Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Jan Vena and Belle

This post is about the shooting that took place at the Pulse Nightclub on June 12, 2016. It contains difficult content, so please do not read on if you feel you may be effected. 

This article and sketch have been posted with the express written permission of the interviewee. Analog Artist Digital World takes the privacy and wishes of individuals very seriously. 

Jan Vena works at Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC) and in her off hours she volunteers by offering pet therapy with Belle her pet Collie. She found Belle at a dog show at the fairgrounds. She was walking through the grooming area and watched a lady grooming collies for show. She had a really pretty 4 month old puppy on the table. Jan asked about how she trimmed and brushed the pup and the handler was very helpful. They negotiated and Jan ended up taking Belle home that very day. She has been with her ever since. Collies overall are gentle and loyal.

Belle was given a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test and she passed with flying colors as a dog who could go out in public and behave. They said she was a trustworthy dog. The CGC is a basic acceptance certificate and it started Jan and Bell in pet therapy since the tester worked a therapy program. It sounded interesting, she worked at the hospital anyway and on her days off she could go in with Belle and see patients. There was a gentleman in the program at the time with a German Shepherd. He was in the police academy and when he graduated he took his dog for K9 training. Shortly after that Jan had surgery herself. She had one visitor and it was the German Shepherd. She had seen both sides of pet therapy and she wanted to be part of it. Now there are 48 dogs in the ORMC pet therapy program. The dogs have become accepted at the hospital. They do as much staff therapy as patient contact.

On June 11, 2016 Jan was at home alone. Her husband was in China working on Shanghai Disney. It was an average weekend day with cooking, cleaning, and probably working on her collection of 200 orchids. She woke up and turned on the news. She wasn't sure what she was hearing at first, with the news breaking every 30 seconds. She didn't grasp the magnitude of it. Many had been shot. The numbers kept growing. She and her husband Skyped every day and he said, "I heard about the Pulse incident there." He knew about it the same time she did. ORMC was just a few blocks north of Pulse.

The hospital called in therapy dogs individually at first. Since Jan was an employee and had a long history at the hospital and Bell had such a gentle demeanor, they were called in just 3 days after the shooting. Along with the Chaplin, Belle and Jan did visitations for anyone wanting to spend time. The environment was like nothing she had experienced before. There was a quiet dark shadow looming over the hallways. Security was everywhere. This was the place of all the action but the hospital itself was full of remorse. It was cold, she felt lonely going in. Jan just wanted to do what needed to get done and not bother anybody or say anything wrong. It was difficult to discuss and probably shouldn't have been discussed at that point. The investigations had to go on, security had to do there job, and Jan and Bell had their job to do.

Most of the injuries were so tragic that people weren't let into shooting victims rooms. As an employee Jan wasn't doing anything surgically. She and Belle mainly visited with families who were in the trauma waiting area. They went to the emergency room where the staff benefited greatly because of what they had just been through. Everybody was in a state like no other, almost groping for normalcy. Many doctors didn't respond much, they were dealing with the everyday. Some got down on their knees and cried in Belle's rough. If they were having a stressful day in the emergency room, it is amazing what touching a dog can do, some of the stress melts off. It was extremely difficult. They didn't know how long to stay. They stayed for a couple of hours that first day. It was stressful for Belle.

The news media was there in force. They had big boom microphones as well as lenses that were as close to the ER as possible. The trauma bay doors would open and close and they wanted a glimpse of someone, a story, a word, or someone screaming. Any little tid bit to take back to the station. It was irritating. These families were in such disastrous trauma, trying to deal and they were pushing their camera in. The hospital finally had to park two big firetrucks in front of the entrance. Then the media had drones flying outside the windows of patients rooms to try and get a picture. Being on the care taking end, that was one of the most frustrating things. The media parked on Orange Avenue was from everywhere, with trucks, trailers, vans and huge mobile units. There were news organizations from around the world parked down Orange Avenue. They exemplified the Magnitude of the moment.

After working all day, Jan didn't have the energy to bring Belle in on evenings. She went on her day off and on weekends. Several of the shooting victims got to know Belle and Jan in the following weeks. Many of the families of shooting patients spoke Spanish. Jan doesn't speak Spanish, but they didn't need to speak. Belle did a lot of the talking. The families knew why they were there, and Jan understood why they were hurting and nothing needed to be said about it. Someone might be on the phone speaking Spanish and they would reach down and pet Belle with their other hand. It was just her presence that mattered and they were OK with that. When they were waiting and waiting for an answer or a test result or what ever, they were happy to see Belle. It got to the point where some families would ask for Belle and Jan to sit with them. They were very appreciative. There were also times when they weren't up for it.

