Thursday, September 30, 2010

Yow Dance Gala

The third annual Yow Dance Gala was held at Tim's Wine Market (1223 North Orange Avenue on Lake Ivanhoe). I agreed to donate a print for the silent auction so I had to get to the event early to drop it off. After dropping off the print, Terry and I went to Ethos which is a vegan restaurant. I had never been here before so I was excited to try it out.I ordered Brochette which had tomato's and I am assuming tofu in place of cheese. It was delicious. Terry was adventurous and got a vegan burger which must have been made from a compressed been mixture. I tried a taste and it was also great. When we returned to Tim's, the place was packed. I got a taste of white wine and wandered around. Tyler Reed who greeted us at the door made me feel like a million bucks since she follows the blog and is a fan.
Erik Yow then invited guests across the street to watch a dance performance . David Mooney explained to me that cement floors are not conducive to the classic dances that the company performs. It was decided therefore to dance in the grass at Lake Ivanhoe . The crowd gathered in a line in the grass and I immediately started sketching . Eric then encouraged everyone to push forward which meant I had to moue as well since I was sketching the audience. As the sun set behind them over the lake, the dance began. There is something lyrical and poetic seeing them perform in such a beautiful setting. A family that I had noticed eating at Ethos wandered over to see the performance. As guests wandered back to the Wine Market, I told the family about the Gala and dance company. I then sat alone for a half hour or s0 adding color t0 my sketch and enjoying the sunset. The clouds lit up a bright orange and the sky faded to violet. I watched the street light flicker on and added these warm tones to the sketch. For me the poetry of the dance lingered as the night crept in. I returned to Tim's Wine Market and viewing it from across the street , the large bay windows were filled with the warmth of the crowd bathed in orange light get against the darkened street. Instead of sketching, I went inside.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mona Washington Reads at Infusion Tea

Monthly author readings have resumed at Infusion Tea. Mona Washington who is the new resident author at the Kerouac House, read from a work in progress. Terry had never been to Infusion before so she asked that I get there a half hour early so we could talk for a while before I started sketching. I got a last minute call that T-shirts I had ordered for the ColORLANDO event were ready to be picked up. I called Terry to let her know I was bound to be late. I parked two blocks away from Mother Falcon, where I had ordered the shirts. I called Terry as I walked and again after I had the shirts in hand. I got to Infusion just as Naomi Butterfield was getting up to the podium to get things started. There was little time for conversation before I got to work. When Mona got up to read, Terry mouthed, "I'm going."
Mona's story had to do with a married couple who no longer knew how to communicate. The romantic spark of their youth had burned out. The husband created a promiscuous mistress in his mind that satisfied his sexual desires whenever he wanted. As Mona said, "They fell into a pattern where they didn't treat each other with even the respect they might show a taxi driver." The couple went to a marriage counselor where they talked about their feelings and how they felt about their feelings. They then fell right back into old established patterns of behavior. The husband hinted at his wife's weight when he suggested she shouldn't have ice cream. She tortured him by licking the ice cream cone with pornographic delight. The only exchanges the couple seemed capable of were clandestine attempts to destroy each other's egos.
After the reading was over, Mona confessed that she needed help resolving issues in the story. I hadn't realized that the man's mistress was imaginary. The sexual exploits were so vividly descriptive, that it seemed more real than the bickering. A discussion followed, but little insight was offered on how things might be structured better. In the break that followed, Rachel Kapitan, who had been serving tea from behind the counter, walked up to Mona and started offering suggestions which the author listened to intently. She was delighted, shouting, "This is much better advice than what I have ever gotten at writing workshops." She jotted down Rachel's number so they could get together and chat some more. Mona's play "The Mason Jar" will be read by the Bleeker Street Theater Company in Greenwich Village in NYC on Monday, October 4th. If you happen to be passing through NYC be sure to check it out.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Improv Full House

Of all the theatrical events I have sketched, I have never seen a sold out house. When I entered the Winter Park Playhouse on the second night of the festival, Brian Feldman seated in the front row said to me, "Get up on stage and sketch, this is the audience we should have had." He was referring to "Thomas Thorspecken Sketches the Audience" where we only filled at most a quarter of the seats. Tonight every seat was taken. I watched "The Arm" improv group from Atlanta. I was there to spend time with Terry since she had left early the night before without seeing a show. She recognized some of the the scene structure since we lived in NYC. We laughed the whole show, even when one comedian during a fast-paced routine stood center stage and blurted out, "I got nothing." He laughed, was pushed aside and someone else took over.
We decided to stay for the next performance which was "Some Like it Improvised" from Austin, Texas. This act consisted of the duo of Roy Janik and Kaci Beeler. I wanted to sketch this go around, so I asked Mark Baratelli about sketching the audience from the sound and lighting booth. Mark pointed out Cody Bush, the tech, and so I followed him up to the booth. We walked through the dressing room past a couple in 1930s period clothes. In the back room there was a rickety ladder made of two-by-fours that ascended into a hole cut in the ceiling. It was a tight squeeze with my backpack of art supplies. It was dark up there so I pulled out my book light. The audience poured in as I sketched lightly in pencil. Every seat was filled. People finally had to sit in the center aisle.
Roy and Kaci were amazing. They performed one long improv show that involved them being bootleggers after the prohibition. Kaci would change characters on a dime. Some of the remarks made were so absurd it is amazing they kept their forward momentum. Since probably half the audience were improv comedians, it felt like the room was rooting for them. This was like watching a feature film being improvised on the fly. A stunning performance.
I knew I only had about 45 minutes to sketch so I rushed. After the show everyone crowded into the lobby. Brian Feldman was talking to Terry. He pulled me aside and said, "You should have been sketching the performers. Kaci is a sketch artist just like you." He insisted I walk up to Kaci and ask her if she was an artist. I did so while Mark filmed the meeting on his digital camera. It turns out Kaci sketches set designs besides being an improv actress. She has a girlish charm while on stage, and can be the femme fatale as well as a comic. After this show, Terry was tired and wanted to go home. For once I joined her, since I had my sketch and an amazing success story.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Orlando Improv Festival

