Thursday, January 24, 2019

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings House Tour

 Pam Schwartz and I drove to Cross Creek, Florida to see the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings home. Her cracker-style home and farm, where she wrote her Pulitzer prize-winning novel The Yearling and other wonderful works of fiction, has been restored and is preserved as it was when she lived there.

She was born on August 8, 1896, in Washington, DC. In 1933, after the publication of her first book, she and her husband Charles were divorced; living in rural Florida did not appeal to him.

Her biggest success came in 1938 with The Yearling, a story about a Florida boy, his pet deer, and his relationship with his father, which she originally intended as a story for young readers. It was selected for the Book-of-the-Month Club, and it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1939. MGM purchased the rights to the film version, which was released in 1946, and it made her famous. Gregory Peck who starred as the father in the film adaptation is said to have stayed as a guest in Marjorie's Cross Creek home.

Marjorie loved the local characters who inspired the characters in her books. One cantankerous woman described by the author as an "angry and efficient canary" was enraged by how she felt she was depicted in one of the books. She sued the author for $100,000 in defamation. The case was eventually dismissed by a judge, but the case was overturned in an appellate court and the author was ordered to pay the woman $1 in damages. This was also a victory, but Marjorie must have payed lawyers plenty of money to defend herself. After this case she never again wrote about her Cross Creek neighbors. Hardened Florida neighbors would never again appear in the pages of her books. They just weren't worth it.

The cracker home is lovingly restored to look exactly as it did when Marjorie lived here. Chickens ran around the grass and a small orchard of orange trees was still in the back yard. She wrote about the struggle of trying to save a crop of these oranges from the freeze. In 2007, the house and farm yard was designated as a National Historic Landmark, our nation’s highest historic recognition. Marjorie died on December 14, 1953 in St. Augustine, Florida.

After touring the house, we went to the Yearling Restaurant (Hawthorne, FL) for pulled pork and a chance to sketch a local guitarist in the rustic setting. The musician seemed convinced I would make a mint on the sketch and seemed upset that I wasn't cutting him in on the yet-to-be-seen profits. Then we hiked in the Ocala National Forest where The Yearling was filmed. Only hints of the foundations remained of the movie set. We also ran across an old cracker cemetery with maybe 10 graves from early settlers. Hiking out we came across two hikers who had on short shorts and were carrying gardening sheers. There were two paths into the forest and they asked us how long a hike it was. Rather than take a path they started cutting their own path into the forest with the sheers. Pam kept looking back convinced they might be murderers. She was ready to take out the one on the right. The trail head is out in the middle of nowhere and oddly the two mystery hikers had no car parked at the entrance. It must be miles to the next town. Maybe they jogged, but they didn't seem winded.

In skimming news posts, I found out that bodies are always being found in Ocala National Forest. In 2018, a dismembered female torso was found by a hiker in the 387,000-acre forest. Police send out a photo of a beautiful robin tattoo in the hope that someone in the community might identify the remains. Within 24 hours, she was identified as Robin Lee Upson of Belleview, Fl. Christopher Lee Takhvar, 43, of Hawaii, became the number one suspect after Upson’s mother told detectives that her daughter and Takhvar had argued.

Takhvar was Upson’s business partner and had traveled from Hawaii to help her with some work.
While at Upson’s residence, the two began to argue. During the argument, he killed Upson and then stole her van. The van was later found in Orlando.

Takhvar claims that he killed Upson in self-defense. He stated that she came at him with a knife so he defended himself with a chainsaw that he “accidentally turned on” as he was defending himself. He then "accidentally" decapitated the woman and dismembered her body with the chainsaw. He cut off her arms, legs, and head and buried them in the backyard of Upson’s home. He then discarded her torso in the Ocala National forest.

Takhvar fled to Texas where he was arrested on August 15, on an outstanding Marion County warrant for Grand Theft Auto. 

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Paint Nite at Roque Pub

I went to Roque Pub, (3076 Curry Ford Rd, Orlando, FL 32806) because I saw an invitation for a Paint Nite, which I figured would be a great subject for a sketch. The invitation explained that pub patrons could create art over cocktails while guided by a professional artist and party host. Would be artists and friends would spend two hours drinking, laughing, and flexing their creative muscles. It sounded exciting.

Roque Pub used to be called Rogue Pub. I always find it odd that they changed the name. Roque is an American variant of croquet played on a hard, smooth surface. It was popular in the first quarter of the 20th century and billed "the Game of the Century" by its enthusiasts. I have never heard of it. Perhaps the pub name was changed because it was too close to Rogue Ales, which is an award winning brewery founded in 1988 in Ashland, Oregon, United States. Either way, Roque it is an odd name.

Sooo... I stopped in and got a beer. Long story short, there was no Paint Nite. It was canceled because no one signed up. A few folks were drinking at the bar, so I got to work and started sketching. There was an exciting game of darts going on. At Walt Disney Feature Animation, dart championships swept through the studio. With some of the most talented artists in the world playing, it was a badge of honor to even compete. Artists have some wicked eye/hand coordination, so I got my butt handed to me on many an occasion while trying to compete. I never returned to Roque to see if they do hold a paint nite. Who goes to a pub to get creative? Far better to go to knock back a few too many beers.

