The Farmer’s Market

Farmers Market

I painted this from some sketches I had done at an early morning market I once visited in Chicago. Yep, that’s right, a farmer’s market in Chicago. I had heard some restaurant owners talking about an early morning place they all went to get their fresh produce for the day. So I got up very early, for an art student, and set off to find this place.


IMG_0100Picture this with me…lots of the restaurant owners and all the produce sellers converged on this couple of block indoor/outdoor area for a few early morning hours at least a couple of times a week to exchange cold cash for raw produce so that they could feed the city, or at least those who eat in the local restaurants. It was a glorious madhouse. People running about shouting out orders for so much of this and so much of that. I sketched and sketched as fast as I could for about three hours until I had hand cramps. And then I went back to my studio to begin to turn it into paintings.


Over the years I’ve gone back to those sketchbooks over and over again. This particular piece came from those original drawings, but many years later. It’s really interesting how, when I look at drawings in a sketchbook like this, I can still hear the shouting, smell the produce and feel the bone-chilling early morning air.

The passage I wrote on this painting is from Genesis 27, and is an ancient Hebrew prayer for blessing, for a full richness of life, “May God give you the dew of heaven, and the richness of the earth, and an abundance of grain and new wine.”

If you’re interested in a print of this painting, well it’s available and waiting to get rescued from my closet.

The Minnesota Museum of Art

A few years ago. Quite a few to be exact. The Minnesota Museum of Art purchased one of my paintings. That was quite an experience for me. Why is that, Michael? I’m so glad you asked.

IMG_0969For years and years I had visited museums and loved every minute of it. I loved the large open rooms, the huge expanses of white walls and the uninterrupted time to study all the various kinds of art. I found it absolutely fascinating.

And I love the artwork. Everything from the solid colored 1960’s canvases to the ornate ancient Chinese body jewelry. It was wonderful. The creativity and craftsmanship was spectacular. But I especially love the marble sculpture, the paintings and the drawings. I would sometimes sit for hours in front on one painting, studying every line and shade and color and stroke. And I would often bring a sketchbook to jot down what I was learning.

At one point, while living in Chicago, I got special permission to bring my easel into the museum to spend a day copying a painting I especially admired. I had read that artists throughout the centuries learned in this way. And I just wanted to learn. The painting I was working from was painted by a fellow called John Singer Sargent. And needless to say, his was much better than any of my three attempts. But I did learn something.

There was one thing I didn’t appreciate, the museum tour guides. As I would be sitting for one place for some time, tour groups would pass through with one guide after another explaining all the things they thought the artist was thinking while working on the work being studied. It seemed to me, as someone who painted every day at that time, that most of what they were attributing to the artist’s thought life just wasn’t reality. But I digress, this is a whole different subject.

Back to the Minnesota Museum of Art. When I walked in that day to see my painting hanging on a wall next to others that I had long admired. Well, it took my breath away. Seriously. I had to sit down and a security guard came quickly over to see if everything was alright. I assured him I was healthy and went back to trying to find any unclaimed oxygen. I just sat there for a while and tears ran down my cheeks. I was thanking God for the ability and joy of recreating his creation on little sheets of paper.

IMG_0971Here is one of the original drawings that led up to the painting. I sometimes get asked if the work I’m creating exists out there in the real world, or is it all made up in my head—and the answer is yes! You can see the various elements in the original drawing, but they are rearranged or changed in the painting. In this way the artist can communicate and create a workable composition.

Anyway, that’s the thought for today. I have recently enjoyed paging through some older sketchbooks and reflecting. Enjoy winter!