems that many cicadas spend the largest portion of their lives. Central in the design is the adult cicada, a state that is brief, but what I consider the most beautiful phase of a cicada’s physical transformation. Feeling as if a square or rectangular panel would visually “trap” the insect, I went with a diamond shape. The piece was finished off with a reclaimed wood frame.

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blogLa Segunda Central Anniversary

April 23, 2015
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100 years in Tampa, just over a third of that in my life.

There are few local businesses that can boast 100 years of history in a city. La Segunda Central can and all it takes is a step inside to understand why. Their interior has been given a lovely makeover, but their backed goods and coffee are the same as always…FABULOUS!

Reasons why they are still killing it in Tampa after all these years:

1) Guava and Cheese Turnovers. I’m not a fan of jellies or fruity desserts, but for these, I tweak my policy. They are a tradition in Tampa, at least in my experience of the city. There are other bakeries that offer fine Guava and Cheese pastries, but in my book, La Segunda’s are a cut above. Baked to a a beautiful golden brown and filled with a near-perfect guava to cheese ratio. (Yes, I have a ratio system. I have the same type of system for other things as well.)
2) Their Cuban Bread. I place this at second because I’m on the fence in who has better Cuban Bread in this town, La Segunda or Mauricio Faedo’s. I will never turn down either, but I can tell the difference. Usually people take a stance on one or the other. I say they’re both phenomenal.
3) Their coffee. They use Naviera from the nearby El Molino roasters. I’m not a fan of fancy, hip coffee joints. That’s why I stick to my roots. I don’t need 50 different coffees on the menu, nor do I need steamed soy or almond milk (I’m a purist, even whilst slightly lactose intolerant). I don’t need to be asked if I want my coffee wet or dry, it’s a beverage and they are wet…I like it that simple. I’m not the type that feels it necessary to customize everything, down to my coffee. Just coffee, milk and sugar, size small. All I have to say is cafe con leche and done. Simple, sweet, efficient.
4) The cookies. Buy them single or by the pound. I choose by the pound, 1/2 pound usually. My go-to’s are the cherry (red, not green) and the coconut chocolate chip. They make excellent “dipits”* for coffee.

So here’s to another 100 years of tasty treats!

*Dipits: a food item you dip into something else, usually a liquid, but ice cream can also be used. (Ex: Pretzels are a good dipit for ice cream, french fries for milkshakes and cookies for coffee)

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blogSugar Sand Festival 2015

April 17, 2015
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Fairy tales in the sand.

Last year was my first time at the Sugar Sand Festival in Clearwater and I was impressed, so I added it to my list of must-do annual festivals. In 2014, I attended towards the end of the festival, so I was able to see completed sculptures. This year, I went towards the start of the festival, which let me see a bit more of the process. I didn’t look into the theme this year, but was pleasantly surprised once I arrived.

The previous theme was movies, which was interesting, but it didn’t completely resonate with me (Star Wars and Anchorman to be specific). This year’s theme for the event was fairy tales. I am a fan of fairy tales, but a few days prior to the event, I was gifted a book of original Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales. The night before, I had started reading from it, so I was in fairy tale mode.

The sculptures may have only been in the beginning stages when I saw them, but the work that had been done was fantastic. Cinderella’s castle was incredible, almost towering over every other sand structure. Then there was The Boy Who Cried Wolf with it’s multi-sculpture composition and moon that seemed to defy gravity. My favorite was Hansel and Gretel though. I have always loved the story, but seeing the candy house and frightened children in sand-form was quite a treat.

I am excited for next year, but have to admit 2015’s Sugar Sand Festival will be hard to beat.

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blogTwo years down

April 15, 2015
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There is never anything typical in this union.

I’m not one for fancy dinners and wine, expensive gifts, obligatory flowers or cliche romantic gestures…or whatever nonsense it is that gets ladies all gushy these days. Luckily, Mr. Tony learned that quickly. Because he’s such a quick learn, year two anniversary was’t celebrated at a fancy restaurant, no jewelry, no super-mushy Facebook post was made. There were flowers though, but my favorite type, fresh and still in the ground.

Instead, we went on a biking adventure at Lake Louisa. We planned on camping in a cabin, which we did. I will say the accommodations were not as rustic as either of us had anticipated, but that’s not something I couldn’t really complain about. The place was peaceful and incredibly quite. So quite in fact, it made it impossible for either of us to sleep. I laid there hoping that the fan would eventually begin to squeak, just so I could here something…ANYTHING. To no avail. We both ended up getting about an hour and a half of sleep before the morning’s ride.

Both of us were groggy as hell, so we eased into the morning with a short hike. Being tired wasn’t going to stop us from having the ultimate outdoor bike adventure. Before we could do that, breakfast was in order. Since I am trying to gain weight and need almost 3000 calories a day to keep it up, I downed a pile of french toast, bacon and eggs. Seemed like a wise idea because I’d stay full longer, meaning we could ride longer without stopping.

Once we made our way to the trails, we realized we were not really equipped for the terrain. The trails were grassy and leafy at the beginning, but once were a good ways in things got, uh, SANDY. I mean really sandy. Not only are BMX bikes not great for sand trails, the “wise idea” at breakfast was making the sand riding task seem even more difficult. What seemed like a wise idea about an hour earlier was now slowing me down. I felt like the french toast had turned to concrete in my gut, making me weigh double what I did prior to eating it. I might as well have been riding in quick sand. To make the adventure even more challenging, it was pushing 90 degrees in April AND we didn’t bring water.

The whole situation may have frustrated most, but I though it was perfect and very amusing. It wasn’t possible for that day to go any other way. If I had gotten sleep, eaten granola for breakfast, had a different bike and brought water along, it would have just been a nice bike ride. What I got was a true adventure, a very funny one at that. That’s kind of a trademark of Krol-Sawyer outings, they are always adventures and the memories are priceless. I guess that’s why I refer to him as my life adventure partner rather than husband.

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blogHe was the Walrus

April 12, 2015
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A pretty obscure number based on a long running pop culture conspiracy.

Sometimes my pieces get the blankest of blank stares. Maybe it’s because I’m not very cool, maybe it’s because my soul is in a different time or maybe it’s because I find strange things interesting, I’m not too sure. This one may have gotten the most out of any I’ve ever made, at least in a long while. Once I explained it, this bad boy went over WAY better. It’s not like my work is every super easy to read, but when it’s based on a conspiracy theory from the 60’s, which I found that many people had never heard of, the difficulty increased. I had heard of the conspiracy before, but never paid it much attention. As I was looking for reference images for another project, I stumbled upon the subject and became a bit obsessed.

For the show, I shortened the title to “He was the Walrus”, to avoid making things difficult on the curator. The full title is “He was the Heartless Walrus in the Octopus’ Garden of Strawberry Fields Forever”, which would have been a bear to put on a tiny title card. The title gives a bit of reference to the inspiration for the piece, which is based on the “Paul is Dead” conspiracy.

To keep it simple (which the conspiracy is NOT), I’ll give a quick primer.

It starts in 1966…

- Paul McCartney supposedly dies in a car accident.
- 3 remaining Beatles have to identify mangled body.
- Body is so mangled, he is said to resemble a walrus.
- Beatles bury Paul, hide his death and they find a replacement.
- Replacement found, made to look like the real Paul, but is a fake.
- Fake Paul plays the part, but the remaining Beatles give clues about the truth in music and album covers.

Ends today with Paul collaborating with Rihanna and Kanye, which is probably the most blatant clue that the man is a fake.

Many will dismiss it as a hoax or simply a bunch of drivel , but I am a believer. The story is too bizarre for it to be ignored or denied. There’s a book (thanks Cardoza for the borrow) and a “mockumentary” (I see it as more of a documentary) that documents the evidence. If you want your mind blown, it’s worth looking into.

Anyhow, my piece ties in various “clues” from the conspiracy. Here goes the breakdown…

- Walrus, pretty obvious.
- Skull being held by the walrus is meant to be a reference to Paul’s death and his transformation into the walrus.
- The number 3. On the walrus’ flipper, there are only 3 claws showing, a nod to the 3 “real” Beatles that remained after Paul’s death.
- Strawberries. In the song “Strawberry Fields Forever”, there is a clue at the end. As the music fades, you wan hear a voice saying “I buried Paul”. Lyrics say the words are “cranberry sauce”, but I don’t buy it.
- The heart. On the Magical Mystery Tour album cover, The Beatles are dressed in animal costumes. Paul is NOT the walrus here, he is the hippo. His costume has a gaping red hole in the front, right over his heart. According to the theory, this is to give a clue to the heartless, soulless fake Paul, or “Faul”.

A really cool twist to this show and the piece was that the person putting the show together is a believer too. Great minds I suppose.

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blogFesta Italiana 2015

April 12, 2015
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My stomach has waited a year for this.

I began attending the annual Festa Italiana about 8 or so years ago. I’m not of Italian descent and I had never really been a fan of Italian food, but I had a friend working the event. He said I should check it out, so I did. That first experience was so great, I have tried to make the event every year since. I even got last year’s newbie stuck on the tradition.

2015 offered much of the same edible goodness as the previous years with my beloved eggplant fries being first on my grub-down list. That is the one item that I have to have every year. I was happy to see the lovely people of La Creperia Cafe were in attendance, although not serving up Italian fare. Lamb shanks were on the menu, which I passed on, but my eating companion indulged. Being that gluten is my favorite flavor, I ended up eating, what seemed like, a mountain of varying types of pastas…and it was GOOD. If only this were every weekend, I would gain that much needed weight in no-time.

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blogSulfur

April 11, 2015
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My element for Elements art show.

When I start a new piece, I usually do a bit of brainstorming, note taking, reference image searching and research on the subject. One of the favorite parts of that portion of my creative process is that I usually learn something new. I did just that while doing the research for this one.

This piece is for an art event called Elements. For this show, 50+ artists had to create works inspired by a chosen periodic table element. I chose Sulfur. Not because I have a particular affinity for the element, but because I like the number 16. Using my lucky number choosing strategy, I…well, lucked out.

This little number has a slightly darker vibe than my work usually gives off, but with good reason. It’s because I chose one hell of an element, literally. See, while researching Sulfur, I learned some fairly interesting facts, like:

- It burns with a blue flame.
- Penicillin, which I am allergic to, is sulfur based.
- It makes rubber malleable.
- It was used for fumigation in ancient times.

AND…

- It’s also called Brimstone, which I didn’t know and for some reason felt like I should. Which means it’s in the Bible a ton and associated with apocalyptic scenes, wrath and hellfire…which I thought was pretty badass.

That last little nugget of info was my inspiration. Before nailing down imagery, I knew I wanted to use a limited color palette, so I went with grays (darkness) and yellow (the color of sulfur, which comes in crystal form). I read all the passages that contained mention of Brimstone and I couldn’t have asked for more vivid stories to get my brain moving. The bulk of the passages came from the Book of Revelation. The birds in the top corners reference descriptions of birds eating flesh. In the book, there is mention of 3 plagues (fire, smoke and brimstone) which I incorporated into the piece. The main image was my interpretation of what the Horsemen of the Apocalypse would have been riding on. Angry yet beautiful, with fire in their eyes. Now, I had a pre-chosen color scheme to follow, so this horse wasn’t going to be white, red, black or pale. MY vision was grey, which is close to black (a), and (b) anything can happen in art.

See, the darkness was necessary.

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blogReunited with The Dookster

April 10, 2015
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One more day and he would have gone feral.

Wonton, Little Won, Stinky Pete, Mr. Moo,The Dookster. No, that isn’t a list of all of my pets, it is a list (not a comprehensive one) of the names I have for my single kitten. His given name is Wonton, he has an infinite amount of nicknames and a (well maybe two) very special title(s) Sawyer’s Best Buddy in the World and Most Handsome Kitten in the History of the Universe. He’s been with me for about 12 years and has been by my side during my highest highs and my lowest lows, never getting upset or judging, just demanding love ALL THE TIME. Although he’s probably the sweetest cat ever, he is much like his best human buddy. When things don’t make sense or are much more difficult than they have to be, he gets crabby. So, when a tooth infection, surgery, medicine, diet change and human buddy being gone a lot happened, he was super crabby.

About a month ago, I was in the middle of a big project and wasn’t home much. The Dookster usually gets a bit cranky with me when I’m gone a lot, but it’s short-lived because he NEEDS petting. (No exaggeration, I think he would learn to pet himself or train the dog if humans weren’t around) Mid-project, I noticed he wasn’t eating as much. Then a few days later his face swelled up. Vet gave the “could be cancer or a tooth infection” diagnosis. Luckily, after a number of other vet visits, it was found to be his tooth. Only downside was that he was going to have to have surgery. Seeing as how he is so attached to me, I knew he was going to be extra mad about this. How mad exactly, I couldn’t have anticipated.

