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I hadn’t seen the sun in Hawaii for a couple of weeks. It hailed (ice rocks) in Waimanalo and tornadoed in Kailua as I left for sunny Florida. On my first morning in Sarasota I ran Siesta Key Beach and got a good sunburn. I enjoyed talking to a couple hero artists of mine, Wyland who was in Florida getting ready for a show in Key West, and Ron Genta who lived in Hawaii for a time and decorated restaurants like Formaggio’s of Kailua. Then I was off to do a painting party presentation at Colleen Cassidy’s art studio. A good crowd welcomed me including my friend Cynthia Shriver who was married to Richard Shriver who starred in the movie “Jaws”.

Colleen and Lisa (studio/gallery manager) are always so good to me. They advertise well, give me good directions, sell my art, DVDs, paint kits and classes and Colleen even allowed me to stay at her place on the bay. I loved walking and enjoyed seeing the local fish and birds. Sheephead fish and kingfisher birds, buzzards, crows, ibis, herons as well as squirrels and my favorite site: a pair of huge cranes walking next to a woman down the road. The cranes were almost as tall as the woman!

The next day was our first Florida workshop and after 5 hours we were holding amazing art that had been painted that day. Dinner was at my favorite Walt’s Fish Market restaurant where I enjoyed the cracker special of frog, catfish and alligator.

Sunday took me to Bonita Springs to spend a couple days with my friend Denise and her husband Ovid. Denise is the cousin of Judy Burner from the Kilauea Lighthouse gift shop on Kauai. They have a wonderful house full of Denise’s artwork from wall paintings to murals to mosaic tile floors. Checked out the Bonita Springs Art Center for future painting workshops and visited Sanibel Island on the way back. My favorite there was driving through the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.
It reminded me of the days I worked as a Fish and Wildlife Ranger with the volunteers and all.
The Edison Ford Summer home was very inspirational to me. When I was there, surrounded by the genius and hard work of these men, I asked for some of it to rub off on me. It is amazing what focus and organization can produce. They loved nature trips as well. It reminded me to spend more time in the wild.

Last night I hung out with Ron Genta, a prolific artist who lives in Siesta Key. Ron’s work is well known in Hawaii as he has an exciting style that is popular in the décor of coffee shops and wine restaurants. We ate at Claytons, a place totally decorated with Ron’s work as is Formaggio’s of Kailua and several eateries around Honolulu. Ron does all original work. No reproductions.

Wednesday night was a fun Painting Party at Total Wine of St. Petersburg. It was a great test run of my new DVD clips, slideshow, painting class, and wine tasting. A cool and fun concept. The participants were self proclaimed “total Non-Artists”. They went home with a new skill...thrilled! I went back to a rental car that had been smashed in the parking lot while I was teaching inside. After doing all I could to make my damage claims I resigned myself to find the blessings that the situation has to offer.

Looked around St. Petersburg the next day. A charming city on the water. Took in three inspiring Museums. An Ancient Egyptian exhibit. Those people really made art to last. Then to the new Dali Museum. I saw what a person can do when their life is really dedicated to art. I witnessed the stages of the artist’s life and what he wanted his art to do. While most artists want their viewers to enjoy their pretty pictures, artists like Dali wanted his viewers to think.

The most inspiring art I saw was that of a living artist named Chihuly. What impressed me most is that he is still alive. It’s not what he has done, it’s what he Is Doing! Great paintings and glass art and large scale public landscape projects shown from a wonderfully designed contemporary gallery. It really made me think about my art and life goals.

Then off to Daytona Beach on a spur of the moment Facebook invite from my old Kauai buddy Lance Wilson and his family. Beautiful views, great beach, we ate a big redfish that he caught that day...and Bike Week-oh boy. Surfed and ran Daytona Beach with Lance and family. Apparently not many bikers surf cause we had the waves all to ourselves. Next day we went canoeing and fishing. I caught and released a redfish, an eel, and a catfish.
At the Marine Science Center and Turtle rescue at Ponce Inlet I Met Mellissa who just transferred from the Juno Loggerhead Turtle Center where I will visit tomorrow. I am setting up locations to do sea turtle biology and art workshops during my next trip to Florida. It seems April is when most of the turtle events happen around here.
Drove down to Jupiter area and visited the Lighthouse Art Center and the Loggerhead Turtle Center and set up future engagements at those locations to do painting workshops and art presentations. Enjoyed a swim in the Dubois Park inlet. Blue blue water. Real nice. Did a painting party and two painting workshops at private estates in Tequesta. It was an honor to have a professional artist Diane Hutchinson in one of my workshops. I was graciously hosted by Arlee, a yoga teacher who had taken a workshop with me on Kauai. We were joined by another friend Darci, an artist who also took a workshop with me on Kauai. We enjoyed the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary and also a good lunch.
I also visited the Loxahatchee River Environmental Center where I saw the photographs of Victoria McCormick from Hawaii.

About my biggest thrill on my trip was to meet artist Guy Harvey and his crew. It was my hope to meet this artist, who does so much for our ocean awareness, on this trip to Florida. I got nowhere by email requests or phone calls. I found out he lives far away from anywhere I was going. Then I visited a showing of his at MacArthur National Park. Right then I called the artist Wyland because I remember he mentioned he was doing things with Guy Harvey. Wyland said Guy is having a movie premier of “Sharks” tonight six o’clock in Palm Beach. “You can go as my guest”. Wow, I was teaching a workshop today at West Palm Beach till 5:30. I zipped over to the movie premier which I loved. It featured the footage and shark guidance of Mark Abernathy. It brought me back to my days of working with Tiger sharks in Hawaii. I enjoyed hanging out with Guy and his crew as they put on a beautifully successful benefit reception. I hope to be able to work and explore the oceans with some of my new friends.

After my great Juno and Tequesta experiences I drove back to Sarasota. My host Lisa showed me around a cool neighborhood called the Village Of The Arts in Bradenton. Many of the houses for several blocks were brightly decorated and used as personal art galleries. A couple of my favorite artists I met were Kevin Webb and Gordon Turner.

My last Sunday in Florida was spent doing a show at the Sarasota Polo Game. It was a great game that Sarasota won in overtime. I enjoyed painting with the polo fans and presenting the teams with autographed art prints. I loved seeing a pair of large sand hill cranes fly over squawking like pterodactyls.
My last lunch was at my favorite “Walt’s Fish Market”. I sure enjoy being surrounded by fun people and fresh fish. A boy from Hawaii’s dream!

My last evening was spent at Armand’s Circle where I visited the Wyland Gallery, The Stadium Gallery and watched the sun set from Tommy Bahama’s restaurant balcony. Florida is in my heart and mind and I look forward to returning. I’m coming home eager to work and learn and teach. I hope I can help people to see the beauty in the world around them.

With Aloha,
Patrick Ching

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