The work Jan and Belle did in response to the Pulse shooting was worth more than she could have ever imagined. She got back more than she ever gave. They continue to offer comfort to anyone who needs it.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


I had a meeting at Trinity Lutheran Church Downtown about teaching a sketch class. I got to the downtown location rather early and decided to have a Subway sandwich before the meeting. I'm sure I ordered a ham and Swiss cheese along with some chips and a coke. I always do. I am fascinated that people I draw in public paces are almost always on their cell phones. Even seated across from each other the two ladies in the corner were on their digital devises instead of talking to one another.

It is hard to say weather the kids learned something from my one lesson in which we sketched the courtyard outside. But I do know that for once they were focusing on the world around them rather than staring at a screen. Some people never look up and are never even aware of their surroundings except in a superficial way. If I sway just one child to appreciate the everyday world around them through direct observation and interpret what they see then I have done my job. When we can open our eyes to the beauty in everything then life gets exciting and becomes an adventure. I've become a bit of a minister preaching this over and over with the tenacity of a drill sergeant.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

Monday, August 19, 2019

Brandon Wolf: Dru's Lesson

This post is about the shooting that took place at the Pulse Nightclub on June 12, 2016. It contains difficult content, so please do not read on if you feel you may be effected. 

This article and sketch have been posted with the express written permission of the interviewee. Analog Artist Digital World takes the privacy and wishes of individuals very seriously.

Brandon Wolf explained that a nightclub is a safe place for the LGBTQ community because the places they should feel safe aren't. Homes, schools, churches, a street corner, none are safe. He needed to escape his small rural town he grew up in near Portland Oregon and moved to Orlando to work for Disney World. After Disney he worked for Starbucks where he became an assistant manager and then a regional manager.

In 2013 he met Dru (Christopher Andrew Leinonen). A friend, Austin, introduced them at Ember. Dru was fascinating, confident and suave, Nothing could bother him. He was in charge. Meeting Dru shifted who Brandon was as a person. They became friends, inseparable. Around 2015, Dru met Juan Ramon Guerrero. They were perfect together. You could sense their connection across a room. Brandon got an apartment in the same building two doors down from them. The three of them would take vacations together. On one vacation Dru put his arm around Brandon and said, "You are my best friend."

In June of 2016 after gay days, Brandon had just broken up with his boyfriend Eric. He asked Dru for advice and Dru said, "This is the first time I have seen you care so much about someone, you have to go back." They decided to throw a pool party on June 12th. The party would be a remedy for Brandon being single again and a way to kick off the summer. Eric texted and wanted to go out the night before the pool party. Dru and Juan had spent the day at Sea World and didn't want to go out. Brandon pulled the best friend card saying, "I really need you to be there with me." Dru responded, "Well since you put it that way, I'll be there."

That night Eric went to Brandon's apartment to change. It was awkward since Brandon cared so much and Eric couldn't be bothered. Finally the door knocked and there were his saviors Dru and Juan. Everyone had shots. They discussed where to go. Southern Nights was within walking distance but they decided to go to Pulse Nightclub. They took an Uber and got to Pulse after midnight.

Pulse was super busy. He was shocked it was so crowded. They went to the bar behind the dance floor toward the patio. Kate was the bartender. They ordered the usual drinks and Dru had a fireball shot. Brandon left the tab open. Eric turned to Brandon and said "I am on Tinder." "WTF!" Brandon thought. Dru decided to step in, pulling everyone outside. He said, "You are letting every little thing get in the way of your communication. You are letting everything derail you. You either love him or you don't. Allow it to be what it is." He pulled them into a little circle and put his arms around everybody and said, "All of this nonsense stops right now. What we never say enough in this world is that we love each other. So everybody needs to go around and say I love you." They all agreed and complied. That is when Eric said, "OK I'm ready to dance."