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

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Future of Arts and Culture in Florida

The recently elected Anna Eskamani and Carlos Guillermo Smith, also an activist and member of the Florida House of Representatives, hosted this Legislative Town hall session about the Future of Arts and Culture in Florida. Florida is now ranked 48 of 50 in Arts and Culture funding. Last year the state only allocated 2.7 million for arts and culture non-profits, down from 25 million the previous year. Arts funding dropped an astronomical 90%. Orlando has a vibrant theater community along with world class museums and cultural centers. The bottom line is that the arts cannot grow if there is no investment in the future.

Florida is a very red Republican state. Orlando is a tiny blue bubble of artistic liberalism. After Pulse there was no response from Florida Representatives, but that might be because they were out of session at the time. The Marjorie Stoneman Douglas mass shooting however happened while representatives were in session. $400 million dollars were allocated to fund security in the schools across the state including $67 million to arm teachers with guns. This is a solution that only makes sense in the the twisted minds of representatives in the gunshine state. Carlos explained that this was used as an excuse to cut funding for the arts.

On March 13, 2019 Terry Olsen is organizing a bus trip up to Tallahassee for Arts Advocacy Day. It is a chance to meet representatives face to face and insist that the $61 million Department of Cultural Affairs grant program (DCA) be restored. The trouble with Florida Republican representatives is that they consider funding going to the arts to be funding LIBERAL Arts. The message that needs to reach their ears is that there is a solid return on investment. For every $1 invested in arts we see $5 to $11 in economic activity in return. It should be easy to see that arts and culture can encourage people to visit Florida.

A panel was seated at a long table consisting of Flora Maria Garcia from United Arts, Elizabeth Thompson from the Wells Built Museum, Joanne Newman from the Science Center, Mitzi Maxwell from Mad Cow Theater, and Chris Barton. Each offered their insights into the challenges of being a non profit struggling to get by with the ever-shrinking budget. Mitzi has been applying for grants for over 10 years. In the past, those grants were enough to help her theater grow but now all the organizations are fighting for the same few dollars. There used to be more DCA grants in the past. Funding to DCA has been cut as well.

Since Florida is 48th out of 50th in terms of supporting the arts, I decided to research the states that are doing a much better job at supporting the arts. Washington D.C topped the list and Hawaii came in third. Since Washington is shut down, I'm thinking it might be time to move to Hawaii. It is warm, just like Central Florida but less humid, and people really appreciate and invest in art there.

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

Monday, January 21, 2019

Mrs Wilkes Dining room in Savannah Georgia

I was traveling through Georgia with Pam Schwartz, John Naughton and a relative of John's named Ben Wozniak. John had researched Mrs. Wilkes' Dining room (107 West Jones St. Savannah, GA 31401) and it was the main reason we stopped in the historic city.

A line gathers each morning at 11 o'clock. That line literally wraps around the block. When the doors open, the lunch crowd finds seats at one of the large tables-for-ten shared by strangers. Tabletops are crowded with platters of fried chicken and cornbread dressing, sweet potato souffle, black-eyed peas, okra gumbo, corn muffins and biscuits. We had our choice of some 24 food options all on one table! The menu changes daily so regulars can have something different every day. There is a unique pleasure of having a meal shared with neighbors and strangers. Lunch is $23 per person but reservations do not exist. You just need to get in line and hope to get in. The place is closed in January so don't drive up that way immediately.

This dining experience was the highlight of the trip. You had to pace yourself to be sure you tried everything but had seconds of what you truly loved. It was like having Thanksgiving with strangers. John purchased the Mrs. Wilkes' Cookbook and Pam took down some of the recipes, so we will be trying some of these traditional southern dishes.

We also explored some of the city's historic squares in Savannah to walk off the huge meal we had. The final destination of the trip was Charleston, South Carolina where Pam and I visited my sister Shirley Steinmetz. The three of us went to the River Dogs' baseball stadium where the game was interrupted by a complete solar eclipse. We had the necessary solar glasses to watch the sun as it was eclipsed. When the day turned black everything became completely silent. Then as the sky began to turn light again, the game resumed.

My sister loves genealogy, as do Pam and I, so there was plenty to talk about at my sister's house. Pam has encouraged me to do research online and I am amazed at the amount of legal documents that are available at the press of a button. I am able to quickly find source documents to verify all the information on my tree. There are still road blocks, but the journey is what is exciting.

The road trip back to Orlando was as much fun as the trip north to Charleston. John Naughton did all the driving. He and Pam discussed recipes in the front seats and I dozed off in the back seat as the miles flew by.

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

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Visiting Great Aunt Erma Gruhn

By Pam Schwartz

Since April of 2016 I have lost most of my grandparents generation of relatives: my Great Uncle Hugo at 88, Grandma Rose at 93, Grandma Martha at 97, Great Aunt Lucille at 98, and my Great Aunt Gladys at 100. 

 I moved to Florida in January 2016 and since then every time I have gone home, I have done my best to see each of them. This Thanksgiving and Christmas I spent as much time with my 99 year old Great Aunt Erma (my father’s aunt) as I could, (a bout with food poisoning and bad weather were unhelpful) which amounted to about 7-8 hours over both trips. 

