San Diego artist creates cool adult coloring books!

A juggler in a cool adult coloring book.
A juggler in a fun adult coloring book.

I’ve blogged about William J. Dorsett a couple times in the past. Over the years, I occasionally see him when I’m out walking along the Embarcadero.

William creates art for those passing by, including small, imaginative works using spray paint and corn husks. I recently learned he’s published a couple of coloring books with the help of some circus friends!

The images you see are just a very few from his cool ABC’s Of Circus Adult Coloring Book, which is available on Amazon. Many of the characters inside are based on members of San Diego’s local Circus Mafia, whom he knows. The acts and poses are all completely authentic. He has also recently finished the Fire and Flow Arts Coloring Book.

During my short talk with William today I learned he’s working on all sorts of creative projects. He said he’s developing a book for and about buskers, which should be super interesting. He’s an authority on the subject.

Do you need the services of a multi-talented freelance artist? Here’s his website!

ABC's Of Circus Adult Coloring Book contains images derived from San Diego's local Circus Mafia and other authentic circus acts.
ABC’s Of Circus Adult Coloring Book contains images inspired by San Diego’s local Circus Mafia and other authentic circus acts.
William J. Dorsett is a guy of many talents. He has created two cool adult coloring books and is working on picture books for children, and other creative projects.
William J. Dorsett is a nice guy of many talents. He has created two cool adult coloring books and is working on picture books for children, and other creative projects.
This character represents an actual performer known as the Icicle King, who makes glass balls appear to float and move magically. Search for him on YouTube.
This character represents an actual performer known as the Icicle King, who makes glass balls appear to float and move magically. Search for him on YouTube.
Another page from the ABC's Of Circus Adult Coloring Book.
Another great page from the ABC’s Of Circus Adult Coloring Book.
More art from a fun coloring book by William J. Dorsett.
More art from a fun coloring book by William J. Dorsett.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

A clown, acrobats and circus animals on Fourth Avenue!

A happy clown face decorates the Fourth Avenue sidewalk, a block north of Broadway near the center of San Diego.
A happy clown face decorates the Fourth Avenue sidewalk, a block north of Broadway near the center of San Diego.

Should you ever walk along Fourth Avenue in downtown San Diego, you might stumble upon a delightful surprise.  A bit north of Broadway a clown face smiles up from the sidewalk. Above him is a heaven of old circus tile artwork, depicting exotic animals and performers in every sort of crazy pose. The art decorates a building which is now home to Halah’s Market.

It isn’t the sort of thing one expects to see in San Diego! At a Las Vegas hotel or casino, perhaps!

I can find nothing about the origin of this circus artwork. If you happen to know something, please leave a comment!

Halah's Market in downtown San Diego has a storefront with some amazing old circus artwork. After a little searching, I found nothing about the history of this building.
Halah’s Market in downtown San Diego has a storefront with some fantastic, nostalgic circus artwork. The canopy above the entrance resembles a carousel.  Searching the internet, all I learned about this building was that it was built in 1925.
Acrobats and performing animals of every description . . . including elephants, penguins, zebras, camels and bears. A circus atmosphere in an unexpected place!
Acrobats and performing animals of every description . . . including elephants, penguins, zebras, camels and bears. A circus atmosphere in an unexpected place!
A singing pig is joined by a trapeze artist and a seal in a hat. One often sees images of surfers, Hispanic culture or local landmarks in San Diego--not the circus!
A singing pig is joined by a trapeze artist and a seal in a hat. One often sees images of surfers, Hispanic culture or local landmarks in San Diego–not the circus!
More fun animals in poses that suggest absurd circus acts.
More fun animals in poses that suggest circus acts.
A surprising clown greets walkers in downtown San Diego!
A surprising clown greets walkers in downtown San Diego!

UPDATE!

I got a great comment! This location used to be the Chi-Chi Club San Diego! More can be learned here!

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Fun photos of Seaport Village Spring Busker Festival!

Murrugun the Mystic prepares to swallow a real sword. He currently holds the world record for longest sword swallow. He has starred on AMC's Freakshow and many other television shows.
Murrugun the Mystic prepares to swallow a real sword. He currently holds the world record for longest sword swallow. He has starred on AMC’s Freakshow and many other television shows!