He bounced back from surgery quickly. By day 2, he was fighting full strength to avoid medicine and back at being an escape expert. Prior to sickness, he had gotten pretty good at escaping through the front door when people came in and out. He had earned the name Shadow Cat. When he would run out, we would find him chewing on grass, never leaving the yard. The night before his tooth check-up, I needed to vacuum, which he has always hated. When I started the vacuum, he didn’t run like normal, he gave me a hate stare, which was new. I think he was extra angry about the medicine and the fact that I had to change his food because of a newly diagnosed thyroid issue, the vacuum must have pushed him over the edge. Later that night, I went to feed him but he didn’t come. I looked in every hiding spot, in the cabinets, behind the dryer, in the closet, even triple checked the freezer just in case he was accidentally shut in. Then I realized Shadow Cat was gone. Middle of the night, I was searching for a black cat…impossible. I was devastated.

The hunt for Mookie became a family and friend effort. After two days of handing out flyers, posting lost cat info to Facebook and scouring the neighborhood, we found him. We found him just in time too, because that little guy was close to feral. He ran from us in hid in a sketchy shed in someone’s backyard, hissing and growling at us. I knocked on their door to let the residents know we were in their yard. (Can’t be too careful with Florida gun laws and all.) They were kind enough to give me some cat treats, which worked like a charm. He can’t resist treats! I’m so thankful to have family and friends that understand how much I love the little dude and are willing to search day-in and day-out. Oh, and I’m pretty pumped to have my snuggle buddy back. He’s thrilled to be back with his family too.

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blogMini dominoes in my mailbox

April 09, 2015
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From NY, with love.

I am a believer that small gestures of kindness can have a big impact, especially if the timing is right. Today was just another reminder of how true that is.

Over the past week or so, it seemed like everything was going wrong. My cat was sick, I paid a bunch of money and got him back into shape, then he runs away. On top of that, I got hit with a rough illness of my own. I was having one of those frustrated-to-the-max days today. All it took was a small, thoughtful gesture from a good friend to get my spirits up.

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen this lady and we don’t communicate all that often, but she’s one of the most solid people I know. She had no idea that I was feeling bad. It was strictly coincidence that I received a package from her today.

Just seeing her name and squiggly, borderline illegible cursive in my mailbox was enough to boost my mood. The contents of the package then pulled out some laughter. It was a mini set of dominoes, and not just a random set, they were confiscated from one of her students. She was kind of my mentor as a teacher. She was strong, to-the-point, had high expectations and the kids loved her. Taking an item from a kid and mailing it to Florida was classic. When I worked with her, she had zero tolerance for students slacking or not paying attention. I could only imagine what her reaction was to a 1st grader opting to play with toys instead of working. Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

This set is now my purse pack, going with me wherever I go. One never knows when the opportunity to play will arise.

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blogTampa Water Bike Adventure

March 29, 2015
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One of the best views of the city.

Not too long ago, I noticed a Tampa Water Bike Co. had set up shop downtown. I like bikes, I enjoy water and I love Tampa, I couldn’t think of a drawback or reason not to try it. To me it looked like it took canoeing, put the workload on the legs and made it a little more strenuous. Today, I finally tried it and my assessment was fairly accurate and it was a blast.

Admittedly, they weren’t the easiest things to maneuver. I am so accustom to the feel of land bikes, I thought it would be much more similar in feel. Not so. Once you get the hang of peddling, it’s a fun ride. It was quite enjoyable seeing the city from a different point of view, made even better by the fact that I was getting a bit of exercise in at the same time. At first, having people yell and point at you from the Riverwalk was a bit embarrassing. After the first few people, it just became part of the activity. Striking up conversations with passers-by ended up being an added perk of the experience.

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blogSt. Patrick’s Day 2015

March 14, 2015
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Another lovely River O’ Green in Tampa.

St. Patrick’s Day is such an anomaly in my festive world. I’m not Irish and I don’t drink. By all accounts one wouldn’t think I’d be such a fan of the holiday. It has two major components working for it though, green and luck. Those two things are serious in Sawyer’s world, so I MUST be festive for the occasion.

When Tampa started the River O’ Green celebration, I was thrilled.  My city, a festival AND a crap ton of green?! You’d think it was St. Sawyer’s Day or something! So me.
(I know coloring a river green isn’t a new idea, but it’s not like I could fly to Chicago every year.)

This year, even my bike was decked out! It was my first St. Patty’s with my super-sweet-sparkly-green dream bike. Intentionally or not, she fit the occasion perfectly. I even had a little extra bit of luck. A lovely ladybug decided to keep me company, sitting on my leg while I admired the river greening.

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blogCelebrating the month of Fabhueary

March 01, 2015
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Not a typo, I just love color.

I like to encourage people to be creative in whatever way possible. Some say they just aren’t creative and leave it at that. Some just say they don’t have time, then others have the “I’m not good” attitude. Whatever the excuse, I try to pull it out of them. Fabhueary was my first attempt at trying to extract someone’s creative juices via social media.

2 main reasons why I chose a color adventure for the month :

- The dreaded V-Day.
Since Valentine’s Day is on the 14th, February is often welcomed with “love” on the mind. I’ve never bought into the hype…EVER! I’d much rather someone do something nice for me any other day of the year. It screams obligation, not love.

- Something I do love? COLOR!
Given my affinity for colors, I transformed the month of February into the month of Fabhueary on Instagram. During this month, I challenged a good friend to photograph and post images containing her favorite color. Not only did I see it as good practice in finding beauty in your surroundings, but it was a guarantee that I’d be seeing something pretty floating through my feed.

My hue of choice was green, hers blue. For me, snapping photos of green was a cinch. I’ve been obsessed with color for a while, so this was a practice I was used to. Half way through my month of exploring hues, I switched my game up and tried to find beauty in my least favorite color…orange.

Orange proved to be a bit more difficult, but I enjoyed the challenge. Surprisingly, the month-long color exploration ended up being much more enjoyable for me than I thought it would be. Fabhueary may have been the first time I was ever really excited about posting to a social media platform.

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blogStrawberry Festival 2015

February 28, 2015
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A lesson in determination and looking on the bright side.

What do you do when Florida gives you a ton of fresh strawberries and an equal amount of rain? You round up your closest crew of adventurers and put on your best shit kickers. Then you stomp the hell out of those strawberries, mix it with rain and make some super sweet strawberry juice for you and the crew.

Last year was my first time attending the festival (link) and it was wonderful. It was like the fair, minus all the sideshow stuff that makes me feel sad. Having such a great time on my first visit, I was quite excited about this year’s excursion. It was planned a couple weeks in advance and my cousin planned to take 5 hour train trip just to come along. Then, day of, Florida decided to turn grey and soggy.

I was optimistic that the sun would come out, but by early afternoon, there was still a blanket of rain. That didn’t stop the adventure team. With determination and ponchos in hand, we savored as much of the festival as possible. Yes, my amish made pretzel was a little damp, but tasty. Yeah, my pant and shoes were soaked through by the end of the day, but it was worth it. The rain offered up new festival experiences. Sketchy carnival roller coasters seem WAY more unsafe in the rain, which made me laugh to no end. Spinning components in funhouses seem much more terrifying when they are wet and muddy, making them even more fun.

Rain could have ruined the day for most, but I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. Mom smiled more than I’ve seen in a while, my cousin didn’t waste the train trip, Tones did some insane mechanical bull riding, had my first strawberry shortcake and we even saved some cute little goldfish.

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blogHiking at Weeki Wachee Nature Preserve

February 15, 2015
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A hero’s tale.

In the land of Florida, there is a village known as Weeki Wachee. This is an enchanted village, where waters run crystal clear and stay cool even when the air temperatures are ungodly high. These waters are known to cure the worst cases of summertime ailments, including, but not limited to, heat induced irritation, soggy pits and swamp-butt. For decades, the waters that run through the village have attracted one of the most majestic creatures in the world, mermaids. Tucked away in a remote area of Weeki Wachee is a special place, a place meant to preserve the original beauty of the land while outer areas are developed. I had visited this village a few times before, but this was my first experience in the preserved portion.

I had heard the possible dangers of trekking through the preserve woodlands, mainly itchy vines and occasional bears. No itchy vines were touched and no bears encountered, but the creatures I did find were much more bothersome and frightening. Luckily, I have been blessed with certain powers to fight off such creatures.

Here is my tale…

Sawyer vs. The Snapchat Dragon and The HipCat Triad

When I arrived at the preserve, there were trees and trails as far as the eyes could see. The cluster of lakes were a sight to see, with waters that glistened in a spectrum of hues from deep cerulean blue to a bright chartreuse, with some golden ochre mixed about. So glorious were these water bodies, I couldn’t believe they were real. With such beauty to behold, I was eager to start my adventure through the Weeki Wachee wilderness.

I began the adventure by following an open trail to a large sandhill, so I could better see the lay of the land. As I made my ascent up the dune, I heard a loud cackle coming from the top. A bit nervous about what may await me above, I kept walking. Reaching the top, I saw the creature that produced the cackle, it was the Snapchat Dragon. These are similar to Hydra in that they have multiple heads. The Snapchat Dragon is a social media fiend and its multiple faces have the sole purpose of optimum selfie output. Each face has a pre-programmed expression, so the muscles on said faces aren’t over-exerted in the process. Made uncomfortable by others viewing the sacred act of selfie production, she retreated down the embankment. Relieved that the dragon had gone away, I stood and enjoyed the view and the quiet. It was so calm, in fact, that I heard the flutter of a bird’s wings as it flew past. My peace was short-lived, as these dragons LOVE attention. As she stomped away, she had lost her footing and fell, belting out a loud howl. “Oh, my, God! You have to snapchat that, let me do it again”, she screamed to a smaller dragon waiting below. Upshot, Sawyer possesses nonsense deflectors.

After the sandhill portion of the exploration, we ventured into the forest. Seeing as how I had already encountered an unexpected nuisance, I had to be prepared in the event a bear crossed our path. So, I found a large bear stick and we were on our way. We walked for a good while, passing amber colored streams and various animal tracks on the way. The sun was getting low, so we knew it was time turn around.

Upon exiting the forest, I saw something strange moving in the distance. Pulling out my Eagle Eye Vision, I could see that it was clearly the HipCat Triad. All the characteristics were present, the perfectly messy (but not too messy tendrils), clad completely in garb from the Outfitters of the Urban. The triad is comprised of 3 super-cool sisters known as Ignorance, Selfishness and Apathy. Turning on my 6 Million Dollar Man-style bionic vision, I could tell it was absolutely them as they were all consuming special witches brews, which are prohibited in the preserve. With my bionic vision, I noticed that one of the sisters (either Ignorance or Selfishness) had thrown her empty can of Miller’s Luminescent Brew into the sawgrass. Locking in on the can with my super-human vision, I was able to rescue the can from the grass and bring it home for recycling. The Triad was defeated!

Despite the run-ins with some unsavory creatures, the trip was still worth it. I saw some of the most lovely views of Florida nature I had ever seen, I didn’t get eaten by a bear and I de-littered the preserve a bit.

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blogCelebrating Kite Flying Day 2015

January 11, 2015
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with an adorable mini-kite, of course.

Today, I missed the big Uttarayan celebration and all the kite flying joy that came with it. Rather than being discouraged about not being able to take part, I made the best of the afternoon and celebrated when I could.

Kites aren’t the easiest thing to come by when you want one in a hurry. Pick a store, any store, and the best you’ll find is some piece of mylar with a superhero or princess on it. Why?

A) Because kites are for kids, duh.
B) All girls like princesses and all boys like superheroes, double duh.

I knew this fact before hitting up a store, so I wasn’t going to be heartbroken by the selection. In honor of all things good and festive, I was going to fly whatever I could get my hands on. By staying optimistic, I think I pleased the Kite Gods, because I found something that WAY exceeded my expectations. Now, I did see what I expected, but in addition to the standard kites, I found something of pure awesomeness…the mini kite.

Goodness, these things are cute! These are the typical flat pieces of mylar hooked to string, but tiny and colorful and best of all, easy to put away. They pretty much met all my criteria…adorable, small and practical. You really can’t go wrong with anything that is all three of those in one. I chose a tiny macaw that was just over 6 inches wide and I love him. This isn’t some fancy Japanese number or some multi-stringed trick kite. It’s simple and functional, all I really needed to celebrate. My partner in festiveness chose a little yellow bi-plane. And so, on this warm January day, with one minute macaw and one bitty bi-plane, we took part in Kite Flying Day. We marked the end of winter…a little early, and it was wonderful. Next year, I may attempt building my own special kite for the day.

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blogCemetery walks

January 07, 2015
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Putting things into perspective, but not in the way you’d think.

Cemeteries are favorite places for taking daytime, mind-clearing strolls. Specifically the older cemeteries with dates from the 1800’s-mid 1900’s. Although the function is the same as any other cemetery, the age makes a difference. Gravestones are usually more detailed and I admire the craftsmanship. With that attention to detail there is a deeper personal connection to the person each memorial belongs to, in my mind anyway. Adding to that personal connectedness are the ceramic memorial photos, which I find incredibly intriguing. I can almost feel the spirits of those buried around me. I sit and wonder about their lives and wish I could somehow talk to them.