The crowd thinned a bit as they danced. Around 1:55 AM it became clear that they were too old to be at Pulse because everyone was like 19. They all had a little bit too much to drink, it was time for the night to end. They gathered at a spot in front of the stage and agreed to go. Brandon went to the bathroom. The plan was to call an Uber and get back home. Eric followed him to the bathroom. The bathroom near the VIP area always had a really long line so they went to the men's room in the the corner of black room. Time slowed down and things got so vivid. There was a water bottle on the edge of the sink. Brandon placed his empty cup on top of the urinal. He turned to the sink to wash his hands and heard a strange popping sound. Unexplainable sounds or smells happen all the time yet they don't register. This was different. It was a strange sound that didn't feel good. Eric turned to Brandon and said, " What do you think that is?" Brandon responded, "I don't know, maybe a speaker is broken?" Then it was quiet, with only the music filling the club.

Ten or twelve people poured into the bathroom. They were panicked and frantic. Some were hyperventilating, some were crying. They kept saying, "Oh my god, Oh my god."  Then the popping started again. The first time it was a few shots, then it was relentless. The hair stood up on Brandon's arms and he got a feeling in the pit of his stomach that something was really, really bad. He turned to Eric and said, "Oh my god, that's gun shots." The smell of gun fire wafted in.

What were they going to do? The bathroom had no door and no stalls, just three urinals on the wall. They debated weather to stay or go. Eric grabbed Brandon's hand and said, "We have to get out of here." He dragged Brandon out the bathroom door. They made a human chain of people holding each other's hands and they went around the corner back into the club. The popping was loud. The club was full of smoke making it difficult to see but the strobe lights and music were still going.  To there right some fire exit doors were propped open. They sprinted out the doors.

Once outside, their eyes tried to adjust to the bright street lights. No police were on site yet. People were streaming out of the club jumping over things, screaming, and you could hear the POP, POP, POP POP in the background. They ran down the street and maybe a half block down, Brandon fell and the wind was knocked out of him. Eric pulled him up saying, "Come on we have to go." Brandon looked at him and said, "They are still in there. We have to go back!" Eric said, "We can't go back there's no going back." That is when the first sirens grew near and the police cars started to flood the area.

Not only was there the sound of gunfire in the background, but there were people screaming, bleeding and the small of blood was overwhelming.  Police with assault rifles were screaming at people to get on the ground. That moment haunts Brandon to this day. It informs the anxieties about being in public. The first ten minutes were the most out of control, chaotic and disorienting of his life. They ran around the back of Pulse and turned left to go up Orange Avenue and they got to the hospital.

They made several phone calls. He posted on social media, "Oh my god, I can't find my friends." They were trying to collect their thoughts. Brandon's dad was on the phone, he didn't understand the gravity of the situation. Chaos broke out outside the hospital with police cars and people screaming, "Get on the ground!" In an instant he lost Eric. He was all alone, face down on the sidewalk. He crawled and found Eric hiding behind a car. Then they walked up Orange to the 7-11 on Orange and Gore. They sat on a concrete wall partition for hours, trying to contact friends. He posted on Facebook, "Eric and I are fine, but we can't find our friends." A friend, Nate wrote, "I saw Juan on a stretcher, he was being carried out. He was alive and gave me the thumbs up."

Dru's mother, Christine Leinonen, was out of bed at that time and she logged onto Facebook. she saw Brandon's post and messaged him. She asked, "Is Christopher (Dru) with you?" He messaged back, "You need to come here now." She got there a little after 4 AM. By then some friends were there. They set up a base camp for charging phones and buying water from 7-11. Eric and Brandon were inconsolable. Gal Tziperman Lotan, a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, sat the entire night with them. She didn't ask one question, she just brought water and Kleenex. Another reporter from ABC came and just said, "I just want you to know that people care." By this time he had to turn off his phone which was was being bombarded by social media and reporters who wanted a statement. His phone was also about to die because he must have called Dru 150 times. He borrowed other peoples phones to call Dru over and over and over.

Christine  went to the hospital to wait outside since that is where FBI and police would be coming in and out. At around 5 AM the shooting was still going on. They were keeping up in real time from blocks down the road. They kept discussing theories. Maybe Dru wasn't answering his phone because it was dead. Maybe he was held hostage in a bathroom. Maybe he was unconscious. Christine waited all night outside the hospital asking everyone who went in or out if they had seen him. About 10 AM someone said to Brandon, "You have to go home." It was a hot humid Florida morning. Brandon and Eric went back to their respective apartments.