Mark Baratelli of theDailyCity.com organized the first annual Orlando Improv Festival. I know he has been organizing the event for months so I had to stop by the Winter Park Playhouse and see how the inaugural night played out. When I arrived Mark seemed a little harried but from the start I could see that the event was a success. The lobby of the playhouse is warm and inviting. There are comfortable couches and a full service bar. It has what I consider a Parisian flair. I sketched the box office where Dina Peterson and Ileana "Blue" Johns, were greeting people as they entered. Dina would chime in with, "So, are you here to see a show?" The lobby quickly filled up. Hannah Miller who was also a volunteer sat with her handmade high heeled bunny slippers, working diligently at sidoku on her cell phone. Rabbits that resembled Betsy Die's wonderful quirky creations were everywhere. I texted Betsy and she explained that Mark had asked her to create rabbits as improv mascots. She didn't want to spend the 2 hours needed to sew each rabbit. Mark recruited the mom of a friend who ended up sewing the lookalikes. Betsy did have final approval of the final product but some of the demonic charm was lost.
I heard a woman seated at the bar say to her friend, "I think that is Thor." Since it is a small lobby, I heard her and walked over to say hello. Terry stopped in after work, but she had to get up early the next morning so she didn't stick around for a show . Hannah and Mike Maples sat at my table and we talked and laughed for the longest time while I finished my sketch. Hannah and Mike went to get some sandwiches and we had dinner before finally heading in to see a show. when we entered the theater, it was pitch dark. I got my iPhone out to use as a flashlight and Hannah shouted out, "Hey help guide us in with your cell phones! " I believe Sultana or Brian guided us to some seats in the third row.
Mark bounded on the stage and the crowd hooted and hollered . He introduced Boston Improv and everyone cheered. They had me laughing out loud from the start. Scenes changed quickly and the fast pace never slackened. 0ne scene was at a dating service where one woman was training another on how to act when first meeting her date. Someone was pulled from the audience and he was seated next to her. She pushed up right next to him and rubbed her head on his chest like a cat. when she was reprimanded she clutched his knee refusing to give him any space. When she was prompted to say something about herself she said, "I like to drug people while they are asleep." I couldn't stop laughing.
The second act I went to see was Droll Academy from Orlando. I was told they perform every week at "The Funky Monkey". They started with musical improv which had me bopping my head to the beat while I laughed . They too pulled an audience member on the stage. They chose a beautiful Asian woman who they serenaded gently till the lyrics showed the truth, that they wanted to make love to her. As she stood embarrassed one actor writhed on the ground as he continued to sing.
Both performances I went to were packed and people lingered in the lobby between shows. I hope this festival grows and returns bigger and better each year.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

ColORLANDO an Arts Community Mural

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.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Talk like a Pirate Day.

To celebrate talk like a pirate day, Terry and I drove to Sanford where there was going to be a pirate costume contest. There was a group of unsavory characters gathered around the Visitors borough. Terry had on a black and white striped shirt some mighty fancy studded pirates boots and a real fencing sword. I was dressed up for a Gala reception I planned to draw later that night. A dog walked by with a pirate hat on and there were two other dogs in costume. All told maybe ten people had dressed in their pirate best. I convinced Terry to sign up for the costume contest. The hag announcer with her missing teeth, mispronounced Terry's name saying Thornpecker. Oh the indignity! Terry got to strut up the walkway past the judges brandishing her sword. Awards were given out in various categories and although I didn't compete, I was handed a silver piece of eight. Being the first incarnation of this event, it was understandably small but I trust tharrr be morrrre pirates next Yearrr!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Backpack Delivered

Amanda Chadwick introduced me to Elaine Pelletier, a caseworker for the Children's Home Society. We drove off in Elaine's car on a mission to deliver a backpack to one of kids she oversees. I can't say his name so I'll call him Sam. Sam is now under dependency based care, meaning he has a guardian. He loves to draw and Elaine said he doesn't get alot of one on one attention. He is highly intelligent and loves to read. They are looking into moving him into accelerated classes for reading. He has had occasional outbursts where he broke things, but hey who hasn't ? Elaine had never been to the address she had been given before so we had an adventure to find the place. We walked into the waiting room of what appeared to be a doctor's office. Sam was given his backpack and he looked through its contents for a while. Elaine had explained on the drive over that he doesn't react with much emotion. He posed calmly for the quick sketch offering suggestions for color and placement of some items. There is a definite fire in his eyes. Elaine's primary purpose is to see that he gets the mental health resources that he needs and that he follows up with appointments. Sam seemed to enjoy the attention and he wanted a color copy which the receptionist kindly offered to make. His guardian also decided she wanted a copy. It is hard to imagine what Sam must have been through in his short life but I have high hope that he will find his way through this life.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

ColORLANDO


On Thursday September 23rd I will be unveiling a 16 and a half foot long mural of the downtown Orlando skyline at an event called ColORLANDO at the Sonesta Hotel Orlando Downtown
(60 South Ivanhoe Boulevard Orlando, FL).
Eat, Paint and Party while benefiting the Downtown Orlando Arts District!
Experience the best of Orlando in food and entertainment as the Sonesta celebrates our vibrant local arts community. You are invited to preview Sonesta's stylish, newly renovated property and mingle with artists in a whole new way!
ColORLANDO is your chance to be a part of creating a community masterpiece with award-winning sketch artist Thomas Thorspecken that will adorn the walls of the Sonesta Hotel while enjoying local entertainment at its finest including:
- Music by the Olga Feroni Jazz Trio
- Live DJ
- Celebrity lookalikes
- Live dance performances
- Opportunities to win great prizes, including a Cruise on the Nile in Egypt.
- Much, much more!
This will be an event you don't want to miss, featuring an exclusive Silent Auction benefiting the Downtown Orlando Arts District! The party starts at 5:30pm .

For this event I needed to enlarge a sketch I did of downtown Orlando. I considered doing this at Full Sail using an overhead projector to project the sketch on canvas duck taped to the classroom white board. The setup worked but I was suddenly shocked at the size of the mural. I would need a large ladder in order to sketch the top half of the image. I quickly realized that would be a painful process. Two different people suggested I take the sketch to Triangle Reprograhics. When I went in to drop off the sketch, David Magagni walked me through the printing plant back to an area where I could compare various canvases. I immediately wanted to sketch. After checking a proof later in the week, I asked about sketching the mural when it went to press. At first the request was turned down by the foreman, but someone suggested I call Reg Garner, the VP of sales,and he loved the idea.
The 16 foot long mural was to be printed on the Vutek 5330 EC press. Eli Melendez wearing his New York Yankees baseball cap showed me how the press works. The canvas is threaded through a series of rollers and then flows over the top of the machine. A large box moves back and forth adding the inks to the canvas. I arrived at Triangle Repro shortly after 5pm. The night crew works till 11pm. Unfortunately the operator who set up my job wasn't in, so the press sat silent. My nerves grew raw as I sketched knowing the mural was just a button push away from being finished, and the grand fund raising party at the Sonesta hotel was fast approaching.
So please come out tonight and help me add acrylic color washes to help finish up this huge canvas. Tonight promises to be an amazing party!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Moving School Supplies

