- During mundane tasks, like washing dishes, dusting.
- Places of monotony: the car wash, waiting in a drive-up window.
- Running, exercising, taking a walk.
- In the shower.
- Sitting somewhere quiet: at a dog park ... sipping a latte.
I’ve been wrong before. Oh, heck, if I’m being honest, I’ve been wrong a lot. But I have never been as wrong as when I passed over a little detail on my to-do-list.
Generally I break big projects into smaller doable tasks. Make a dent. Then do the next little thing.
However, printing three limited editions was not a little thing. It was a big thing. And to pull off this big thing of selling 650 copies of each lithograph, I had to tackle the last little thing —printing a promotional brochure.
Several weeks earlier Bill reminded me I needed a promotional handout. “Make sure to include the size and price of each piece, also an artist statement,” he said.
His words rattled me because I had maxed out my art budget while printing the limited edition. Where would the additional money come from? I felt pushed into a hole so dark I wondered if I could climb out. Should I simply let the darkness absorb me and give up on living off the arts?
But I had made a commitment. Not to others, but to myself. Besides, the cost of the brochure was small compared to the investment in producing the lithographs. I was so close to completing this big thing. I couldn’t let one little thing stand in the way.
Luckily, I found a ray of light – a local art festival. In the early 1990’s Bismarck, North Dakota, did not have retail art galleries as part of its shopping mix so festivals provided a rare chance to display art and possibly generate income.
The Bismarck Presbyterian Church was sponsoring a two-day art celebration where artists could submit up to three works of art. Hundreds of entries would be judged for cash prizes and ribbons. Better yet, the paintings could be sold! Selling an original painting, or two, was the light at the end of this dark hole.
Preparing for the festival, I painted, and re-painted several images to submit the best art that I could generate. I never had been an artist to spend a lot of time on sketching out an idea. I liked to dive in and take action right on the crisp white paper. I was captivated by the complexity and independent nature of the watercolor media. Colors often mingled or separated from each other on the paper.
Opening night, I entered the large church reception room, rubbing my sweaty palms together. It was a sea of paintings. I felt my legs tremble as I circled around the portable wall units seeking out my artwork. I knew I had done my best work possible. I was thankful for the opportunity to exhibit whatever the outcome, yet deep inside worry buried in my gut. I needed just one sale to cover the cost of the promotional brochure.
Warily I peeked around the last partition. I gasped so loud, heads turned. A vivid cobalt blue ribbon dangled from one of the paintings! I not only won first place prize money, better yet, I had sold all three pieces!
The next day I bounded to Serig advertising agency ready to produce the promotional brochure with some art samples in my case for review.
Bill fondled one of the handmade papers I had textured. “This pattern is your trademark,” he said. “I think it should be the background to offset the limited edition prints.”
A zing went up my spine. It was a great marketing idea, reinforcing why Bill had a successful advertising career for more than twenty years.
At first when Bill reminded me that I needed to print the promotional brochure, I thought it was because he thought I had foolishly not planned on the concept. Now I realized, all along, Bill had my best interests at heart. Every step of the way he had been helping me succeed. After Robert's ordeal, he boosted my once-abused trust factor of people up a notch.
However, the concept of using a textured paper background meant another trip to see photographer, Larry Weller.
Larry greeted me with that familiar, playful grin that appeared in the corner of his mouth. This was the third time to watch in awe as he brightened my art under his powerful spotlights.
He clicked the camera and chatted.
“So, you make this paper yourself?” he asked, making his short dark mustached dance.
I gave him a polite nod.
“Does it take much time?” he inquired a bit more.
“Yes,” I said. “We apply a variety of layers and let the paint dry in between each one.”
The camera continued to click, along with a litany of other questions. I shrugged it off as idle chit-chat. I didn’t mind the distraction. Larry’s carefree laugh was deep and rich and infectious like the two other times I had worked with him.
The photo shoot went smoothly. I left innocently, not realizing, months later how these random questions would end up in an unusual project – my texturing techniques collaborating with his photography.
But for now, with Larry’s photographs and Bill’s design, I had a first class brochure for my first wholesale art show in New York City.
I showed the promotional handout to Beth and Bobbie-Jean, the crafty duo who created the petite art collages of my cottage industry.
