During the Sonesta Hotel's ColORLANDO event benefiting the Downtown Arts District, I didn't have a single moment to sketch. All night I danced an exhausting ballet trying to keep everyone who wanted to paint busy while also doing enough of the painting myself to give the huge canvas a unified look. I was like an alchemist quickly pouring acrylic paints into plastic cups and searching for the right colors. I had to use a transparent glazing medium to make the paint act like the watercolors I use every day. With so many guests approaching the canvas at once, I couldn't always advise people, and sometimes paint was glopped on with abandon, hiding and weakening the sketch. Most of my time was devoted to reworking spots which drew attention to themselves. My attention was constantly being pulled in many directions at once.
A friend who offered to show up early and help, didn't show. Two interns who were going to assist me never showed. Terry offered to watch the prints and T-shirts that were for sale. She ended up abandoning the table to party upstairs. With sunlight streaming through the lobby windows, the canvas was translucent. By the time we were painting, the sun had set. While some friends fell to the wayside, others quickly recognized the need and stepped in to help, sometimes for hours at a time. I am blessed to have such amazing friends. Doug Rhodehamel painted a tree to make it look like a mushroom.
The party going on upstairs offered free drinks and plenty of food. Later in the evening, guests would stop down who had definitely had a few drinks. Keeping their work on task was the greatest challenge of the evening. It is a fine line trying to allow some individual expression as long as it worked with the whole piece. Only once did I have to grab a paint brush to stop someone who seemed to be thickly painting a whole building deep purple. Sultana, the event organizer, groaned and turned to me saying, "Stop her!" I rushed in and made changes before the paint dried.
I hadn't eaten, and there was no way I could abandon the canvas, but someone finally got me a slice of cake and a beer. I don't know the brand, but that was the best cup of beer I ever tasted.
After the bar closed upstairs there was a rush of people who wanted to help. Several people were conspiring to put Mickey Mouse ears on the castle and one woman complained that Harry Potter and Universal weren't displayed. I joked that I had never seen the new attraction. It turns out she works for Universal so I may sketch the new attraction soon. (There is still time f0r me to paint it in, hint.) The mural now on display in the Sonesta Hotel lobby has all the signatures of everyone who helped me that night. Thank you all for this amazing experience similar to Tom Sawyer's whitewashed fence.
The abandoned merchandise table had two $200 prints mysteriously disappear along with many T-shirts. Three friends who knew me, paid for shirts as I continued to paint. The T-shirt I was wearing was stained with sweat all night.
The next day I had no desire to be around any people. I drove to Cocoa Beach and sat staring at the sandpipers who ran from the oncoming waves then chased the waters edge as the thin film flowed back. Scurry and peck, an active full life. There wasn't a soul within fifty yards of me all day.
I returned to do this sketch of the mural on display in the lobby the following day. As I sketched, a busload of young models entered the lobby and the place exploded with conversation and girlish laughter. A woman with Kelly written on her name tag asked if I was Thor. She is an artist and she uses the same sketchbook I do. She was in the hotel attending a wisdom seminar and I was invited to sketch the next day's session. Life and the blog, marches on. Mark Moravec, the hotel's general manager, saw me sketching and expressed how happy he was with the event. Even with the setbacks, I was proud and satisfied to have been part of such an amazing collaborative experience.