Amanda Chadwick and Sarah Dillon had to move donated school supplies from a storage unit back to the Children's Home Society offices. A ground floor office space had been donated by the landlord specifically for the back to school drive. An Enterprise moving truck had to be rented for the task. We all piled into Sarah's huge pickup truck with the country music wailing and headed to the truck rental place. After a few minutes of paperwork, we all climbed up into the cab of the rental truck. There wasn't a third seat, so I crouched behind the stick shift. There was a sliding door which gave access to the back of the truck so I forced that open and climbed back , giving me plenty of leg room. The back of the truck was rickety and noisy.
Sarah had some tight maneuvering to do since space was tight around the entry gates to the storage facility. When we found unit K-10 the hard work started. The unit was stuffed full of cardboard boxes full of school supplies. Much of the time Amanda lifted boxes and carried them to the truck where Sarah then arranged them in the truck. It was blazing hot. The transfer took just long enough for me to get the sketch one. When we got back to the Children's Home Society, the truck had to be unloaded . Amanda called for some help and three or four women came from the upstairs offices to help. Not a single man was on hand to help out. I of course was busy sketching. I don't think many people think about the hours of backbreaking work that goes along with the simple act of giving children the supplies they need to be successful in school.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Appeal Letters

I visited the offices of the Children's Home Society as the organization geared up to give away 800 backpacks to children in need as part of their back to school drive. Amanda Chadwick and Sarah Dillon were in a tiny corner office stuffing envelopes. This first step in the process involved sending appeal letters asking for donations for the cause. Past back to school drives had been a huge success thanks to the many kind donations from all over Central Florida. Many children all over the state are faced with starting school without the basic school supplies needed for success. People who donated a backpack this year were given a ticket to see Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 3 on ice.
Many of the children in the care of the Children's Home Society have suffered from abuse and neglect and they need support to succeed both emotionally and academically. These backpacks full of school supplies can make a difference. Here are the supplies that are given away in each elementary student's backpack. 1 dozen #2 pencils, 1 rectangular pink eraser, 1 box of colored pencils, 3 folders with 2 prongs and 3 pockets, 1 pack wide rule loose-leaf notebook paper, 2 glue sticks, 1 ruler with inches and centimeters, 1 pair Fiskars brand scissors, 1 plastic pencil box, and a new backpack.
All of these supplies are donated by people who open their hearts, giving whatever they can to help. Should you want to help with next years drive, contact the Children's Home Society at 321 397-3000.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Adoption

Amanda Chadwick from the Children's Home Society invited me to the courthouse to sketch an adoption proceeding. When we entered the building we had to get past security. My portable artists stool raised a red flag and the guards got into a discussion as to how lethal a weapon it might be. Amanda's bag needed a second search and a curling iron was found which was equally lethal. The guards were considering allowing the chair, but to cut the red tape, Amanda and I went back out to the parking lot to get rid of the contraband. When it was discovered that I planned to sketch, guards and lawyers got involved in letting me know how short the proceeding would be and how unlikely it would be that I would get a sketch. A lawyer introduced Amanda and I to the Joma family who would be adopting two children this day. The baby girl was only three days old when the family first began to care for her. The little boy, a toddler, was strutting around the courthouse like he was a lawyer himself. He was dressed in a very corporate looking suit. At one point he walked over and hugged his little sister.
The time spent in the courtroom was indeed brief. The judge quickly announced the completion of all the needed paper work and the family pledged that they loved the children and would raise them in a caring household. I glanced over at Amanda when it was over and she had gotten quite choked up. Even though she had worked for the Children's Home Society for sometime, this was the first time she had witnessed an adoption firsthand.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Auction

The seating was assigned, and I was surprised that Terry and I were seated right behind Harriet Lake. This was prime real estate. Tom Yokum from Lowndes, Drosdick, Kantor & Reed was seated next to us with his wife. Terry grabbed my sketchbook and showed it to his wife. The auctioneer for the evening was a no show and Tom was asked to fill in. Harriet Lake had donated a bracelet studded with 173 diamonds. Tom knew many of the patrons in the room and he used this to his advantage to get people to bid. He shouted out, "Come on now, you spend more than that to fuel up your private jet." The bidding was fast and furious. Congressional contender Bill Segal raised his hand once but didn't bid aggressively. Melanie Love is the woman who got to show off this amazing jewelry for the rest of the night. She had been joking with us earlier in the evening about how they would build a tower out of Snickers bars every Halloween. The bars would have to be removed gingerly by the kids to keep the tower from collapsing.
A preview of the play "39 Steps" began shortly after the auction. I fired up my book light and kept working. Watercolors were applied in the darkness. 39 Steps was hilarious. It is a tongue in cheek view of a crime drama akin to Hichcock's "North by Northwest ." A scene in a crowded train had all the actors moving and swaying to the rythem of the train. Brandon Roberts was particularlY funny in a Chaplinesque way. A chase scene on top of the train was made complete as the actors ruffled their waistcoats with their hands. The scenes were overacted and melodramatic to great humorous effect.
After the preview, a trio performed in the lobby. I contemplated doing one more sketch but I knew time was limited. Betsy Die gave me the photo which had been taken of Terry and myself earlier in the evening. I felt like we were being given the VIP treatment. It is the little things that make an evening truly memorable.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Shakespeare Gala

As Terry and I entered the Shakespeare Theater, a woman remarked that there would be no overnight camping allowed. I was confused at first but soon realized she was talking about the camping chair that I had slung over my shoulder. Even though I was wearing a suit, I still wasn't fully able to blend in with Orlando's upper crust. Terry had on a solid gold gown and was concerned she might be overdressed. Shannon Lacek was the first person to greet us once we entered the lobby. She directed me to the will call booth to get tickets for a preview performance of "The 39 Steps" later in the evening.
Terry approached Devin Dominguez, who was signing people in for auction bid books. I walked around on my own searching for a spot to do my sketch. The Patron's Room was packed and I decided against sketching in such a tight space. Instead I wandered through the lobby looking at one food station after another. I settled on the Rosen Centre Hotel's station which had translucent blue plastic cubes which were all illuminated blue. At the meat station there were lamb shanks which I later tried and they were delicious. There was also an assortment of vegetable platters and raw clams and mussels.
The chefs were rushing to get the food prepped and ready. I stood at one of the circular tables that had been set up in the hall and got to work. Terry joined me with her plate of food. I decided I couldn't eat until I had finished my sketch. Other couples joined us and the executive director of the Rep, Gene Columbus, was having a conversation about how the Rep needed to apply for all available grants in order to grow. He felt the Rep always did the best they could with the resources available.
When I finished my sketch, I finally got a plate of food. I ate quickly before they opened up the theater.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Candidate Meet and Greet

