Thursday, July 18, 2019

Purple Rain

In March of 2019 John Hurst celebrated his 50th birthday along with his twin sister Alecia at the Abbey (100 S Eola Drive, Suite 100, Orlando, Florida 32801). The party was actually a surprise orchestrated by John wife Chimene Pindar Hurst. As she said, " I have done what any self-respecting wife of John would do, and hired an amazing Prince impersonator (Sir Jac) with his full band, horn section, sexy backup dancers, the whole shebang. We have seen him perform and it’s really fun. I booked The Abbey (100 S Eola Dr #100, Orlando, FL 32801) for the night, a cool venue around the corner from us where they will play and we can do it up all night! Full bar, projector, stage, [and a] great sound system."

When Pam and I arrived there was a thong around John and the venue was packed. I decided to slip through the crowd and find a seat on the sidelines with a view of the stage. I sketched the stage as the band set up. Once they began to perform I placed each performer into the scene in turn. One of the back up performers was a performer and model I had sketched at other events. She had a great voice but was limited in her dancing moves by a pair of very high platform shoes. The prince impersonator (Joey Colon) himself was full of energy. He performed non stop for the duration of the evening. He has been performing as Prince in The U.S.A. for over 10 years. There is an uncanny resemblance, with every body movement sound being like the Purple Legend.

Orlando seems to be a hub for impersonators perhaps because of the theme parks. Anyway the band was great and I tried to capture a fraction of the high energy performance. AS they performed Purple Rain, I covered the sketch in Purple washes. John found me hard at work and introduced me to his twin sister. Back in high school in Tenafly, New Jersey, I studied American History with John's dad. As extra credit for that class I built a scale model of a dutch settlement home out of sandstone blocks that I cut using a tile saw. When John and I worked together at Disney we discovered that one degree of separation. The world is a small place.

John really is a Prince fanatic. John resisted social media for the longest time. After the party I began noticing that he posts some Prince related trivia every day on Twitter. He was on the dance floor throughout the night and when he was asked to get on stage. He held his own playing guitar and singing. John works for the animation industry as a storyboard artist but he might have missed his calling as a rock and roll star. The birthday cake was shaped as a purple frosted guitar. Drinks flowed and by the end of the evening Pam and I were dancing as well. It was a fun night and I got to see a side of John that I had never seen before.

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, July 17, 2019

First Thursdays at OMA

Noga Grossman arranged for Orlando Urban Sketchers to have a table for First Thursdays at the Orlando Museum of Art (OMA). As part of  our presentation, I agreed to do a sketch on my iPad, which was connected to one of the large screen TVs above our table. With that arrangement people could see my sketch progress in real time. Getting the connections right was a challenge, so we arranged to get things ironed out the week before. My possible sketch opportunities were limited to my view from the table since I was tethered to the screen. Pam helped me with a new wireless connection that worked great, which might mean sketching from anywhere in a venue without worrying about wires. It is a brave new world.

The Orlando Urban Sketcher's table was adorned with a roll of paper, allowing anyone the chance to add to a sketch that developed over the course of the event. It was a popular spot for artists to come and relax with a sketch. Each Orlando Urban Sketcher was asked to bring in a sketchbook. My sketchbook had sketches of the strip in Las Vegas from a recent trip. What is great about having Urban Sketchers exploring an event is that each artist has their unique way of seeing and interpreting  the scene.

The theme for this First Thursday event was Art and Architecture. This show is a discovery into how art informs the built environment. Artists were encouraged to submit all types of media, from photography to 3D models, to showcase the beauty found in the built world. First Thursday is an opportunity for patrons to discover local artists, listen to live music, and mingle with an eclectic mix of people. There are cash bars serving wine, beer, soft drinks, and water, and cafe offerings from area restaurants. 

A giant pink sculpture by Carlos Betancourt dominated the back gallery area, while The Smoking Jackets performed live near the Chihuly sculpture in the atrium. Trevor Fraser was telling me a story of a reporter asking Chihuly what the hardest lesson was that he had learned as an artist. The two were walking through the artist's glass-making workshop and an apprentice was finishing up a gorgeous piece of glass. Chihuly took it from him and threw it violently against the wall. It shattered into thousands of pieces. "Nothing lasts," he said.

The next First Thurday is June 6, 2019. The theme for the evening will be Indigenous Futurism, which will will focus on the indigenous and tribal origins of art. From Africa, Australia, North, South and Central America, and beyond. They will explore the influence and fusion of tribal art from the past and into the future. Admission is $15.

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, July 16, 2019

Fiddler on the Phone

In March, DC based performance artist Brian Feldman was back in Orlando visiting family. At this time Fiddler on the Roof was opening at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Brian did a series of performances while he was in Orlando. At one of the performances called Knives Out, Brian asked me if I knew of a pay phone in Orlando. Pay phonea are a dying breed in this digital world, but Brian did find one only a few block from where he used to live in Winter Park on Edgewater and Fairbanks.

