True Stories: Some of Art's Lighter Moments

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ˇ True Stories: Welcome
ˇ That Awful Orange
ˇ How I Started Painting the Golden Gate Bridge
ˇ Muh-therr!! or The Garden Path
ˇ But Artists Are Supposed to Paint When They're Miserable
ˇ I Thought I Was Discovering a Starving Artist in a Garret

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That Awful Orange

(This story relates to my image of the Golden Gate Bridge from the cover of Being Someone).

In my studio it is sometimes so quiet I am conscious of my brushes scraping paper. I enjoy the sound. It is a sort of conversation with my materials, but I don't mind if the phone rings: I have a long cord reaching easily to my painting table. If the vibes are good, phone calls please me.

One quiet morning a call came in from an interior designer who had seen my paintings at San Francisco Open Studios. She needed something quick. I was excited at the prospect of a sale.

"You paint the Golden Gate Bridge, don't you?"

"Yes. I have quite a few paintings of both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges."

"In acrylic?"

"Yes."

"Watercolor?"

"Yes."

"I need something now."

"We could arrange a studio visit or I could bring a portfolio to your office."

"Fine! Oh, one last thing. You don't paint the bridge that awful orange, do you?"

"What? I paint the bridge the color it is."

"Well, it doesn't always look like that!" She was pouting. I thought of my fourth grade teacher who disapproved of the fairy tales I wrote and illustrated.

Still thinking of a sale, I treaded water. "The bridge is beautiful in shadow. I've observed it in mist and at night." But I had never painted it that way. I get cold chills like a kind of love when I see the bright vermilion of rustproof paint on the Golden Gate Bridge against green Marin headlands in winter, or against blue sky, or against anything! I heard a growl of approval from the other end of the line and decided I'd best own up to not having any work that looked like what I just described.

"Within two weeks I could bring you a portfolio I think you'd like." I work fast once I know my subject - and I do know this subject. It wasn't an idle boast.

"I need something now!"

"Then I'm afraid I can't help you."

Click! She hung up. Click! So did I.

I never received a return call from this designer, but I thank her now and then in my mind for the lovely story she left me that has amused many people who don't mind That Awful Orange.

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