Gently, gently, they dabbed the paint as the posh cafeteria rattled around them.
A young woman who would someday be described as striking sat at one table in a blue dress with a copy of Hobbes’ “Leviathan” and a notebook. At another, a parent reached over to inspect his kids’ collar for stains or spills. A couple sat on one side of one table to share a dish and hold hands.
Others moved. Others ate. Others chatted and talked about all the art they had seen that day.
But taking up three tables in the back of the Art Institute of Chicago cafeteria, gently, gently, four architects painted.
“I guess you could say we all grew up together as novice architects,” an Asian man leaning back in one of the chairs said.
He was the only non-white one, and also the only one with any color left in his hair. He shared a table with a thin white man with a crown of snowy hair. The white man held court the most, chattering and chittering about this and that. A woman, thin and proper, sat at a table by the window looking out on the snow-covered courtyard, occasionally chatting back.
Another woman sat at a third table in. She talked to no one, just touched paintbrush to card stock.
With thin brushes, they all touched and dabbled intricate watercolors. No easels here. They spread their palettes and stock over the cafeteria tables, hunching over to create landscapes, flowers, the courtyard outside, even the coffee cup the woman by the table sipped upon, all in bright exploding colors.
Architects, all of them. Designing buildings and renovating homes. Painting the natural when not building the man-made.
“It’s a good way to get you outside, away from the computer. We usually paint outside, but …” the woman trailed off, gesturing with a paintbrush at the ice and snow outdoors. “We talked to the food manager here about six weeks ago. We needed a place where we could sit, eat, with a view.”
The woman rattled off a slew of connections between the friends — who worked with whom, who went to college with who’s husband, who has shown where.
She was making it too complicated.
They’re friends. They’re colleagues. They paint together, outside when the weather’s nice and in a crowded cafeteria when not. What more can be said? What more needs to?
As the crowd milled, slurped, ate, studied and checked for stains and spills, gently gently the architects paint.