Thomas Thorspecken: The Art of Urban Sketching in Orlando

By: Kristen Manieri

April 10, 2014

In January 2009, Thomas Thorspecken made a New Year’s resolution to peel back the layers of Orlando, Florida, one daily sketch at a time. He then published each of his hand-drawn masterpieces on his blog, Having spent years animating for Disney only to be tossed aside during the digital revolution, Thorspecken’s hands ached for pen and paper and a one-a-day sketch seemed like the perfect way to keep drawing while showcasing the city’s most interesting places.

Fast forward five years and he has now created hundreds of sketches and established himself as a local celebrity. His work is currently on display at Snap Space, where the public can get up close to dozens of his sketches featured in the exhibition. He’s also penned a book, Urban Sketching: The Complete Guide to Techniques, designed to teach budding sketch artists how to showcase their city in living colour. Thor, as Thorspecken is affectionately nicknamed, recently sat down to answer a few of our burning questions.

Thomas Thorspecken | Urban Sketches

A musician provides the soundtrack at a local flea market © Thomas Thorspecken

How has Orlando changed for you since you started sketching?

It’s hard to say if Orlando changed or I changed. Over time I became more involved in the arts and culture scene in town. I’m sure it was always there, but I had never looked for it. There are definitely interesting events to sketch each day. As a matter of fact, there are so many possibilities that it becomes hard to choose just one.

Do you have any favourite sketch moments?

Every moment and every sketch is precious. There are occasions when security guards, ushers or police decide that sketching isn’t appropriate. I like when I stall just long enough to get the sketch regardless. It’s a sort of Roger Moore thrill.

Thomas Thorspecken - Earth Day

An accordion player at Lake Eola’s Earth Day event © Thomas Thorspecken

Why does this medium work well for what you’re trying to capture and share?

When you sketch, you aren’t trying to capture any one moment. People walk into the scene and they walk out of the scene. The sketch is like a very selective time lapse in which I get to decide who best completes the composition. A single sketch can give an overall feeling of what transpired since I get to record what interests me the most.

What has the response been to your work?

People have told me that my sketches help unify the community. I sketch various arts groups, charities and businesses. Usually each group is focused on their own concerns. My sketches and articles hopefully help them realise that we all have the same concerns, and if we work together, then positive change is possible.

Thomas Thorspecken - Club scene

A cast member from La Nouba shows off her skills during the annual Red Chair Affair © Thomas Thorspecken

Do you think you’ll ever run out of things to sketch?

As long as I remain curious, I will never run out of things to sketch. As long as there are creative people, I’ll never run out of things to sketch.

What would you hope visitors see when they travel to Orlando?

I wish tourists could get a taste of all the grassroots arts groups who are creating and sharing their work every day here in Orlando. I wish they could stop into a local coffee house for a poetry reading or a pop-up jazz performance. I wish they could see the undiscovered Orlando that is vibrant, alive and thriving.


Header photo: Buddy Holly © Thomas Thorspecken

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Have you explored Orlando’s undergrond art scene? Let us know in the comments section below.

Written by Kristen Manieri

Kristen Manieri

Kristen Manieri is travel and lifestyle writer living in Orlando, FL with her husband and two daughters. A regular contributor to Orlando Magazine and Edible Orlando, she is continuously scouring the city searching for the next great person, places, or adventure to write about. Living in the Sunshine State has given Kristen an endless array of experiences as she has explored Florida from Amelia Island all the way down to Key West. But from top to tip, Orlando is still one of her favorite Florida places thanks to its ‘come as you are’ vibe, flourishing art scene, local food-focused restaurants, and myriad of gorgeous green spaces.

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