Brandon's apartment became mission central for the week since it was two doors down from where Dru lived. So much was a blur that week. The satellite antenna was tuned so he could watch local news. He stared at the TV for hours on end watching every time a victim was announced. Friends brought food and drink to his apartment, also doing his laundry. He had never met Juan's family. He knew Juan had a sister around the same age, so he scoured the Internet to find her name. He found her on Facebook. He sent her a message, "Hey I'm Brandon, Juan's friend, you need to call me when you get this." She called about 25 minutes later. She kept asking, "Is he OK? Was he there?" Brandon said, "I know he was taken out on a stretcher, I think you need to find him. He's in a hospital somewhere." Juan's mom must have entered the room on the other end of the line. She asked, "Is Juan there?" When Juan's sister said, "We need to go to the hospital." His mom screamed because he was her baby. All Brandon could say was "I'm so sorry."

Juan's sister later called back, he said "Please tell me you found him."  She said, "He's gone." Brandon's heart broke. He was sitting on the steps to his apartment. He couldn't go up and tell everyone yet. He wondered, why? Why would it happen here to the most beautiful, important people in the world? How could something like this happen, something so horrific? He walked up the steps and told everyone. That night he tried to sleep. He could not.

Christine had still not heard anything about Dru. Her interview with ABC had like 2.5 million views by now. No law enforcement agent could be unaware that Dru was missing. Brando tried to drink himself to sleep. Eric called saying, "I can't be here alone." So he went over Brandon's place.  Brandon did mange to sleep for a while that night but had horrible nightmares.

The next morning his vigil watching TV continued. Juan's name was on the list now. They knew 49 people were dead. There were 38 named on TV. That left 11 names unaccounted for. What were the chances that Dru was in a hospital perhaps in surgery, unconscious? Maybe they couldn't get a hold of Christine. What if he lost his ID? They struggled through the possibilities for hours.

Christine called. She said, "He's gone too." Brandon really didn't understand what a broken heart meant until that phone call. It was so painful, physically, mentally, emotionally. It was like when a speaker blows in a car from being turned up too loud. Everything was muffled.

Brandon helped Christine find a venue for the funeral.  Christine was so calm, strong and composed at first. She was mom to everyone. She brought pizza and they would google venues for funeral services. He thought two or three hundred people might show up. So they picked a larger venue so those people would fit comfortably. The funeral was at the cathedral in downtown Orlando. The place was packed. Every seat was full with standing room only in the back and out the doors into the street. There had to be over 1,000 people there.

Brandon was asked to give a eulogy at Dru's funeral. He didn't know what to say. When he tried to write his hand shook so much he had to stop. Dru was the best of them. How do you do justice to that? He decided to talk about what Dru meant to him. Sometimes in your life you meet people who are earth shattering, they are truly once in a lifetime. It was the first time he got to tell people how Dru saved him from himself. He had taught him so much. On that tragic night Dru challenged them to love people more. He was the social glue of their community.

Dru taught them to be good people, to be selfless, connect with people. There had to be a way to honor that. A Go Fund Me page was set up to raise money for Christine and Juan's parents so they could recoup. One month after Pulse about $100,000 had been raised. Christine didn't want the money, she said, "Do something with it that which would make Dru proud." That was the birth of The Dru Project. One of the things Dru was most proud of was starting the first Gay Straight Alliance Program at his high school. With that in mind the Dru Project would give scholarships to the next Dru's of the world. The project would also help schools set up safe spaces that would protect young people. The Dru Project was launched in July 2016. They have awarded $35,000 in scholarships so far.

Brandon has become an advocate for change. He is now the Central Florida Development Officer and Media Relations Manager at Equality Florida. He is a nationally-recognized advocate for LGBTQ issues and gun violence prevention, Brandon found his passion for social change following the shooting at Pulse Nightclub. Communication is his catharsis.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Orange County Regional History Center Auction

The Orange County Regional History Center is getting a major redesign in the next few years with modern digital interactive displays and is basically being overhauled from head to toe to modernize and improve the experience. Several months ago the large ceiling mounted display in the lobby was dismantled. Alligators, manatees, huge mosquitoes and other Central Florida flora and fauna came down. The manatees were sitting in the loading bay for the longest time.