Brain explained that he wold begin his performance right after sunset.  I was working on the Ivanhoe Brewery mural at the time. Pam and I ordered some food from a food truck and it became clear that the people inside were new to the job. My dish came out but Pams was held  up and people who had ordered before us were still waiting. She told me to drive up to the phone booth since the sun was quickly setting. Luckily Brain was a few minutes late as well which is actually rather a tradition.

The pay phone was at a 7-11 convenience store. Brian set up several LED light strip inside the phone booth so he could see the script from Fiddler. His idea was to sing the entire show over the pay phone to people who had asked for a performance. Pam Schwartz had asked for a performance but she joined me as I went to the phone booth to sketch. This  is where the real theatrical magic happened as noisy trucks and motorcycles buzzed by on the crowded roadway.

Several people didn't pick up their phones perhaps thinking the call might be a cold call from an advertiser. Brian then called Pam even though she was 10 feet away. We could hear the performance line and she heard it from her cell phone perhaps creating a unique stereo effect. Brian's performance was light hearted and fun. He would read the parts for every character leading up to each musical number.

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, July 15, 2019

Funny Launch Party

We Bring the Funny hosted a Funny Launch Party at Theatre South Playhouse (The Marketplace at Dr. Phillips, 7601 Della Dr. Suite 15, Orlando, FL 32819). The event was a way to introduce people to their new company which brings comedy solutions to corporate meeting and events. The  idea is that they would apply the tenants of improvisation to the workplace by training staff and executives. As they put it, "Even Eric from purchasing can do it." They also offer customized written materials like sketches, jokes, commercials, and top 10 lists.

Pam offered ideas for one one the improv sketches, having the comedians work with her home town of Maquoketa, Iowa. I was impressed. The comedian must have been in the hallway researching the small Iowa town, because little known facts about the region were brought up in the comedy sketch, though he couldn't quite pronounce the name itself. The bottom line is that this was a fun and inspired evening of comedy.

The three players in We Bring the Funny were: Steve Purnick, writer, actor, improviser, and corporate entertainer; Mary Thompson Hunt, actress, improviser comedian, teacher, corporate facilitator trainer, and host; and Jake Lockwood, a freelance writer, director, educator, and actor.  With a combined 12,000 years of experience in corporate entertainment, the team is, smart, clean, professional, and (on most occasions), funny. They are dedicated to bringing laughter, fun, and energy to live meetings and events. I can vouch for the fact that I laughed all night.

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, July 14, 2019

Infusion Tea

I had an event on my calendar called Cafe Night Open Mic at Infusion Tea (1600 Edgewater Drive College Park, Florida.) I had been working on the Ivanhoe Park Brewery mural earlier in the day from noon to 2:30 pm, so I was sweaty and grimy from railroad dust. Regardless, I wanted to get a sketch done for the day, so I headed to Infusion with Pam to experience the Cafe Night Open Mic.

We ordered tea and sat, waiting for the event to unfold. There was no Cafe Night Open Mic. I kept sketching anyway. The ladies across from us had ordered a three tiered finger sandwich and tea platter. There was lots of lettuce on the top tier. It must have been a special occasion. They chatted and joked... when they were not lost in their phones. Behind them was the Arts Co-op with funky dishes, jewelry, and t-shirts. One blanket said, "Live by the sun, love by the moon."

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, July 13, 2019

Grand Avenue Community Center Meeting

The Grand Avenue School was built in 1926 and designated a historic landmark by the City of Orlando in 1995. It features Mediterranean Revival architecture. The historic Grand Avenue School closed its doors in 2017, after 90 years. The school served 227 students from pre-K to grade 2 each year and upon its closure, when staff were asked to leave the building, one woman took it upon herself to make efforts to preserve some of the history packed away in boxes. When the school closed there was fear that the building would be demolished. A committee was formed to try and stop that from happening.

Segregation was struck down by a Supreme Court Order in 1954 but Orange County was slow to comply. Orange County figured making black students file paperwork to attend white schools, while stalling on rezoning and busing, would suffice. One dad wanted his adopted daughter, who was black, to attend an all white school. He pressured the school board to allow her to attend but the school board responded that she was too smart to attend their all white school as well, so they graduated her at the age of 12. This resulted in another court case demanding desegregation in Orange County Schools.

In 1971, a judge threatened to hold the entire school board in contempt after missing a court-imposed deadline for filing an outline of their plans to desegregate. The school board dragged its feet since there was no real repercussions for non-compliance. State and federal funding might be cut, but it never was. In 2007, Grand Avenue Primary Learning Center was 80 percent black. At this meeting where some members had attended Grand Avenue, the memory of the school board ignoring desegregation was visceral. Tempers still flare about the injustice. Integration was extremely divisive in the South, and there was a reluctance to tear the community apart over it. Silence and inaction became a way of ignoring the problem.

The now empty Grand Avenue Elementary School will be preserved and repurposed as a youth and family recreation center. The Borrelli + Partners’ design team has been selected for the design-build contract to renovate and construct the City of Orlando’s Grand Avenue Community Center. As a historical landmark, any exterior work or demolition is subject to a Historic Preservation process. The $17 million budget includes renovations of the existing 29,844 SF school building and 66,000 SF of new construction. The Community Center will house multiple programs including the Parramore Kidz Zone, After-School All-Stars, Orlando Pottery Studio, as well as a MAC gym and yoga studio. This committee has been meeting to help guide an infusion of the school and community's history into the public art that will adorn its walls.

