I'm often asked how I decide on what I'm going to draw at a festival. It's a great question. Usually, I'm looking for something that will connect with the crowd -- a local personality, a sports hero, a recent celebrity death.
This winter, I was fortunate enough to be invited to escape the wintry mess that is a Pittsburgh winter and participate in three different festivals across Florida. In January, I attended the Suncoast Arts Festival in Wesley Chapel, where I drew beloved television painter Bob Ross.
In February, I attended the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival, one of the largest events of its kind in the world, attracting more than 100,000 spectators over the two days. This was my third year in attendance, and I'm always in awe at the number of Pittsburghers -- people on vacation, snowbirds and permanent transplants -- I meet there. I knew I wanted my subject matter to somehow make that Pittsburgh connection. As it so happened, that week marked the 50th anniversary of the first episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Also, the local PBS station was sponsoring my square. Boom ... the perfect connection. Fred it would be.
The response was phenomenal. Countless people came up to me and asked me what part of Pittsburgh I was from, did I know so-and-so, how much they loved watching Mister Rogers as a kid. He truly was everyone's favorite neighbor.
When it came time for the Safety Harbor Bloom 'n Chalk Festival on the western side of Tampa Bay, I knew that I needed to complete the PBS trifecta with every child of the 80s/90s favorite TV scientist, Bill Nye. All weekend long, people came up and started the theme show chant "Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill Nye the Science Guy."
And that little chemical symbol in the bottom left corner? It's the formula for calcium carbonate -- one calcium atom, one carbon atom, three oxygen atoms. Better known as chalk.