The History Center decided to hold an auction to sell off items from the old displays to help raises money for the multi million dollar renovations and improvements they are planning. This was a sketch opportunity I could not miss. The room was packed when The History Center's head curator, Pam Schwartz and I arrived. I immediately tucked myself away behind some tables set up to hold items in the auction. To my right was a large steam engine train. To my left was a Conestoga wagon, come camping vehicles a mermaid, some mastodon tusks and a model of a theme park water slide.

I had seen this auctioneer in action before he was highly polished and kept the action lively. The bidding was fast and furious. In the aisles were people who would yelp whenever someone bid. The guy closest to me had a thick New York accent and he was hilarious and gracious. The lots wold be sold as groupings for instance if you wanted a manatee you needed to buy three manatees. If you wanted a pink flamingo you would have to buy 5 flamingos. The museum for some reason had quite a few antique toy robots. The cheapest item of the day was a set of golf clubs in a bag for only a dollar. Patty Sheehan bought a hilarious looking green frog wearing a crown that had come from Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. Brendan O'Connor brought home an antique robot.

After the bidding on the larger items everyone left gathered at a back table to bit on smaller items. It was fun to watch as people struggled to take home the large items purchased. A wife scolded her husband for trying to carry a five foot model space shuttle all  on his own. The woman who brought the manatees, gators and some large wooden leaves was planning to create a Florida themed back yard pool area. The leaves would function a decorative access block for an outdoor shower. She and her partner were just out running errands at 7-11 when they decided to go to the auction.  Having never been to an auction before they were surprised with all they brought home.

As a fundraiser the auction turned out to be a huge success. The idea had been pitched as a joke at one of the meetings since they thought most of the items should have been thrown out. Now they are being tenderly refurbished by their new owners for their new life's in peoples homes. Two large Corinthian columns and the 4 foot high flamingos remained behind as the auction space quieted down. People must have planned to pick these items up later when they had a large enough truck to transport them.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

Alex Barr, Pulse Survivor

This post is from a personal account about the shooting that took place at the Pulse Nightclub on June 12, 2016. It contains difficult content, so please do not read on if you feel you may be effected. 

This article and sketch have been posted with the express written permission of the interviewee. Analog Artist Digital World takes the privacy and wishes of individuals very seriously.

Alex Barr, from Atlanta, Georgia, is a survivor of the mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub. He was a friend of Darryl Roman Burt II (DJ), who was a victim that night. They first met in college, and in 2016, DJ had just graduated. His ceremony was to be at the Orange County Convention Center. They arrived in Orlando the Friday before with friends and DJ's family. They always supported each other. After the graduation there was a party with some of DJ's cohorts, that is when three more of their friends showed up, Fred, Antwine, and Javád.

When they got back to the hotel, it was late and the three friends wanted to party. Alex was tired, having partied the night before and he just wanted to recover. DJ felt the same way. They tried to convince their friends to go out the next day, to just chill. Somehow they ended up going to Pulse Nightclub. He had been to Pulse about 3 years before. This was his second time there, so it felt familiar to him. Alex was surprised there was no pat down at the door. It seemed like a lot of Latin music, but they were having a good time.

Alex remembered saying on Snapchat, "I don't want to be here." He turned to DJ and said, "You fine?" and he said, "Yea, Yea." They weren't supposed to stay long, at most 10 to 20 minutes since DJ's family was flying out the next morning at 5AM and he wanted to see them off. It was lively on the main dance floor. Alex, Antwine, and Fred were in the main dance floor and DJ and Javád went to the bar. Fred bumped into two people he knew. As they were exiting the main dance floor to get to the bar area, they sat for 5 or 10 minutes, getting ready to walk out.

The disc jockey said, "Last call for alcohol!" They were seated in chairs with their back up against the wall. They were trying to rush Fred, "Lets wrap it up, we have to go." DJ said, "Are you all OK? I'm going to get this last drink. I just want to be sure you are all alright." Alex said, "Yea, we're good, we'll be here." About two minutes after he left they heard POP, POP. That's when it began.

Alex, Antwine, Fred, and Javád were all in tune when they heard the sound of gunfire. Alex thought "Oh, somebody's fighting, someone may have shown off and pulled out a gun or something." They thought it was contained, because security was right there, there was a cop right at the door. But they heard POP, POP, POP, POP, the repetition of it. "OK it's time to go!" They got up to get Fred and DJ, and that is when they saw the traffic, the rush and the screaming coming. They got shuffled down the hallway. Fight or flight kicked in. At that point Alex lost sight of Fred and Javád. He remembered that DJ was at the bar and hoped he was in this group of people. He forgot that there were two other exits from the main dance floor.