Wow, what a day! Where do I begin? How about with this weekend’s awesome Seaport Village Spring Busker Festival!

This is the third year in a row I’ve attended the fantastic event. It’s as good as ever! Here are some photos from today to prove it!

If you’re in San Diego tomorrow, head on over to Seaport Village to check out the busker action! On Sunday the various acts will be performing from 12pm – 6pm.

The 2016 Seaport Village Spring Busker Festival features many of the world's best street performers on several stages.
The 2016 Seaport Village Spring Busker Festival features many of the world’s best street performers on several stages.
I saw a few world-class jugglers, including the UniProShow's amazing Jamey Mossengren, a seven-time World Unicycle Champion!
I saw a few world-class jugglers, including the UniProShow’s amazing Jamey Mossengren, a seven-time World Unicycle Champion!
A performing duo called Her Majesty's Secret Circus Show had a funny act that included juggling, silliness and lots of bad jokes.
A performing duo called Her Majesty’s Secret Circus Show had a funny act that included juggling, silliness and lots of bad jokes.
A wicked-looking knife getting readied at the Seaport Village Spring Busker Festival!
A wicked-looking knife getting readied at the Seaport Village Spring Busker Festival!
A secret agent with a bow and plunger prepares to shoot at a bullseye held by another secret agent on a unicycle.
A secret agent with a bow and plunger prepares to shoot at a bullseye held by another secret agent on a unicycle.
CREW was providing crazy good percussive beats using old garbage cans and other odd household objects.
CREW was providing crazy good percussive beats using old garbage cans and other odd household objects.
Fantastic break dancing and acrobatics were the specialty of the super entertaining Flying Tortillas!
Fantastic break dancing and acrobatics were the specialty of the super entertaining Flying Tortillas!
Audience members are readied for a rare stunt. A member of the Flying Tortillas will run and launch himself bodily over six people!
Audience members are readied for a rare stunt. A member of the Flying Tortillas will run and launch himself bodily over six people! Can he make it? You’ll have to go see for yourself!
Murrugun the Mystic breathes fire. He is keeping the old circus sideshow traditions alive.
Murrugun the Mystic breathes fire. He is keeping the old circus sideshow traditions alive.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! You can enjoy more Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Museum exhibit brings Coney Island to San Diego!

Grinning face of Tillie, symbol of Coney Island, on the back of a tour bus heading toward the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.
Grinning face of Tillie, symbol of Coney Island, on the back of a tour bus heading toward the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.

An extraordinary exhibit recently opened at the San Diego Museum of Art. It’s called Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008. Last Saturday, I enjoyed a very special tour, courtesy of my docent friend Catherine!

The exhibit features a collection of more than a hundred objects that depict 150 years of Coney Island’s amusement parks, boardwalk, beach and people. It includes paintings, photographs, videos, carnival posters, sideshow banners, carved wooden carousel horses, and a wide range of colorful, unique artifacts.

From its early days as a peaceful beach getaway for wealthy New Yorkers, to the rise and fall of amusement parks, years of decay, political wrangling, then modern renewal, Coney Island has been interpreted by artists through the years in a variety of surprising ways. Some artists portray an innocent playland for common people. Others, something more complex, and less innocent.

Most of the exhibit’s artwork centers on Coney Island’s legendary amusement parks. Many images resemble exuberant scenes from a carnival or circus. They’re full of energy, laughter, humanity, wonder–but often base, superficial, disturbing, despairing. Many painting are dark, almost gaudy with a crowded press of people seeking pleasure. A symbol adopted by Coney Island–the unnatural, exaggerated grin of Tillie–seems to be a taunting reminder that the purchased thrills are artificial. The grin is strangely maniacal and mindless, one part Joker, one part Cheshire Cat.

Fantastic imagery abounds in the exhibit, which is sure to delight many kids. They’ll see huge cyclops heads, videos of romping midgets, a banner promising a sideshow freak with inhuman tentacles. The adults will see images of lust, insatiability, scattered litter, dripping blood.

I suppose we humans like to be both excited and terrified.

