Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Banished from Sketching Polasek's Eden

In the Orlando Weekly, I read about a free oil painting demonstration at the Albin Polasek Museum as part of the Winter Park Paint Out. I talked to a docent inside and checked to be sure it would be alright for me to sketch the demonstration. He said it was fine. I had met him once before at an art critique at Barefoot Spa. He does paintings in the style of Frank Frazetta. It was good to catch up with him. Last year I had been asked to do a series of sketches during the Paint Out for Winter Park Magazine, being given full access, but Terry scheduled a vacation to Panama that week and I had to back out. It was a good trip.

I still hadn't done a single sketch of any Paint Out festivities, so I was excited to finally get an opportunity to sketch and promote the event. I was just beginning to ink in this sketch when the docent came out and said that someone higher up had decided I couldn't sketch. I politely packed up my sketchbook and left, fuming. The artist demonstrating hadn't even started to put paint on the canvas yet.

Back at the studio, I quickly finished the sketch I had started. Since the sketch lacked detail, I decided to play with it in Photoshop. I suppose this sketch now makes me a Digital Artist in a Digital World. If the "No Sketch Policy" was put in place to protect the identities of people attending the workshop, then this  image solved that issue. I always finish a sketch once it is started. Had I posted the sketch and article the next day like I wanted to, more people would be aware of all the wonderful artists gathered in Winter Park. I suppose I should have arranged a press pass beforehand, but I didn't think it was needed since the workshop was free. I only found out about the Paint Out the day before.

Terry said that the Polasek staff might have had Boston Marathon bomb jitters. I suppose my sketch supply bag can look quite ominous but it never left my side. I was profiled as a deviant artist even though no one could have seen what I was doing. I had my back to a hedge to be sure there were no curious bystanders. It is odd to feel like a criminal for taking notes with interest and putting lines on a page. I can't imagine sitting through a workshop without keeping my fidgety fingers active. I learn better that way.

The next day, I contacted the event co-chair Hal Stringer, and he he wrote, " We have a very strong policy that the gardens are reserved exclusively for paint out artists during this week. Our staff was not aware of the nature of your sketching and the relationship it has to your blog. We would welcome being featured in one of your articles. Feel free to come sketch during one of the remaining three demos if you wish. But, please stop by the front desk and ask for me or Debbie Komanski so we know you’re on property. We’ll make sure the staff knows you have our permission to sketch the demo for your blog."

This was the state of the sketch when I was asked to stop.
I really don't understand the policy of asking an artist to stop sketching. Anytime I am asked to put my pen down, I feel my right to self expression has been compromised.  There were cell phone photos being flashed all over the web promoting the event. I doubt any phones were confiscated from attendees. I'm still annoyed that the staff member that made the decision, whoever that is, did not approach me directly. I could have reasoned with them, but the volunteer that was sent to stop me was blindly following orders. The Polasek is private property however, and they can enforce any rules they like. Hal, the co-host of the Paint Out has been a dear friend and did everything in his power to help me the next day. Unfortunately I didn't have the time to go back for a second attempt at the sketch.

If the ghost of John Singer Sargent, or Sorolla, offered a painting workshop in Winter Park. I might sit with my hands folded neatly in my lap to watch them work. Then again, I consider it a sin that no one ever sketched these masters as they painted. It would be my moral obligation, a chance of a lifetime. Wouldn't it be wonderful to live in a world where large groups of artists could gather together and sketches weren't discriminated against?

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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