Oftentimes your children’s activities take you into places that you would otherwise not be drawn to…especially if you’re not someone who can draw.

This was the case today when we visited some of the artists’ open studios on the ARTrails tour. Our daughter’s art teacher at Petaluma High requires her students to participate in ARTrails. This was my first year to go; in previous years when we had students in Ms. Tillinghast’s class, Steve as the designated “art parent” had taken the kids to visit the artists’ studios.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the blue ARTrails signs that pop up around Sonoma County on two weekends in October. I learned from the printed program, that ARTrails, sponsored by the Arts Council of Sonoma County, has been around a lot longer than I’ve had kids in high school. It’s celebrating its 25th anniversary, and this year, there were almost 150 artists throughout the county who gave visitors a peek into their world and a chance to appreciate their talents over the last two weekends.

When we were deciding which studios to visit, it was no problem to find plenty of artists to choose from who are close to home. We headed to the old hatchery building on 7th Street near downtown Petaluma where seven artists have their studios. The exposed brick walls of the building make a wonderful gallery for the artists’ work.

Although I liked all the artists’ work, I was particularly intrigued by the striking florals and still lifes painted in oil by Joanne Tepper. Steve, who was a fine arts major and knows about such things, appreciated her skill with the medium. I just liked her work because she brought out the exquisite beauty of an ordinary pansy. My favorite painting of hers was of a sprouting red onion that was dramatic because of its simplicity. It was fun to fantasize for a minute or two about where I would hang it.

After touring the studios, the thought that stayed with me the most was that people who pursue art as a living are wired differently than me.

Whereas I go to a job and complete very clearly defined tasks and work to someone else’s expectations, an artist is really only working to please themselves. Sure, they hope that ultimately their work will have value to someone else, but they don’t know that at the time they are creating it.

If I were an artist, it would be hard for me not to wonder, “Am I wasting my time?” Yet perhaps in spite of some angst, an artist believes enough in what they are doing to complete a piece and go onto the next one.

So tomorrow, when I’m driving to work, I’ll have a new appreciation for the artists who are heading to their studios to spend eight hours working to bring their artistic vision to life.