The Children's Home Society hosted a Candidate Meet and Greet. Amanda Chadwick organized the event. There was primarily a focus on issues relating to child welfare although most politicians returned to issues of taxes and spending. Valerie Seidel, the board chair of the Children's Home Society of Florida, introduced the Board. There were two young girls seated in the front row near me. They were about 14 and 10 years old. These girls dressed in their Sunday best got up on stage to lead the Pledge of allegiance.
Candidates could only speak for three minutes each so sketching was a challenge. I drew Valerie at the podium. One candidate had actually been in foster care before. After all the speeches, there was a twenty minute break with snacks before school board candidates got up to speak. As everyone got food, I was throwing down watercolor washes. As I worked, one of the little girls sat next to me asking questions. It turns out she lives next to Bernie who is an artist that holds open studio sessions in his home. I have been there a number of times. The girls name was Catherine and I soon realized that she and her sister were pictured on a poster at the front of the room. The pair are shown seated on the grass wearing purple and pink princess costumes. The sisters were adopted by Greg and Valerie through CHS of Florida. on the poster Catherine is quoted as saying, "I am thankful that CHS took good care of me and my sister when we were in the shelter and helped us to get adopted to a new family. :)" Catherine's sister, Cheyenne, walked up and said, "Look, that is mom." as she pointed at the drawing. I explained to them that I had started drawing Valerie, but I had to borrow some features from some candidates since she didn't speak very long. Amanda walked up behind me and said, "It looks like you have some new fans." Kids love art, and I am happy I got to meet these two outgoing and curious art patrons..

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Crealde - Saturday Figure Drawing

Every Sunday there is a figure drawing class at Crealde from 10:30am to 12:30pm. I usually have other events on my plate but this Sunday I decided to get back to figure drawing. It is so nice to have a model stand still for five minutes or longer. Amber is a young petite model who had a steely focus when posing. She would stare at a spot right above everyone's head and remain totally still. She didn't take the most dynamic poses but I was overjoyed to be able to relax and take my time with my drawings. I filled 2 spreads in my sketch book with tiny studies before I decided to expand my view to incorporate all the artists. There were some female artists as well, they just happened to be on the opposite side of the room. Paul McNear runs the class starting with 2 minute poses then 5 minues then finishing up with 20 minute poses. Paul is the artist with the checkered shirt, I love drawing his expressive face.
Once I started this sketch I didn't take any breaks, while others chatted away, I was adding washes and adding background details. The devil is always in the details. I loved that there was a poster on the wall that said simply, "Hope." Every drawing begins with a bit of hope and faith. With this sketch I didn't do any preliminary pencil work. I attacked the drawing by going straight to ink and I feel the result is bolder with more chances being taken. If I do this more often I should be able to finish my sketches on location much faster.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Truth or Dare with Pepe

Terry and I went to The Peacock Room to catch Pepe. We entered and paid the five dollar cover to Mike Maples who had on a very stylish fedora. At the bar we sat next to Devin Dominguez and Shannon Lacek who was just getting up to leave. Devin and Terry talked about the various boards they work for. Rob Ward was greeting people up and down the bar. I ordered a Corona and relaxed.

I decided not to sketch until the show started so I sat back and enjoyed the social interactions firing up all around me. We waited for quite a while since some of the guests for Pepe's show hadn't arrived yet. Aradhana Tiwari breezed up to the bar and ordered a cosmo. The bartender wouldn't accept any of her credit cards so she had to go out to her car to get cash.


Terry and I were some of the first people to enter the backroom performance space. I collapsed into a beanbag chair at Terry's feet. The set had gotten much more elaborate since I had been on the show many months ago. A gorgeous red patterned couch filled the stage along with Pepe's giant red pump chair. Pepe's co-star for the night was Blue Star from VarieTEASE Dance Company. Megan Boetto dressed in a tight red corset was the evenings Jello shot girl. Guests of the show were Beth Marshall and Mark Baratelli.

Mark arrived late and sober so he started sucking down jello shots one after the other. When asked by Pepe if he wanted to pick Truth (gasp from crowd) or dare. Mark picked Truth. Everyone was very disappointed. He related a story about someone who stole a show idea intending to use it as a fundraiser for a cause but then the individual pocked the money. It was a true arts community scandal. Beth Marshall was asked to pick someone from the audience to some on stage and she picked Air who had to be just about dragged up on the stage. She complained, "I have been up since 7:30 this morning, this isn't fair." She was offered the truth or dare challenge and she picked dare. Pepe explained, "I have a privacy screen behind this chair and I will allow you to sit behind it and then verbalize your best orgasm." She asked, "Do you want the whole thing or just the ending?" He pulled the screen out and set it up in front of her. She gave a performance worthy of that deli scene in "When Harry Met Sally." I was shocked and amazed. Directors are mighty fine actors.

Two men were pulled from the audience and one was told to do a lap dance for the other. Mark kept shouting out, "Take off the shirt!" When the shirt finally came off the crowd went wild. The two men were then given a slip Jim meet stick and told to chew from either end until their lips met in the middle. his was another hilarious moment. At the same time Beth and  Blue Star were doing something involving a banana on the other end of the couch. A woman at the back of the room started to dance to the song, "Put a ring on it." She shouted out that her name was Snipples. Megan started doing the dance on stage with plenty of hip action. When jello shots were thrown out to the crowd again, Pepe offed a toast, saying, "To the arts community in Orlando, may it thrive!" I raised my shot high in the air and sucked it down by shoving my tongue all around the rim dislodging the tasty jiggling mass.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Drano Royal Flush

