I often receive many inquires about the poppy picture painted a few years ago which was featured in my Benicia, California store in the historic Tannery Building. The painting was done quickly without much thought but became a conversation piece and symbol for “energy” in the building.
Before the poppies came the murals which Cynthia Giroux and I painted on the drab walls of the building (and most of which are still there). The owner at the time, Roger Steck, was the power behind the brushes that pushed us beyond our limits to create a village of sorts with our three-dimensional imagery. The subjects were born from the minds of those who leased their spaces. The original thoughts between Cynthia and myself were to imitate the outdoor scenery from sunrise to sunset, adding wildlife as we went from one side to the other, following the U-shaped hallways of the Tannery.
One morning, I arrived to see beautiful painted cranes flying over the waterfront studio we shared at the time. Inside were arches following the flow of the interior, which Cynthia had added during the night. They brought grace to the drab art and space. From then on it was a patchwork of creativity, which became a series of subjects. Each day revealed new surprises as the shopkeepers came to work! Vineyards, oceans, mountains, orchards, squirrels, Hansel and Gretel huts, bridges, color vortexes, a mystical woman peeking around an ancient oak tree, and Chinese mystical mountains with bamboo were painted by me, while Cynthia formed billowing clouds and skies to compliment the scenery.
The building became a focal point for visitors, school children on field trips, and open house town events. Art students and any children walking by were encouraged to paint on the walls and practice their techniques on the incomplete space outside my shop at the front of the building. After class I would edit their efforts, but their energy was forever under the paintings and added to the unique togetherness of the old structure.
Here are a couple of stories about the poppy picture name “The Awakening” which you may find interesting.
There are many stories about the energy of those poppies and the people who were drawn into the store by the red color. One man who only had a few weeks to live stopped to see it. His son whispered to me that his father always wanted to paint but never had the chance, as he had worked hard all his life to support the large family. I silently mixed puddles of watercolor as he talked. Next, I pulled out a sheet of paper and enticed the father to watch me demonstrate a painting technique. When he got close enough, I placed the loaded brush in his hand and pushed down on the brush and his hand as I guided the stroke of a tulip on the paper.
While mixing a greenish color on another brush, I encouraged him to make a few more flowers. Globing (a professional word!) the green at the bottom of the page, I grabbed a straw and had him blow the paint upward toward the red tulips. The colors flowed together and voila – a picture emerged. As the two men watched, after drying the painting with a hairdryer I matted the image and placed his masterpiece in a frame. The old gentleman walked out 15 minutes later with his art. Both men were crying.
The poppies brought them into the Shoppe!
A Napa Valley Home Show offered me radio interviews and a free booth for speaking on Feng Shui that weekend.
A bright image was needed to draw people to the Feng Shui booth. The show was huge, the heat outside intense, the building was cool but dark. At the 11th hour my colleague couldn’t believe I had started a 36 x 48 canvas at about 3 p.m. the day before the show. She was packing Feng Shui items, little zodiac animals, crystals and golden Buddha’s, shaking her head in disbelief at my last-minute decision. “You have several other paintings that would work,” she pleaded. The image manifested itself.
Used to my impulsive “art fits,” as Suzi called them, she closed the door behind her and went home. “The Awakening” was born within a few hours. I packed the piece on the top of the load and drove towards Napa. The early sunrise was splendid and peeking over the famous vineyards as if blessing the day ahead.
Setting up the booth with my friend Suzi and her husband Dell, I placed the new painting in the “Fame” section of the space. Surrounding us as far as the eye could see were builders, garage doors, canopies, siding for homes and cute young guys pushing their construction products. Not the perfect environment for “balance and harmony.”
The booth was packed for four full days. The backlit red poppies could be seen from the entryway. People would follow the Chi down the hall, not knowing why, but just the same, passing all of the other booths on their way to find the source of the energy. Feng Shui was just then coming into vogue, and we were swamped with sales and booked consultations to last for many months.
There are many stories connected to this painting. Quality giclee reprints are for sale.