During this time Aunt Erma and I talked about many things and I recorded our conversation as an oral history. Aunt Erma is the matriarch of my family and that last tie I have to my Grandparents’ generation. Since my Grandpa Vernon (her brother) died when I was 3 and my Grandma Martha never remembered, or didn’t share, many stories of her childhood, I have learned so much from her about them and it means so much to me. 

It’s amazing how much time you can spend talking to your family members and then when they pass you still have so many questions. I asked my Aunt Erma what it was like growing up with her parents and my grandpa. I find it sad that I never got to meet my great grandparents, but Aunt Erma only ever met one of her grandparents as the others passed before she was born. 

 On the Thanksgiving trip we talked about her childhood, my great grandparents, my grandpa (her brother), Christmas at their house, what they ate and did for fun, my great grandfather having had a ticket on the Titanic that he (luckily) gave up, she talked of my great-great uncle’s suicide just months after my great grandfather came from Germany to join him here in the US leaving him alone as a 14 year old boy to find his way, and more. 

She even told me stories about my mother’s mom that I wasn’t expecting since it was from the other side of the family. She described her, Rosie, as always being so jolly and full of fun. It made my heart melt to hear it, because that was the grandma that I had always known. Always a smile, and a twinkle in her eye. She explained that my Grandma Martha had a bit of a tougher upbringing and so was harder in a way, but said that you could always count on her to lend a hand, and bring lunch and a cake over for any illness, hardship, or holiday. And that too, was how I knew my Grandma Martha, though Erma provided more insight into Martha’s childhood then I ever thought I’d know. 

 It is hard to pick which stories to tell as so many were told in those seemingly fast running hours. Tom came with me over Christmas and did this sketch as Aunt Erma and I discussed her marriage, a falling out with my grandparents over the family farm, and the 1958 car accident which horrifically took my Grandma Martha’s brother and his wife, badly injuring their two children and my grandfather. 

As many interviews as I have recorded with my family, you can never capture all of the memories. If you have older loved ones, don’t wait. Spend time with them, ask questions, and record or write down what they say.

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

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Otronicon at the Orlando Science Center

Otronicon just opened at the Orlando Science Center (777 E Princeton St, Orlando, FL 32803). The Orlando Science Center’s favorite interactive tech expo is back and better than ever. You can see Synthestruct’s audiovisual performance Viscerality, participate in workshops and hear from industry professionals. Plus, gaming competitions and a hair-raising Tesla Coil show!

I decided to sketch on my tablet since it is a bit high tech. I figure that was my way to blend in to the tech event. I walked the multiple floors of the exhibits and finally decided to sketch this slinky roller coaster exhibit. The nose of the pup was a photo opportunity with a small red platform that said, step up to be tall, sit down to be small. Parents loved to take photos of their kid on that red platform.

The body of the slinky dog was set up like roller coaster cars. People could get in and then they were handed headsets. They were shown an interactive video that showed the slinky as it roared down the roller coaster tracks. The video people were seeing was also broadcast on a TV up near the pups head, so I could keep track of what the people were experiencing as I sketched. A line formed and people came and went quite often.

To my left was an exhibit for Polytechnic University. Their slogan is, "Imagine what you can accomplish." Lori M. Huertas spoke to me about possibly stopping by the campus to show students how I use my iPad as a sketchbook. One woman was fascinated by my sketching and she asked me about the program I was using. Her son loves to draw and he already has an iPad. She said that finding me was the one thing that truly inspired her about the event and she plans to get the drawing program for her son. I just hope she realizes that the program wasn't doing the drawing, I was.

Much of Otronicon is about kids who love to play video games. As soon as I entered I could see crowds of kids competing in their virtual worlds. They shouted their annoyance when they died. I am hoping to meet and help inspire kids to transition from being video game consumers to becoming creators.

Otronicon is at the Science Center through Monday, January 21, 2019. Hours are 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. General admission to Otronicon is free for Orlando Science Center members, $20.95 for adults, $18.95 for seniors and students, and $14.95 for youth (ages 3 – 11). Purchase tickets here.

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

Friday, January 18, 2019

Weekend Top 6 Pick for January 19 and 20, 2019

Saturday January 19, 2019
8am to 1pm Free. Parramore Farmers Market. The east side of the Orlando City Stadium, across from City View. Purchase quality, fresh and healthy food grown in your own neighborhood by local farmers, including Fleet Farming, Growing Orlando, and other community growers.

10am to 4pm Free. Commander's Call. Museum of Military History 5210 West Irlo Bronson Hwy Kissimmee FL 34746. This ongoing program is held on the 3rd Sat of each month is designed to appeal to families, military memorabilia collectors, history buffs, re-enactors & others interested in military history. In addition, persons interested in displaying, trading or selling their military items such as honor coins, swords, photographs, military buttons, scale model boats & planes, military art, uniforms or other equipment register in advance by calling the museum to reserve a spot. Re-enactors and ; veterans are welcome to come in uniform to add to the history & authenticity of the military experience. Non-military booths such as health care providers, home improvement, local attractions or other businesses are invited to be vendors for minimal donation.
INFO: 407-507-3894 or to register your table space.