I got a text message from Mark Baratelli from TheDailyCity.com letting me know about an event happening at the new Amway Center that was too good to pass up. He informed me that Mayor Buddy Dyer and City officials would be in the new arena which is still under construction, to test the building's toilet facilities. All of the bathrooms were going to be manned so that 443 toilets would flush at the exact same moment.
Parking near the new arena is impossible at best right now. I parked about five blocks away under an I-4 overpass and stuffed the meter full of quarters. When I got to the site, makeshift fences still surrounded the building. I approached what I call the masthead corner of the building. As I walked towards the doors, a security guard ran up behind me to stop me from entering the construction site. I explained about the event and yet he had no idea what I was talking about. Luckily for me, City Commissioner Patty Sheehan also approached the building at the same time. He had no idea who she was and insisted we both get back off the site. I used my cell to call Mark and he told me the entrance might be on the other side of the building near the parking garage, and he ultimately found out the 5th floor walkway was the only way to enter the event. Patty and I walked that way. I told Patty I had seen her once before at an event called "Wheels for Kids" where 95 bikes were given away to needy children. She perked up and remembered me immediately. It took a few more phone calls and some waiting before we finally made our way to the event site in the new arena.
When I entered the arena, four Magic dancers were standing at the doorway and greeted me saying, "Hello Thomas." As I was walked further I thought, "Wait - how did they know my name?" Then, I saw Mark with a construction helmet and bright yellow vest on. He had put the dancers up to the personal greeting. I got my own helmet and vest and then Mark and I walked towards a huge crowd of vested people. There was a red carpet and velvet ropes. We heard the laughter of children. A woman told us to walk down the red carpet. There were plenty of TV cameras.
Then I noticed Dwight Howard who was heads taller than any cameraman. As he was interviewed the cameramen closed in around him. I started sketching frantically. People were in constant motion and I knew I also had to get a sketch inside a bathroom. Groups of children from Nap Ford Community School were on hand and were each assigned a number which corresponded to a team leader. When it was time, the team leaders escorted the children and reporters to the various bathroom scattered throughout the building. Mark and I simply stayed at the bathroom nearest the staging area.
Once inside the bathroom, the team members kept posing for pictures. Then over the public address system, Dwight Howard said, "Everyone man your stations. The Royal Flush shall begin in 10, 9, ..." The flushing began with Swiss accuracy. People ran from stall to stall, flushing in each. A woman barged in on Mark's stall and shouted out, "Oh my! Excuse me!" The flushing continued for the next ten minutes. I imagined man hole covers being blown sky high all over the city. Then, all at once, it was over. The announcer suggested snacks out in the staging area and the bathroom immediately cleared. I remained behind adding watercolor washes to my sketch. I suddenly realized I was missing a rag and so I took the free tee shirt I had been given and used it instead. When the sketch was just about complete, a woman walked in and asked, "Can I wash my hands?" I, of course, said "Yes." As she washed her hands, I asked, "Do you know if this is a men's room or a women's room?" She pointed out that there were no wall urinals and I realized I was doing my very first drawing in the new arena in the women's bathroom.
Out in the hall I returned to the first sketch I had started, and worked on it some more. As I sketched, Buddy Dyer walked up to me and asked if I was one of the 25 artists who would have work in the arena. I said no, but let him know about my blog and gave him a card. After the event was over, I walked back to my truck only to find it had a bright green parking ticket envelope on the windshield. I had banked on it only taking two hours to flush some toilets. My enthusiasm for sketching events downtown was shattered.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Jambando

The Plaza Theater (425 North Bumby Avenue) held a Woodstock revival. Terry had scored some free tickets at a previous event. When we arrived I saw speed painter Tony Corbitt with his black and white paintings set up outside. After getting our armbands, we shoved through the glass doors and entered the inner throng of people who were pressed inside the lobby of the theater. Dina Peterson was getting a flower painted on her face. We wandered the room seeing each of the vendors set up inside and I finally decided I should sketch the band Das Vodoo that was playing Credence Clearwater Revival music on the lobby stage. I pulled out my small three legged stool and sat down to sketch, only to have the chair rip and collapse. A spectator said the chair was a good idea if it hadn't busted. I dragged my but off the floor and marched over to a trash can and thrust the chairs parts in. I was annoyed.
The trash can was next to the bar area and I soon realized this was the most active bustling area in the theater. There was an empty bar stool, and I sat down. I was right next to the cash register and I figured as I sketched that people might just figure I was a manager taking notes. The wine and beer orders cam in a a constant and breakneck rate. The staff members were in constant motion but I found they repeated positions rather often. I have no idea why there was a brass fish sculpture near the register.
With the sketch finished I joined Terry inside to see Janis Joplin, as performed by Kaleigh Baker and the Downgetters. She was amazing. She took deep swigs from the booze being passed around on stage and her voice cut like a knife. She shouted out that we shouldn't take the pink acid. The crowd half of which were standing in front of the stage, went wild.
Crosby Stills & Nash was performing in the next room. I was kind of distracted since a young couple was making out hot and heavy the whole time right in front of me. I really should have sketched them, they never would have noticed. Sigh.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Puzzle

Brian Feldman informed me about this sculpture titled "Puzzle" which is located in the Orlando Cultural Park on Princeton Street right across from the Science Center at the corner of Alden Road. I had no idea this even was a park. It looks like a vacant lot. It used to be covered with greenhouses. The installation was put in place by artist Chris Scala on August 18th and will be up until September 18th. If you drive past this location daily you will be surprised to find these bright yellow lightweight pieces change position every day. I e-mailed Chris and he told me to stop by that evening at 6pm when he would be moving the pieces again. As the sun sets, it paints the whole field a bright warm yellow and the long shadows grow more dramatic.
I arrived a bit early and walked around for a while before finding a shady spot which offered a good view of the sculpture. As I sketched, I noticed a MINI Cooper drive up and park on the road behind the sculpture. I added the car to the sketch noticing two men as they removed tools out of the back trunk. They approached the largest puzzle piece and knelt down using a power tool to remove stakes which held the light sculpture in place much like a tent. After they finished moving this piece, Chris walked up to me and introduced himself. He pointed out that over the course of the month, the pieces of this "puzzle" will move closer together and join, becoming first three then one large unit.
Chris went on to explain that a group of skate rats have been vandalizing the sculpture ever since it was installed. They would spray paint obscene messages and punch holes in the sculptures until he felt he had to remove the damaged pieces. When I asked him about the graffiti which claimed that the artwork was our tax dollars at work, he explained that there have been huge budget cuts in the city's Public Art department. It took him eight months of hard work to get this installation approved. Paul Wenzel, the Public Art Coordinator for the city of 0rlando was instrumental in guiding him through all the never ending paper work. While the city is sponsoring the project, allowing him to use the park, he is not being paid anything for all the ongoing work he is putting into the piece. Chris goes on to explain that this sculpture is just a study for a larger permanent piece he wants to make with wire forms. He likes how the wire forms allow a viewer to look past the surface of the sculpture seeing the inside form as well as the overall structure.
As we were talking two kids on bikes shouted out, "Why are they moving that way again?!" Chris pointed out that they were probably two of the kids vandalizing the project. They circled all the way around the block watching the artist's progress. Suddenly I felt I was in a war zone. Chris and Lance Parker, who is helping him with the project, moved the pieces further west closer to the street lights. Chis thinks by moving the pieces into the light it might slow the destruction and vandalism the artwork is being subjected to. On one sculptural piece a capital A in a circle is crudely sprayed. Lance explained that this is a symbol for anarchists. Even anarchists have to conform to a certain code. I get the feeling that as soon as I leave this site, and the sun is set, the spray cans will come back out and the mindless destruction will continue. I wonder why there isn't more public art in Orlando?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Way of the Cards