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, July 12, 2019

Weekend Top 6 Picks for July 13 and 14, 2019

Saturday July 13, 2019
8am to 1pm Free. Parramore Farmers Market. The east side of the Orlando City Stadium, across from City View. Purchase quality, fresh and healthy food grown in your own neighborhood by local farmers, including Fleet Farming, Growing Orlando, and other community growers.

4pm to 6pm Free. Young Voices. JB Callaman Center 102 North Parramore Ave Orlando FL. Teen Open Mic Every second Saturday of the Month. 

 8pm to 10pm $5 Second Saturdays in Sanford. 202 S Sanford Ave, Sanford, FL. Live music event featuring 2 stages, drink specials and more.

Sunday July 14, 2019
10am to Noon. Free. Heartfulness Relaxation and Meditation Class. University, 5200 Vineland Rd, Orlando, FL 32811. The Method of Heartfulness A simple and practical way to experience the heart’s unlimited resources. 

Noon to 3pm Donation based. Music at the Casa. Beautiful Music with Shannon Caine. 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 from 12 to 3 pm, listen to live music and take a tour of our historic home museum and the James Gamble Rogers II Studio by trained docents.

2pm to 4pm $5 Film Slam. Enzian Theater, South Orlando Avenue, Maitland, FL. Originally a project of University of Central Florida's Downtown Media Arts Center, Enzian became the home of FilmSlam when DMAC closed in 2006. FilmSlam continues to be a popular outlet for indie and student filmmakers throughout the State of Florida. Q and A with the filmmakers to follow screening.

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, July 11, 2019

Daytona Beach Sand Dredging Project

Pam Schwartz and I decided to get away to Daytona Beach for a day. Parking at the end of a street was surprisingly easy. A quick walk over some dunes left us on the beach where we set up the umbrella since I am a vampire needing eternal shade. Once set up we walked down the beach towards what looked like a huge fountain.

The beach ended with a sign and workmen warning "Danger and Keep Out!" The fountain was part of a  $20-million-plus effort to restore protective berms along Flagler County’s coastline, one of the longest and most multifaceted projects in the county’s history. Work crews dumped more than 750,000 tons of sand to patch up Flagler’s battered dune line, which was devastated by hurricanes Matthew and Irma in 2016 and 2017.

Sand was being pumped through huge pipes being moved from one area and mixed with sea water to make a slurry and then pumped out like a geyser onto the new beaches being built and expanded.  As the sand filled slurry poured out, tractors quickly moved up and down the beach moving the new sand into place. A few months later the same beach had a huge thick boa constrictor of a pipe running down the beach as the sand was being pumped further south. Sand was built up in certain areas so beach goers had bridges to walk over the thick pipe which was at least 5 feet in diameter.

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, July 10, 2019


I need to find a downtown spot which will work for an Orlando Urban Sketching Workshop about sketching the Orlando Downtown skyline. Pam and I decided to go to Latitudes (33 W Church St, Orlando, FL 32801) which has a rooftop bar. After getting drinks we walked upstairs to another platform above the bar to see if the view might work for a workshop. The New Year's Eve ball or orange was still on a pole having ushered in 2019 in January.

Unfortunately this rooftop bar is surrounded by much taller skyscrapers which cut off the views. I rather liked the intimate view of the couple sitting on the bar stools chatting with the bartender. During the week this spot if rather quiet until the crowds arrive much later at night. We discussed the idea of renting an upper balcony apartment just for the workshop. Another building was nearing completion across the street.

If anyone has suggestions of building which might offer good views of a 360 degree view of the downtown skyline please let me know. My next thought is the courthouse but of course there is tight security to get into the building and art supplies tend to confound most security guards. Another thought is to just sketch the skyline from Lake Eola Park. There is however a definite added drama of sketching a city skyline from an elevated vantage point.

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, July 9, 2019

Rollins College

While walking back from an event I sketched in Winter Park, I heard activity over at Rollins College and I decided to cross over Fairbanks Avenue to see what was going on. The large football field was illuminated with stadium lighting. A soccer practice was under way and I had to stop to sketch. The chapel was illuminated a bright blue with spot lights and the upper bell tower windows glowed a golden yellow. A full moon helped lighten the scene as well.

I was sketching trough the chain link fencing for the sake of convenience. One of the players saw me sitting and taking in the scene and he asked me if I was a talent scout for a professional team. Another player had a better guess of what I was up to and I showed him the sketch in progress when he asked to see.

There were a few drills and shots at the net but the huddle in the middle of the field dominated the time I spent sketching. The practice was over and the players dissipated before my sketch was complete. I didn't linger long since this was a simple landscape scene but the lighting of the field at night would make a good plein air study should I decide to return. The Knowles Memorial Chapel at night is an amazing sight.

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