Crowd scene

Thomas Thorspecken Sketches the Audience
Sept. 5 at Lowndes Shakespeare Center

Artist Thomas Thorspecken has delighted a growing number of Orlando fans over the past year and half with his detailed sketches of community scenes that he mostly captures at random. The bespectacled professional typically operates on the sly, pulling out pencil, pen and paper and getting down to business without fanfare. Some of the results of his prolific practice are posted on his Analog Artist Digital World blog (, started Jan. 1, 2009, where he posts one new piece every day for a year. But Thorspecken has done so much more since then that it's almost staggering.

An overwhelming number of his for-sale sketches on loose paper and finished with watercolor were pinned clothesline-style across the side walls of the Goldman Theater last Sunday, during the Labor Day weekend, and more could be found in bound books in the theater lobby. It was all part of an experiment organized by his collaborators, including performance artist Brian Feldman, who is credited in the program for the "concept."

Essentially, Thomas Thorspecken Sketches the Audience flipped the dynamics of his usual interactions. Instead of the artist choosing his subject, the subjects came to him at the assigned time, paid $8 and took a seat in the small theater. Thorspecken, in a suit, stepped on stage, put on his baseball cap and immediately started to work. Behind him was a video camera trained on his hands and the paper; across the stage was Feldman with a video camera focused on the audience.

The bio for Thor — his nickname — explains his proficiency. He was a student at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and he worked for 10 years as a freelance illustrator in New York City. After that, he began a 10-year stint doing hand-drawn animation for Disney's Hollywood Studios — until computers replaced artists. Eventually, he started his blog to get back to his "artistic roots." But this was an exercise in trying something different.

It was interesting to listen to the 30 or so people in the audience talk with each other and Thor during the hour-and-a-half process, as he used pencil, then pen, then a watercolor wash to finish his portraits. Afterward, prints of the evening's "performance" were available for sale. Also included in the program was a feedback sheet to help shape future endeavors. You have to hand it to the organizers for the creative approach, and watching Thorspecken work under the scrutiny of the audience was impressive.

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