There was a staged reading of a new play by Aradhana Tiwari in the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, in the Goldman. The stage set consisted of a simple card table and a small smack table behind it with cereals and an assortment of snacks. The play has a fascinating premise being built around the idea that poker terms also apply to the dram unfolding in a rather dysfunctional family. The mother of the family named Sass Arlington was once "The First Lady of the Vegas Strip" but over time she became a tired hack player on a riverboat. Each scene is first narrated by Tip, the oldest son of the family and thus the man of the house. The scenes are built around the Blind, the flop, the turn, the river and the showdown. Tip is the most stoic of the family members. He is seen most times munching on a bowl of cereal sullenly ignoring the drama that unfolds. His sister Tally tried to fill the shoes of a nagging mother but few of her commands are ever heeded. The youngest sibling is Lucky who is innocent in many ways but has just started to learn to cheat at poker.
The play takes several dark and unexpected turns as the family struggles to stay afloat. Sketching was a real challenge since the house lights were almost always off and I didn't have a book light since it was being used for a show I would be putting on in the Shakes. Since I only got a half decent sketch, I decided to go to an Irish bar where Texas Hold 'um is played every week. I figured life must surely imitate art in this case.
Aradhana's play was very well written with imperfect characters that had life and breath. Sass at the end of the play is put to the test after she leaves the family to win big in Vegas. Although she might have won cash, she lost so much when she returned. Often a player will reach a point where they know they are going to loose and yet they can not help but keep betting. This was the case with her. She knew she had so much to loose because she was concerned about her family's welfare but she couldn't stop betting which meant she wasn't home to keep the family on a steady track. The play is tragic on many levels. You can catch the last FREE performance of this amazing play tonight at the Shakespeare Theater (810 East Rollins Street) at 8:00PM. I intend to watch it a second time with a new cast to appreciate the play's nuances even more.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Suzi Fox Fashion Show

I went to The Peacock Room (1321 North Mills Avenue) because I got a tip that there was going to be a fashion show. There was a $5 cover at the door and for once I decided to splurge. I almost immediately bumped into George Wallace who seemed to know what was going on. He walked me over to a pool table covered with shiny and colorful underwear. Everything looked like it was made of satin but he went on to explain that this was a new material developed by Suzi Fox. He pointed out some men's running shorts and for a moment I was interested since I have been running in the mornings for the past few months. The running shorts were however so tight that they left nothing to the imagination. I didn't want to look like a zealous British tourist running through my neighborhood. There was a group of women dressed in this Liquid Vinyl Clothing and they were posing for a photo while sitting on the edge of the pool table. Of course I wanted to get a sketch of this group but they were clustered in the corner and I figured that after the photo was taken they would wander off. George told me there was going to be some staged readings on the back room stage so I decided to bide my time and wait.
Michael Pierre, a local comic, got up on the small sage and introduced each performer.
Rachel Kapitan got behind the mic dressed in a provocative skin tight outfit. She started to read a poem that got hotter and racier with each stanza. I suddenly realized this wasn't going to be the usual night of open mic poetry. She thrust her hips from side to side delicately stroking her belly as she read. The poem built to its climactic conclusion. I was glad I was sketching since it kept me a touch distracted.
Next on stage was Keri Sardone. She was dressed in a skin tight liquid blue dress and she read an account of a woman executive who got what she wanted from the young male stud in the office. Herow voice was silky and smooth - just like the clothing being modeled. According to Michael most of these accounts had been written that night at the bar with only a brief rehearsal prior to the reading on stage. He read a descriptive account and the whole time a woman dressed in a skin tight gold dress stood behind him. As he read about her exploits she clenched her fists and subtly spread her legs at just the right moments. It was a delicate use of implied erotica. As each woman read, videographer Myk Freitag, circled them recording every juicy moment.
I wasn't too shocked by the show, because when I lived in New York City I had a gay friend who wrote all the pornographic letters to Oui Magazine. He would write one letter from a man's perspective and then write the next letter from a woman's view. He had a real knack for writing the hot woman's letters. I had arrived expecting a typical fashion show but I got so much more!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Adventures with Hal

When I put out a call on Facebook to see if anyone wanted me to sketch them doing what they love in life, Hal Studholme was one of the few who responded. We scheduled a day to meet about a month out. Hal gave me his phone number and suggested we meet at a Cuban Sandwich shop on Lee Road. He said his studio was right near by. When I got to the Cuban Sandwich Shop I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich which was the cheapest item on the menu. When I went to pay I suddenly realized I didn't have enough money in my wallet to pay for a drink as well. I tried to pay with a card but the woman explained that they only take cash. I asked her to subtract the soda from my order and gave her the last three bills in my wallet. The outdoor tables were full of customers. I had never met Hal so I had no idea what he looked like. His Facebook picture was of a cast of actors on a stage. I asked a man if he was Hal and he laughed and said no. I finally called and Hal said he was on his way.
When Hal arrived he ordered a sandwich and we started to talk. He had on a bright Hawaiian shirt and purple tinted glasses. He went on to explain that he had studied Asian Philosophy and comparative religion for years. He found that the students that seemed to understand him the most however were the visual artists. He decided to change course and study art instead. He came to Orlando because he won a full scholarship to go to UCF. However a new state law required that he be a state resident in order to get the scholarship money. Since he couldn't afford to pay, he decided to wait a year at which point he would be a state resident. The second time he applied, the funds for the scholarship were gone.

I told him that I knew little about his art and he said he wanted to show me something. He went to his convertible and pulled out a brightly colored child's travel case. He unzipped it and pulled open the front flap. It was like he was opening a treasure chest. I was thrilled at what I saw. Inside were thousands of post cards with collage elements and rough drawings all over them. He had a show of these cards in NYC. He explained that he is still making them and each is intended for an audience of one. As an odd twist he said many were mailed to a dog in NYC. Seeing these fractured and chaotic images, I suddenly realized that the pattern on his Hawaiian shirt made perfect sense. He said he had become a bit of a cliche, a middle aged man with a convertible and six Hawaiian shirts.

He invited me to his studio but warned me that I might be shocked by by the chaos. I knew I was in for a treat. He explained that the walls of his apartment were all bare. He finds the blank walls liberating. He opened the door to his studio and everywhere I looked there were scraps of paper. His work space consisted of his sitting on foam puzzle pieces with a pillow stuffed in the small of his back. All around him were scraps of photos and images that he would rip and cut before pasting them to a post card. He opened a book and ripped off an image of thousands of flamingos. During the course of my sketch he seemed to finish quite a few cards which he then threw into a cardboard box. He explained that they were not finished, but would later resurface to be worked on again.

