Monday, November 23, 2009

Nice things happen

This is the painting I will enter for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Student/Teacher Art Show.

Plum Blossom Awakening by Lauren Thompson

Mr. Choey wet-mounted it for me so that all the wrinkles are gone, and it will be preserved. I still need to matte and frame it.

We have the option of listing a price for our paintings, not that very many of them sell. Last year, when I submitted for the first time, I had no idea how people price their work for a show like this, so I put $75, which would cover the cost of the frame and matte and some of the supplies I'd bought for the class. When I went to the show, I was amazed to see that prices ranged from $150 to $800, with $300 being about average. Some pieces looked very professional, and others, well, not so much. But most artists had listed a price; only a few went with "NFS." I thought, "Next year, I'm pricing up."

I didn't expect that anyone would buy my painting, though of course I was a tiny bit hopeful. Over the month that the show was up, only about five works out of eighty were awarded with the red dot sticker: "sold."

The last day of the show was a Saturday, when I was at the Garden anyway for the Chinese brush painting class. I took a break from the class in order, I hoped, to pick up my painting, so that I wouldn't have to come back for it the next day. (This was in February, and I'm dependent on my bike for travel, so I was hoping to avoid another cold ride. And Sundays are always busy for me anyway.) The gallery and adjoining cafe were posted to closed at 4:00 pm, but when I arrived at the entrance at 3:20 pm or so, I was told by the guard that it was too late to go in. There were a number of us who wanted to visit that building, but she was firm -- NO. Soon they were going to start asking people to leave, and they didn't have enough guards, so no one new was allowed to enter.

Well, I started to get annoyed. It wasn't the first time that I had experienced the Garden as rigid and nonaccomodating; up came the memory and resentment of bringing my toddler son to the Garden and being scolded for serving him his sippy cup and a baggie's worth of Oatios -- no outside food allowed. And other memories, too. The garden is a beautiful place and there is so much I love about it, but I have found it hard to let go of these little grudges against it. Now, being denied access to my painting and being forced to return another day in the cold were felling blows.

I was able to walk away from that guard before I spoke in anger, but by the time I reached the guards at the entrance of the classroom building, I couldn't hold back. I complained to them about the other guard, and they jumped to her defense. The rules aren't up to them, there aren't enough guards, there's nothing any of them could do. I could see, in the eyes of one of the guards, a look that to me read, "Oh yes, another entitled Park Slope type, always wanting things exactly her way." Meanwhile, I'm saying, "I just want to pick up my painting!" To which one of the guards responded, "They probably wouldn't let you take it anyway." Which was probably true.

After venting a bit more, I went back down to class and tried to paint. I knew I had behaved badly.  Equanimity, I counseled myself. Let go. But I was still annoyed.

The next day, I arrived during the two hours designated as "pick up" time, cold and a little miffed. When I got down to the gallery, I saw a couple standing near my painting. It turns out that they had just decided to buy it. They were thrilled to meet me in person -- they treated me like a celebrity, and I blushed a lot. All I could say was, "Thank you. I feel so honored that you like my painting. I feel so honored."

I had with me the packing material for the frame, so I packed it up for them. They gave the exhibit director a check and then went off, hand in hand, taking my painting with them. I felt so full of joy, so grateful. As I climbed the stairs to leave, unexpectedly empty-handed, I felt an immense urge to bow. Along the stairway are planted soaring bamboo and palm trees, so I bowed to them. I bowed deeply, tears in my eyes. Then I thought, I have to apologize.

I went back to the education building -- fortunately, one of the guards from the day before was at the desk, the one with the eyes. I looked right into those eyes. I said, "I don't know if you remember me, I gave you a hard time yesterday about not being able to get my painting. Well, I'm here to apologize. I'm sorry that I took out my frustration on you. I shouldn't have done that."

He rocked back in his chair, smiling, and said, "Well, that's all right! Don't worry about it!" Then I told him how a couple had just bought it -- how if I had been able to take it home the day before, that wouldn't have happened. It wasn't so much that they bought my painting, but that they wanted it, and that they were so nice. The guard kept saying, "You see? Everything works out. You see?" Then he said to one of the other guards, "That's why I like working here. Nice things happen. You see?"

So I bundled up and put on my helmet, thanking him, thanking both of them, and giving them a little bow. Then I rode home, smiling and thinking about how I would tell my husband what had happened. Not just about the painting, but about the gratitude.

Nice things happen.

Birth of a star amid space dust 
[Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/P.S. Teixeira (Center for Astrophysics)]

P.S. That painting was of a wild orchid. It looked something like this:

My teacher, Mr. Choey, had seen it in the show. He never said, exactly, that my painting was incorrect, but he did say, "I will show you the right way to paint orchids." And he did, but his were cultivated orchids, not wild orchids. I'll keep working on them on my own. My goal is to paint something like this:

Orchid Dance by Cindy Pon. She is an up-and-coming children's book author and illustrator, as well as a dedicated Chinese brush artist.


  1. Can I use this first image as cover to my poetry book?

    1. Hi, Fernando, please contact me via email at . Thank you. -- Lauren


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