Street Talk

By staff November 1, 2008


Ringling College seniors Ryan DeYoung and Greg Tariff recently contributed their artistic abilities—and their summer vacation—to General Motors’ quest for a gas-free automobile. The two were among 21 international students chosen to participate in GM’s "Zero Gas" design challenge, a three-month internship in which six teams of student engineers, designers and artists developed plans for fuel-cell concept cars aimed at emerging global markets. DeYoung, an animation major, and Tariff, a graphic design major, created visual representations and marketing materials for the designs, including a carriage-like vehicle for India’s rough roads and a motorcycle-inspired car targeting Russian drivers. "I always thought of cars as a hobby," says DeYoung, who, like Tariff, loved cars even as a kid. "Now I’ve started to consider it as a possible career."—Hannah Wallace

Art Buzz

With the vagaries of the contemporary art scene in Sarasota (witness the closing of mack b and three other galleries this summer and the move of Greene Contemporary and Sonnet Gallery to New York), artists who continue to want to live here because of the intimate camaraderie are cultivating opportunities elsewhere. Sabrina Small, who returned to Sarasota in March after living six years in Berlin, has opened an airy, compact white-cube studio on 10th Way

to paint her imaginary creatures based in reality, while maintaining gallery connections in Berlin and Stuttgart. In September Small was invited to have a solo show at a new gallery in Hamburg. Tobey Albright, former curator and co-director at mack b, is finding more time for his own work, enjoying a painting retreat with good friend Tim Jaeger on a nature preserve just outside of Bordeaux this summer. There he also began planning for his multimedia installation in Landau, Germany next June. But Sarasota remains home. —Mark Ormond


Hot Seat

Skip Parish is a bit of a mystery man, a high-level technology consultant who has worked with the FBI, the Department of Defense and Wall Street firms. He’s also a Sarasota High and USF alum who maintains a home here. Since 2006, Parish has been devoted to his "hobby" of improving technical voting systems. Parish would like to see elections officials think like the intelligence community and spend more time on countermeasures to safeguard voting in Florida.

He’s a familiar face at Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent’s office, known for making frequent public records requests. Parish is a lifelong independent voter, but on election night, he’ll be in the tabulation room, filling the role of computer expert for the Democratic Party. He walked into this interview waving a hot-off-the-press copy of Sarasota’s optical scan ballot.

Do you have a complaint with the ballot design?

I would have positioned the Congressional race (Vern Buchanan and Christine Jennings) a bit differently.

Do you think people will overlook that race because it’s listed below the presidential race?

The farther down on the ballot, the more propensity they have to do that. See where the supervisor of elections race is right in the middle? They’re not going to miss that one.

Do you think the new paper ballots will prevent errors in counting the votes?

People don’t understand that these ballots will not be manually recounted unless there is a close election.

If we were to always do a manual recount, would you consider this voting system to be acceptable?

It’s less acceptable than what Manatee uses. It has a lot more bells and whistles on it, and there’s just that much more to go wrong. This system that we have, we’re going to be discovering things for the next three years.

What’s the best voting system in use today?

The lowest-tech one.

When did you begin looking into Sarasota’s voting machines?

In October 2006. I didn’t think very much of [the touchscreen Ivotronics]. I sent a note to the Supervisor of Elections and said, here are five or six things you can do that won’t cost a lot to make these safer, things like putting plastic tabs around the memory cards so people couldn’t pull them out when they voted, putting duct tape on the plugs so they weren’t pulled out. I never heard back.

Why do you think Florida has had such voting problems?

There’s a small group of people that certify the machines in Tallahassee. It’s not a competitive field. There are only three vendors in the country of any size, and politics are involved in it.

How would you improve the process?

The state has an interest in certifying the machines. They really don’t want to see that they didn’t work. If you had federal testing, that wouldn’t be a problem. The federal testing has many more resources. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Maryland could do it. They need to get better quality and less lobbying by the suppliers.

What’s your ultimate goal?

I think it’s being achieved. We’re getting better elections out of it, more attention to details. We’re getting more disclosure. Things are better than they used to be. —Kim CartlidgeThe sweet, savage world of illustrating covers for romance novels.

Street Smarts

Sarasota artist Jim Griffin has created illustrations for more than 4,000 book covers—many of them romance novels. Griffin’s paintings have appeared on books by Charles Frazier, Jeffrey Shaara and Victoria Alexander.

These authors put their heart and soul into these books. They’re hoping they get a good cover. Once they’ve got the book published, they want to have the cover hanging on the wall.

I always painted, ever since I was a kid. I went to Pratt Institute, mostly because I couldn’t get into other colleges. I’ve labored under different labels. I wanted to be a fine artist; illustration wasn’t "real art." But it turned out it was a nice way to make a living. I love telling stories in images. Communication is what it is.

I was working as a carpenter, and I met this illustrator who was doing book covers. He was busy, so he asked for help doing the photo shoot for a cover. It turned out he stayed busy, so I went on to painting the thing.

There are all these sub-groups to the book illustration business. Some people only do fantasy. Somehow or other, I got into this romance genre. It’s one of the last places where they were using real oil paintings, what I would call traditional painting techniques. I do all kinds of other things, but romance is really my bread and butter. I just did Jeffrey Shaara’s The Steel Wave, about Omaha Beach. That’s about as far from romance as you can get.