4pm to 8pm Free. Cruisin' Downtown DeLand Car Show! East Indiana Ave Downtown DeLand, Deland FL. Classic cars and rods. Live DJ, giveaways, shopping and dining. Fun for the family! Every 3rd Saturday night!
INFO: and for showing your car 386-738-0649

Sunday January 20, 2019
9am to 9pm Free. Gasperilla Pirate Festival.  Bayshore Boulevard, Bayshore Blvd, Tampa, FL.
The world famous Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest will take to the streets of South Tampa along Bayshore and into Downtown Tampa.
The annual Gasparilla Pirate Fest has been invading Tampa Bay for over 100 years now. From the water invasion, to the street parade, over half a million people will be showered with beads and entertainment of all kinds!
The Gasparilla Festival is the pride and joy of the city of Tampa and a must-attend event.
Enjoy a pirate party with the dazzling parade featuring bands, beads, floats, and more. There will be great live entertainment, food, drinks, and much more throughout the Gasparilla Parade.
Experience the Gasparilla Festival in Tampa on land or water but don't miss out on the amazing pirate festivities!
11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Gasparilla Invasion
Route: The Jose Gasparilla sets sail at the south end of Hillsborough Bay at 11:30am., sails north to Seddon Channel and; docks at the Tampa Convention Center at 1:00 pm.
9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Gasparilla Invasion Brunch
Location: Tampa Convention Center
Admission: Tickets are REQUIRED for adults and for children over the age of two.
2:00 p.m. – approx. 5:30 p.m. Parade of the Pirates
Route: The Gasparilla Parade begins at Bay to Bay Blvd & Bayshore Blvd. It continues along Bayshore Blvd to Brorein St., turns east on Brorein St,, then north on Ashley Dr. Parade ends at Cass St. and Ashley Dr. FREE to attend.

10am to Noon Free. Heartfulness Relaxation and Meditation Class. University, 5200 Vineland Rd, Orlando, FL 32811. The Method of Heartfulness A simple and practical way to experience the heart’s unlimited resources. 

Noon to pm Free. Yoga. Lake Eola park near red Gazebo. Bring your own mat.

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

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Christmas Day in Iowa

There is no internet reception in this small Iowa town except with a daily brief phone hot spot, so I didn't write up the Christmas posts until I got back to Orlando. Christmas day the kids presents were boxed up under the tree. There was some attempt at setting order in opening the presents, but the kids had ideas of their own and it became a free-for-all of ripping paper as presents were opened. Allie got a pretty sweet mermaid's tail from Pam, Jenni, and I. It is made of really warm fleece and is great for cuddling up on a cold night. It is also rather large because Pam demonstrated how it worked for her parents several days before Christmas. I am pretty certain it is far more hip that the bunny suit pajamas modeled in A Christmas Story. Pam and I ended up with some pretty great warm winter socks. They were needed to keep our feet warm at night since no amount of covers are quite warm enough.

This was the first Christmas where the family didn't go to Grandmother's house for a big family meal. Grandma Martha Schwartz passed away this year leaving a void in that holiday tradition.  Instead, a large roast was cooking in the oven all day. An extra table was brought out so everyone could find a seat. Luke ate two heaping plates of meat. I have never seen a man eat so much meat in one sitting. For me that was the Christmas miracle of the day. I helped in clearing the tables and then the games resumed for the rest of Christmas day.

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

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Christmas Eve Cookies

On Christmas Eve in Iowa, Kimberly brought out the blank Christmas cookies for decorating. Icing came in three colors of squeeze tubes and there were sprinkles of every variety. Allie Rose turned a snowman cookie into the bloodiest Santa Claus with a green beard. She glopped the icing on with zealous glee. She was encouraged to be more conservative with her icing but her style was thick and gloppy.

Kimberly clearly has an artistic streak because her cookies turned out being maser pieces. The biggest tree cookie was meant to be a cookie decorated by everyone at the table, but Kim decorated is so beautifully that no one else dared touch it. I decided to add one ornament as my contribution. Pam decorated a tree cookie with a Zorro slash of red ribbons and some very fancy snow flake sprinkles for ornaments.

Destiny also had a real knack for decorating cookies. Hers were well though out and cleanly executed. The candy cane had just the right mix of red and green stripes, and a snowman's smile had 5 individual green sprinkles to represent his teeth.

I decided to decorate a cookie myself after the sketch was done. The cookie looked like a thought bubble. I had no idea exactly what it was meant to be, so I ended up creating a rather abstract cookie with a green Grinch face at the center. I later found out that the cookie was supposed to be shaped like Santa's head which makes sense in hind sight. I didn't actually eat any of these cookies, but I bet Allie's Bloody Santa cookie was the sweetest of all. This was a fun and creative family activity that I enjoyed documenting and participating in.

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Game Night in Iowa

The night before, we had watched a West World marathon for who knows how many hours. This evening was set aside for games, be they board games, card games, what have you. Preston was over for part of the night. He sat on the recliner chair scrolling through his iPhone. Pam sat at the kitchen table, which is mission central for games. Since Preston was up for a game that meant I wouldn't be needed to fill out a a four player set.  That left me time to complete this sketch.