Funny, most people probably think of death in a place like this. I don’t. What I think about is two ever opposing sides of life. Care and kindness vs. destruction and selfishness. The care to create such splendid memorials can be seen in every painstakingly placed tile, every carved flower or bit of filigree, and in each enchanting portrait. Over time, there would be some naturally occurring destruction, given the age of these areas. What I’m speaking of is destruction by human hands, hands of the selfish, those who are blind to the beauty and meaning in each gravestone. Instead, a place of peace becomes a playground where anything goes. Those lovely portraits, used for target or batting practice. That carefully carved stone detail, chipped away at just for fun. No thought is given to the people these memorials represent or the craftsmanship that went into making them.

The decimation can be disheartening, but if I really focus and look through the negative rather than at it, I can see glimpses of renewed care and kindness peeking through. I see this in the flowers, still vividly colored, placed on graves. Some of these graves are over 100 years old, so the fact that the flowers aren’t faded by the sun shows me that someone still cares. I also see care and kindness in the tiny trinkets left atop graves. I am most touched when I see tiny toys placed near the graves of children. Those small gestures remind me that there are still kind-hearted, thoughtful people in this world. Although they may be few and far between, if I continue to look through the negative, I will continue to see those oh-so-lovely shining gems of positivity.

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blogBurning away the negativity

January 01, 2015
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and making room for more positive.

2014, it’s been a year. I made some wonderful memories this year, but have also formed some not-so-hot ones…to say the least. I’ve always known that without experiencing the bad, a person cannot appreciate the good. One cannot exist without the other. I also know that the bad typically overpowers the good, making it difficult to let the good shine. Admittedly, this year, I’ve allowed negativity to pull it’s usual stunt of choking out the positive way more than I should have. It’s been a trying year, but despite the negativity, stress and tests of both strength and character, I remain optimistic that positivity, gratitude and understanding will win the battle.

To aid in banishing the negativity from our lives, each year, my family and I burn it away. Throughout the year, I do small burns, but on New Year’s Eve, the big burn occurs. This year, tons of unsavory characters, experiences and thoughts were thrown into the fire. The fire burned smoother and quicker than ever, so I’m taking that as a sign that this year will be a good one. 

Here’s to the one incredible year!

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blogBonding over bricks.

December 28, 2014
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LEGO bricks, that is.

I’m a pretty lucky gal, for various reasons. One huge reason, I didn’t end up with a guy who’s idea of a relaxing evening is one at the bar, or sitting around playing shoot ‘em up video games, or any of those “typical guy” activities.

Nope, this dude takes a late night trek out to the LEGO store just before they close. Then, with complete eagerness and excitement, shares in building my new camper at about 1 am. While I constructed the undercarriage, he played with the canoe and paddles included in the set. Pretty much one of the most adorable things I’ve seen in a while. That’s a true gemmy gem right there. I know it was a simple LEGO kit, but the experience once again reminded me how lucky I am to have such a unique individual by my side.

 

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blogHow to decorate for Elfmas

December 25, 2014
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Make most of it yourself.

Elves make things, so when decorating for Elfmas, it is custom to create many of the decorations yourself. As stated in the Introduction to Elfmas, those who aren’t “crafty” can still participate. It’s more the effort and intent that counts here.

I started up this holiday decorating extravaganza with a new tree topper. Every year, I am underwhelmed by tree toppers. As a kid, I usually had some creepy angel looking down at me. As an adult, I settled with a light up star. This year, I created the glorious Sparkling Pretzel of Elfmas. I chose the pretzel after seeing news articles about the “ugly” Reading, PA Christmas tree, which had a pretzel topper. There seemed to be so much outrage about that poor pretzel, that I wanted to prove that a pretzel could be quite a lovely tree topper. It may not be acceptable for a Christmas tree, but since Elfmas is all about creativity and happiness, it made a wonderful Elfmas tree topper. This little guy was hand sewn and stuffed, then covered with a sparkling rhinestone “salt” layer. Definitely the best tree topper I’ve ever had.

Then I needed a wreath. Elfmas doesn’t have specific colors like Christmas does. You make it what you want, whatever colors make you feel happy. My colors are white and green. The tree was white, the ornaments and topper were green. The wreath naturally had to fit the color scheme. I couldn’t quite find a pre-made wreath with the correct Elfmas greens, so I made one inspired by a more drab version I saw in a store. It was bright and cheery, with three bells in the center to represent the three elves inside the house.

To commemorate my first Elfmas, I made tiny green pretzel ornaments to give. I figured if the pickle gained fame as a Christmas ornament, the pretzel will have zero problem becoming a celebrated Elfmas ornament.

Of course, to celebrate properly, one must dress the part. Whether just a hat or a full uniform, one must BE an elf. I was able to knock out a pretty cute elf costume this year. Next year, I’ll hopefully have one for myself. Although, I’m not sure I need it, as I have been asked if I am an elf on multiple occasions.

Cheers to many more years of making and sharing!

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blogIntroduction to Elfmas

December 24, 2014
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Bringing thoughtfulness and creativity to the holidays.

I have always celebrated Christmas, merely because it was tradition. When I say Christmas, I’m referring to the holiday with the toys, the tree, elves and Santa. I am not referring to the religious holiday. Even as a child, I had a difficult time believing people who tried to legitimately connect the two. In my opinion, the two holidays are separate, with only the name connecting them at this point. Perhaps somewhere back in history the link was a little more clear, but I personally find the religious/commercial connection to be quite a stretch. They don’t really have anything to do with one another. At any rate, as I’ve gotten older,  I have become increasingly more uncomfortable with the holiday(s).

Why uncomfortable? This is why…

1) I’m not all for the purchase of arbitrary gifts because of a day. This is why birthdays make me uncomfortable. I’m of the mindset of thinking about often, not just on a holiday. It’s just awkward all the way around. One person grabbing something off a shelf because of obligation, wrapping it up, putting it in someone else’s face and expecting excitement. The recipient is then put in an uncomfortable position, with the giver staring, anticipating the reaction. Then if the “right” reaction isn’t given, there’s a feeling of disappointment. That’s a lot of pressure. I know it’s “the thought that counts”, but when you know the thought was all about 5 minutes and forced, how much can it really mean? I’d prefer a nice, heartfelt note or even a few kind words instead. Hell, even a smile would be an amazing gift. All around, the forced gifting makes me feel strange and stressed. I can tell when something is from the heart and filled with given with thoughtfulness and care. Those are the best gifts and usually can’t be found in a store.

2) Santa. Flat out, I don’t ever remember believing in him. My earliest memory of Christmas is from when I was about 3 or 4. I remember waking up while it was still dark, hearing rustling out by the Christmas tree and just knowing it was my parents and not Santa. I didn’t go out to check, I just knew. Even if he does exist, I don’t buy what he’s selling. First, he works elves all year, then gets all the fame. Second, I’ve known kids to visit a Santa and they are told “you have to ask for something”. Bogus! I think that’s a crummy lesson to teach anyone. It’s is simply a lesson in selfishness and greed. It’s natural to want things. What’s unnatural is having a child make a list of those things, then say that if they are good they’ll get it. So what about the kids who’s gifts come from charity? What if they don’t get what was on their list? Does that mean they were bad? There are so many thing fundamentally wrong with Santa and his message. Now, he isn’t a compete waste and this is why. Magic, I totally believe in and wish more kids held it in their hearts. Santa, when explained from a magical standpoint, can be a beneficial thing. Not that he magically invades your home and eats your food, but that his spirit is magical and that it can be spread through kindness and thoughtfulness.

3) The wanting. I don’t ever really want anything, nor would I want someone else to get it for me. Maybe it’s my independent nature, but I am much happier with doing things for myself. I am also WAY happier doing for others than allowing them to do for me. That’s independent + stubborn at it’s finest. I just don’t relate to it. When I am asked what I want, I always say peace, calm and relaxation…or something close to that. That just can’t be bought or given.

This year, I’ve decided to celebrate a new holiday. It is a holiday of my creation and embodies things that I believe in and hold close to my heart. It is Elfmas. Elves are, to me, the real magic that keeps the holiday spirit alive. They are the ones that work hard to make happiness happen. They are creative and thoughtful, which is what I wanted to bring back to my holiday season. Creativity and thoughtfulness make up a huge part of my life’s foundation. In essence, I live the elf life everyday. It doesn’t hurt that I kind of look like one. There is an emphasis on the handmade, but it can be celebrated by those without the crafting experience or expertise. It is about doing things with care, thinking about others and spreading happiness…whether with a gift, a kind word, or a smile. All are equal. So this year, and every year to come, I will be celebrating this holiday of happiness.

 

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blogDon’t Lose Your Dinosaur

December 23, 2014
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Another Step Brothers inspired commission.

Back in October, I completed a 2 painting Step Brothers set as a birthday commission. This month, I had another birthday/Step Brothers commission, minus the Ferrell stress.

This piece was based on what is probably the most meaningful quote from the movie. “Don’t lose your dinosaur” had some sentimental meaning between my friend who commissioned the piece and her son. If any quote were to have sentimental meaning, I’m glad it was this one.

I wanted to give it a worn, sign look. Something between Old West and carnival side show. The black, grey and red color scheme was to chosen to tie in with the colors of the room it would be hanging in. A dark, mossy green was chosen for the central image to complement the reds in the border. The landscape was painted in a monochromatic scheme to connect with the border and not distract from the detail of the dinosaur.

Such a fun project for my good friend and biggest Sawyerfresh collector.

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blogA Batch of Art Gifts

December 22, 2014
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Because I like giving meaningful things.

I pretty lucky to have a talent that people appreciate. Although it makes gift giving much more time consuming for me than it would be for most, it is in a way, easier. I can’t say I’ve ever gifted a handmade item that wasn’t cherished. That feels pretty damn incredible. Words can’t really explain the I feel when someone truly appreciates and values the work I’ve done. The best way I’ve learned to describe it is that my insides are smiling. It’s almost as if my facial muscles aren’t capable of smiling large enough, so every part of my body tries to help it out.

With all of the birthdays and holidays, this month offered my a number of opportunities to give gifts of art, from the heart.

First up, were Georgina the Giraffe and Elmer the Elphefant. I made these two for my sister. She had purchased an alpaca (who’s name is still a topic of debate) that I painted for a charity event last year. She had mentioned that he needed some friends, so I made it happen.

Then I painted a couple of portraits for friends and family. I can’t really go wrong with a small portrait as a gift. These were super fun to do. I especially loved working on the pansy border. Purple isn’t a color I use very often, so when I found out the recipients favorite color was purple, I was pretty thrilled about that change of routine. I kind of have to be forced to use certain colors.

This month’s gifting was a great success. I’m sure my insides will be smiling for a while.

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blogLord and Lady of the Rings

December 18, 2014
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Custom movie poster inspired anniversary gift.

As an artist, it is always gratifying to create works of my own mind that stems from my own thoughts and feelings. Then there is the flip-side of art making that is equally as pleasing, but in a different way. Most artists have a particular way of working, which I do. I’m fortunate in the fact that, although I have a “style”, I work in various ways. Since I have a number of tools in my artist “tool box”, I get requests for some very specific items, items that I would never make without the person making the request. 

What’s so awesome about these types of projects is the connection that is made with another person, someone I’ve just met…usually via email alone. Once we’ve discussed the wants for a piece of art, the fun part (aside from the actual physical labor) begins. This is where I feel like I get into people’s heads a bit. I mean, I have some psychic abilities, but that deals with the future. It’s about clear communication, listening, understanding and maybe a little bit of mind reading in some instances. With that mix, I get to pull a person’s mental image out, filter it through my mind, flow it through my hands and make it materialize In a world where superficiality runs rampant, I consider myself blessed to have these deeper experiences with people.

This project was one such experience. I was contacted by a young woman in Texas who was searching for a first anniversary gift for her husband. What she wanted was a hand drawn, movie poster inspired piece, with an ethereal feel, to commemorate their wedding day. Given that it was her first anniversary, the piece had to be done on paper, so I chose to do a graphite drawing. The couple was married in in a castle in Ireland and are high movie fans. The Lord of the Rings movies were requested as inspiration for the piece, which was an easy fit given aesthetic closeness of Middle Earth and Ireland. The portraits in the foreground were based on a photograph from their wedding day and the two rings are based on their actual wedding bands. I chose to do a foggy, Irish hillside background to give it that other-worldly vibe, while still tying it to the wedding locale. In the far background, I incorporated the silhouette of the church they were married in.

Despite the short timeframe and a hiccup with the post office, this was a great project. I got to go back to basics, just pencil and paper. That is always a good time. Even better, I was able to tell a story about a very important event in someone’s life. That isn’t an opportunity most people are given. I am beyond honored to have someone share such a meaningful event with me.

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blogBoat loads of strength and focus

November 11, 2014
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Jammed into a little panel…

This may be a smaller piece for me, but it one that I am definitely connected to. It was made to evoke ideas of strength, focus, and in a less obvious way, good fortune.

Whether traditional or part of my own personal totem dictionary, I am a sucker for symbolism. In this little number, I chose a tiger to represent strength, courage and protection. Then there is the pyramid, that is tied to the ideas of pulling away negative energy and increasing focus. The concept of focus is furthered by the tiger’s gaze, aimed intently on the form. Although subtle, the five-petalled floral pattern in the background mimics the basic shape of the apple blossom, which is symbolic of better things to come and good fortune.