“Wow!” Bobbie-Jean said as she ran her hand across the photographed textured background that looked three dimensional. “It’s dynamite!”
From her words, I let pride swoop in.
Then Beth asked, “What are you going to wear in the Big Apple?”
Pride whooshed back out.”
I admire numerous people, and author Eric Litwin is one of them. His book, Pete the Cat with His Four Groovy Buttons is one to cherish.
Pete is wearing his favorite shirt and along the way . . . one by one . . . he looses his buttons.
In the end, Pete says: “It simply goes to show that stuff will come and stuff will go. But do we cry?. . . “Goodness NO!” shout my grandkids as they read along . . . “We keep on singing.”
Being thankful, this Thanksgiving, I fancy Pete and his fun-loving spirit. Remember to let things go and roll with the punches. Give up on perfection.
Pete brightens my day. I hope he charms yours, too. Do you have somene that lifts your spirits?
This was The Moment – not the baby step break-up of an on-again, off-again romance. No, this was the no-turning-back end of a relationship. Robert was 1,744 away, so I could no longer stay in denial thinking we’d reunite the next day. Or week. Or month.
I trudged up the steps to the front entrance of the three-story house as I went through the motions of having to move into a new apartment. I rang the bell, standing on the small stoop in a city neighborhood of houses packed side by side, feeling the wind whip as fiercely as it did out of town, on the open Dakota plains. It stung my face … and I wondered if spring would ever arrive.
The solid wood door opened, creaking either from the cold or age, I couldn’t tell. There stood a lady almost as tall as my 5'8" height. Her curly, graying hair had a short sensible cut and she was dressed in a simple sensible shirt and pants. She wore flat sensible shoes, too.
“I’m here about the apartment,” I said, almost choking on the words.
“Come in, come in,” she said.
Toasty warm air swallowed me up as I stepped inside. But the warmth didn’t last long. An enormous jungle cat arched his back and thrust his tail straight into the air. He drew back his lips exposing wicked-looking teeth and spat at me.
“That’s Butterscotch, my precious,” she said. “Don’t mind him. It takes Precious time to warm up to new folks.”
I nodded and looked around the room. It was filled with over-stuffed furniture crowned with lace doilies.
“Sit down, sit down,” the woman said. “My name is Marge, Marge Witt.”
I perched on the edge of one of the chairs, trying not to disturb the dollies or the cat which was now making disturbing howling noises deep in his throat.
Marge sat across from me in a matching chair and patted one of the frilly, armrest dollies. “My mother crocheted them right up til her passing.” She fondled the lace for a moment, seemingly lost in thought about her mom.
“I’ve cleaned out Mother’s apartment downstairs, and I’m ready to rent, but I can’t seem to part with a few of her things, such as lace,” Marge said.
Oh. A little chill rose up my spine as I realized I was asking to live in a dead lady’s apartment.
“Mother taught me to crochet,” Marge continued, her eyes tearing up as she reflected on the memories.
I nodded, unable to form words as my mind was still focused on viewing a deceased lady’s apartment.
“Oh, my,” Marge said a moment later. “I do tend to carry on, don’t I? Now, about Mother’s apartment. Let me take a closer look at you.” She scooted up next to me, and her dark eyes met mine.
I held my breath.
“Mmmm. Mm-hmm,” she muttered, her silverish curly hair bobbed as she nodded at me. “You’ll do just fine. I have a way of knowing these things.”
Then, seemingly from nowhere, she had a key in her warm hand and pressed it into my palm, gently folding my fingers around it. She patted my hand softly, cradling it in a comforting way. “You just make yourself at home.”
The clenched feeling in my chest relaxed a little at her kind words and tender touch.
“You’ll find my tenants become my family,” Marge said. “Just ask Nora, who lives upstairs. She’s like a daughter to me.”
Marge’s kindred spirit radiated around me like a halo, making me feel safe.
“Now, let’s take a tour of that splendid apartment. My late husband, Fred, did all the handiwork down there,” Marge said.
Oh boy. My heart rate rose to my throat. Her mother and her husband were both … dead.
“Focus, Kate. Focus,” I told myself as Marge’s words whirled around me and she escorted me through her living room.
“I’m taking you downstairs by the way of the side entrance, but your main entrance is private, through the back of the house,” she said.