As Alex moved down the hallway he blacked out, a blur. He found himself in the hallway bathroom tucked back behind the main sink. Adrenaline pumped and the cadence continued, he could feel and hear the gun, the bullets getting closer and closer. Some people went in the girl's restroom and Alex went into the men's. They barricaded themselves in the handicap stall. Alex heard Antwine pounding on the door shouting, "Let me in! Barr let me in, damn it!" So he let him in. Everyone got down, hyperventilating.

For a moment they thought they were fine. It stopped. The next thing they knew there were bullets and the smell of the gun powder. That is what he remembers the most, the smell, not the sound, and trying to contort himself to get as far away and out of sight of what he had seen, everyone who was hit. He was wrapped around a sink, a tiny sink. In that moment he discovered what his body could do to try and survive. Antwine was right there with him.

They could hear the gunman across the way in the other bathroom talking, chatter, but then executing afterwards. Clearly they would be next, the best they could do was act like they were already gone, hide under some of the bodies and try to keep those who were injured as quiet as possible.

The gunman didn't come across. He was talking, saying something about pledging allegiance and something about the flag. At that point they started texting families, "Goodbye." Alex sent one to his mother, brother, and sister giving them his last words. He was sure the shooter was going to come, peak over the stall, and finish the rest of them off. But he didn't. Alex told Antwine, "If God is real, this is the time, if these angels we were praying to exist, this is the time. I love you, its been a good ride, I guess this is it." Alex texted DJ who responded "I'm scared, I'm still in the building, don't make any noise." He let DJ know he was in the bathroom, but DJ didn't let him know where he was.

He stayed contorted around that sink for an hour. He was expecting to die. Yet he didn't. They began to whisper in the stall, and Javád's head popped up out of nowhere. Alex and Javád texted Fred and DJ. "Did you make it out? Are you OK? Where are you?" Fred sent a text back that said, "Yea I'm fine, I made it out." Then Alex texted Fred, "What about DJ?" Fred texted back, "Yea He's fine." The signals on their phone began to get spotty.

So it was just the three of them left, Alex, Antwine and Javád. DJ was good to go. Everyone was calling 911. Javád ended up on the phone with an investigator. They wanted pictures and a description of what was in the bathroom. How many were in the stall. There were 19 of them counting those who were expired outside the stall. Alex got advice on how to treat the injured from the emergency management person on his cell. She said she was a nurse. She said apply pressure. Their main goal was to keep people calm. They were respectful of the dead as well.

Another man, Angel, was able to crawl out and get to safety. The police yelled, "Get down! Show us your hands!" Angel yelled, "No it's me, I'm OK!" They were able to get him out. They were happy, but the rest of them were not going to take that risk. At this point the gunman knew they were in the opposite bathroom and that some were alive. It had been 4 hours.

The investigator on the phone with Javád was prepping him, but withholding some information, perhaps to avoid tipping off the shooter. They learned that the shooter said he had bombs and planned to blow the place up. After all this, they were still going to die in an explosion. Another hour went by. Eventually they got wind of a rescue plan. They were going to blast a hole in the wall, and warned everyone to get down. There was a BOOM in another part of the building and then another BOOM. Later Alex learned that this was to distract the shooter so he didn't know where they planned to get people out.

Then there was a huge blast against the cement wall of their bathroom and cement flew everywhere. A pipe burst with water spraying. They yelled for them to stop and they did. A machine was used to hit and hammer the wall. They called out, "You need to stop you're crushing us, there is nothing but cement falling on us." The head of a swat member looked in and yelled, Get out, Get out!" He had a gun pointed at them. They were still in shock. Those that were more mobile were hiked up and taken out.

They ran. All that could be seen were flashing lights, and people screaming, "Keep your hands up, get down, Keep your hands up!" There were a bunch of guns pointed at them because the police could not be sure they weren't the shooter. The questioning began and Alex began to ask his own questions. "Where was DJ?" He looked around and tried to call. Well, DJ texted earlier. "Why wasn't he texting now?" There were stories of people rushed to the hospital. Maybe DJ was in the hospital.

That is when Alex learned about Fred. Fred attempted to run with the crowd towards the restrooms. He exited the bathroom and tried to make a run for it and was hit critically in the arm. He had to have about 15 surgeries and was, at the time of this interview, at 85% with the use of his arm and hand.

