Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Swan Boat Talks

At the start of the new year, Brian Feldman set about meeting with ten different artists to discuss ways in which they could collaborate in the new year. These meeting were held on Lake Eola's swan boats over the course of a month. I finally had an opportunity to go out and try and sketch one of these meetings when Brian met with Anna McCambridge. I had sketched Anna before when she was working with three other women on an artistic collaboration called "A Confluence" where all of the artists worked on the same paintings together.
It was a cold, brisk day when I got down to Lake Eola. I watched the pigeons cooing and bobbing their heads. If someone walked by, the whole flock would take off and swoop out over the lake and then return once they realized it was safe to do so. A squirrel boldly approached me on the park bench, twitching his nose in annoyance when he realized I had no food. I saw Anna over by a swan's nest. She was taking photos of the little newly hatched swans that looked like little fur balls with beaks. I hadn't even noticed the nest, so I walked over to take a look and say hello to Anna. Anna always offers a warm hug, and on a cold day it certainly was appreciated. The small lakeside bar was just opening and Anna asked if they had hot chocolate. We ordered two. Brian, as usual, was late for his own meeting. When we were just about done with our hot chocolates, he wandered over to the dock and put down his miniature marquee.
I explained to him that I planned to paddle out on a second swan boat and follow them around while I sketched. Brian was quick to point out that if I paddled a swan boat alone I would just spin in circles. I needed a co-pilot. Brian and Anna made a few cell phone calls to see if there was anyone nearby who might be willing to paddle. They came up with nothing. Brian then decided to run to the far side of the lake along the path hoping to find someone at the Farmer's Market who might be up for the task. It was easy to follow his progress since he was wearing his bright orange life vest. On the walk back he found Mark Hackaba, who looked just like a longshoreman with his blue coat, skull cap and gray beard. I suspect Mark was homeless, but what the heck he seemed up to the adventure.
Brian and Anna's boat seemed to paddle much faster than ours did. It was a constant struggle to stay on the same side of them as they moved around the lake. The wind was blowing hard and would cause our boats to float off course. Mark was a trooper doing his best to keep us on course. I was sketching the whole time while paddling in an attempt to keep up with Brian and Anna. There are plenty of smudges and fingerprints on this sketch as I kept sticking my fingers in the wet paint. Anna was taking video the whole time with her iPhone and Brian stood up once, almost falling overboard to get a shot of me and my deck hand. The sketch might not be worthy of a major museum, but the experience required to get it? Priceless. This may be the most difficult sketch I have ever had to do!

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


Lou Belcher said...

Great post and great sketch. I have fond memories of the Swan boats. One time three swans (real ones) followed behind us as if they were following their mom.

Joseph Hayes said...

Damn, too bad there wasn't someone videoing you sketching Anna videoing Brian snapping you.

sandy said...

Those Swan boats are cool!

Thor said...

The swan boats are a major workout on a windy day!