Like geese that head south each year, Bill and Margarete returned to Los Angeles every Winter. Even after they built Aldergrove, they never broke links with their friends to the south. It was more from necessity than anything else. They had to make sure that they earned enough money to maintain the artists’ colony. So for a couple of years, Bill and Margarete traveled up and down the West Coast of the United States and Canada.
In Los Angeles, they had their own special circle of students, painters, and friends. Jerry and Karla Benzel were two such friends and refugees from Czechoslovakia. Jerry started out as a maître d’ in Australia. He emigrated to the United States and started a restaurant in Seal Beach, California, called the Glider Inn. Bill and Margaret dined there often with groups of students and friends. The Benzels also commissioned several paintings which they hung in the restaurant.
Irene Macik, a woman with a lot of energy, was another special friend. Like a lot of Bill’s students, she followed him when he demonstrated in Woodland Hills, Cerritos, or Hollywood. Irene was a teacher’s aide in one of the Los Angeles area schools. She took Bill’s techniques to heart and got a job teaching adult education. She was able to begin a new career and taught Bill’s techniques to more and more students. Irene supported Bill and Margarete in their classes. She created brochures and promoted Bill in many different venues. She also got Bill an opportunity to demonstration in the public school system. Irene said that she was president of Bill’s fan club, even though there was none. “You are my Elvis Presley and I will follow the Master!” she used to say with a big happy laugh. Such wonderful things happen when people get together and help each other. “It’s the same in painting or life,” Bill often said.
Although people were supportive, Bill and Margarete still struggled to make ends meet. Often “homeless”, one of Bill’s agents let them live in a small room in the back of an art gallery. All they had was a refrigerator, a bathroom, and a stove. Bill’s living conditions hadn’t changed much since he arrived in America. Bill and Margarete often got their clothes through Goodwill stores. They were too busy, though, to pay much attention to their situation. They didn’t need much money and they had a lot of friends.
Bill was working non-stop now. He held regular demonstrations – both paid and free. He continued his shows in the shopping malls. He created paintings for galleries. He taught classes, and private lessons. There never seemed enough time, though, to get everything done.
Margarete and Bill also had difficulty keeping up with their students’ demands for art supplies. Bill would ask, “What do we have more of today, brushes or knives?”
Margarete would reply, “We’re almost out of brushes.”
“Okay,” Bill said, “today I’ll do the whole painting with the palette knife.” And he did!
The next day, they would get more brushes, so Bill would paint with the almighty brush. He was painting on canvas or canvas board, whatever was available.
They were also still wrestling with the formulation for “Magic White”. Bill used to laugh when folks talked about the romantic artist’s life.
When they were at the Downey gallery, Mrs. Lenore Boone came in to see Bill. Her husband had been a judge in Downey before he died, and she wanted Bill to do a painting of certain objects that reminded her of him. She had his eyeglasses, his Bible, and his fiddle and she asked Bill to combine them into a painting. When Bill finished the painting, Margarete called Mrs. Boone to pick it up. When Mrs. Boone saw it, she sat down and cried. She said, “It is just beautiful! Thank you.” From then on, they were good friends.
Some of Bill’s paintings were selling for a hundred dollars, and some for even more. His agent took a few and got double the going price. Bill learned that getting a painting into print increased the value of the original painting. Bill’s agent priced one of his paintings that went into print for $4,800! That was almost more than Bill was earning in a year. Unfortunately the painting languished in the gallery unsold. It seemed that the only paintings that did sell were the smaller ones. Bill tried to do some larger paintings during those years. He created a series of four large canvases of the seasons. Each painting told the story of one season with fields and farmers, streams, and proud, proud trees. They were remarkable paintings. Bill, though, never had the time to do any more like them.
Irene, their friend from Los Angeles, once asked Bill what it was like to lead such an exciting life as an artist.
“Oh, it’s okay,” Bill told her. “Just like everything else. Maybe a little more light and shadow than some people have.”
Margarete and Bill ran the colony at Aldergrove for almost four years before they had to close it. They never quite managed to make ends meet, and other things were happening with Bill’s career as a teacher and painter. Margarete and Bill sold their home and moved on again.
Bill always dreamed of creating another colony like Aldergrove. He hoped to bring artists together from all over the world. He hoped to have them share all kinds of styles and techniques – traditional and even modern. He thought of the differing visions of nature and experiences of life they would share with each other. He thought they all could learn from each other, sing and paint and just be happy together – like the times at Aldergrove.