Monday, December 28, 2009

ICE at the Gaylord Palms

At a fundraiser several months ago for Hospice of the Comforter, Keith Salwoski, of the Gaylord Palms introduced himself to me and asked if I would like to sketch an event his hotel puts on called ICE. I of course followed up and he invited me to come down. I arrived in the early evening an was surprised that just to park would cost $12. I walked into the waiting area of the exhibit and discovered tickets cost $21. I called Keith and unfortunately he didn't pick up his phone. Rather that pay I decided to wander around the entry area exhibits. There was a Santa Claus seated in an area where photos could be taken. I sat down and started to sketch but immediately Santa got up and went on a break. A sign said he would be back in an hour. This just wasn't my night. I then wandered over to look at a model railroad display with a small village. I started sketching this and just as I was about to commit to inking things in, Keith introduced himself to me. He apologized and said his cell phone had been acting up.
We walked into the exhibit through the gift shop and he got me fitted in a blue winter parka. He also gave me a pair of gloves and some hand warmer packets. He gave me a full tour of the exhibit answering my questions as we walked. ICE has huge themed rooms filled with ice sculptures. The space is insulated with Styrofoam much like a beer cooler. It is kept at a frigid 9 degrees Fahrenheit using two huge air conditioners, each of which could cool the whole hotel complex. Should one unit fail the exhibit could still run using the back up. The sculptures have to be reworked every day due to damage from being touched. He pointed out that huge blocks of colored ice were always on hand behind curtains.
After seeing all the colorful rooms I decided to return to this ice slide room with huge reindeer sculptures. There was always a crowd of people at the base of the slide and a long line of children climbing the steps to get back to the top of the slide. There was constant screaming and laughter.
Working on the sketch was a challenge. My hands immediately got cold and it became hard to bend my fingers. I decided to place the heat packs in my palms and put the gloves over them. This helped. Then when I started applying watercolors, the water began to freeze on the page. The whole sketch shimmered like an ice rink. If I re-applied color over an area the ice would flake and fall from the page. One of the workers, probably an ice sculptor, told me I should have used Vodka to do the watercolors since it does not freeze. I wanted to ask him if he happened to have some on hand but he was gone before I could gather my frozen thoughts. Keith returned and offered me a hot coco and boy did that help.
With so many amazing and colorful sculptures I really wanted to do more sketches but I could only stand the cold for this one sketch. When I exited I placed my sketch flat on a bench and let the ice melt and the colors settled onto the page. I could no longer feel my feet or hands. I stomped my feet until they started to tingle again. Ice really is an amazing experience. If you are going to sketch however, remember to bring the vodka. Ice continues to run through January 3rd.

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

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