For the first time, I re-cropped the sketch several time as I was working on it. This is a feature I have been waiting for. In this case I had to make the sketch a bit bigger since Preston sat in the foreground. I didn't want to crop him off at the knees. The Christmas tree was to my left and can be seen reflected in the sliding glass door in the back of the scene.

I used the perspective tool to chisel in the composition quickly. When I started painting, the lights were off in the kitchen and when they were turned on, I kept painting to lighten up the scene. This was a good way to work guaranteeing that I progressed from dark to light. There is an inviting warmth to the scene as the family gathered around the table to play.

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

Monday, January 14, 2019

Games Galore

Over the Christmas Holidays there wasn't much need to go outside in the cold in Iowa. Instead we played endless card and board games. This sketch is of a late night game of Quelf which is an unpredictable party game that gives random a new name! You might be asked to answer hilarious trivia, perform ridiculous stunts, or obey silly rules. The game inspires creativity, wit and sense of humor in ways you've never imagined. Pam had to answer questions using nothing but song lyrics. Destiny at one point was crawling on the floor. Some questions had to be answered within 30 seconds which was timed with an hourglass.

Card games were also predominate. Euchre and Canasta seem to be the games of choice. I started to catch on to the rules of Canasta, but euchre is very fast paced and I never caught on to all the rules or strategies. Another board game we played quite a bit was Parcheesi. In this game you move your players, (bulls, bears, camels or elephants), around the board and try to be the first to get all your players home. There is some strategy with blocking and knocking other players back. It was fun to play. I won my first game but lost the other two.

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

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Making Ribbons at the Center

On May 22, 2017 there was a suicide bombing at the The Manchester Arena in the United Kingdom. An Islamic terrorist detonated a shrapnel-laden homemade bomb as people were leaving the Manchester Arena following a concert by the American singer Ariana Grande. The incident was treated as an act of terrorism. 22 innocent concert goers died. 59 were injured.

A year before in Orlando we had suffered an act of terrorism that took 49 lives at the Pulse Nightclub. As an act of solidarity with the City of Manchester, people gathered at The Center (946 N Mills Ave, Orlando, FL 32803). A video crew was on hand to record a video of support and love for the city of Manchester. Members of the Orange County Regional History Center had gone to the event to show their support. They all sat around the conference table waiting for the event to begin.

Someone mentioned that there was a bag of pins and unfolded ribbons that were waiting to be made. Pam Schwartz, the chief curator at the History Center suggested they get the bag out since there were many idle hands. Soon everyone was folding the ribbons and securing them with pins. I tried a few myself and it is a tricky process at first, which quickly becomes routine. Ribbons began to pile up on the table. I am sure the safety pins pricked more that a few fingers.

Soon members of the community were being recorded with their words of support and this impromptu ribbon making session became the backdrop for this video of solidarity. What the world needs now is love sweet love, now more that ever.

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

Saturday, January 12, 2019

A Doll's House Part 2 at Shakes

Doll House Part 2 by Lucas Hnath is being performed at the Orlando Shakes (812 E Rollins St, Orlando, FL 32803) through February 23, 2019. In the final scene of Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 groundbreaking masterwork, Nora Helmer makes the shocking decision to leave her husband and children, and begin a life on her own. This climactic event—when Nora slams the door on everything in her life—instantly propelled world drama into the modern age. In A Doll’s House, Part 2, many years have passed since Nora’s exit. Now, there’s a knock on that same door. Nora has returned. But why? And what will it mean for those she left behind?

The simple set designed by Stephen Jones consisted of a curved wall with one huge Victorian door.  The paint was chipped with time. The play did indeed begin with a knock at the door. When Anne Marie (Anne Hering) answered the door all the lights on stage illuminated to their top setting creating a blinding sunburst effect as Nora (Suzanne O'Donnell) entered. For some perspective, Pam and I watched the original Ibsen play as a live 1959 telebroadcast. Nora in that production was a flippant housewife demurring to her husband's wishes. She forged a signature on a loan in order to whisk her husband to Italy for the sake of his health. That act indentured her to try and pay the loan off by begging her husband for small sums of money. Instead of a Christmas present she begged him for a small sum of cash.

When Nora returned, she was a self-made woman of means. She had become an author and was very successful at it. She was a feminist firmly believing that women do not need men for their happiness. The Part 2 production is set 15 years after Nora left her family which would be around 1894. Women would not gain the right to vote for another 26 years, but Nora was well ahead of her time believing she could make a difference through her writing which had to be authored with a pseudonym. She wrote about her marriage to Torvald (Steven Lane) and the book encouraged women to take charge of their own lives. A judge was upset by her message, so he found out who she really was and discovered that she was still married. Torvald had never filed for divorce. It was more convenient for him to think she had died than to face the shame of filing for divorce. She needed that divorce to truly be free. This play focused on that quest. Despite her success, she was still beholden to unfair laws that made her the property of a man she had not seen for 15 years. She needed to sit down with her husband to again demand her freedom. I identified with her desire for artistic freedom.