Hal has a number of photos of squirrels. He gets these shots with a toy cameras while lying on his stomach and waiting for the squirrel to approach. He showed me a book about an artist named Jenny Read who was a young artist who wore her heart on her sleeve. She was murdered since her studio was in a bad neighborhood. Her friends and family then assembled this book of drawings and letters she had written. I desperately want to get a copy of this book. It was a thrill to sketch this artist who is obviously obsessed about making art. In Hal's bathroom I found the following quote from Henri Cartier Bresson, "I am a visual man. I watch, watch, watch. I understand things through my eyes." In the mail I got a postcard from Hal which demonstrates the uniqueness of his vision.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Adult Puppet Slam

Pinocchio's Marionette Theater in the Altamonte Mall (451 Altamonte Dr., Altamonte Springs) hosted a single evening performance of an Adult Puppet Slam. When Terry and I arrived there was a line to get in. Jeremy Seghers arrived right after us and we all joked about how we keep bumping into each other at events. When the crowd filed in the place filled to the point where there was standing room only. At first I sat on one of the small child sized benches but then decided to use my portable chair and sit against a wall so I could sketch puppets and some of the audience. Sean Keohane, the Executive Director of Pinocchio's, introduced the evening.
A Punch and Judy style show started off the festivities and had the audience laughing. Hannah Miller did a performance of "The Gift of the Magi." I had sketched Hannah as she built set pieces for this show. The marionettes that she built from scratch are absolutely magical, brightly colored and sparkle with sequins. An actual alligator head is used for one character. Hannah's boyfriend, Jack Fields had his own show as well called "The Loaf That No One Cried For." This rather hilarious performance also featured Brian Feldman as a humanoid who is concerned for the well being of a giant puppet that he drags on stage. A gourd shaped puppet that pops up from a bright patchwork quilt offers advice and orders Feldman around. When Brian climbed into the audience, he stopped next to Sultana Ali and stuffed his mouth with bread. The audience couldn't stop laughing during this performance.
After the Slam was over a number of us lingered. Brian and Hannah disappeared into Pinocchio's Playland in order to look over some rather legal looking documents. They were married in February as a demonstration that a straight couple, who don't even know each other, can get married while gay and lesbian couples who are in love and have lived together for years are denied the right to marry. As Brian and Hannah talked behind closed doors, rumors circulated about a possible annulment. The rumors remain just that, since the couple did not confirm or deny anything.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thomas Thorspecken Sketches the Audience

This staged performance, where I sketched an audience at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, would never have happened if friends I had met over the last year and a half of sketching had not stepped in to help. Aradhana Tiwari invited me to take over the theater for one night and Brian Feldman had the vision for this show close to a year ago. The staging consisted of me sitting in a lone spotlight facing the audience and doing what I do every day - sketch. One video camera shot the sketch I was working on and projected the image on the theater wall behind me, while another camera, operated by Brian, shot footage of the audience just as in a baseball or football game. This would be the first time my work process was ever projected bigger than life for an audience to scrutinize. At least three video cameras were recording the proceedings the whole time. This has to be the most documented event I have ever been a part of. The program gave the audience plenty to read and a blank page to sketch if they so liked.
73 of my sketches were hung around the theater clothesline style using fishing line, electrical tape and alligator clips. Ron and Maisy Marrs arrived early and worked tirelessly for over an hour and a half before curtain call. Tommy Wingo handled all the technical aspects of the two video cameras and all the wiring. Evan Miga lent us his digital projector and operated the video camera pointed at my sketch during the whole performance.
At first I envisioned music from "The Illusionist" soundtrack playing the whole time I sketched, but Aradhana and Brian both felt it had too dark and brooding a mood. We agreed to play some Bach performed by Yo-Yo Ma when people entered the theater and looked around at the art. The music was silenced and Brian Feldman walked out into the spotlight to offer an introduction. He mentioned how he and I met over a year ago at the Kerouac House for a performance of his called "txt." Since that night I have documented over 25 of his performances. When the audience applauded, I walked on stage and took my seat. I couldn't see a thing with the spotlight in my face, so I grabbed a baseball cap out of my backpack. I was a bit nervous to start and dropped a pen. I had difficulty seeing since the house lights were at half. I called out to the lighting booth, asking if she could raise the lights a bit. When I could see, the sketch started to progress. At first the room was silent, but soon people forgot about the cameras and artist recording the proceedings and the mood lightened. Ashley Gonzalez, Tommy Wingo's fiance, walked right up on the stage and stood looking over my left shoulder. She whispered the one question I cannot stand into my ear, "Are you an artist?" I laughed and asked, "Did Terry put you up top this?" Clearly she had.
About one hour into the performance, just as I was about to finish up the pen line work, a large group of audience members decided to get up and move to the opposite side of the space so they could be in the sketch a second time. I shouted out "Anarchists!" I placed them the best I could in the new location. Then the watercolors came out and I started to work faster.
People talked and mingled. At times people joked with me and the artist and model exchange became playful. An artist named James Barone wore a kilt and sat in the front row with his wife who held an umbrella. He drew a robotic version of me sketching. Maisy drew all over her questionnaire. What was amazing about this audience as a whole was how much talent was gathered in one room. There were visual artists, authors, poets, dancers, comedians, directors and photographers all mingling in a shared creative experience. It turned out to be a fun way to meet new people while sharing my art. Life as theater, theater as life.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Red Chair Affair -Stage Right


How amazing to be sitting stage right, next to American flag in front of several thousand people waiting for the red curtain to rise. I had given Terry a ticket but she went to the Tears for Fears concert in front of City Hall instead. Several friends kept texting me from the audience and I responded back. The two sign language interpreters came out and sat next to me. I introduced myself to them. Finally a video was projected on the movie screen high above the stage. From where I was seated the image was a thin sliver since the screen was right above me.
The announcer introduced the Bach Festival Choir who sang the "Star-Spangled Banner." I stood along with the interpreters and the entire audience faced the flag which was right beside me. The choir was amazing the song resonated in a way I have never felt it before. The signer in front of me was waving her hand like a flag and her hands sparked upwards and sprinkled down just like fireworks. Viewing the signing of this song was a new experience for me.
The next act is when I started to sketch. Jugglers from "La Nouba" by Cirque du Soleil came out and the balls were flying. I quickly caught the clownish character known as The Green Bird. According to the "La Nouba" website, "She has escaped her cage and desperately wants to fly. She can't fly away and join the circus. She is trapped in the urban world like a marionette with tangled strings." I was mesmerized by her quick angular movements.
As the next acts came on the stage I continued to work on this sketch. I loved a performance where Tod Caviness read poetry while Emotions Dance performed behind him. I recognized one of the dancers from having sketched several Emotions Dance rehearsals before. Sitting so close to them on the main stage was thrilling. Several times, a dancer would charge right at me diagonally across the stage and I had to move my feet to avoid a collision. As they ran off stage, they were panting audibly and I could see the sweat on their brows. These intimate details aren't always seen from the audience.
The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra's Sovereign Brass performed a medley of tunes from "Chicago." Their lively performance had the audience laughing and clapping along. The trumpeter used a cup over his bell to create the raucous sounds of a jazzy tune. The audience loved it. When the last brass note silenced, the audience burst up in a standing ovation.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Red Chair Affair - Back Stage