I didn’t really catch a word of what she was saying. On our way down a rough wooden staircase to the basement apartment, all I comprehended was the bare, lonely light bulb high above my head. We descend first into a dimly lit utility room with exposed rafters and unfinished stud walls. My feet shuffled across a cold cement floor, passing the furnace and hot water heater. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it all. Is this how I’d enter my new home? How would I ever bring art clients here for a meeting?
Marge marched ahead of me. She prattled on and on, but it was all a blur. Stiff-like, I followed her path as she opened a door. We stepped into a kitchen the size of a coffin. Small narrow windows high above my head reminded me I was in the basement of this old house. Only a scant light shone from the outside.
I trailed behind as Marge scurried along with Butterscotch strutting at her side. The monstrous-size cat stood knee-high to Marge. As he pranced his bristled tail pointed high in the air, waving his backside at me.
By now Marge was standing in a larger room featuring a crazy orange carpet. She swung her arms wide and twirled.
“Come down this way,” she said, motioning me to follow as she moved into a bedroom separated by double-wide French glass doors.
I inched my way forward, shuffling into a welcome ray of sun making the small beveled glass panes sparkle. Pleasantly, the windows were larger here in the side-by-side rooms. A short distance ahead, Marge swung another door open, letting in a chilly breeze from outside. This time her words sunk in.
“This is your private entrance,” she said while standing in a long, narrow foyer with big, bright windows wrapping around her.
Suddenly, Butterscotch, a bundle of flying fur, leaped into my arms, nuzzled, and purred. His body heat seeped into my skin and the sunny back entrance began to warm me up inside.
“I’ll leave you to unpack,” Marge said, assuming I would take the apartment.
How could I not? It was the only apartment I could find in the entire city that fit my budget. I was lucky she had set the rent so low.
About my only other choice would have been to humble myself and ask my parents for moving money. From the beginning of my departure from Michigan, they were firm I shouldn’t leave family. Just thinking about them, embarrassment and shame washed over me.
Mom had been right. I had made a foolish mistake moving a thousand miles to North Dakota. My cheeks pricked with heat. I was too humiliated to go back.
Besides, I had a marketing job, and it paid enough to be able to visit my family and maybe save a bit so I could move soon. I would finish the St. Alexius project I had started.
Hauling boxes out of the jam-packed Chevette, I lugged them to the back entrance and hunkered down to unpacking into the wee hours of the night listening to eerie creaks and strange thumps of the big old house. All houses had their own kind of hum, but I wondered if this one came with the ghost of Marge’s late mother or husband. I pushed the eerie thought aside, along with the dread of living alone. Sure the apartment was filled with my stuff, but when the only sound I heard was my own footsteps, loneliness clung to me. Luckily, exhaustion from the moving day pushed me to sleep.
The next morning, as I shrugged on my coat, a robin chirped on the window sill, its bright red breast blazed against the gray morning.
My first robin of spring. I made a wish. I didn’t know it would take a while for it to come true.
Have you ever fallen in love at first sight? I did when I met Lake Michigan. Growing up in the hub of Detroit, I spent summers frolicking in swimming pools. Then in my college years I met the Big Lake – all its vastness and glimmering glory. Instantly I was mesmerized.
It was at that time I met my friend, Karol, who had a pond in front of her home. She would rave about her pond: “We pumped the paddle boat today,” … “The kids dragged nets to scoop minnows.” Every day, every season, Karol had new praise for her beloved pond.
As she boasted I silently smirked about her over-the-top pond infatuation. How could a spit-across pond compete with the endless serenity of Lake Michigan’s mile-after-mile open water?
Then I moved.
Hourly the pond changed color, texture and patterns. Karol was right. Magnificence doesn’t come in size! Water is the beauty. Don’t you agree? I bet you’ve seen some of your own stunning sunsets this summer and enjoyed them all! Happy Labor Day!
About the Artsy Shopkeeper
Hi, I'm Kate Moynihan. Yes, I am a baby boomer, and my professional life has taken a few interesting twists and turns. The journey began as a registered nurse. After thirteen years of caring for others, however, I got the creative itch. At the time, I was a single mom living in North Dakota; that’s when I caught this bug to paint pictures. Now, twenty-seven years later, I have some stories to tell about my artistic journey. Read more...