The language is decidedly modern with some cursing that seemed out of place compared to the original Ibsen play. These outbursts do offer some comedic relief. People in the audience who had suffered through divorce were nodding their heads in solidarity as Nora pontificated about the need for freedom. Love and affection were cherished, but after marriage she felt people changed. They no longer wooed their partners and took them for granted. This is what caused affection to turn to resentment. This was a decidedly modern message.

Tickets are $32 to $44.

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

Friday, January 11, 2019

Weekend Top 6 Picks for January 12 and 13, 2019

Saturday January 12, 2019
5pm to 8pm Free. Night of Fire Crealde. Crealdé School of Art (600 St Andrews Blvd, Winter Park, Florida 32792). Bring your camera, because the stunning campus comes ALIVE after dark for the 8th annual Night of Fire! Enjoy free live music, refreshments, adult beverages, and storytelling around the fire (my cozy favorite), and tour the opening exhibition HAND IN HAND: THE CREATIVE WORKS OF JANVIER MILLER AND GUSTAF MILLER.
It's fun and free to participate in all of the art workshops and demonstrations; including a torch cut metal demonstration, a gas kiln firing, raku firing and a light painting photography display over Lake Sterling. There will be painting demonstrations in the studios, too. Hands-on youth workshops from 5–6:30 p.m. Live music and workshops for adults until 8 p.m.
The evening also serves as the opening reception for the "Director's Choice V" exhibition of works by Crealde's youth faculty.
The Front Office will be open to register for classes. All activities are free.

8pm to Midnight. $5 Second Saturdays in Sanford. West End Trading Company. 202 S. Sanford Ave. Sanford FL 407-322-7475. Two stages of live entertainment.

9pm to Midnight Free but get a beer or two. Eugene Snowden. The Imperial at Washburn Imports
1800 N. Orange Ave. Orlando FL. 407-228-4992.

Sunday January 13, 2019
1pm to  3pm $9. Film Slam. Enzian Theater. 1300 S. Orlando Ave. Winter Park FL. 407-629-0054Bimonthly showcase of independent shorts made by Florida filmmakers. 

1pm to 5:30pm Free. Free Family Day on the Second Sunday. The Mennello Museum of American Art, 900 E Princeton St, Orlando, FL 32803.  The make-and-take craft table is open from noon-2:30 p.m., and docents are available to give mini-tours of the museum. Then it's open house in the galleries until 4:30 p.m.

Noon to 5pm $8 Florida Wedding Expo. Orange County Convention Center. 9800 International Drive 407-685-9800. Fiances, moms, maids and more are all welcome at this wedding expo, with vendors, free services, and honeymoon giveaways.

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

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Baking Cookies

The kitchen is the hub of so many family activities leading up to Christmas in the Schwartz family home in Iowa. Every morning the home would fill with the smell of bacon along with pancakes, waffles, or eggs. Large roasts would bake for hours in the oven for dinner. I have no doubt that I gained a few pounds this holiday season. I imagine that any extra weight helps to keep warm as temperatures plummet. It did snow while we were there, but it was only a dusting of less than an inch.

The cookie batter was mixed in the electric mixer in the foreground and at this stage there were many cooks in the kitchen. I couldn't catch them all as they crowded around the mixer and then dispersed. Ron was the most focused remaining consistently in the corner of the kitchen mixing pizza crust by hand in a small yellow bowl. I also caught Destiny. I believe she was placing the balls of batter on cooking sheets as I sketched her.

Pam and her mom were also in the mix, but they moved off before I could catch them in the sketch. Plans were made for the Christmas day dinner well ahead of time. The cookies were a fluffy crunchy peanut concoction with marshmallows inside. They tasted amazing. The Tupperware they were stored in didn't snap together very well, so we had to eat them before they went stale.  We ate them for days.

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

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Venison Grind

Over the Christmas holidays, Pam Schwartz and I went to her parents' house in Iowa. Deer hunting season started September 15, 2018 and ends January 27, 2019. A local TV news story was about the problem of deer causing damage to cars and people on the roadways. Iowa in one of the top 5 states where you are most likely to hit a deer. It is estimated deer, elk, moose, and caribou collisions dropped slightly to 1.33 million in the U.S. between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018 — down from 1.34 million in 2017, despite the fact that there are nearly four million more licensed drivers.

The family has a large shed with an automotive lift and a huge refrigeration unit for storing the season's meat. We went shopping before Christmas at a local sporting shop. Ron had blown off the sight on one of his trusted hunting rifles and needed to get it fixed. We also shopped for casings and the associated spices needed for preparation of the meat.

Before Christmas, fellow hunters and neighbors came over to the house to grind deer meat in the shed. I decided it might be a sketch opportunity. On the floor was this collection of deer heads on a plastic sheet. I got right to work on the sketch. The actual grinding was happening behind me. I could hear folks chatting as work commenced. This felt like a friendly community activity.

Ron Schwartz explained that one of the skulls had been dug up on a trail, only a small bit of antler had been visible. Ron threw the one tiny antler on the floor as I was sketching saying, "That's all that's left of that one." I was left with the impression that the skull had been blown apart.