This piece has a nice energy to it. The elements in this piece ended up creating a narrative more personal than I had intended. When I began searching for framing wood for this piece, I became a bit discouraged with my selection. Luckily, I found the ideal piece of wood, which yielded just enough for the frame. The old, chipped paint in blues, greens and white, worked perfectly with the colors of the piece. 

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blogEnter Bernie the Bunny

November 07, 2014
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The unexpected new addition to the family.

Animals, my allergies may not love them, but I do. Today, the universe blessed our household with another animal friend.

As I sat working in my studio, I looked at the time and noticed that the rest of the fam was late upon returning home. Being the worry-wort that I am, I called to make sure all was ok. The hold-up…a bunny rescue. There was a poor little bunny scurrying around a parking lot and Mr. Tony HAD to save him. First reaction to the news: That’s so sweet that he rescued an animal. I can’t wait to see it. Second reaction: Who’s going to take him?

Well, my borderline-psychic type of intuition told me the bunny would be staying, while the logical part of my brain started scrambling for a list of possible takers. We already have an adorable black cat and a dog that belches and farts a lot, so the thought of taking in another furry friend was a little stressful. Once I met the little dude, I knew that no matter what logical-me said, the intuitive-me was correct. Which was cool because he seems to be trained-ish, he was sweet and it looked as if he was pretty pumped about his new digs. And so it went, Bernard (Bernie) Flame became part of the Krol-Sawyer family. Side note: Flame came about because at 5 years old, a kid doesn’t know that burn and Bernie aren’t spelled the same.

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blogTalk about design…

November 05, 2014
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This building is amazing, even after almost 90 years.

Carousel No. 4 was the kick-off of Tampa Design Week 2014. In my opinion, it couldn’t have started in a more fitting venue.

A few months back, I wrote a post after walking through downtown Tampa and admiring all of the old architecture. That day, I was reminded of how beautiful my city is, despite the lack of care some of the structures have seen. One of the most stunning buildings in downtown is the Kress building. It has sat empty for years, with the exception of some RNC event in 2012. Other than that, the lovely edifice with its ornate facade, has basically sat unused and unloved. Well, not completely unloved as I have walked past it numerous times imagining bringing life into the building, if only I had the money to do so.

When speaking of design, this place is top-of-the-line. From the colorful crests surrounded by filigree, to the painted signage over worn brickwork, this place is just about jaw-dropping. What I never realized, because I had never been in the building, was that the interior matched the splendor of the exterior. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the ornamental pilasters and ceiling details. The worn walls, with a touch of light green showing through caused me to come to another realization…that despite the lack of use, the building still has life in it.

That life comes from the craftsmanship that it was made with. The love is still there, it is seen in the details. Constructed in 1929, it was made during a time when, I think, people still cared about what they did. Construction wasn’t so utilitarian, it was a perfect blend of function, design and beauty. This was originally built as a department store. If one were to look at current department store design, the difference if clear. That craftsmanship, that blend of function, design and beauty can only be created with love and care. Life, love and care are innate to creations such as this. It is in every brick, in every inch of concrete and every drop of paint that it is comprised of. That is what I put into my own work, perhaps that is why I feel such a great connection to buildings like the Kress.

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blogA Halloween Month for the Books

November 01, 2014
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31 days filled with holiday spirit.

When people talk about spreading “the holiday spirit”, they typically refer to Christmas spirit. I get it, the whole good will and cheer bit. Why on Earth people only say that for a holiday instead of everyday is beyond me, but I understand what they’re getting at. My thought about holiday spirit has always been, “Why is there only one holiday that has spirit?”. I’m festive as hell, so all holidays have spirit in my book. This year, I was able to spread tons of holiday spirit and it felt incredible.

To me, Halloween has an extra special spirit. As a kid, especially one that was slightly OCD and a worrier, Halloween was a time to let loose. I could be what I wanted to be for a night. The holiday has always been a time of creativity as well, always thinking about what I could be and how I could make it. These days, it seems that Halloween has become way more commercialized than I when I was a kid. Children don’t have many options as far as costumes. They aren’t really given an opportunity to be creative. Boys are muscley super heroes and girls are some pretty Disney character…throw a bumble bee in the mix for good measure and you have Halloween these days. Oh, and the random Scream costume that still exists for some reason. When I am around kids at Halloween, I try to share the spirit with them. Why? Because if they don’t learn it when they’re young, Halloween is going to suck royally as an adult.

When I look at the “adult” side of Halloween, it’s a little depressing. Unless a grown-up has the true Halloween spirit within them, there will be one of two paths taken for the holiday. The first, is the “it’s for kids” attitude. This attitude is usually developed as a teenager, then progressively gets worse with age. Around the age of about 13-14, depending on size, trick-or-treating becomes weird. Although I am festive and live the spirit, I will say that trick-or-treating after a certain age is just obnoxious and strange. I have had grown-ups knock on my door for candy, it’s just not right. That’s one part of our youth that we will just have to let got of. If we want candy, we can go buy it. Now, once the no-trick-or-treating reality sets in, that’s when the non-spirited person really makes a choice. One can either settle in and get comfortable handing all the festive fun to the youth, or do the complete opposite go all-out “adult”.

The all-out adult approach to Halloween is simple to understand. It consists of things considered to be adult. If you take a look inside any costume store, you’ll see that’s where the market is. Thinking I wasn’t going to have time to finish my costume, I went to try to find a store-bought one. Well, that didn’t work out well. It is difficult to find a female costume without a plunging neckline, short skirt and heels. And if I wanted to wear a men’s costume, I would be a muscley super hero (I guess they never grow out of that) or something with faux no-no parts dangling out there. So, unless I want to be skeezy, macho or a pervert, my choices are limited to food items. Yes, I did go there in a pinch this year. I wore a hotdog for one evening, which was funny, but not very pleasing to look at. Still, if I hadn’t learned the true meaning of the holiday long ago, I would have been left sad and empty handed or with a super short Dorothy costume. Then there are the adult Halloween events, which consist of things most adults do for “fun” any other night of the week, just doing them in costume for the night. Really nothing too different from the norm.

Then there are the true Halloween spiriters. They get a kick out of the kid-like stuff, like getting into character and running around in a silly costume. These are the people who still love handing out candy even though they can’t receive any. These are the people that get excited on October 1st because it’s “that time of year”. These are the people that decorate because it brings back memories, not because the neighbors are doing it too. I want to see more genuine festiveness, and that’s why I share my love for the holiday. It can be infectious.  Whether I’m sharing it with children or adults who have given up on it, I can usually turn them into true Halloween spiriters. I saw a good deal of it happen this year, and it was wonderful.

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blogGoing old-school for Halloween

October 31, 2014
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Set a personal record for costume making.

I don’t recall wearing completely store-bought Halloween costumes growing up. Sure, pieces may have been purchased, but the bulk of each costume was usually homemade. I may have had one at some point, but it must not have been all that memorable as any recollection of it has escaped my brain. My mom made me some great costumes, and when I was a little older, I took on the costume creating for myself. As an adult, I took a short hiatus from Halloween, allowing things like college, work and life to distract me from my favorite holiday. For the past 3 years though, I have forced myself, no matter how busy or stressed, to be as festive as possible. This year, I hit an all-time personal record…maybe even 2.

I’ve been making all of my costumes since the Halloween revival of 2011 and since then, I’ve tried to share my costume making love with those around me. Last year, I took on creating one extra costume in addition to my own. This year, I completed 2 extra on top of the one I made for myself. Yeah, I may have been sewing and spray painting final touches on Halloween night, but I accomplished it. A remarkable feat for me since I’ve never sewn a costume. My costumes usually require things like dying of fabric, sculpting or wig-cutting action…things of that nature.

Since Halloween is more of a month than a day to me, the first costume was made “early”. That’s if you can count mid-October as early. That first costume was a tarantula costume. I had seen some spider costumes before, but in all honesty, they were a little goofy. If the kid wanted to be a tarantula, I wanted the costume to have a real tarantula “feel”.  We had recently learned the parts of a tarantula’s body, so this was also a good learning project. I may have ended up with hairy fabric bits all over the house, a couple broken needles and a few glue gun burns, but it was well worth the work. By far, this was one of the coolest kid’s costumes I saw this season. Even better was that the costume was loved by the wearer.

My costume was Atom Ant, of 1965 Hanna-Barbera fame. I say fame, but knew full well that most people wouldn’t know who I was. My costume was the least complex of the 3 costumes, only requiring some fabric dying/painting and a thrift store trip. Despite the seeming ease of construction, the costume did come with some challenges. First off, I insisted on creating oversized faux weights out of paper mache. That would have been relatively easy, if I hadn’t decided to finish half of it the night before Halloween. The most difficult part was the helmet, something I also tried to created the night before. Unfortunately, when I woke up on the 31st, the helmet shell I had created had been crushed. I was very close to calling it quits and dressing as a sheet ghost. Luckily, I found a major score on the interwebs and was able to have the perfect helmet.

Then, there was the fruit bat. That thing was literally finished a half an hour before heading out for the night. For some reason, I had anticipated this being the easiest of all 3, but I was wrong. Of all the parts to the costume, I thought the hood and ears would be the most difficult. Again, I was incorrect. Despite, my complete lack of experience in the bat hood/ear making department, it came together relatively quickly and looked great. The most challenging part was the damn wings. I seriously almost called it quits, but the opportunity to see my husband run around like a fruit bat was to amazing to pass up.

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blogWhat the world needs now

October 30, 2014
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is ska, more ska!

In high school, I was at a punk or ska show almost every weekend. Then, my body decided it was going to develop a crazy allergy to cigarette smoke. I had always gotten a scratchy throat around smoke, but my respiratory system decided smoke was evil. It took me a while to figure out what was happening, but repeated sinus and throat infections directly after going to super smokey shows made me realize a sad truth. That truth was that my concert days were over. I tried to wear a mask, but that didn’t always work. So, I stepped out of the concert scene, only going maybe once a year… if that. I usually reserved the outing for bands I had never seen or knew wouldn’t come again soon.

Less Than Jake is a band I haven’t seen since high school. When I saw they were going to be playing a full “Losing Streak” set at Pre-Fest 2, I knew I had to go. The set was great, totally felt like I was 16 again. I remembered the words to all the songs and had a bit of pit time, all with the added bonus of what seemed to be no-smoking in the venue. This town definitely needs more ska shows, preferably without smoking.

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blogStep Brothers Double Portrait Commission

October 24, 2014
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Facing my fears, or at least some discomforts.

I have a good friend that has been collecting my work for a few years now. Usually the purchases happen like this…

I take part in a show, she loves a piece, then someone else loves the same piece, then there is some sort of art buying war. She has won all of them. This time, she commissioned the pieces, so there was not battle…for her anyway.

See, what she wanted was a gift for her son’s birthday. Not just any gift, but a double portrait set of Will Ferrell and John C Reilly from Step Brothers. Now that doesn’t seem like it would entail any sort of battle, but that’s because no one else has my brain. The battle in my brain started immediately when I read the movie title in her request. My heart sank a bit and I started to panic. The problem, Will Ferrell. I have a “thing” with certain faces, they just make me uncomfortable. Will Ferrell has always made me uncomfortable, with the semi-exception of Elf. So, when I knew I’d be staring at his face for an extended period of time, I panicked. Another anxiety trigger, how was I going to reference a movie chock-full of raunchy humor in a way that was classy? These pieces would be hanging in a teenager’s room, I had to be smart about my approach.

I chose to tackle the set by leaving him for the very end of the process. For the border surrounding each portrait, I referenced specific lines/scenes in the movie. Most were pulled from the lyrics to “Boats ‘n Hoes”. The Great Whites on the Dale Doback piece are a shark week nod, while I noting the brothers’ favorite dinosaur with the two Velociraptors on the Brennan Huff piece. Since hoes didn’t seem to be suitable images to include, I used the boat half of the equation with the nautical flags, ropes, anchor and wheel.

In the end, these pieces were tons of fun. Although, there was a brief period in the end that I thought I couldn’t complete them. That whole idea of saving Will Ferrell for the end almost backfired on me. No amount of Bruce Springsteen hits could relax me. After a short break and a few tears, I was able to finish. The best part is that my friend not only got two pieces she loved, but also a good laugh at my expense. I have to admit, looking back on it, the situation was pretty hysterical. So, the next time someone approaches me with a Will Ferrell commission, I’m on it. We’ve kind of bonded over this project.

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blogVodyanoy

October 23, 2014
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My creature for BlueLucy Ybor’s Creature Feature.

For the Creature Feature exhibit at BlueLucy Ybor, 21 artists were asked to select a mythical creature to portray in a piece of artwork. For me, the choice wasn’t easy, as the list was full of creatures that I would have loved to do a version of. The obvious choice would have been a unicorn, but obvious is no fun. Instead, I chose the Vodyanoy, a male water-spirit from Slavic fairy tales. What drew me to this particular creature was the amount of green I knew I’d be able to use in the piece and the region from which that story originates.

Vodyanoy is described as a water-spirit with the face of a frog, the body of an old man and a green beard. He is blamed for all types of water related destruction, from the breaking of dams to drownings. Various countries in Europe, especially those of Eastern Europe, have some sort of Vodyanoy fairy tale. There are slight variations between spellings of his name and physical descriptions of him in the different countries, but he is still credited with the same types of actions.

