Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My trip to New York: A review.

And now, at long last, is my report from my first trip ever to New York. Sorry for the delay!
Last week, I attended the International Toy Fair in New York. I was the guest of Angela Larson, the founder of Fierce Fun Toys.
 I was working in the Fierce Fun Toys booth, promoting their Zoo Tales line of story books and plushes. I was sketching live and drawing caricatures of the attendees. 
That's my easel on the right side of the booth. It was such a blast to see my creations in so many different forms. I designed the plushes for Harry Hiccers the koala and Ben Kachoo the hippo. I also designed the plush and provided artwork for the packaging for Oops the mouse. You can even see a few of the Norman Phartephant books I illustrated. I worked the first two days of the four-day convention.

The convention was a bit different than what I had anticipated. The attendees were mostly buyers, manufacturers and press. The public was not allowed to attend. I, as an exhibitor, was also not the target audience, so the entire top floor of the convention (that housed the big companies like Hasbro, Mattel, Lego, Melissa and Doug etc), was unable to be viewed by the likes of me.
But I wasn't there to look at toys. I was there to draw; and draw I did. I had the subject choose their favorite Zoo Tales character and included it in their caricature.
A valentine's day gift for Sarah..
 Easy one, and fun too!
Propeller hat! Propeller hat!
Santa showed up doing some toy shopping, and posed with Angela and Oops.

The first night of the convention, I attended the Women in Toys awards ceremony with Angela, who also happens to be the organization's New York chapter head.
I got to feel like a big shot for a change. I was able to attend a lovely dinner party and actually PARTICIPATE, (and not just draw caricatures off in some corner). The hors d'oeuvers were amazing, the open bar flowed freely and I met folks from Mattel, Hasbro, Disney and even Dreamworks.

 I drew Sunday and Monday at ToyFair. Tuesday was my big day to see the city. I started in the morning, walking across Central Park.  The first thing I wanted to do was visit a tribute to my number one influence.
Next, the Guggenheim.

I got a pretty early start, and it wasn't open yet, so I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

As luck would have it, there was an exhibit called, "Infinite Jest: Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine". I got some "breakfast" and waited for the museum to open. No photography was allowed at the exhibit, however I was so impressed with it, I purchased the accompanying book in the gift shop on the way out. I was thrilled to see work from Da Vinci and Hirschfeld up close, and I learned a lot about caricature that I didn't even know.
I was able to take a few pics of some of the permanent exhibits, just some pieces I find personally inspiring but one description of a certain exhibit really caught my eye.
"the artist who invented the most outrageous and fanciful creatures was often deemed the most capable".
I like that.
Next I walked south down 5th Avenue.

 Gorgeous even in the winter.

My next stop was FAO Schwarz, where I did something I've been wanting to do my whole life..

Build my own Muppet!

The Muppet Whatnot Workshop is a recent addition to the toy giant.

 At the workshop, you pick the body type of Muppet among the three they provide. Next you choose eyes, noses, hair and clothing to customize your Muppet.

 I agonized over my decision, first trying to make one that looked like me, and then I completely changed my mind and made a monster instead.

Meet Vito. He talks in a loud New York accent. But deep down he's a nice guy.

 FAO is a toy lover's dream. Among the sights was the piano from the movie "Big", but...

... I couldn't keep my eyes off of the life-size Indiana Jones in Lego. I reckon Alex has enough Legos on the floor of his room to build this for me.

Next stop, food! So I stopped off at the famous Carnegie Deli.

I ate a corned beef sandwich the size of a Buick. I went back later for the cheesecake.

So many sights to see in NYC.
 Here's Trump Tower.

NBC Studios.

The ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center.

The view of New York from the "Top of the Rock"

Central Park.

The Statue of Liberty.
Next, I walked over to the New York Public Library and then...

Times Square!

Visiting Times Square is the equivalent of sticking your head in a pinball machine. There are so many sights sounds and PEOPLE, trying to grab your attention. I ducked out into a few stores and then went to a place I couldn't resist.
It was there that I met Harrison Ford,

Matthew Broderick,

Samuel L. Jackson

Susan Sarandon,

  Robin Williams

 Denzel Washington

 Jack Sparrow

 even Oprah.
Yeah, it was Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. I remember seeing a feature on Madame Tussaud on 60 Minutes when I was a teenager. I thought the process of replicating someone as a wax figure was fascinating, and I always wanted to visit a location if I ever had the chance. My favorite part was seeing WHY certain figures succeeded and why others fell short of a likeness. For example, Jimi Hendrix looked great, Elvis, not so much. It was an interesting study for sure.

After Times Square, I walked back over to the Carnegie Deli for some cheesecake and then walked back to where I started. The next day I hit the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Folk art. Then it was on the plane and back to Florida.

While taking photographs, I also took some video. The following is about 10 minutes of footage that I shot of New York. A few notes: I narrated in the beginning, but after a while I stopped because I was getting weird stares from people watching me talk to myself. There is a crack in the lens, try to ignore it. Try to ignore the huge bags under my eyes as well. The first few shots are from the first day in NY, when I walked Central Park, then it transfers to a few days later while starting my day in Central Park again.

Something unexpected happened on that trip, I completely fell in love with New York. There's so much history, culture, community and character there. You can sense an unmistakable vibe. It was quieter and cleaner than I expected. The places were more inviting, the people less abrasive. And although I saw a lot, I merely scratched the surface of what that great city had to offer. I can't wait to return!

Thanks to the amazing Angela Larson for being such a generous hostess. You've given me an experience I'll never forget.

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