Thursday, July 23, 2015

Renningers is always packed with visual surprises.

I spent one day on the weekend exploring Renningers with the antiquing crew. In February vendors come from all around the country to set up booths on the grassy hillsides around Mount Dora. As everyone was exploring the indoor booths, I set off on my own to sketch a giant swordfish I had seen earlier in the day. The fish was the focal point for Florida Victorian Architectural Salvage and Antiques from Deland Florida. As I was sketching I noticed a woman with long flowing hair having her picture taken with the giant alligator. I tried to get her in the sketch but she moved on to quickly. Later as she was taking cell phone pictures of the World of Oddities Side show banners, I managed to catch her.

As she and her friend exited the booth they approached me curious about why I would sit in the middle of a huge Flea Market. Donna Lee Gauntlet introduced herself. It turned out that she is an artist herself and she was in Mount Dora on a "Girls Art Weekend". Donna told me about how sketching every day in her art journal helped her get through a difficult time. In essence art saved her life. Both her parents were artists and she felt like she didn't live up to their standards as a child first learning art. Later in her life however the habit of sketching every day took hold. Her art studio is called The Dizzy Dandelion Studio. She offers a program called "Just Drawing It Out" which teaches people to connect to their creativity using art journals. She offers prompts that ask the students to draw specific objects together in a scene. Donna is working on a book right now that uses her sketches and copy to share her joy at having discovered an artists lifestyle. Her sketches are vibrant, playful and often full of joy. Donna runs art therapy workshops with retirement home residents. She uses art and laughter as healing tools. That lead me to tell her about my sketching collaboration where I sketched elderly residents as an an author interviewed them.

Later that evening as the sun set, Elaine took us all to Heron Cay bed and breakfast. We weren't staying here, but Elaine wanted to show us all the highwaymen paintings that were hanging in the old Victorian home. There were indeed paintings everywhere in the gorgeously ornate interior. Paintings lined the stairway, so I followed our crew upstairs. A bedroom door was open at the top of the stairs and I heard Terry inside saying "My husband is an artist too." I had to poke my head in, and there was Donna lounging on a four poster bed with several of her girl friends sketching in their art journals. They asked to see my sketch from earlier in the day, and for once I wasn't carrying my art bag. I ran down to the car to get it and then found the front door locked when I tried to get back in. Another guest on the porch eventually let me in. Back upstairs as they flipped through my sketchbook I thought about what a great sketch I could do in this ornate room. The wallpaper had blood red floral patterns and all the furniture was dark ornately carved wood. I wanted to linger (sketch) but downstairs Elaine told Terry that they would leave without me if I didn't hurry up. Upstairs, we took a couple of photos and then I rushed off to get dinner in Downtown Mount Dora. The moon was so bright that night as it shimmered above Lake Dora.

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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