The spelling Vodyanoy is apparently of Russian origin, but I chose to incorporate elements from a number of descriptions. In Czech accounts, the spirit drowns people, then keeps his victims’ souls in lid-covered porcelain cups. I opted to incorporate that into the underwater portion of the piece. By making the water translucent, I’ve given people a view into the world of the Vodyanoy, a world only seen by his victims.

Germany also has it’s own variation on this particular fairy tale. The frame and overall feel of the piece was inspired by German art and architecture, specifically the work of the brothers Grimm and Black Forest style architecture. I wanted the image to “feel” like a page from a Grimm’s Fairy Tale. Many of their stories were set in the Black Forest region of Germany, which is also referenced in the piece by the dark forest in the background. The triangular panel, shingled frame and decorative trim are all inspired by both Black Forest houses and the renowned cuckoo clocks from that region.

This piece was a definite challenge, as I deviated further from my normal approach than I have in a while. Omitting symmetry, limiting my color palette, leaving no exposed wood sections, using a triangular painting surface and creating a sculptural frame made this not only made this a fun exercise in breaking away from the comfort of my usual way of doing things. Recently, I’ve taken more risks with my work in the name of learning challenging myself. Without challenge you can’t learn, without learning there can be no progress and without progress, their is only stagnancy…and that’s gross. There was definitely a good amount of learning and growth that came out of this piece.

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blogReuniting with G and Eggs

October 20, 2014
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for a treck through the longest corn maze ever.

G and Eggs, two awesome ladies that I credit with keeping me sane through the 2011-2012 school year. The last time I saw them together was over a year ago, but today the trifecta of goofy was together to celebrate the season.

Sweetfields Farms is a quant organic farm in Masaryktown, about 45 minutes from Tampa. Last year, I went for the spring festivities and sunflower maze. It was a hot Florida spring and I never made it through the sunflower maze. I did, however, get to pet some cute farm animals including Rosie, a beautiful brown cow. In that previous visit, I also took a hay ride around the farm and played a some old-time games.

The fall festivities weren’t much different, except that there is a corn maze instead of a sunflower maze. Still the same adorable goats…and my buddy Rosie was there too! There was a lot of hay, which is a fall thing, and pumpkins galore. I even scored a gorgeous, mossy green heirloom pumpkin.

The best part, was that maze though. I mentioned to my friends that I didn’t make it through in the spring and I was determined to make it this year. So, there I was with three young children, an Ecuadorian woman and a country girl getting ready to find our way through the maze. Oh, and the only way to get through was to answer turkey questions. I was banking on the country girl to get us through. Even with the correct answers, we somehow kept getting turned around. With each wrong turn, G would repeat “Jeez, this is the longest corn maze ever!”. I couldn’t stop laughing, since she is from Ecuador and had no other corn maze experience to compare it to. Well, we made it through and I learned that turkeys are basically the thugs of poultry. They travel in “gangs” and once had booties…both facts.

I always cherish my time with these two ladies. Perfect weather, festive fun with awesome people…damn near perfect day!

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blogRepresenting my city…

October 18, 2014
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with a little Tampa themed postcard action.

Everyone that knows me knows that I have hometown pride. So, helping out with creating a Tampa themed postcard was pretty cool.

I handled the drawings, while the color and text were added later. As a Tampa native, it was somewhat difficult to choose a handful of landmarks that represent the city. Since I’m from here, there are places that “are Tampa” to me, but some people might not recognize them. I had to try to encompass as much of Tampa as possible in only a few images. Using images of the Jose Gaspar ship, a TECO trolley car, City Hall, the Sulphur Springs Tower and UT minarets, I was able to capture a large area of the city from Downtown to Bayshore to Sulphur Spring/Seminole Heights, and Ybor.

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blogLooks like October is also Craft Month

October 12, 2014
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Well, just for me anyways.

With October starting, I knew I’d be busting out some of my crafting skills for costumes. So far, I haven’t done much costuming, but have been doing many more crafts than usual.

It started with a flashback to making silly putty in elementary school. Of course, I had to make some. These days, the kids call it slime, but it’s still the same stuff. Borax, glue, water and some coloring. So, we made slime/putty and it was super fun. What made this project even more fun than it was when I was a kid is that I sat down with the little one and came up with names for our Magic Slime. We came up with Magic Snot, Melted Unicorn Horns and Magic Brains. We bottled the slime up and I created adorable little labels for each one.

Next, I got a hair up my ass to finally re-cover the chairs in the dining room. I had some nice typewriter button burlap left over from the wedding last year, so I used that to re-cover the seats. A huge improvement over the dingy floral that was on there previously. I was worried that fabric would go to waste and was thrilled to finally have a use for it.

Then, my cousin sends me this link to some super cute Day of the Dead tea light magnets. I HAD to make them! Of course, I had a hard time finding ping pong balls, so I found hard plastic eyes and melted holes in them. Also, I found paint pens to take too long to dry, so I opted for colored Sharpies. Instead of making them just for Day of the Dead, we made some Halloween inspired ones as well.

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blogWhy I am the way I am

October 11, 2014
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I guess there is truth to apples not falling too far from the tree.

I’ll admit, I know I’m a little different than most. I embrace it and love that about myself. I’ve always played by my own rules, even as a little kid. Now that I’m a “grown-up”, that difference doesn’t always rub people the right way. Those who know my quirks and weirdness adore the way I am. Sometimes though, I wonder why I’m so different. Why do I have such a youthful energy? (Not to be confused with immaturity. That is a completely different ballgame and I have always been mature for my age.) Why am I naturally so silly sometimes? Why do I dance while grocery shopping? Why do I love coloring and playing at the playground? Why do I act like a kid so often?

Well, as I was visiting my mom tonight, I realized why. It’s my mom’s fault. Hell, I can’t even blame it all on her since everyone in my family has his/her own idiosyncrasies. That’s why I consider my family to be some of my best friends. I love our weirdness and wouldn’t want to be any other way. This is what made me realize that she played a big part in why I have penchant for silliness…

As I was eating, I looked over into the living room. What I saw was my mom in the pizza costume we had just purchased for my nephew. That’s not too silly, who wouldn’t try it on?! She didn’t just try in on though, she was dancing and singing the TLC classic “No Scrubs” whilst wearing the pizza costumes. Such a classic Gonzalez moment! My family is simply fabulous.

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blogResurrecting the art of fort building.

September 20, 2014
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Teaching the youth how to use their imagination.

This morning, I was explaining to a child how kids played without smartphones and video games, without fancy toys and television. I was explaining using imagination and to that I got, “Well, when I play with cars, I pretend they’re driving. That’s using my imagination.”. I couldn’t disagree with that, but I tried to elaborate on how far imagination could be pushed. There is a big difference between pretending a toy car is actually being driven and pulling out all the boxed/canned goods from the kitchen, setting up shop in the living room and pretending you are running a grocery store. There is also a difference between pointing your finger, pretending you’re shooting someone and building a fort out of whatever you can find and move to the backyard. As I elaborated, I began to reminisce on those days of grocery store, forts, bridge building and tree climbing. Although I thought I did a pretty good job of explaining my case, there would be nothing quite like actually doing it. And do it we did, to the extreme.

Fort building was today’s imagination exercise. I must say, this thing was way cooler than the ones I built when I was a kid…except for the two-story number I built against our swing set, that thing is unbeatable. Anyhow, the building started with one large box. Then I heard my mom say “No, no, I have a BIGGER box. I mean a BIG box.”. My sister and I chuckled as we always do when my mom gets super excited about small things, I suppose that’s where I get it from. She wasn’t kidding either, these boxes were gigantic.

With these super-sized boxes, we managed to create a house attached to a restaurant. The units were attached by a tunnel, naturally. The kids wanted to run a taco stand and chose the name Taco Awesome. They chose the hours of operation, I helped come up with the menu. Since I am 12 at heart, I had to add fishy tacos to the menu. The restaurant was equipped with an order/pick-up window and a drive-thru window. We even made money and fake food. The house portion had a working door and windows, complete with awnings. I can’t claim responsibility for those awesome awnings, but I did make the Taco Awesome sign.

This day brought me back the the Gonzalez-crew heyday on Aster. Such a great day!

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blog5 Little Portraits

September 19, 2014
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Sitting on the web.

This was a fun batch of portraits. Five small portraits for the profile portion of the Raynor Group website. Hand-drawn images were chosen for the page to give it a unique, artistic vibe. Thanks for the opportunity, Solid Motive. It’s always a pleasure collaborating with you.

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blogR-E-S-P-E-C-T (DAY)

September 18, 2014
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This is what it means to me.

Today is Respect Day, so here’s my take on it…

Respect is central in my world and is a huge factor in how I function. It is the cornerstone of any relationship I establish, whether romantic, business or friendship. In any interaction, I try to act in the most respectful manner possible. Due to its importance in my life and the way I live, I seek its presence in others. Unfortunately, respect is seldom found these days. Whether it has been dropped from the human condition during (de)evolution, or it has been deemed “uncool” by popular culture, I’m unsure. What I am sure of is that respect is disappearing and a new, highly invasive action is taking it’s place. Although there is no scientific name for it as of yet, I call it “ball buttering”. Yes, “ball buttering” and woman are notorious for it, despite the somewhat misleading name.

In this age of immediate, undue praise garnered by social media, people have developed a skewed view of how they should be treated in the real world. Behind the screen, people are liked by many. As the little heart or thumb numbers grow, so does the self-esteem (momentarily) of the person receiving the “likes”or “love”. Now, it may feel good, but it’s problematic. When people fish for praise of mundane daily business, or even their face once a week (or more), then catch the praise they are fishing for, they assume the whole world should respond to them in such a manner. It’s this whole “they like me, you should too” attitude. It is a self-motivated, self-centered, shallow mentality that has driven respect (among other things) to the edge of extinction.

I’m not even sure that people that have adopted “ball buttering” in leu of actual respect know they are doing it. They are confused in thinking that flattery, exaggerated praise, insincere complements, “hanging out” and discussing all sorts of nonsensical drama equals respect. Let’s get real, it doesn’t and never will, the sum of that will forever be equal to the action of ball buttering.

So what is respect???

- Respect is being courteous, even when in the presence of people who don’t deserve respect. This doesn’t mean being passive aggressive or overly nice, then talking trash once you are in the clear. I stand by Thumper’s line “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Most people do deserve courtesy and I dole it out, no problem, but once a person has shown that they are the disrespectful type, I become very quiet until communication beyond an acknowledgement of presence becomes necessary.

- Respect is knowing there will be a time when you have to be honest and say “that not so nice something” and having the reasoning to back it up. This comes back the issue of intent. Honest, reasonable, respectful intent backing an action will always work.

- Respect is understanding that others do have feelings and taking those into account before making a move or opening your mouth. That’s not to say something may not come out wrong, but then we can go back to intent and explain it. 

- Respect is being mindful that people have lives. They cannot always bend on command, they cannot be at your beck and call, nor should others expect such from you. Respect is knowing that your needs (and wants) ARE NOT paramount, every moment of every day.

- Respect is knowing that not everyone will see things the way you do and that a thoughtful, valid stance on something weighs more than agreement on a subject.

- Respect is caring about yourself enough to act with grace and integrity.

What it isn’t, just to make a clear distinction…

- Respect isn’t motivated by personal gain. Keeping people around or pretending to be interested in their lives because you have something to gain will never be respectful. Care and interest should always be genuine, otherwise you are just buttering balls.

- Respect isn’t playing nice, then talking not-so-nice. This is related to the previous point and is based on the whole concept of “what it looks like” to everyone else…another pitfall of the social media age. If you don’t like what someone is about, don’t pretend to be friends in public then “privately” slam the person an hour later. You can be civil without being fake, there’s no need for a complete farce. It’s called having standards and principles, another concept people have forgotten.

Because I practice the dead art of respect, not arbitrary complementing, I have come under fire on a number of occasions. Whether I’m being outright ignored, called names (aggressive and bitch seem to be popular), or just flat out having my character attacked, it all stems from the fact that I DO NOT partake in the buttering of balls. Respect works both ways. If I see that someone doesn’t give it to me, to others (especially those I keep close) or themselves…they will not get it from me, not in full Sawyer strength anyway. At best, they will get the “say nothing at all” until the “honest something not-so-nice” must come out. And still, that “honest something not-so-nice” will be phrased as respectfully as possible.

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blogRide, Sawyer, Ride…

September 13, 2014
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upon your victory ship. The SS Victory, that is.

That big ship that sits behind the aquarium, it has a name and it is The SS American Victory Mariners Museum. Fact, I like to explore my hometown like a tourist. This big ship was a stop I had wanted to make for a while, but never seemed to make it over there in time. Finally, I boarded the victory ship and it was pretty great.

First off, it doesn’t move. Now that may not seem so exciting, but it meant everything to me. Another fact, most boats make me sick, if they are moving. This trip, no wooziness, no headache, no lightheadedness…awesome! It was the best of both worlds. It provided all the nautical goodness that an old ship had to offer with the stability of land.