One Impressionist painting by the important American artist William Merritt Chase shows a landscape of sunlight and natural, unspoiled beauty; the egg tempera painted canvases of Reginald Marsh are dark, crammed with unabated appetite, bold kinetic energy and human expression; photographs by Arthur Fellig (Weegee) show people crowded onto the beach like fleshy, happy sardines.

Personally, as I took my amazing tour, I saw life’s wonderful jumble and a sample of our world’s endless variety. All the emotions, the complexity–but mostly I recognized the sunlit memories of ordinary good-natured neighbors heading to the beach and boardwalk, and some exciting, brief amusements, on a sunny weekend day.

This isn’t a typical art museum exhibit. It’s more like taking an instant journey to a place you already know. A Coney Island in your mind. And your vivid experiences in the San Diego Museum of Art will make the journey seem very real.

Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008, has come to San Diego from the Wadsworth Athenium Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut. This special exhibition continues through October 13, 2015.

Here are just a few things that you’ll see…

Reginald Marsh, Wooden Horses, 1936, Tempera on board. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
Reginald Marsh, Wooden Horses, 1936, Tempera on board. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
Pip and Flip, Twins from Yucatan with World Circus Side Show, Coney Island, 1929, Photographic reproduction. Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia Collection.
Pip and Flip, Twins from Yucatan with World Circus Side Show, Coney Island, 1929, Photographic reproduction. Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia Collection.
Jeanie, Living Half Girl, 1940, Sideshow banner. Collection of Ken Harck.
Jeanie, Living Half Girl, 1940, Sideshow banner. Collection of Ken Harck.
Mort Künstler, Coney Island, 1953, Gouache on paper. Collection of the artist.
Mort Künstler, Coney Island, 1953, Gouache on paper. Collection of the artist.
Barnum & Bailey Circus Water Carnival poster, Coney Island.
Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth, the Great Coney Island Water Carnival poster.  Thrilling and daring feats of every description!
Arnold Mesches, Anomie 1991: Winged Victory, 1991, Acrylic on canvas. San Diego Museum of Art.
Arnold Mesches, Anomie 1991: Winged Victory, 1991, Acrylic on canvas. San Diego Museum of Art.
Joseph Stella, Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras, 1913, Oil on canvas. Yale University Art Gallery.
Joseph Stella, Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras, 1913, Oil on canvas. Yale University Art Gallery.

The San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park is simply jammed with fantastic, provocative Coney Island art. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  So go see it!

Coney Island, Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008, at the San Diego Museum of Art.
Coney Island, Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008, at the San Diego Museum of Art.

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Amazing acrobats take over a San Diego park!

Practicing acrobatic skills at the AcroLove Festival in San Diego's Ruocco Park.
Practicing acrobatic skills at the AcroLove Festival in San Diego’s Ruocco Park.

Okay, so I was walking along the Embarcadero this afternoon, among crowds of people who were simply enjoying the summer weekend, when I spied something out of the ordinary. Huh? What is that? I thought maybe my brain had been turned upside-down by the hot sun. No, I really was seeing about a hundred performing acrobats right there on the grass in front of me!

Was this a dance troupe having some sort of unusual party? Were they circus performers? No and no. I soon learned I’d stumbled upon the AcroLove Festival in Ruocco Park! It’s a cool event where people can practice acrobatic skills!  Many of the attendees are primarily interested in yoga!

I strolled about the park for a few minutes taking some photos while trying not to be too horribly intrusive…

Both beginning and expert acrobats were linking limbs, lifting, swinging and contorting to create different amazing poses.
Both beginning and expert acrobats were linking limbs, lifting, swinging and contorting to create different amazing poses.
All sorts of people were trying out different moves that appear to take a lot of strength and athletic ability.
All sorts of people were trying out different moves that appear to take a lot of strength and athletic ability.
These guys told me what the heck was going on. I thought maybe I'd stumbled upon circus performers!
These guys told me what the heck was going on. I thought maybe I’d stumbled upon circus performers!
Acrobats patiently learn correct technique on the grass of Ruocco Park in downtown San Diego.
Acrobats patiently learn correct technique on the grass of Ruocco Park in downtown San Diego.
I don't know the names of these many poses, but I saw people flying through the air and upside down all over the place.
I don’t know the names of these many poses, but I saw people flying through the air and upside down all over the place.
Two graceful acrobats seem to engage in a dance!
Two graceful acrobats seem to engage in a dance!