No one could account for DJ but they remained hopeful they would get news later. They had to stay until the sun came up and then were bused to the police station for additional questions. They were soaking wet from the burst pipes and blood. In the main lobby of the station they were separated into two groups depending on which restroom they had been in. They were asked for personal information. The detectives leading the effort were very professional and sympathetic, which helped put everyone at ease. An officer drove them back to their hotel where they showered, but could not rest. They watched the news.

The next day they got Antwine's car but didn't have the keys for DJ's car. They went to every hospital in Orlando looking for him. His mom, dad, and grandmother went to the Orlando Regional Medical Center where family members waited for news. They tried to be as proactive as possible. He had to be OK because of Fred's text. Maybe DJ was one of the John Does? That evening, Alex saw DJ's name scroll across the TV screen in the hotel room. He sat there for a moment, numb unable to react and then lost it. DJ had just graduated, a huge milestone for him, and now he was gone. His last words to Alex were, "Are you OK?"

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

Saturday, August 17, 2019

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit

The Ensemble Company in residence at Penguin Point Productions (1700 Oviedo Mall Boulevard, Oviedo, FL, 32765) presented White Rabbit, Red Rabbit written by Nassim Soleimanpour.The set was just a small card table with two glasses of water, some chairs, and a step stool. The empty bookcase had a tiny penguin on the top shelf. The internationally acclaimed play is an audacious experience and a potent reminder of the transitive and transformative power of theater. Beyond that, I can not say any more.

The premise is simple...
No set.
No director.
A sealed script on stage.
A different performer each night.

The Orlando performers were, David Lee, John DiDonna, Beth Marshall, and Roberta Emerson. I experienced the incomparable performance by Beth Marshall. As a reviewer, I have been sworn to secrecy. The plush white rabbit on the show poster might be deceiving. This was definitely a play themed for adults.

I can say that there were 50 people in the audience and I was audience member number 20. Beth pulled a POTUS saying she wanted to count for herself, since she needed to know that she had more audience members that the two previous shows by David and John. I wrote that number on the sketch in case it was important. After the show, I was told by people who had seen multiple interpretations, that Beth managed to linger and stretch the play a half hour longer than the two previous performances. She had a knack for letting the words sink in.

I can say that after the play I had an amazing in-depth conversation with Ed Anthony. Both of us recounted memories of people in our lives whom we wish we had helped more. This heated personal exchange was clearly fueled by the thoughts triggered by the theatrical experience we had just been through. We were left with a desire to step up and help others in this trying experience called life.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

Friday, August 16, 2019

Weekend Top 6 Picks for August 17 and 18, 2019

TSaturday August 17, 2019
Noon to 6pm Free. Mexican Gastronomic Festival "Ven a Comer". Lake Eola 512 E Washington st, Orlando, Florida 32801. Come out and celebrate the best Mexican food festival known to Florida! The Mexican Consulate in Orlando and LCHA host our 5th Annual Mexican Gastronomic Festival! We will have all your Mexican favorites Tacos, Elotes, Aguas Frescas, Guacamole and so much MORE! This is our 5th year show casing the best Mexican food in Florida, represented by many of the beloved Mexican restaurants here in central Florida! We want you to come celebrate with us! You won’t want to miss the Guac contest and Margarita contest!

4pm to 6pm Free. Hoodstock Saturday Market. The Barefoot Spa 801 Virginia Dr, Orlando, Florida 32803. The Hoodstock Saturday Market is no ordinary art stroll. 

7pm to 10pm Free. Black Cow Jumps into the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation. Heller Hall Winter Garden Heritage Foundation 21 East Plant, Winter Garden, Florida 34787.
Black Cow Jumps - Orlando's Experimental Theatre Project in association with the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation explores theatre through reality in a mindful and sometimes comedic portrayal of the characters we play, as we try on the shoes of maturity. Human Improv. Life’s Soup.
Complimentary wine, cheese and crackers!

Sunday August 18, 2019
10am to 4pm Free. Lake Eola Farmers Market. Lake Eola Park, 512 E Washington St, Orlando, FL 32801.  

Noon to 3pm Donation based. Music at the Casa. Christine MacPhail. Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum, 656 N Park Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789. Members of the public are invited to visit our historic home museum on a Sunday afternoon to listen to live music and take a tour of our historic home museum and the James Gamble Rogers II Studio by trained docents. 