Second, the mid-century paraphernalia. Design and architecture from the late 1940’s- 1950’s really float my boat, pun intended. The ship was built in 1945, in my favorite era. As I wandered about the museum, I was drooling over the craftsmanship, detail and design. Everything had a function and was also pleasing to look at. That balance of form and function is a trademark of vintage design and why I am so drawn to it.

Third, the wear and tear was just plain beautiful. From the rusted metal on the deck, to the worn wood panelling in the bay, there was no shortage of texture to admire. Although the ship had been restored, much of the loveliness that time and age had bestowed on it had been maintained.

Added bonus, there was a room that was almost entirely mint green. I didn’t want to leave, it was gorgeous!

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blogHoly moley, a green anole.

September 10, 2014
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So happy they’re still around.

The Green Anole, a lizard familiar to anyone that grew up in the south. These little green cuties were everywhere when I was a kid. I remember spending a good chunk of my afternoons trying to catch what all the kids in the neighborhood called chameleons. They changed colors, but not with as much variation as a true chameleon. Still, we thought they were just as cool. My abuela even convinced all the grandchildren that we could catch a lizard with a piece of looped string and walk it like a dog. Later I realized she was just trying to give us an impossible task to keep us out of her hair all day. We still had a blast attempting though.

Nowadays all I usually see scrambling across the yard are those little bastard Brown Anoles. They’re adorable, don’t get me wrong, I just know they’ve chased away my beloved green beauties. I can’t hate on the brown ones, they’re from Cuba and I have certain loyalties since my family roots come from the island. While I can’t hate, I do resent the invasive brown buggers. The greens are the only American-native anole, so I feel bad that they’ve been taken over. Plain and simple, I miss them.

Every time I venture out to do yard work, I see a good number of anoles, all brown. One day, I asked my husband if he had seen any green ones around. To my surprise, he had never seen one or even heard of them. Then I realized it was because he’s not a native, so he wouldn’t have ever seen them. I don’t recall seeing one in the past 10 years or so, so I’m pretty certain they had been forced out by the time he arrived in the south.

Ever since that first mention of the Green Anole, I had been keeping my eyes extra peeled. Each time I looked, I couldn’t find one. Tonight, I was able to finally show him what I was talking about. The discovery came in the most unexpected place, the shower. It took a bit of work for us to catch the tiny guy, but we finally did it and released him in the backyard. I’m staying optimistic that he will be able to survive out there and that by next summer I’ll be seeing more like him. A huge bonus of the whole experience…I got to use the word dewlap. Although the actual part of the lizard is rather repulsive, I find the word quite amusing.

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blogBlueLucy on Studio 10

September 04, 2014
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and I was graciously invited to join.

BlueLucy was invited to Studio 10 for a live television interview to talk about the Toons exhibit at the Ybor City gallery. To my surprise, I was asked to join in on the interview.

I’m not so much into having my face out there, but I couldn’t pass on an opportunity to show my support for a fantastic gallery and a great event. All in all, the interview went well and I was able to meet superb local talent. I will say, the experience was a bit stressful though, mostly because of the ease with which I am distracted. Minutes before the interview, we were given a few instructions…“Long answers are better than short and don’t look at the camera”. On top of that, the group came up with our own…“No likes and no umms”.

Well, 3 out of 4 ain’t bad. I held my own against those robot cameras as they turned, swiveled and blinked, trying to distract me, as if they were saying “look at me now!”. Add in the monitors and tele-prompters, it’s a wonder I didn’t stare at them the entire length of the interview. I gave lengthy-ish answers, so that worked out too. No likes either, that’s a bonus. Then came the umm. I heard someone else say it and my mind went to “grown-ups in the Peanuts cartoon” mode. Instead of saying” waa-wa-waa-wa”, my brain kept going “umm-umm-ummm”. I think only one slipped out. I survived and it was fun. I’m super grateful for the opportunity and to be with awesome company.

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blogSerendipity with sparkly eyes…

September 02, 2014
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and black fur.

It has been established and noted many times throughout my posts that I am into signs, luck and symbols. Well, tonight I got what I took as a double sign of good fortune.

I went for one of my normal Tampa walks, this evening I chose the Downtown Riverwalk. Where I usually stop to admire ducks huddled up by the river, I found something else. Sitting there under an overpass was a pair of gigantic, sparkly pink eyes staring at me. As I walked closer, the surprise became even more spectacular. It was a black kitten with gigantic, pink sparkly eyes. Now why is this a double symbol of good luck? One, it’s a black cat, probably the luckiest animal on my list. If you have one or know one, you understand. Two, the eyeballs on this thing are just magical. Pink sparkles + black cat = someone was reading my mind and left the little gem just for me. This treasure totally made my night.

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blogYou can polish a turd.

August 27, 2014
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Well, the receptacle at least.

They say you can’t polish a turd. I guess that’s true, depending on what definition of turd one is using. An actual piece of feces, that would just be messy and impossible (depending on your technique). If one is speaking of a turd as someone, or as in the Sawyerfresh dictionary, something that is unpleasant…totally possible. Way easier to accomplish with a “something turd” than a “someone turd”…I’ve tried.

Anyhow, proof of the polishing being possible came today, in the garden. For the past year and some change, I have lived with a 1950’s toilet that had zero flush power and permanent rust stains. Today, that turd of a toilet became a thing of beauty. The shape of a toilet is actually quite nice and this particular one is from my era, so I felt the need to make use of it rather than dump it. Planting in a toilet isn’t a new invention, but I felt accomplished by salvaging something I once disliked so much.

Today, I started work in what I call my “cute zone” in the front yard. That toilet that I cursed for months now has new life. The bowl itself is now home to vining plants and Mexican Heather, while the tank is filled with Bougainvillea. This is definitely going to be a fun little side project.

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blogWhen Life Gives You Lemons

August 20, 2014
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You celebrate Lemonade Day.

Today was Lemonade Day, and as with any other holiday, I celebrated. I am a huge fan of the drink. My first job was making lemonade at Muscle Beach. It’s been about 14 years since then, so naturally, I had to festively refresh my lemonade making skills. The rest of the household took part in the process too. I cut lemons, someone else squeezed and the other mixed. The delicious beverage was chilled in one of my favorite pieces of glassware in the kitchen, my 1950s atomic-age cocktail pitcher. Sad to say, this was the first time the beauty was ever used as it was intended. Before today, it had been used as a vase a few times. The delightful yellow against the pitcher’s bright diamond patter was just perfect!

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blogTest Run of Cultured Labels

August 18, 2014
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…for cultured cashew cheeze.

A month or so ago, I was asked to help design labels for organic cashew cheeze. The desired inspiration was Morocco, India and Southern Spain. Given the locales of inspiration and the prevalence of Islamic art and architecture in those regions, I loosely based the “cultured” text on the shape and flow of Arabic text. The surrounding border was inspired by Moorish architecture and mosaic work. There are more runs to do, but so far, it’s looking good!

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blogGrowing Tampa

August 16, 2014
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New Water Works Park opening near Downtown Tampa.

This week, the long awaited Water Works Park and Ulele restaurant opened. The plot of land that the park and restaurant now occupy had been unused and unloved for as long as I can remember. I have taken many walks by that spot, always waiting for something to happen. When news hit that a park was coming, I was quite excited. For months, I would periodically pass by to check out the progress. With each addition, I could see what this park was going to bring to the city.

I attended the ribbon cutting and the grand opening celebration this week, coming away with a renewed sense of hope for my city and a strengthened drive to make my own impact on it. Mayor Bob Buckhorn repeated a few statements that resonated with me and were completely in-line with what I’ve always felt for Tampa. His main message was that Tampa shouldn’t be content with second best or mediocre, that we are a great American city. I couldn’t agree more.

I’ve seen many Tampanians leave for “bigger and better things”. Tampa is my hometown and I’ve stayed, not because I haven’t had the opportunity to leave, but because of the potential I see here. I chose to stay to see the city I love grow and prosper. Projects like the park and restaurant show that there are others who feel as strongly about this place as I do. We are a city with history and character, filled with talented, creative, hard working people. Those factors, coupled with the momentum building with improvement projects like this, make Tampa’s prospects look great. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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blogGreetings are even better in green.

August 10, 2014
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Especially when they are from awesome people.

I have always held the idea that it isn’t how many times you “hang out” with a person that dictates the type of friends you are. It is how you spend the time with a person, even if it is only a few moments in a year. For me, friendship is based on thoughtfulness, respect and honesty. Those I keep close exhibit all of these and I reciprocate. No matter if days or years pass, those who have been accepted into my “Army of Positivity” always find the most opportune time to remind me of why they are so special to me.

This morning, I had one such reminder. I received a greeting from one of the strongest, funniest, most loyal women I’ve ever met. The message came from New York…and was in all green. She moved to rural NY a few years ago and it has been difficult to keep in contact, but when it does happen, its always a delight. This time, she sent me a photo of her view. She had been catching up on my blog and thought I’d enjoy all of the green. How I did enjoy the green and the thoughtfulness behind it. It’s something so simple, but to me, the simplest things are usually the most meaningful.

...Dummy, you are beautiful.

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blogAstro Jetson

August 09, 2014
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A Sawyerfresh take on a classic cartoon character.

The second show at BlueLucy Ybor is just around the corner and I just wrapped up my piece. For the Toons show, 53 artists are creating works based on selected cartoons.

I chose The Jetsons to base my piece on. It was a tough choice, but there is something I just adore about that era of design and culture. I have always been drawn to Atomic/Space Age design of the mid-20th century. It is clean, from color combinations to lines. Now, there were a number of cartoons from the same era, but the futuristic storyline of The Jetsons would let me play around with the Space Age look, literally. I not only took into account the aesthetic of the time, I also considered the cultural climate that sort of fueled the design period. The composition itself is loosely based on Soviet cosmonaut propaganda posters from the 1950’s and 60’s. No matter how I personally feel about tactics used during the race for space, the posters are undeniably good. Controversy over Soviets sending dogs to space was also another reason why I chose Astro over any of the other characters.

This version of Astro is based on the 9th episode in the original series, which only lasted a single season, from 1962-1963. The 62 in the upper right corner is a reference to the original airing date of the episode. In the episode, Astro is the spacedog sidekick on Elroy’s TV show. The bubble space helmet is part of his TV sidekick costume. I chose to depict Astro as a more detailed, less cartoony version for two reasons…

1) Hanna-Barbara did a fabulous job. No need to reproduce what they already perfected.

2) Influenced by #1, I wanted to see what a Sawyerfresh version of one of my favorite cartoons would look like.

Toons opens 8.23.14, 7-11, at the BlueLucy Ybor gallery.

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blogMy turn to search for treasure.

August 06, 2014
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Round 3 of hospital treasure hunting.

I have treasure hiding duty for the past to rounds, but today, Jennyburg seemed to think I should to the searching. The clues were given and I was a bit concerned about what finding the treasure would entail. I recognized the cafe where it was hidden, but I was worried that I’d have to answer a trick question or do something absolutely ridiculous to retrieve my treasure from the cashiers.

Once lunch time hit, it was down to the basement for food and the hunt. During the lunch rush, I was looking in the coolers, under the counter and over the counter. There it was, behind the tea display. Before I could reach it, one of the workers grabbed and said I had to pose for it. Apparently, the instructions were to do some sort of harajuku girl pose. Instead, I called them around the counter where we all did the “hello kitty” pose just for my dear Jennyburg. Can’t wait for round 4!

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blogDouble Luck with a Double Rainbow

July 25, 2014
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Reminds me it’s Survival Day.

Some know this day as my birthday, but I consider it my survival day. This day in 1982 was very close to being the last for both my mother and I. Well, the first and last for me. Somehow, I got lucky and I have an awesome mom to call on when I need a pick-me-up, art advice or a laugh. I’m pretty good about staying positive, but sometimes I forget how lucky I am. As most people do, I get sidetracked by life stresses and don’t always remember. That ultimate life-or-death situation hit me right off the bat. When I put that into perspective, it makes me realize that I should be able to take on pretty much anything and that I am extremely lucky. Not just because we survived, but that I overcame so many obstacles to become the person I am today.

So, here it was, the day I had been trying to forget and was hoping others would forget as well. Then, in came another message from the universe. This time in the form of a double rainbow. Everyone knows I have a thing with good luck symbols and here I was, gifted with an ultimate good luck symbol over the city I love. Then I remembered, this isn’t a birthday, it’s Survival Day. Yeah, I know a lot of other people saw it, but I’m taking it as a personal gift.

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blogRound 2 of hospital treasure hunting.

July 23, 2014
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This time, I hid a couple of minis.

Another day with business at the hospital means another treasure hunt. This time, I hid two little buddies. With a few clues, the treasure hunter had to reunite them.

The kitten was hidden under an air conditioning unit on the lowest level of the hospital, in the mid-summer heat. I ampted up the uncomfortable factor. People need to work for treasure, you can’t just hand it to them. Apple Star, the unicorn, was hidden on one of the highest floors in the hospital. I placed it in the most isolated corner I could find, behind a stack of pamphlets. Apparently, some of the nurses were concerned with the pacing and digging around that was occurring. The visual I got from that was priceless. After some awkward moments and a bit of fear that one of the treasures had been found by someone else, the mini kitty and mini unicorn were brought back together.

