m wood pen

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HARVEST acrylic painting by M Wood

“You are like a hurricane, there’s home in your eyes.

And I’m getting blown away, somewhere safer where the feeling stays,

I wanna love you but I’m getting blown away.

I am just a dreamer, but you are just a dream.

And you could have been anyone to me.”

– Neil Young

Time is such a rascal. Nearly 40 years after hanging out with a really cool, quirky guy during my last two months of college, I landed a commission from him. Despite the decades, our connection was as solid and goofy as it had ever been. Which reminded me of why we had clicked so solidly in the first place.

Fast forward to the here and now, after a hilarious and food-filled evening with on a sort of reconnaissance mission from my college, I drove over to see Peter with my good friend Dee. Greeted with a table set with a King Henry VIII sized feast, we filled our glasses and plates and settled into our host’s gorgeous living room. He intentionally blasted music which played a perfect soundtrack to our hours of catching up. Let the reminiscing begin!

A shameful admission, I had never heard Neil Young before I met Peter in the spring of 1982, but ever since then, and every single time I hear Neil Young, I think of my quirky and creative buddy. Kookie is a word that has been used to describe me, and what a treat to meet someone cut from the same cloth. It was as though we, as college kids, spoke the same secret language, leaving everything boring off of the table. So at that point, I had to graduate and could not wait to get my life started. Peter stayed to finish his final year. Life took us onward to the future, whatever on earth that sorted itself out to be. Frankly, we were a happy little pair and as I often wonder, what could have become of that if we’d had more time to ruminate? Where’s Robert Frost when you need him?

I’d heard snippets about him from our mutual friends, and over the years may have seen him at a reunion or two. I know that I have a sweet birthday card tucked into an ancient diary of mine written in his unforgettable scrawly handwriting. A what if, perhaps? Or more wonderfully, a lifelong friend. I knew I’d always remember him, a funny little falling star who sparked wonder and laughter.

Our reunion was without awkwardness or tiptoeing: we fell immediately into our zany pace, no subject off the table, laughs and confessions of the twists and turns of our lives, and the evening ended with his pointing to a blank wall with the following statement, “If only I knew an artist who could paint something for me to put here.”

Done.

A dream client, his only request was that the painting be colorful, and thought provoking. So, during my drive back to Chicago, crossing that wide Mississippi, I played Neil Young as my inspiration. I pictured us as the two young kids we once were stepping into one final moment of fun before the shackles of adulthood descended. The mirth, wonder and contemplation of listening to records in his dorm room; the silence of an Iowa night perched on a hilltop gazing far far far into the horizon; dots of white farm houses hither and yon, a sole yellow window alight to guide one home.

Well, there was the painting, in my mind. And in lieu of a cornfield or soybeans, I needed a burst of harvest colors to pull the eye and mind into the beauty of the seasons, for no matter what, they are here to churn us forward and forward still, into the future, into the unknown. With the glad company of old friends by our sides.

I hope he likes it!

Gosh, everything is better with Hallie! I love her so! Happy Birthday, darlin’!

I’m swimming in young love. Granted, I’m the furthest thing from “young” but was thrilled to have been commissioned to create custom designed wedding invitation suites for two wonderful young couples. Amazed by the detail and thoughtfulness required these days (my age is showing), I was eager to capture their every wish so that my illustrations atop their printed paper goods, be they mailed, set up at a table or inserted in hotel greeting goodie bags reflected who they are.

Every client arrives with their story: past present and future. Color palette. Whimsical anecdotes. Sticky family drama. Cherished dogs. Favorite fonts. Romantic proposals. Honeymoon plans. Guest lists, venues and menus.

My education was a mixed bag of leaping from whim to whim between English Literature, History, and Art. When that combo failed to land me a career after college graduation, I ran an ancient printing press for beer money, and then went to graduate school to study Architecture, Art History and Interior Design.

Young love and chasing my own creative dreams back then found me improvising between the mixed bag of talent that I had scooped up, landing me in an architecture firm across the river from the Merchandise Mart, swimming in the massive design beauty of the city of big shoulders. Interiors, exteriors, color, textiles, space planning, site visits, punch lists: all of the structure that came with those years in that industry formed the framework of how to adapt any vision to every project. Designing a room or a wedding invitation is the same thing: get to know your client, and give them something better than they ever expected.

When life took me on a hairpin turn, I applied this structure with my funny retail past and letterpress machine experience into creating a notecard company. Survival mode for an at-home income became a wildly successful vocation which lead me further and farther into a life of drawing.

Was any of this planned? Were these steps of gaining knowledge and building skills at all intentional?

No.

But where it all lead has been a delight of creative endeavors spanning decades and filling dozens of sturdy file boxes with original art, illustrating books, visiting my framed art at Crate&Barrel, flipping through magazines to see bit about my products, sending greeting cards with my art featured on the front and name on the back, and each winter cozying up beneath the crisp flannel of sublime Garnet Hill holiday bedding printed in sleds, skis and the North Pole.

So, this spring and summer found me back to getting to know these four fine people, eager to stamp their love for one another for eternity. And as earnestly and attentively as possible, I took the whispers of their dreams and set them to pen and paper, envelope and place card, postcard and menu.

Next up? My daughter and her fiancée. The task is mighty, the map unknown, but the love is true.

Vive La France
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