Anna, from Hungary

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Laying out the colors on my palette, knowing they are going to tell a story or lift someone's spirits besides my own is a part of the joy of painting. A blank canvas gets my heart a-pumping. What ever the subject, I enjoy the challenge of pushing myself to do better than the last one. Sometimes I amaze myself with what I am capable of. Other times I wonder what happen? Where did I go wrong? It is part of the job I have. Nothing worse than leaving the studio on a downer. Once I pondered that question too much and pulled into traffic without a clear mind... Insurance premiums went up because of that failed painting. Fortunately my spirit was lifted the next day when the model arrived. 

Besides models being beautiful, most are energetic, interesting people. Anna, from Hungary, brings an electric charge to the studio with her willingness to work and share her life story. Her love of all thing American makes me aware of things we take for granted. Her childhood was without a father because he was editor of a newspaper while Hungary was fighting for its freedom from Russia. She related stories of police searching their house every month for papers that might promote an uprising. Her mom was a trouble maker with her writings, according to the Russians. While I work away on my painting of Anna she told me stories of her life in Hungary and her life as an exchange student here. When Hungary gained its freedom from Russia her father was released from prison and immediately ran for parliament. He helped her get into the exchange student program. She arrived in Naperville with only a fair ability to speak English and her classmates helped her get through school. 

I love her accent and her questions. When she came to pose for me she was working on getting into law school, doing a lot of studying on her own. She had two boyfriends, both lawyers. She used the one's car to drive over to pose for me. Every so often a guy would follow her up to the studio, not to ask her for a date, but to see if she was interested in selling her car. At first she did not know her boyfriends car was not an old beater, but a sought after muscle car he was restoring. I remember when she returned from a trip home she told how she was spoiled from living here in America. Sitting at her grandparents kitchen table, telling them of her life in America, she reach into a bowl of cherry tomatoes and popped a couple into her mouth. Her grandmother yelled, "Those are for dessert!" She'd forgotten how little people had in Hungary. 

Over the years I've listen to a lot of stories while painting these lovely young ladies. I have been very fortunate with how I make my living.   


Listening To The Bees On A Hot Day

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A dozen Black Angus crowd under three old crabapple trees, tails busy swashing hungry flies away. Strong country perfume hangs in the thick air drawing more blood suckers. Country wildflowers give up their pollen to huge bumble bees working hard on this hot summer day. For several minutes I judge the possibilities of getting eaten alive against getting a great painting. Beyond the crowd of angus the land drops off to a gentle valley of fields and pastures, a crazy quilt of colors . A dusty violet field snuggles up to a bright yellow field. Blue green grasses lean over a blue creek flowing under a fallen wire fence line stretching every which way. I spray on some Deep Woods OFF and pull my french easel from the trunk of my car. Finding the perfect spot, I stamp down just enough grass and wildflowers to set up. My subject is the hot day which I aim to portray with the colors I see. The blue of the distant trees and the haziness of the sky with it's puffy creamy clouds fading into the pastel blue sky should translate well into summer heat. 

The huge Black Angus maneuver around to watch me. I wonder what they could be thinking as I begin to lay out the colors on my palette. The wildflowers around me advise me on what colors I will need. Painting is about observation and editing. Listening to the bees also helps. A winding path I missed at first becomes important as it gives me a way of leading the viewer into the painting - something I try to do with all my paintings. A few wildflowers still standing in front of me I will add to my painting at the end to create a greater sense of distance and interest to my painting.

My critics stay with me watching every stroke as I press on. Swatting flies as they discuss my progress with no comments of approval or disapproval. Off to my right, farther on down the road is a dairy farm and even though it is Sunday I see men working, moving hay bales into the big barn. I pause to make a note of the activity and plans for returning on Monday to do a painting of the farm.  Three hours of pushing paint around, pulling things out and putting others back, my painting is speaking to me saying, "I'm done." We engage in a conversation and I ask about the yellow. The painting says it looks great, but I think it's too bright.

As I'm engaged in this intellectual discussion with my painting I see people leaving the driveway of the farm, walking up the road towards me. The entire family from the farm seems to be coming.  Two young boys arrive first and yell back that I am an artist and have painted their farm. The rest of the family arrive and all agree I have done a fine job. I find the Angus belong to a neighbor, and they learn I am a professional artist from Aurora.  I get permission to set up at their place for the next day and I'm invited to come down when I'm done for a cool drink. Painting out can be a fun way of meeting people and cows.