When I decided to attend art school, I chose Ringling Design in Sarasota. The school was founded by John Ringling, and today is a thriving, respected institution. I remember our apartment was across the street from one of the winter parks for the circus workers, and we could walk or drive by often seeing the trapeze artists honing their skill, swinging through the air. On a different note, I recall climbing a tree, sneaking into the second floor of the famous Ringling Hotel which had been boarded up for decades. I traversed the beautiful palace in the dark using the flash on my camera, visiting the magnificent ballroom, the belltower, and so much more. A few days later on the front page of the newspaper was a story of how security had captured a man, not in his right mind, residing in the Ringling Hotel. I then realized I had been in there with him. Just the two of us. That kind of bothered me for some time.
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ISSUE TOTAL SIZE
First Day of Issue
October 25, 2002
New York, New York 10199
Six days after Easter in 1513, the Spanish conquistador, Juan Ponce de Leon, landed near what is now the city of Saint Augustine. In honor of the holiday and the area’s plant life, he named the land Florida— the Spanish phrase for the Easter season, Pascua Florida (“feast of flowers”). The name is the oldest surviving European place-name in the U.S. Spain sold the territory to the United States in 1821 and Florida became a state in 1845. A mere 21 years later, John Ringling, of The Ringling Brothers Circus, was born. John was the second youngest in a family of seven brothers and one sister. His parents were German immigrants. Five of the boys, including John, would band together to build a circus empire. At an early age, the Ringling boys developed an interest in performing skits and juggling routines in town halls throughout the state of Wisconsin. They were dedicated, and not merely after a quick buck, thus the money they earned allowed them to embark on a journey to build their first official circus, and in 1884 the Ringling Brothers Circus was born. By 1895, the Ringling Circus had earned a reputation as a major competitor for the Barnum & Bailey Circus, and by 1907 they had grown large enough to purchase them. For over a decade, the Ringling Circus and Barnum & Bailey Circus were run as separate entities, but by 1919, in the best interest of both circuses, they merged the two and renamed their company Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Prior to that, John married Mable Burton an Ohioan with family ties in the Tampa/Sarasota area, and the two, along with John’s brother, Charles, began buying land in Sarasota, Florida. John and Mable purchased 20 acres of waterfront property and by 1912 they were spending winters there. Sarasota was just a small town in those days. By the 1920s, John, very active in the community, had acquired much more real estate and at one time, John and Charles owned more than 25 percent of Sarasota’s total area.
Read the article in its entirety in the April 2015
Bevil newsletter, which accompanies the cover.
Before I begin painting the main lot of an issue, I play around with different color schemes. I'll sometimes paint 3 to 5 before I settle on one. I call these color studies, and you can see them all in the COLOR STUDIES LIBRARY. With the Florida issue, I chose the green background version. Looking back, I now wish I'd picked the red-striped background version. Even the pink striped version is nice.