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World’s first: Flaming arrow shot from throat!

Murrugun the Mystic from AMC show Freakshow begins his busker festival danger act with fire eating.
Murrugun the Mystic from AMC television hit Freakshow begins his busker festival danger act with fire eating.

Today I witnessed the grittiest performance I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a few.

I went to the Seaport Village Spring Busker Festival today and enjoyed a number of excellent, very entertaining acts. But the one that really stood out was performed by Murrugun the Mystic. He’s one of the stars of the AMC television reality show Freakshow.

While in a great deal of pain, Murrugun was first in the world to shoot a flaming arrow out of his throat! Let me describe his entire act…

Unfortunately, I filled up my camera’s memory card midway through his fire eating, just before he got to the really big stuff. At the end of some more conventional (but great) fire eating tricks, he really wowed the crowd. He filled his throat with a large quantity of kerosene combined with light gasoline, then produced two MASSIVE fireballs from his mouth. You had to see it to believe it! These balls of flame must’ve measured 6 feet in diameter. Oh, man! It was a bummer my camera ran out of memory! Afterward, he promptly rinsed his throat out with mouthwash and then water, because the flammable mixture is highly carcinogenic.

Next Murrugun balanced his entire body weight on a demonstrably sharp samurai sword. He leaned over the horizontal blade and supported himself on his stomach, lifting arms and legs from the ground.

Next came the bed of nails. I was volunteered, along with five other guys in the crowd, to help Murrugun wow the gathered audience. Each of us tested the nails, and while they weren’t sharp as pins, they were definitely pointed. Murrugun lay on the bed of nails, placed a board over his torso, and four of the guys, weighing a total of about 910 pounds, stepped up onto the board! I and another fellow helped to balance the four. Ouch! While this sort of thing has been performed for thousands of years, and the many nails effectively support a whole lot of weight, I wouldn’t want to be sandwiched between them and the combined mass of four guys!

Now the show got interesting in an alarming way. Murrugun used a very long pole to support “The Knives of Death”. I believe that’s what he called them. These five long knives faced downward from a ring, and should they topple down from the top of the pole, they’d probably impale poor Murrugun. I’m not sure how his act was supposed to proceed. The knives were balanced atop the pole. Suddenly down came the knives from on high and Murrugun lay flat on his back. The knives mostly missed him. But one sliced his leg. A good three inch gash was visible, and blood. He seemed stunned. He very gingerly hobbled to the back of the stage area, checked himself, and it looked to me like he then decided to tough it out. The audience didn’t seem to know how to react. Like them I just watched, astonished.

He was obviously hesitant and in pain. He told us he’d now perform a world’s first. He’d shoot a flaming arrow from his throat.

I could see his hands visibly trembling while he tried for a few seconds to piece two slender hollow rods together, which formed the shaft of the arrow. He gradually composed himself.  He lubricated the long shaft, which was possibly two to three feet long, lit the pointed end, then proceeded to swallow the unique arrow. He bent over, and after attaching the arrow end to a slingshot-like device, shot the arrow out of his throat and through the air! He missed the balloon in the bullseye, perhaps 10 or 15 feet away, but not by much!

I know that street performers–and circus and carnival sideshow performers–have a difficult profession and can endure a lot of hardship. But what I witnessed this afternoon was truly heart-rending and impressive. It seemed no amount of pain could slow down Murrugun’s showmanship and passion for his art.

Murrugun the Mystic noted that because Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus have decided to eliminate elephants from their show (the news just out), perhaps there’s a chance the circus sideshow will make a comeback. That is Murrugun’s wish and personal mission. Can you help make that happen? Here’s his Facebook page.

Thanks, Murrugun, for privileging me to be a tiny part of busker history!  Good luck!

Murrugun the Mystic makes his entrance near Seaport Village's gazebo in the Plaza East.
Murrugun the Mystic makes his grand entrance near Seaport Village’s gazebo in the Plaza East.
Fire eating preceded balancing on a sword, being crushed on a bed of nails, and shooting a flaming arrow from his throat!
Fire eating preceded balancing on a sword, being crushed on a bed of nails, enduring knives of death, and shooting a flaming arrow from his throat!

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