Today I stopped in Michaels to buy a new canvas for a painting that I am planning and an older gentleman, with a felt hat on his wispy white hair and clothes a bit large for his slight frame, was standing in the aisle with two large canvases. He said to me, “Are you going to compete with me?” I grinned and said, “Probably not,” because my canvas was half the size of his. I asked him if he was an artist and he laughed and said that he had painted a pope, a Texas woman governor, and a flower for Lady Bird Johnson. He said his specialty was portraits and I asked if he gave lessons because I am woefully inept at painting portraits. He told me that I was NOT inept but just had not made enough mistakes in painting portraits to learn the correct way to do them. He told me to NEVER quit trying.
Next, this man asked me what I painted and I told him that I love painting flowers and he said, “I can guess that you paint very tightly with your nose almost against the canvas.” I threw back my head and laughed because that is a VERY accurate description of the way I paint. He said, “You must learn to paint FREELY! Let the paint flow! And always paint in BRIGHT colors because they are the best!”
As he started wandering toward the checkout counter, he turned back to me and said, “Look me up. I am Walter Meyer and I live on Lake Shore Drive.” So, I came home and looked him up. What an amazing story this man has and I am still pinching myself that I was actually talking to him.
It turns out that Walter Meyer is a German concentration camp survivor who, according to his biography, miraculously recovered from his experiences in the concentration camp and escaped finally to South America.
He earned three doctorates, worked as an interpreter for President Lyndon Johnson, practiced as a psychologist, and taught at the University of Texas. He also tried running a German restaurant but, when faced with financial difficulties, discovered he could sell his art work for large sums of money. This led to a commission to do a painting of the head of Christ for Pope John Paul II, a portrait of Ann Richards, governor of Texas, and also a painting for Lady Bird Johnson—a bluebonnet.
The article about Meyer says that he has a bright outlook on life and views the bits of nature around his house with great pleasure. And I am still pinching myself that I stood in the same aisle of Michaels and talked with this delightful gentleman with such an astonishing background. I can hardly wait to find a copy of his biography, Tomorrow Will Be Better, and read more about Walter Meyer!