Whatever Catches Your Eye by Verne Thieme

Special edition resident blog

Throughout the many years of working with art teachers and mentors, when I would ask the question, “What should I paint?” the answer was aways, “Whatever catches your eye.” This story is a classic example of that.

painting by Verne Thieme
Painting by Verne

On a beautiful June morning I was driving to work from Wales to downtown Milwaukee. Traffic was slowed by a paving project on Highway 83 between Wales and Delafield. Suddenly, directly in front of my car, I noticed a very attractive young lady holding a stop sign for cars going north.

With the sunlight back lighting through her straw hat, I decided to ask to take her picture. I checked that my camera was handy in the car. I asked to take the picture, and she said, “Yes.” I shot the picture and then proceeded on to my job at JK Art Directions.

Later that week I got the pictures back and decided to paint a portrait from the picture of the “traffic lady,” although I didn’t have her name or phone number.

That happened about fourteen years ago. Fast forward to mid-October, 2021. I was putting my Pewaukee house up for sale. And in the process, I was showing some of my art to my neighbors and friends, hoping they would help relieve me of the burden of reducing the number of paintings that I had stowed away.

Suddenly, Annie, my good friend and neighbor, asked about the girl in a painting that she had just pulled off the shelf. I told her the story about the painting, and Annie told me that she thought she could find information about the traffic lady by posting a picture of the painting (taken with her phone) on Facebook.

It seemed just hours later that Annie was back at my house with news that she had the girl’s location, name, and telephone number. Annie called her for a Saturday morning meeting at my house to introduce her to the portrait that she had never seen. Annie created a party atmosphere by inviting friends and neighbors to my house at ten o’clock on that Saturday morning. What a beautiful, wonderful, and somewhat emotional day! 

“Did you just ask what the price of the painting was when I presented it to the traffic lady? The tear on her cheek and a grateful thank you to me was truly about all I could handle.”