10pm to Midnight Free but get a coffee. Comedy Open Mic. Austin's Coffee, 929 W Fairbanks Ave, Winter Park, FL. Free comedy show! Come out and laugh, or give it a try yourself.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Battle of Townsend's Plantation Civil War Festival

The Battle of Townsend's Plantation Civil War Festival took place at Renninger's Mount Dora Flea Market and Antique Center (20651 US-441, Mount Dora, Florida, 32757.) This live Civil War Re-enactment featured living history exhibits, folk music, weaponry demonstrations, authentic camps and Sutlers, full scale artillery, cavalry and soldiers in time-period uniforms, weaponry, a Civil War era Dress Ball, and more.

I always feel at home sketching in a Civil War camp since my analog way of documenting the scene with a sketch fits in with the time period. I remember while doing this sketch a young boy in uniform stood behind me watching my progress. He frowned and was very serious, but was quite transfixed. The folks in camp needed to get ready for the battle taking place later in the day and the boy was called away for a cannon firing drill.

Later that day, we sat on the sidelines as the battle unfolded. There were so many rebels and so few Union soldiers. In the end the rebels took the field which was covered with the bodies of the fallen. It was a bloodless massacre. A surgeon's tent was littered with limbs that had been amputated. Fortunately, those limbs were plastic replicas. Today in America we are terrorized by the sound of gunfire. These muskets took quite a bit of work to reload, requiring minutes of stuffing the powder charge down the barrel and setting the flint. Soldiers just stood and fired at one another. Today, we run because high powered assault rifles fire hundreds of rounds per minute. The internal wounds from assault rifles are something no civil war doctor could ever have faced.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Orlando Artist Critique at Barefoot Spa

The Orlando Arts Critique run by Parker Sketch is a monthly meeting where artists and people interested in participating in the local art scene (curators, gallery owners, event coordinators, art appreciators, and anyone else interested in art) gather and talk about art. It is free and friendly.

The format is that there is an open invitation to participate as a "showing" artist. There is enough time to talk about approximately 15 artist's work at each session. It is encouraged that the art is very recent, or is relevant to the artist's current work.

The artists gather as a group of peers, regardless of age, medium, experience, or art genre. There is usually space for an additional 15 participants that aren't showing art. So there is usually about 20 to 40 people attending this event and talking about all the art. The primary goal is to have meaningful, positive, and helpful discussions about what the artists are working on. Networking, socializing, and learning about art opportunities in Central Florida is encouraged. The goal is to elevate everyone's productivity and exposure through helping each other.

Central Florida is exploding with a vibrant art scene. There are so many people doing amazing art that often the people in the art community aren't aware of what is happening around town. Any artist of art appreciator is always invited come and attend one of the sessions. The Facebook event invitation is usually posted about 2 weeks before the event, and registration through the Facebook invitation is mandatory to make sure that we have enough time and space to respect all of the participants. Join the Orlando Art Critique Facebook Group to stay up to date. The last critique was August 5, 2019.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Steampunk Industrail Show at Renningers

I grew interested in the Steampunk Industrial Show at Renningers Mount Dora Flea Market and Antique Center (20651 US-441, Mount Dora, Florida 32757) when I found out that Phantasmagoria would be appearing throughout the day. Phantasmagoria is a local theatrical troupe that presents unique and spectacular blend of storytelling, dance, large scale puppetry and aerial work, fire performance, live music and stage combat. Phantasmagoria has been wowing critics and audiences alike since its premier. First created in 2010, each production offers new stories taken from the diverse centuries old literature of horror and the macabre.

When Pam Schwartz and I arrived at Renningers, we made our way immediately to the main stage which is decorated with a large electric guitar.  A musical act was on stage and Vera Vermillion held a Parasol Dueling contest. The contest was as comical as might be expected. Contestants would stand like ace sword fighter and their weapons were parasols. I sketched a lovely contestant in a black bowler, corset and umbrella. She ended up being the winning contestant.

After the dueling, a Steampunk DJ started to mix the tunes for the crowd. The sky was turning grey and I kind of wished we had brought a parasol from our car parked a distance away. As it started to sprinkle we dashed towards the car finding any possible cover along the way. when we got to the car the sky opened up and it poured. There must be a steampunk invention that can protect from the rain.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at