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blogExploring my world

July 20, 2014
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...one green at a time.

I am a color nerd. I don’t just see color, I experience it, I feel it. For me, color is tied tightly to emotion. Some colors provide positive feelings, while others cause negative sensations. This isn’t uncommon, most people have a favorite color or a color they dislike. My feelings about color go beyond like or dislike, as colors seem to be so deeply connected to my feelings and can sometimes spark physical sensations. 

I used to think I imagined this, as if I over exaggerate a like or dislike of certain colors. Lately, I’ve been testing my color theory, with all evidence pointing to the theory actually being a fact. I even tested it on my latest piece and I almost drove a hammer through the panel in the first few hours of working on it. All because of, I do believe, the color.

I definitely gravitate towards greens and blues, with my love of green being on high lately. They make me feel calm and happy. Not just any green or blue, there are absolutely certain shades and tints that bring about those feelings. When there is a “perfect” green, I am elated. These are usually lighter tints or extremely deep, rich shades.  If I could, I would live in the color, or at the very least snuggle the hell out of it…if it were possible. Until that can happen, I have to accept the few moments I have with the color and hold on to the memory through photo. There are exceptions to the green rule…

1) Hunter Green and Phthalo Green are NEVER good, ever!
2) Also, Kelly Green only for mixing or in moderation, never alone if avoidable.

To me, orange is the lesser of all colors in the spectrum. I don’t understand the color. Maybe it’s because it is a mix of two warm colors, too aggressive for my blood. That’s not to say I 100% detest orange. I just have certain rules about orange, as I do with other colors.

1) Never alone, unless unavoidable… Orange alone just doesn’t work. It’s rare to see something solid orange that looks good. If something must be predominantly orange, then it must. There is no way around it and I have to come to grips with it.
2) Use in small doses with other, better colors… Orange makes a good accent color, especially when next to a lovely green.

Given my connection to color, I decided to begin exploring my world in greens and blues. I have started documenting all of the “perfect” colors the world offers me. The perfection is not only in the shade of the color, but how light and surroundings impact it.

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blogOld Florida Adventures

July 19, 2014
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Airboats, Alligators and Roadside Attractions

I pretty much try to live Florida like a tourist, otherwise I feel like I’d miss out on some pretty rad stuff. My favorite adventures are ones that include old-time attractions. Add in the great outdoors and I’m golden. For years, I’ve been wanting to take an Everglades airboat ride. It’s a classic Florida experience. Today, my mission was accomplished and I couldn’t have had a better time.

First off, Florida nature makes me feel like a kid again. Spending a good chunk of my childhood on Florida rivers, I grew to have a strong love and fascination with native wildlife and ecosystems. With that said, the Everglades was obviously a fantastic destination for me. The adventure started with some baby alligator snuggling, which was incredible. I’ve seen many a baby alligator in the wild and have always thought they’d be snuggly…theory proven to be fact.

Then, there was the boat ride. Captain Kenny Smallwood was a wild man, weaving through the mangroves at high speeds, even doing a few donuts. On the ride, we encountered a couple larger alligators and a family of super cute raccoons. To top it off, my motion sickness didn’t get the best of me.

A trip through Florida wouldn’t be complete without a few roadside attractions. Pitstops were made at the nation’s smallest post office, a giant panther statue and the Skunk Ape Research Center. All in all, a perfect Florida road trip.

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blogGurdy the Spider

July 18, 2014
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My new friend on the front porch.

Tonight, I came home and couldn’t get in. Not because I had locked my keys in my car and not because the lock was jammed. Instead, I couldn’t get in because a new friend was blocking my path up the porch step.

I almost got caught in her enormous web, but luckily I saw a small glimmer of it under the porch light before proceeding up the steps. Rather than being scared and knocking it out of my path, I sat and watched her spin her web. I named her Gertrude, Gurdy for short. Seeing how quickly and efficiently she was working, I couldn’t bear to dismantle her work. After reading up on that type of spider, I’m glad I didn’t harm her web. Instead, I look forward to her potentially coming back night after night, steadfastly constructing her web to delight on the plethora of moths and bugs that the porch provides.

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blogBack to Tattoo Designing

July 11, 2014
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Getting over some hurdles with a pretty cool piece.

I get commissions and I thoroughly enjoy them. Once before, many years ago, I was asked to design a tattoo. Subject matter wise, it wasn’t of much interest to me, but I knew I could do a better job than the design originally given to the person by an actual “tattoo artist”. The person was thrilled with the drawing and the way it translated to tattoo. That was probably something like 6 years ago.

Artistically, I have improved over those years, but the seriousness of someone valuing my work enough to have it permanently added to their body seems so much stronger. I think some of that is because I have some tattoos of my own now and mostly because of the short-lived tattoo apprenticeship I tried out. In fact, it wasn’t until I began this project that I realized the impact that the apprenticeship had on me, especially mentally. I noticed that my time in the shop had effected my work. I still draw the same way, my pieces are just a little cleaner and there is more symmetry in many pieces. I value what I gained in that respect. Mentally, it made me a little less confident in my work though. Being told that I needed to “re-learn” to draw wasn’t the easiest thing to take, especially at a time when I was finally finding my own style as an artist. I understood why I was told that, but as an artist, I felt as if I had been living a lie. Thinking I was finally coming into my own style, only to be told it I needed to draw like a tattoo artist. Honestly, I didn’t know how and figured I wasn’t cut out for it.

When I was again asked to design a tattoo, this time my initial reaction was “I can’t draw tattoos”. Of course, I didn’t say it, but I definitely thought it. After realizing that the person wasn’t asking for a traditional tattoo design, but essentially a piece of my work that will eventually become a tattoo, I relaxed a bit…emphasis on a bit. Starting it was another battle. I have a good number of pages in my sketchbook devoted to this project.

The task was to incorporate a skull with geometry and some sort of vining plant. As far as subject matter, I couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable set of criteria. Yet, I had more hangups with this request than when I designed my first tattoo all those years ago. First, it was “I can’t draw like a tattoo artist”. Then it was, “I can’t do straight lines and geometric stuff”. Then, “I can’t make organic and geometric work together”. Then again back to my inability to draw tattoos. After days of fretting, sketching and doubting, I sat in my studio and stared down at a blank sheet of paper. I took a deep breath and said to myself “This person wants your work. He came to you because he values your work and your style, not how you copy someone else’s. He doesn’t want a piece of traditional flash, he wants to see what Sawyer can create given his criteria. This person wants my work because it is unique”. I’m not sure why that took about a week to sink in, but the pep talk worked. After getting over some major insecurity hurdles, I came up with something I really like.

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blogFound the Lucky One

July 10, 2014
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A spin on the concept of looking for luck.

Recently, I’ve done a few pieces revolving around the idea of good luck. They are fairly traditional and done in full color. To add a bit of variety to the good luck series, I opted for a little less color and a bit of humor for this one.

It has a slightly darker vibe than the previous pieces and is done in ink, colored pencils and paint. It is also more of a narrative than symbolically heavy. The story goes that this little rabbit was so desperate for a little luck, that he cut his feet off looking for “the lucky one”. Well, he found it and dipped it in gold to wear around his neck.

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blogTreasure Hunting in the Hospital

July 09, 2014
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Bringing fun to the doctor’s visit.

Doctor’s offices, hospitals, any place that is related to sickness…I get a little stressed. Whether I’m there to treat my own malady or to accompany someone on their quest for treatment, I get a little squeamish. When my nerves don’t get the best of me, my emotions do. Being the emotional, empathetic type, I sometimes get overwhelmed thinking about what others are feeling and knowing I can’t help them. It wrecks me sometimes.

When I do have to make such trips, I try to find creative ways to combat the stress and/or negative emotions I may feel. Today, I may have outdone myself, with a little bit of drawing and treasure hunting…well hiding, as I didn’t actually do any hunting.

First I drew a few pictures, one for hiding and one for the person I was with. One drawing was of a cat skull with a unicorn horn surrounded by a stippled heart. The other was of a little Charlie Chaplin mouse. Not the most difficult work, but relaxing was the name of the game. The cat skull was my treasure drawing. One of my best friends happens to work in the building I was visiting, so I figured I’d bring a little joy to her day by sending her on a treasure hunt. I saw it as a customized version of geocaching. The drawing ended up hidden behind a large canvas on the 3rd floor of the hospital. As a hint, I sent only a photo of the canvas to my friend, along with a few tips on extracting the treasure. She found it and apparently had a few good laughs while doing so. This was so much fun that it is going to become a regular activity during visits.

 

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blogFairy Sticks and Friendship Bracelets

July 05, 2014
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Just a normal afternoon visiting mom.

My mom is pretty damn crafty. I envy her craftiness as it far surpasses my ability. Crafting overwhelms me sometimes. I often don’t know where to begin, and if I do start, I can’t figure out when I’m finished. Then, when I call it finished, I realize I should have done the whole thing differently. I’m not exactly sure why this is, as it is another form of art. All I know is that my mom is better, hands down.

Today, I went over to visit and brought some work…as usual. And, as usual, I didn’t get to that work. Instead, I ended up crafting for a bit.

My mom had a table full of supplies out to make fairy sticks with my niece and nephew. Naturally, I inquired as to what a fairy stick does. Apparently, they attract fairies. Being a believer in all things magical and cute, I opted to make one of my own. Of course, I had to put a twist on it. I made a fairy/elf/unicorn stick. It would harness the magic of fairies, the creativity of elves and the magic of unicorns. I used my favorite colors, pink and green, and even added some glitter for magical sparkling effect. To complete it, I attached a mini unicorn horn to the end.

If making fairy sticks wasn’t fun enough, I went back to elementary school days when I saw the embroidery floss. I started making friendship bracelets. In elementary school, I was pretty pro at bracelet making. In fact, I used to sell them. I didn’t think I’d remember the knots, but it came back to me immediately. It’s kind of like riding a bike I suppose. All in all, the best crafting experience I’ve had in a while.

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blogBeauty Beneath the Grime

June 30, 2014
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Tampa’s old-time charm still shows through the dirt and decay.

Sometimes I walk around Tampa and wish that many of the vacant, unused building would be fixed up and occupied. Then I realize what “fixed up” would look like and I hope it doesn’t happen. This may be difficult for most to understand. I mean, who wouldn’t want a new building in place of one that is falling apart? Not many, especially anyone that cares about the city and wants to see it flourish.

I am a true Tampa lover and I want nothing more than for it to prosper. The unfortunate fact about growth is that it often comes at the loss of the things that make a place what it is…in essence, it’s charm. Case in point, Lowry Park Zoo. It’s a great zoo, if you’re into that type of thing, but what did Tampa lose in order to have that? We lost Fairyland. Some may have thought it was hokey, but for many it was iconic Tampa and something irreplaceable. The magical rainbow bridge that led visitors into a land of fairytales, all handcrafted by a local artist is something that those who lived in Tampa between the 1950’s and early 1990’s would remember.

Now, as I take my walks, I see a lot of new development happening in the city. That is exciting and beneficial. What I also see are glimpses of the old-time charm that Tampa still has. It’s part of our history and part of what why I love this place. Unfortunately, much of this charm is found in those vacant, dilapidated buildings. As I walk, I imagine the buildings restored to their former glory, maintaining the vintage aesthetic. Why that is unfortunate is because I see what happens when some of these structures are “fixed up”. The “fixing” is fueled by a desire for newness, not maintaining character. For now, I can only hope that if these buildings are given new life, that the people overseeing the projects recognize the original beauty that is there, even through the tarnish and grime.

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blogCrepes and coffee

June 28, 2014
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One of the best ways to ease the anxiety of a World Cup match.

For the past year, it has been a family tradition to go to La Creperia Cafe in Ybor every weekend for crepes and coffee. There have been times we’ve missed it or deviated from our normal day, but we’re pretty much regulars at this point. The visits are always a pleasure. Friendly employees, outstanding crepes and, what might be, the best cappuccino in Ybor have made this one of my favorite places in the city.

Well, they may have made my dining experience even better this week. How could they accomplish this? For one, they are showing World Cup games rather than the usual Food Network. Secondly, everyone working is into it.

Today, it was Brazil vs. Chile. Half of the staff was cheering on Brazil, with the other favoring my choice, Chile. I had been watching the game prior to heading to the cafe, with the score tied up at full-time. When I sat down at the restaurant, extra-time had begun and everyone one was glued to the television. Eventually going into penalty kicks, the game was intense and so was the energy in the cafe. Waiters were cheering and clapping each time their team made a block or point. I’ve seen some of these people once a week for about a year, and must say, I think this was the most joy I’ve seen on their faces in all of that time. In the end, my team didn’t win, but I couldn’t have chosen a better place to have to witness the defeat…smiling faces, sweet crepes and smooth coffee.

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blogWhen a Tampa icon gets a Sawyerfresh makeover.

June 27, 2014
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Nothing says macho like a skull, I guess.