One hunter, looking over my shoulder spoke with some reverence about the deer head on the upper right. He pointed out that the antlers on one side were much more developed than the antlers on the other side. He also said, "He was one hell of a fighter." The eyes were open and wet.

There is a nice collection of deer themed prints in the Schwartz home. One that I particularly like is of a deer wandering out onto a field of cut corn with her fawn after dark as it snows. A single light shining from a far farm window was the only sign that humans might inhabit this gorgeous landscape.

Meat was ground into sausage and smoked. That night, we all tried some and it was delicious.

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

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Thaxton

My final stop on my Saint Louis sketch crawl was The Thaxton (1009 Olive St, St. Louis, MO 63101). Today, it is a historic art deco themed venue with a vintage vibe that offers unique events. The space can be rented for weddings and private events. When not privately booked, it is open to the public as the Thaxton Speakeasy, a downtown underground lounge. I didn't know this as I was sketching. I assumed it was an old historic theater.

Architects, Klipstein and Rothman designed The Thaxton building as well as the Civil Courts Building in downtown St. Louis. The building was constructed in 1928 for Eastman Kodak. The original use of the building was as a retail camera store. Eastman Kodak had plans to erect a total of 100 identical buildings throughout the United States. Today, it is the only known building left of five, that were built before the Great Depression.

At a restaurant next door, someone was delivering topiarys for the front entrance. They were stacked in the back of a pick up and then moved to each side of the front door.

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

Monday, January 7, 2019

Old Customs House St. Louis

There are so many gorgeous historic buildings to sketch in downtown St. Louis. Coming from Central Florida where strip malls seem to dominate our landscape, it was such a treat to have so many choices when it came to sketching classic architecture.

Located at 815 Olive Street, the Old Customs House and Post Office (OPO), was designed by architects Alfred B. Mullett, William Appleton Potter, and James G. Hill, and was constructed between 1873 and 1884. It is one of four surviving Federal office buildings designed by Mullett.

One of the stories surrounding the construction of the OPO is that it was built on quicksand.  In 1873, while the workers were digging the foundation, they struck a large rolling bed of quicksand. Several hundred men worked to stem the flow of the quicksand and only succeeded after driving pine support beams deep into the bedrock, then packing 500 bales of cotton around the beams, and covering it with four feet of limestone concrete slabs. 

The third floor of building was occupied by the U.S District Court until 1935, when it moved to new quarters at 12th and Market streets. The Post Office remained until 1970, occupying the main basement and the first floor. A number of Federal agencies were housed on the fourth floor.

Someone walking by told me that On March 15, 1884, General William Tecumseh Sherman, one of the great Civil War heroes, presided over the dedication of the building. At the time, the building also served as a storage site for up to $4 million in gold bullion.  In January 2006, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, moved its offices to the OPO.

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

Sunday, January 6, 2019

St. Louis Downtown

This downtown park in St. Louis was a gorgeous spot to sketch. The sun was out, flowers were blooming and workers were relaxing on their lunch breaks. Food trucks lines the streets around the park offering plenty of lunch time food options.

The Civil Courts Building is predominant in the center of my sketch. It was built in 1930. It was part of an $87 million bond issue ratified by voters in 1923 to build monumental buildings along the Memorial Plaza.  The Plaza and the buildings were part of St. Louis's City Beautiful plan. It replaced the Old Courthouse as the city's court building and its construction prompted the descendants of the founding father Auguste Chouteau to unsuccessfully sue the city to get the Old Courthouse back since there was a stipulation that it would always be the city's courthouse.

The pyramid roof on the top was designed to resemble the Mausoleum of Mausolus which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. During St. Louis PrideFest the building has lit its columns up in a rotating rainbow pattern. The tradition of Pride started in 2012, when the building was first lit up. In 2016 the top of the building lit up with 49 purple lights to show solidarity to the victims in the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting.

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

Saturday, January 5, 2019

St. Louis Arch

Chief Curator Pam Schwartz and her team from the Orange County Regional History Center went to St. Louis to collect awards their institution had garnered. While they were in the museum conference, I wandered the city of St. Louis for a day-long sketch crawl. My first stop was to sketch the Gateway Arch.

The Gateway Arch is a 630-foot monument, clad in stainless steel. It is the world's tallest arch, the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere, and Missouri's tallest accessible building. The arch honors the Louisiana Purchase and Saint Louis in it's role in the westward expansion of the United States. It is considered by many to be the Gateway to the West. The arch has just undergone a 380 million dollar renovation making it and the park more accessible. As I sketched, the park next to me was fenced off and being re-landscaped.

The Old St. Louis County Courthouse (11 N 4th St, St. Louis, MO 63102) was built as a combination federal and state courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri. It was Missouri's tallest habitable building from 1864 to 1894, and is now part of the Gateway Arch National Park and operated by the National Park Service for historical exhibits and events.

In 1872 Virginia Minor attempted to vote in a St. Louis election and was arrested. Her trials, including the deliberations before the Missouri Supreme Court, were held in this building. The United States Supreme Court in Minor v. Happersett (1875) upheld the male-only voting rules, as the Constitution did not address voting rules, which were set by the states. The Minor v. Happersett ruling was based on an interpretation of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court readily accepted that Minor was a citizen of the United States, but it held that the constitutionally protected privileges of citizenship did not include the right to vote.

