Tears, Bee Stings, and the Perfect Thistle

July Sky 10x12, O:P.jpg

Another Wednesday of talking art with a few artist friends over coffee and a bagel. Listening while looking out the window, two bright yellow butterflies mating on the fly. A beautiful dance of yellow over the waters of the Fox River. Rich, lush greens highlight the beauty of this dance. Half listening to Nick's comments and Bill's reply, my mind is solving the problem of doing a landscape with the butterflies as the focal point. I let the image of the landscape in my mind fade as I am brought back into the conversation.

Holding to the idea of being a professional fine artist, I engage in the ideas being presented by my friends. Nothing new being raised, just good to have reminders of things that make one a professional artist. At 10 AM we call it quits and head to our individual studios. I pause at my car, drawn to what looks to be a thistle growing along the river. Its like none I have ever seen before. More thoughts of landscape painting fill my head. I make a half hearted attempt at photographing this plant with my cell phone. I've never have any luck with the cell phone photographing.  

I drive to my studio to get my real camera to get a good picture of this plant for later use. I'd bring out my paints from the back of the car and do a quick oil study but I have a painting in process on my easel. Photographing this plant to captured it is the best way at the moment so I pick up my camera from the studio and snap a few images of it and a few of other plants that strike me as being of possible use.

Back in the studio I make anther cup of coffee and study the painting on the easel. Peonies from a photo - a terrific photo at that. Luck was with me for photographing them. I could take time to do an oil study of the thistle but I need to finish this one first. I could easily find myself distracted doing studies of things all day but I need to get paintings done for the gallery, paintings that are more than just quick studies.

I love painting peonies. I'm not always set up for them when they are in their full glory. This year I'm using a photo. Last year I was able to complete two from life before they completely wilted. I sat in a friends garden painting those peonies and watching chipmunks or ground squirrels darting around the flowers that were coming into season. Sounds of nature always add to painting out on the spot. Of course the heavy buzz of a bumble bee causes one to duck.

Being a professional artist involves a lot of different things. Putting up with bee stings, models that forget to come, buyers that want holds put on pieces who never return, galleries returning works and finding the frame damaged beyond repair. But there are good things too; clients that break into tears at the sight of your work, completing a piece and wondering, "Did I really create this?" There are ups and down and long days of work that bring us joy and pain. Being a professional artist is job that requires long days with different rewards. A sense of accomplishment is one, a sale is another and then there is the bitter joy of enjoying all those unsold works scattered around our studios.