Bucco Bruce, the infamous old Bucs logo. I have always been a fan of the old logo, but many take issue with him. Either because he wasn’t “manly” enough or because of the color combo…or both. Personally, I have always thought Bruce to be handsome. I also found the colors quite fitting for a Florida team, much better than the Dolphins and more bold than the Jaguars. For a while. I have wanted to try my hand at giving Bruce a bit of a makeover and I’m pretty pleased with the final product.

I took elements of both old and new logos, combined them and put my own twist on color. The original color palette remained roughly the same, with red, yellow-orange and white. Rather than using solid red and orange, I used various tints and shade of both colors. Also, I chose to do a color inversion by using white for the outline rather than using red. For the face, I used a skull. I did that for a few reasons. One, nothing says pirate quite like a skull. Two, it is a bit of a reference to the change in logo. Three, because no one can accuse Bruce of not being tough enough when in skull form. To further reference pirate life, I chose to distress the background of the painting and used roughly sanded reclaimed molding for the frame. Both of which brought to mind the wear and tear associated with pirate life, like tattered and torn flags flying on weather beaten boats.

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blogGo Skateboarding Day 2014

June 21, 2014
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Finally got to celebrate.

The day started off with a bang at the Polk Museum of Art where the Innoskate festivities continued for day 2. The event was a great success, but I was just a spectator. I wanted to physically celebrate, not just watch. Of course, I wasn’t going to bust out my super graceful skills in front of all the people who actually know what they’re doing. Wouldn’t want anyone to get jealous.

Go Skateboarding Day had been on my holiday list every year for the past 3 years and, for the previous two, I sat it out. See, I lack balance and coordination, two necessities in skateboarding. The very first time I ever tried, I was in high school. It pretty much went Sawyer steps on board, Sawyer breaks her butt. I waited over 10 years for my next attempt. I was much better at it, but I was still terrified of having a loose piece of wood on wheels under my feet. Sometimes I loose my balance walking, so wheels don’t do anything to help.

Leave it to a holiday to motivate me. I had no choice, I had to try. Try I did and I made more progress in this one evening than I ever had before. At the end of the night, I was determined to make a loop around the house…inside that is. I was surprised, but I was able to navigate around furniture and an insane dog to make the loop. Definitely going to be an annual celebration from now on.

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blogDon’t stop looking at me swan.

June 20, 2014
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And please let me pet you with you’re at it.

Tonight was a twofer art night. Innoskate began tonight, so after visiting Blue Lucy, I was off to the Polk Museum of Art to check out the festivities.

Prior to the opening of All Decked Out at the Polk Museum of Art, I had never been to Lakeland. One thing I noticed during my first visit was that they had swans…and they liked them a lot! They had giant sculptures of swans throughout the city and as I drove around Lake Morton, I noticed a few swans swimming across the water.

Tonight, as I made that same drive around the lake to the museum, I noticed something different. The swans were near the shore, some even out of the water. The moment I saw that, I was on a mission. That mission was to befriend a swan, even if it meant I got attacked. Luckily, swans are much more pleasant than I thought. I think the trick was talking to them. They were a little hesitant to come my way at first, but then I started the small talk and compliments. They really liked hearing how beautiful they are and how much I appreciated them letting me get so close.

I wasn’t able to pet one, but I did make a friend. That was a pretty impressive feat for me since I’m kind of scared of birds (bad experience with an angry parrot when I was younger). Plus, swans are huge, like mutant ducks or something. Seriously thought I was in for a pecking, but I lucked out. Thanks to Lakeland, and your lovely swans, for making my dream come true.

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blogIf I had wings I would fly.

June 16, 2014
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Let me contemplate, this snack on my plate. Well, my tray, but who’s counting?

Flying freaks me out. A very efficient way to travel, but super stressful for me. A tube full of people, coasting through the sky for hours, you’re stuck. There is no turning back option. Ugh, and the noise and turbulence.

I didn’t fly as a kid, we didn’t take trips like that. I had this idea in my head though that when I finally did, the airline would give me little metal wings. I think I saw it in a movie or something. Well, that never happened. Each flight I waited and each flight, I never received them.

This flight home was freaking me out as much as any other flight I’ve taken. Maybe a little more since I had never heard of the airline. I felt like I was getting in the car with a stranger, it felt weird. To try to curb my anxiety, I started reading through the pamphlets that were in the seat pocket in front of me. I found some new spots Florida I want to hit. I learned that the airline was 15 years old, so that was reassuring. Then, near the back of the booklet, there it was…the inflight kids snack pack, complete with little gold wings. I had to have it. Bonus, it came with giant Goldfish. I’m partial to mini things, but how could giant Goldfish be bad?

Well, I overestimated the Goldfish goodness. Definitely better as a mini snack, as most things are. I didn’t care, I finally had my wings! Nothing but smiles from that point on. Thanks Allegiant, for making my wing dreams come true, even if I had to pay for it.

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blogBeehive Summit

June 15, 2014
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Doing it in reverse. I knew it didn’t seem right!

I have a fear of heights, fact. On a good day, I feel a little churning in my stomach when I look down from a high spot. On a bad day, my hands sweat like crazy, I have a hard time breathing and I feel faint. That usually leads to laughter, which is common when I am extremely nervous. That type of laughter is only matched when I have to get shots or blood drawn.

Will I face my fear of heights? Yes, but not without some discomfort and a ton of laughing. Reaching Beehive Summit was one such instance of facing fears. Actually, it wasn’t reaching the summit that got me. It was the descent. During the entire hike up, I kept thinking it wasn’t bad at all. I was wondering where all the sketchy parts were and why we hadn’t needed iron bars to hang on to. Once we began the descent, I knew exactly why. We had gone up backwards. Everyone was coming up, so we had to wait for the path to clear.

The steep drop off scared the hell out of me and I almost turned around and went down exactly the way I came up. Reverse is so much more difficult. I even have a hard time getting down a ladder, now I was dangling off a damn cliff trying to scale down backwards. Not going to lie, the first few steps down almost made me vomit. But then, I remembered I was living life thrice. I was determined not to hurt myself or fall to the forest below.

I made it! Just my luck, the warning about going down the wrong way was standing there at the base. Why they would put that at the correct entrance is beyond me, but it made the hike much more exhilarating. To make the accomplishment even sweeter, right as we came down, a park regular was telling hikers how dangerous a reverse climb is and that he saw a man smash his face while trying to do it. Hooray for no falling or smashed faces!

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blogMost spectacular sunrise.

June 15, 2014
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Not what you’d might expect.

Upon arriving to Maine, we headed to Acadia National Park to get a game plan for the remainder of our trip. While in the visitor’s center, one of the park rangers mentions that Cadillac Mountain provides a gorgeous view of the sunrise. In fact, it is at the mountain’s peak that you can be one of the first in the US to view the rays of the sun come over the horizon. Beautiful sunrise…I’ll take it. Be one of the first people in the country to see the sun in the morning…I’ll take that too. So, the mission was to see the sunrise. There were two drawbacks here. One, sunrise was around 4:30 am. Two, it was kind of cold there when the sun was out, so I knew I’d be pretty chilly at 4 in the morning.

So, today, I woke my happy-ass up at 3:00 am so we could make it up to the mountain with ample time before sunrise. That wasn’t too bad. I was actually pretty pumped about this “amazing view” I was in for. I stepped out the cottage door and noticed it was pretty cold, as expected, but not too bad. Up the mountain we drove and as we got higher, I noticed a slight weather change. It was much more cloudy and the winds picked up considerably as we made our ascent. We parked and looked out over the mountain. The islands and boats off shore where barely visible due to building clouds. The only two people bold enough to get out of their cars, we walked out to “get a better view”. That lasted about 5 minutes before I thought my bones were going to shatter. I don’t handle cold well and this was rough for me. At this point, I could see a bit of light peeking out from the horizon, but it wasn’t full sun. So, back to the car I went to prepare myself a bit better for the harsh weather.

Round 2, I had geared up with what I called my “sunrise turban”. Made from a thermal sweater, it acted to keep my head warm and to somehow channel to power of sunrise and clear the skies for my viewing pleasure. Well, it kept my head warm, but no such luck on sunrise power. I’m pretty sure a blanket of arctic death cloud blew over right when the sun was making it’s appearance. It was nothing but cold grey fog.

Now, this may not seem like a spectacular sunrise to anyone else. I know this because I saw people getting annoyed out there on the mountain top while I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Some where even searching for the sun, with one hand across the forehead. Dumbfounded as to whether or not the sun had or had not risen yet. I could tell it had because it was lighter outside, an obvious sign of daylight. Why was this a great sunrise for me? For one, I technically did what I set out to do…be one of the first people in the US to see the rays of the sun. I saw light, maybe not the round glowing ball, but it still counts as rays. Two, I’ve seen some wonderful sunrises, but never in my life have I seen one like this. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime view. On top of that, I laughed all morning despite the blistering cold air and the early wakeup call. It was pretty much a perfect morning. Definitely not disappointed in the slightest.

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blogA giant dose of chill the hell out.

June 14, 2014
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Nature just jammed that horse pill down my throat.

People tell me I don’t know how to relax and I agree. It’s no secret and it’s not something I’m super happy about, but I try and that’s what counts. I was born stressed and tense, and I suppose it never wore off. Most times, it takes some sort of huge life event to snap me into shape for a while, the reverse of how most people react. I have good stretches, but recently I’ve been maxing out my stress and anxiety meter. No matter how much friends and family have tried to help, the stress is only alleviated for a brief period of time. Over the past 2 days, nature punched me in the face until I broke and I was forced to relax.

One wouldn’t think that a mountain hike trip would be so relaxing for someone with a fear of heights, but it may have cured my anxiety woes, at least for a bit. The views at Acadia National Park, simply glorious. I felt on top of the world and as if I could touch the sky. Sand Beach offered a fabulous color show with the browns and reds of the cliffs against the deep blue ocean below. Then there were the moon-like mountain tops, with their smooth, rounded rock formations splattered with pinks and greens. Oh, and the smell of pine everywhere…a girl could breath, finally.

During my hikes, I was reminded of how small I am. Not just literally, but in the grand scheme of the world. Not to say insignificant, because individuals can make an impact.  I realized the source of much of my stress was trying to make sense of and fix things that I have zero control over. I can overanalyze any situation for days on end and think of scenarios that would fix the problem, but that will never change anything…except my own metal and physical well-being. That seems like common sense, I know, but it brought me back to a much more relaxed state.

It all stems from my approach to life. I like it positive, efficient, organized and as drama-free as possible. Unfortunately, that’s not the approach of many people in this world, including a good number I have to deal with personally. No matter how rude, ignorant, mean, petty or selfish people are, that is on them. I have no control over any of it. The only thing I can control is my own thoughts and actions.

All I want to do is make the outside world more efficient and less dramatic, but by doing so, I have made my mind less efficient and made it more drama filled. This trip reminded me of how much more control I have over my mind than my life…and the world around me. Standing on the edge of a cliff and watching the waves crash hundreds of feet below me reenforced the fact that at any given moment, nature will do what it wants, no matter how much I think, fret, stress or analyze…so I should just chill the hell out and enjoy the ride.

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blogMonsters and Mystery.

June 13, 2014
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Just a rainy Friday the 13th in Portland, ME.

Cryptids, I’ve been fascinated for years. Being from Florida, the Skunk Ape story was something I heard from a young age. Any time I was in the woods, I wondered if I would encounter one. No such luck. In the 90’s, The Chupacabra began wreaking havoc in Puerto Rico and some South American countries. I remember following this on the Spanish news that my grandmother would watch. I even had a Chupacabra t-shirt that I wore religiously. That coincided with the popularity of The X-Files, which I rarely missed an episode of.

That being said, making a stop by the International Cryptozoology Museum was a must while in Maine. They had everything from Bigfoot, to the Yeti, jackalopes, mermaids, aliens, and my beloved Chupacabra.  I even learned about Kappas, a cryptid from Japanese folklore which apparently inspired the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Super stoked about that little nugget of info! There is even a collection of art that has been donated to honor cryptids. More than likely that I will be sending a Sawyer Special their way eventually.

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blogGetting witchy, maybe.

June 12, 2014
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Salem, not quite as spooky as I thought, but still rad.

I’ve wanted to visit Salem, Massachusetts for some time now. Probably ever since I was forced to read The Crucible in school. I was unable to make that trip the first time I visited the state, but this time I made a point to add it to the itinerary.

I must say, the place isn’t quite as spooky as I would have imagined. Being pretty sensitive to supernatural or ghostly things, I thought I’d feel something. At the very least, just an eerie sensation, but nothing. Upshot, there was some intriguing witch history to learn. Filled with 17th century household items and tidbits of witch history/facts, The Witch House was probably the most interesting spot. I even had a unicorn sighting in their Cunning Folk exhibit.

The highlight of the trip was what I found outside the museums and normal touristy joints. What might be the coolest store I’ve ever been in was located right across the street from The Witch House. Five Hands Curiosities and Antiques was a chock full of all the dark, obscure and old I was seeking in a trip to Salem. Had I the money, a good deal of their merchandise would be in my house right now. Skulls galore, anatomical diagrams, vintage medical equipment…absolutely fabulous stuff! My favorite piece had to be the mummified cat tucked in a nice glass box. Morbid as hell, but so cool. How I’d love to have that thing.

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