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

Friday, January 4, 2019

Weekend Top 6 Picks for January 5 and 6, 2019

Saturday January 5, 2019
8 am to 1pm Free. Parramore Farmers Market. The east side of the Orlando City Stadium, across from City View. Purchase quality, fresh and healthy food grown in your own neighborhood by local farmers, including Fleet Farming, Growing Orlando, and other community growers.

 8pm to 10pm Free. Shuffleboard at Orlando's Beardall Courts. Orlando's Beardall Courts 800 Delaney Ave Orlando FL. Shuffleboard at Orlando's Beardall Courts at 800 Delaney Ave on the 1st Saturday of each month. Free fun!

10:30pm to Midnight Get a drink and or food. Son Flamenco. Ceviche Tapas Orlando, 125 W Church St, Orlando, FL.  Hot blooded Flamenco dancers with acoustic guitar accompaniment.

Sunday January 6, 2019
10am to Noon. Free. Heartfulness Relaxation and Meditation Class. University, 5200 Vineland Rd, Orlando, FL 32811. The Method of Heartfulness A simple and practical way to experience the heart’s unlimited resources.

Noon to 1pm Free. Yoga. Lake Eola Park near the Red Gazebo. Bring your own mat.

6:30pm to 8:00pm $10-$20 suggested donation. Please also bring food or wine to share. Holly Cordero’s Steamin’ Quartet. Timucua White House 2000 South Summerlin Orlando, FL 32806 .
The Steamin’ Trio is made up of players from the Central Florida area with a sense of New York Flair. The Steamin Trio plays tunes from jazz standards to Brazilian to Funk to arrangements of pop tunes in a Jazz fashion. These guys even perform holiday music! They deliver wonderful jazz entertainment with amazing solos and wonderful audience engagement. Home of the original Jazz Drinking Game! First 20 to reserve a ticket also get a free CD!
Holly Cordero, bass
Mike Harris, sax
Joe Barone, piano
Ken Shadrake, drums

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

Thursday, January 3, 2019

JohnnyMag Sax at the garlic

I caught a performance by Johnny Magnuson on Sax at The Garlic (556 E 3rd Ave, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32169). I went with one of my downtown apartment mates. She is tasked with selling wine to restaurants so the trip was two pronged. She knows Johnny so we sat at the end of the bar to listen in and sketch. He used an iPad on a music stand to keep his music in order. A salad bowl was used to collect dollar bills. We arrived rather late and the bowl was already full.

After the performance we drove over to Johnny's house. He has a room mate in the basement and plenty of room. We all sat around on the back porch and talked for a while. Johnny has  over 5000 friend on Facebook, he must be a very popular sax player.

The Garlic is a very visually appealing place to sketch. You can get lost in all the rooms decorated in a rustic French Provincial style with plenty of raw garlic hanging from the rafters. There is a candle display that has all the melted wax from years and years of use making it look like a huge molten volcano. I consider the place well worth a visit. Of course New Smyrna Beach is a bit of a drive if you live in Orlando so consider making a beach day of it and stop into the Garlic before driving back home.

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

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Buddha's Birthday Celebration

May 7th was the Worldwide Celebration of the Buddha's birthday. The  day celebrated the birth of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, founder of the religion and Buddha himself. In China, Buddhists celebrate this day at temples by literally bathing the Buddha, reciting sutras and lighting incense.

 The Guang Ming Temple, (6555 Hoffner Ave Orlando, FL 32822), had a day long celebration. As soon as I arrived I sat down to capture this group of drummers in front of the temple. Behind me people were crowded under the food tents and before I left I made sure to sample the food available. The festival began with a beautiful ceremony, and was followed by the bathing of the Buddha’s and a large food festival.

A pristine Buddha sat next to the drummers looking out at the crowd. With his many drums the energy in the crowd grew. The Orlando Taiko Dojo demonstrated the traditional art of Japanese drums known as “Taiko”. Taiko drums were used in battlefields and have been used in religious ceremonies and festivals for over 2000 years in Japan.

The troupe’s dynamic style emphasizes speed, fluidity and power that are combined with their choreographed motions to create a performance rich in sight and sound. I do believe I have sketched this Dojo group before at Dragon boat races, and I love the energy.

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

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Orlando Sun Blockers vs Savannah Hostess City Hellions

The second match of the Orlando Roller Derby Double Header was just as exciting as the first match if not more so. The Orange County Parks and Recreation Center (Barnett Park 4801 W Colonial Dr, Orlando, Florida 32808) had crowded bleachers and standing room around the edges of the court. In front of the bleachers a mascot was dressed in a sun burst costume dancing for the crowd. The announcers were at a folding table under the score board.

Roller Derby takes some time to get used to how scoring works. A single skater has a star on her helmet and she is charged with breaking away from the two team pack and lapping them if possible. A referee wold follow her while pointing to make it easier to keep track of the score. Her supporting team blocks and shoves the opposing team in an effort to help her roll by. For some reason the ending moments of any match are the most exciting. As the match nears a close, the two teams ramp up their energy and this is when women really start knocking each other over.

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