Image: "Path in the Woods", c. 2009, Sukie Curtis, 12x12", oil on panel
Sometimes you just don't know what results will follow from something you do. (Actually, maybe we never really know for sure!) I suppose in the right frame of mind, that fact just keeps things interesting. I mean, if we really knew beforehand the exact outcome of everything we did...how dull!
I keep mulling over and feeling grateful for the fact that when I said yes to a friend's offer to put me in touch with someone at the Starbucks on Middle and Exchange Streets in Portland, I was thinking it was a good idea because maybe I'd sell a painting. I was thinking of modest financial gain as the mark of success. That, and having people see my paintings.
That hasn't happened, though at least one person has expressed an interest in purchasing a future painting, and many people, at least thirty at last count, have taken one of my business cards. And of course people have seen my paintings, and perhaps quite a few people stopped to gaze a while.
But what has happened was both unanticipated and even more significant than my idea of selling a painting or two. It happened in two parts. First, I originally was offered the month of May as the month that Starbucks would host my paintings. Soon after settling on that, the assistant manager called to say that June had just opened up, and she thought I might prefer June, since the summer tourist season would be kicking in, and June includes the Old Port Festival, which brings lots of people to that part of Portland. So I said, "Sure! I'll go with June. That sounds great." (I also knew it would give me more time to paint new stuff and freed up some time back in April when I was working on something else, so it really did feel helpful.)
Right at the beginning of May, the assistant manager called again, somewhat apologetically, to say that their May artist had backed out. "Could you possibly be ready to hang some art this week?"
I knew that I could be ready right away, even if it wouldn't be the newer paintings that I had hoped to display. I also knew that I didn't want to give up the month of June, or at least not all of it. So I bargained a little, suggested a compromise. (Or perhaps she had offered me part of June at the start--at least through the Old Port Festival--although her boss was clear that I couldn't have my work up more than six weeks in a row.) We settled on six weeks, roughly three in May and three in June, and that was that.
Until David and I were hanging my May paintings and the assistant manager asked to speak with me again, this time to say: "The manager says you can have all of May and all of June, as long as you are willing to change paintings before the First Friday Art Walk in June."
"Great!" I said. "Perfect."
So here's what happened after that--the delightful yet unanticipated consequence of saying yes to the chance to hang art at Starbucks: it got me painting. As in day after day painting, or at least painting more days of the week than not.
And I found that regular painting really grounded me, felt like something solid to build on. I looked forward to getting up in the morning on days I knew I would be painting in a way that's different from how I get up on other days. I was "inhabiting" my life in a different way, if that makes sense to you. That sense of solidity coupled with contentment was powerful.
I've read of a couple of painters in Maine who undertook a "May marathon" of painting. One set out to paint every day in May without fail, often painting outdoors (a great month for that), some days creating three or four small works.
Without planning to, I had my own sort of May marathon, and the after-effects are still with me, still unfolding, still offering me a different wave to ride on. I couldn't have planned it to turn out this way if I'd tried.