I recently did a talk at the library in Lake City and was asked to submit answers to questions from a reporter from the Lake City Reporter for an article in advance of the talk. The questions really made me think, so I thought it was worthy of a post.
1) My first question has to do with the Sunday event and your program, entitled “The Magical Springs of Old Florida”. What specifically can event attendees expect when they come to see you? What are some points of discussion that you're hoping to engage the audience in? Will there be book signings or readings? Basically, I'm just hoping for a little rundown on what you are going to talk about.
My program features a Powerpoint presentation with images illustrating 500 years of Florida history. The narrative begins with my obsession with the Fountain of Youth myth and how it led me to discover how Florida’s real eternal waters are the state’s 1,000 artesian springs. I talk about how the human perception of the state’s springs has changed throughout time from an attitude of reverence by the indigenous residents of the state to a willingness to over-utilize this natural resource today. I hope to engage the audience in a discussion about what they can do for our springs.
2) Is it true that you've studied Florida's history for 25 years sir? When did you get your start in writing and designing and why? Any stories or memories you have as a kid that involved the arts? Do you live in Orlando now sir? And where did you grow up?
While my appreciation of Florida’s rich history has certainly grown, as I’ve gotten older, my real serious study really began after a trip to the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine in 2008. As a Floridian I had overlooked roadside attractions as ‘tourist traps’; my discovery at the Fountain of Youth showed that these roadside relics may have historical relevance that I’d overlooked and I resolved to explore the places in the state I’d taken for granted. That’s when I started my blog.
I grew up in Gainesville and my parents enrolled me in art lesson as a child. Perhaps my favorite memory was getting a blue ribbon for a small painting I did at the Alachua County Fair when I was an elementary school student. I also remember visiting art shows in downtown Gainesville every year.
3) Why does Florida interest you so much? Why specifically did you write about Ponce de Leon and our springs?
I think because I am a graphic designer I was initially drawn to the kitschy aspects of Florida. Pink flamingoes, midcentury motels with neon signs, giant roadside alligators. But as I learned more I discovered that Florida has a rich history that is endlessly fascinating to me. The first Thanksgiving was in St. Augustine. Air conditioning was invented here. I keep discovering more and more to love about this state. But we have done a poor job of preserving our past in our seemingly ceaseless desire for growth.
Searching for what I call Ponceabilia is kind of a treasure hunt. I call Ponce ‘Florida’s original celebrity endorser’. His likeness could be found on hotels, restaurants, and in public parks statewide in the first part of the 20th century. But as our perception of European explorers changed, much of the ephemera connected to Ponce disappeared. So finding 21st evidence of the Spanish explorer was a thrill.
Growing up near so many springs in Gainesville, it was easy to take them for granted. When I discovered that many of them were at risk, I was motivated to see for myself how much they had declined. I was shocked, for example, to see how much the conditions of Silver Springs had changed from what I remembered as a child.
4) What influences factor into your work? Do you have any favorite authors or artists that you follow?
I’m influenced by historic advertising and graphic design from Florida’s past; from the ornate ads for Henry Flagler’s Victorian resorts to the colorful brochures for midcentury roadside attractions. I continually add to my collection of Floridiana.
I’m inspired by many of the photographers who capture images of our springs, especially Gainesville nature photographer John Moran. I’m influenced by the way Gainesville artists Margaret Tolbert and Lesley Gamble both combine creativity and advocacy. I also love authors who document Florida’s offbeat history like fellow UPF authors Gary Monroe, Lu Vickers, and Tim Hollis.
5) Could you expand a little bit on your blog that you started in 2008?
The blog initially started as a place for me to record my travels and discoveries from around the Sunshine State. I started an Old Florida Facebook page to promote the blog and soon that page had a far larger audience than the blog. Since my book was published in 2013 and I began doing public speaking to support it, my blogs have been fewer and more personal. One of the benefits of traveling around the state doing speaking events is that I get to see parts of the state I wouldn’t ordinarily get to see. I try to write about them when I can find the time.
6) What type of projects have you been involved in since Kilby Creative started?
I’ve done work for a wide array of clients from theme parks to the produce industry. Although I’ve been primarily a print designer, I now find myself doing more social media marketing. My true love is doing artwork related to Old Florida, however, and you can see a display of my work at the Rum 138 Gallery near High Springs in Columbia County.
7) What do you consider some of your best achievements in the authoring and designing field sir? Have you been nominated for any awards? Are you planning on doing another work such as Florida's Magical Waters? What would you like to tackle next?
As a Florida author I’ve had the privilege to meet and speak with many artists and authors who I greatly admire: the aforementioned John Moran, Lesley Gamble, and Margaret Tolbert, Cynthia Barnett, Carlton Ward and the other members of the Florida Wildlife Corridor expedition, and Jeff Klinkenberg, just to name a few.
My book received the bronze medal in the Visual Arts category of the 2013 Florida Book Awards. I was fortunate that my publisher, University Press of Florida, allowed me to design my own book. So I take a great deal of pride in that award.
I’d love to write another book related to Florida history; my mission is to create greater awareness of Florida’s history, culture, and natural resources. Publishing another book would give me the opportunity to further that mission.