I got to the Bob Car Performing Arts Centre at 5:30 and entered the performers' door. Inside, a small room was packed full of actors and there was an amazing spread of food. I was sorry I had eaten at home. I wandered through the maze of backstage hallways past all the dressing rooms, in one a guitarist was lightly strumming his guitar. I then found myself on the main stage. The curtains were down and there were row after row of tables set up with red chairs on them. I knew that my goal with this first sketch was to catch Brian Feldman, who was going to be dressed all in red and seated in one of the tiny IKEA red chairs in a performance piece called "I Am a Red Chair."
I found the empty chair Brian was to sit in by reading all of the silent auction sheets until I found the one with his name on it. Unfortunately, his chair was sort of isolated and off on its own. I had hoped to sketch Brian in the foreground with a line of red chairs marching off into the distance. After walking around his chair and viewing from all angles, I finally decided to sit with my back against the giant main stage curtain and use the chairs on a table next to me as a foreground element in the sketch. The emotional impact of the sketch is much different than originally envisioned, but I like that he seems distant and small, isolated as the party swirls around him. VIPs had paid $225 for the privilege of viewing and bidding on the red chairs as well as sampling food from some of Orlando's finer restaurants. A gorgeous woman in a tight red dress stood at the table in front of Brian for the longest time. I imagined she must have been arm candy for a rich young bachelor.
Margot Knight walked over to me and asked if I found it difficult to sketch in my suit. I actually did have a problem, since I placed a pen in my fake breast pocket only to find it disappeared inside the suit's lining. I had to force it out by cutting a hole in the inside lining of my jacket. I also had placed an open pen in my shirt breast pocket and it had bled out into the fabric. Luckily my jacket covered this black wound all night. Director John DiDonna approached me when I was done with my sketch and said he had a place for me to sit on stage right. The tables full of chairs were quickly wheeled off the stage and I kept stepping out of the way of stagehands carrying chairs and tables. John walked past with a couple of chairs saying, "This is my life."
Brian, however, was still seated. His auction item was twofold - to be a Red Chair, as pictured in this sketch, for two hours at the location of the highest bidder's choosing, and to work with them, or whoever they named of their behalf in the marketing and creation of their very own performance piece. He said one artist kept coming up to him to see the latest bid. The artist was a bit upset that people were bidding on Brian and not bidding on his art. When the auction ended, Brian had been sold for $80.
John DiDonna pulled me aside and told me I would be in front of the main stage curtain, sitting beside the American flag. I walked on stage and stared out at the several thousand people as they were busy taking their seats. I desperately wanted to face the audience and start sketching, but I decided I should stay on task and get a sketch of the performers. I folded my hands and waited...

Thomas Thorspecken Sketches the Audience


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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Red Chair Affair - Rehearsal

On the evening before the Red Chair Affair, I went in to the Bob Carr to watch and sketch the rehearsal. John DiDonna, the director of this production, welcomed me warmly and showed me around backstage. The very first person he introduced me to was Boomer Bardo who is in charge of all the sound for the show. Finding a spot backstage to set up was a challenge. I sat down and discovered I was blocking a doorway. Then I scooted over to find myself next to boxes and boxes of programs. The rehearsal was absolute pandemonium at the start. Homer would call out sound cues in his headset and then walk on stage probably to signal to the folks up in the booth at the back of the theater.
The Red Chair Project is a community service designed to increase participation in Central Florida’s arts and culture. As a collaborative campaign involving more than 300 arts and cultural organizations, it promotes and grows the arts in the region through RedChairProject.com , a website with arts and cultural events, discounted tickets, classes/workshops, and getaways. The 6th annual Red Chair Affair would kick off the 2010-2011 Central Florida arts and cultural season.
As I sketched Boomer, a large group of Orlando Repertory Theater Power Chords youth singers stood in line in front of me. They each had stunningly bright colored outfits on. They waited for their coordinator to shout out their number and then they slipped the waistband mini-microphone into a hanging shoe holder. Several of the exuberant youths bumped into me and apologized. Their performance had been high energy and spectacular. They had performed a hip upbeat version of "Lean On Me" that was a joy to listen to. Boomer asked one of the soloists from the group to stand next to him at the soundboard and he adjusted the dials as she sang.
I had one other concert I wanted to sketch this night so once I finished sketching Boomer, I packed up and headed out the stage door hoping to get to "A Time Warp" up at the Unity Church. I was running late. As I was leaving, Tod Caviness said to me, "I don't know how you keep your hands from cramping up with all the sketching you are doing."

Friday, September 3, 2010

Time Warp

I was sketching a rehearsal at Bob Carr Performing Arts Center and I wanted to sketch a concert at Unity Church as well. I wanted to sketch both events but I knew I would be late to Unity since my sketches take at least an hour and a half to do. Sultana Ali was to be singing at the Unity concert. I fired off a text when I finished my Red Chair Affair rehearsal sketch. She texted back that she would be singing around half way into the concert. Although the concert had already started I decided to make a dash up to the church to try and catch her performance. I texted her that she needed to slow down time a bit. When I walked into the church three women were on stage singing "The Times they Are a Changing." I spotted Sultana and her friend near the front on the right hand side. Sultana waved me over and I sat down. She showed me the program and indicated silently that there was one more act before she went on stage. She gave me a thumbs up and I smiled.

I immediately got my sketchbook out and got to work. I had the whole composition blocked in when Sultana got on stage and then I placed her at the microphone in my sketch. She sang "Summertime", a lazy sensuous southern tune. When she finished, the place erupted and there was a standing ovation. When she walked off the stage, the moderator, dressed in his 50's beat costume said, "Now THAT is what I am talking about!" Sultana laughed as she sat down.

The final act caught me by surprise. Miguel and Judy Ander sang "Time to Say Goodbye." I had met Miguel the last time I had visited the church and he left an impression. He is at least 80 years old and his face is beautifully delineated with wrinkles and the weathering of time. What immediately struck me when I shook his hand was his enthusiasm and joy. As I listened to this beautiful song I flushed and my eyes began to sting. I had to stop sketching and just listen. With this elder couple singing so beautifully, I started to think about the idea of growing old together.

This week I had just started sketching portraits of residents of a local retirement community. I had sketched Captain Pete who will be turning 101 this year. Author Mary Hill had interviewed him the entire time I sketched. His story was profound and moving. He spoke of life and death issues faced in war time, the importance of choosing friends and loved ones wisely, and he explained the spark that keeps him motivated even today. I learned so much about myself from having spent that time with him. The elder couple singing on stage seemed so in love. This is what it must be like to grow old together with faith and love. All these thoughts rushed through my head as I listened. It was useless to try and stop the flow of tears. I put the sketchbook aside. I usually find opera hard to swallow but this song on this day overwhelmed me. I stood when it was over and clapped until my hands hurt.