The photo shoots are actually key parts. When I first started, I was holding the camera, telling the people what to do, plus choosing the costumes. It was a strange, low-budget thing. We’d take six rolls of film in an hour—that’s all the publisher is going to pay for. I’d take these two models, throw them together, show them my sketch. Then I’d get the models to do what I wanted them to do. Hopefully.

Back in the early ‘80s, someone told me, "You should try this model. He’s new, but he’s got muscles. His name is Fabio." He seemed kind of shy. If that wasn’t his first shoot, it was his second.

Ten or 12 years ago, I was at the peak of my career. I’d do these paintings and ship them off wet. All of a sudden the computer came on the scene, and my reps were saying they didn’t want that old style any more. I resisted it at first, then I took a community college course in Photoshop. I liked it. Now only 1 percent of my work is oil painted. I’ve developed this style on the computer that’s very brushy, organic—looks hand done. What I’m doing on the computer is painting, but no actual paint gets harmed in the process.

You need to have Photoshop. That’s the basic building block. I work back and forth. I design the covers on the computer, and sometimes when I get stuck with a painting, I’ll take a picture of it and put it in the computer and play with it there.

As far as the models go, good acting is more important than good looks—it’s easy for me to get rid of wrinkles.

When I first started, the art directors would send me this big manuscript—sometimes not even an edited manuscript. I’d read these things before creating the cover. My wife would ask for some scrap paper, and I’d give her sheets with torrid love scenes on the back. Now I don’t have to read the whole thing; I’ve gotten pretty good at finding where the torrid love scene is going to be—it’s pretty much three-fourths of the way through.

The image gives a hint of the story, but it also is a marketing tool. Your cover has to sell the book. I didn’t use to realize what was riding on the covers

I love doing historical novels. For one, Midwife of the Blue Ridge, I was contacted at the last minute. They had done a cover already, and it was the worst cover I have ever seen. This was the author’s first book. She got this cover and said, "They might as well not even print this book." But instead of just complaining, she quickly sewed a costume up, got her daughter-in-law to pose in the costume, did a quick Photoshop thing, sent it to the publisher’s art department, and they sent it to me. I hired a model, got the costume together. I came up with a cover, and the author freaked out and said, "It looks like the person I had in my mind." I was very impressed that this author took matters into her own hands and did something that changed her career. —Hannah Wallace

Civic Discourse

It’s time for a post-recession vision for our city—beyond real estate and tourism.

"Where there is no vision, the people perish. . ." —Proverbs 29:18

Whether or not you respect the ancient text from which the above proverb came, its wisdom resonates into the modern era.

In Sarasota. Today.

In the last few months, that theme has echoed in civic venues where I’ve been an observer or participant. Whether on the agenda or in conversations over wine and cheese afterward, it’s consistent: What does Sarasota stand for? And who can lead us to the place we need to go?

I believe Sarasota is at a crossroads, waiting for. . .what? For some, it’s the solution to the real estate bust. For others, it’s a different approach to growth planning.

I believe it’s the creation of a post-recession vision. The Sarasota Tomorrow initiative of the Chamber of Commerce is a good platform for that quest. Local businesses, institutions and individuals have pledged more than $2 million to the Sarasota Tomorrow campaign aimed at taking Sarasota in a new direction.

Lately I sense a change in Sarasota’s mindset. The "Civic Covenant" that emerged from the growth/slow-growth battles this past spring to find common ground in moderating the Urban Service Boundary debate represented a significant break in the schisms we’ve suffered through in the past couple of years. The failed Cincinnati Reds stadium deal was perhaps the nadir of that divide. The new effort to woo the Boston Red Sox from Fort Myers is the best evidence of its healing.

But now people at many levels are wondering: What’s next? What will it take to get back to normal? What is normal now?

The answer I’m hearing is that "normal" as we know it may never return. We have to move beyond the construction/tourism/real estate paradigm that has sustained the economy for perhaps too long.

The word "green" is pervasive—not just here, but in state circles, too. Gov. Charlie Crist has become a huge green fan. It seems that everyone is becoming green-conscious. Everyone wants to feel that they’re contributing to a lifestyle that is sustainable. Sarasota, home of the Florida House, has a long tradition of environmental activism and social consciousness. Many people are already working on green projects. The Summit for Environmental Action sponsored by SCOPE is one of the most visible; others are working at various levels to promote green projects.

Here is a proposal: Make Sarasota a truly green city, a model of non-carbon-producing, renewable-energy-generating living that will spark national recognition as a community that "gets it" on sustainability.

It could be the beginning of a vision.—David Klement


Our good-time guy finds fresh fun and cool hangouts.

You reach the end of 119th Street in Cortez and you can hear the band playing the blues. A small frame building and a patio are all that make up the Cortez Kitchen, which is hidden behind boats in dry dock that seem much bigger than they do in the water. Some of the patrons have arrived by boat and some by car, but almost all have a seat at 6 p.m. for the music that starts at 7. The smoked mullet looks good. So does the basket of fries. Aren’t you glad you made the drive to recapture a taste of the Florida you thought was long gone?

Now What? Election activist Skip Parish wants to change the way Sarasota votes. Two Ringling students help GM design the cars of the future.

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