Sunday, February 11, 2018

Festival of the Arts at Epcot Center.

Crealde School of Art invited me to offer a one hour workshop at the Festival of the Arts at Epcot Center. My workshop proposal was titled "Sketchbook Savvy." This was the first time I had been on Disney property since Orlando Disney Feature Animation closed its doors in 2004. I parked in the back stage blue lot which was set aside for instructors. There was a bread trail of signs leading to the place where the workshop would take place. Unfortunately, I lost track of the signs and ended up lost underneath the test track attraction. The cars on tracks rumbled by overhead. A cast member offered to guide me but he ran into a dead end because Disney landscapers had added a hedge blocking our route since the last time he passed that way.

Like a scene from Goodfelles, I walked through the kitchen and made my way to the hostess who guided me back stage. I was about half an hour early, and rather than wait back stage, I decided to sketch the Disney artist sketching a character for the audience. Based on his description, it sounded like he was drawing Donald Duck, but I can't be sure. The workshop attendees followed along every step of the way. Actually, one of the attendees wearing the mouse ears contacted me and she might correct me if I am wrong.

I was set up with a mic as I sketched and then the tech crew told me to walk on stage as soon as the introduction music started. My goal was just to share a couple of sketchbooks and then talk about how carrying a sketchbook everywhere you go can become a lifestyle. I started off with the story of my first day at Disney in what the animators called "The Fishbowl." A glass wall was set up to overlook the artists at work and as a new artist my animation desk was right next to the glass. Work on my first day became frustrating because people kept knocking on the glass and giving me a thumbs up. The guard who ushers people through was pointing down into my work space. Since the glass was thick, we couldn't talk. I finally realized that he was pointing at the bottom ledge above my head that supported the glass wall. I found some tape there and peeled it up. It said, "Hi my name is Tom, if you like my work, please knock on the glass and give me a big thumbs up." The animator next to me laughed. I was initiated. This story always gets a laugh and it warmed up the crowd.

I talked about my last 9 years sketching everyday here in Orlando and how this habit of remaining curious and sharing my experiences has changed my life. I introduced the idea of sketch crawls and the Orlando Urban Sketchers. Then I showed the audience the sketch I had done of the venue we were in. It was rough and incomplete but that is the definition of a sketch. Afterwords there was a line of about 10 people who wanted to share their sketches and shake my hand. A Disney intern asked my advice on how to prepare a portfolio to get into a movie studio. My Disney portfolio had been sketches much like the sketches I do everyday today. They liked what they saw and then asked me to prepare a portfolio of just sketches of animals. I went to the zoos around NYC every day for months and sketched. That portfolio got me into the studio to work on the Lion King. Of course today, everything is digital, so it is a Whole New World. I sang that song to myself as my plane flew through the clouds on my way down here to Orlando. I measure my success today by the fact that I remain artistically productive, not by an appraised value to every sketch I did over the years.

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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