Thanks, Mom: Artist's day is masterpiece of good luck


It began as one of the most ordinary weekdays, an everyday Wednesday. It became one of the best Wednesdays of Liz Dyla's life.

Dyla, a junior at the Maryland Institute College of Art, was walking down State Street in her hometown of Chicago with her mother, Marie, to get some slides of her work printed when Marie spotted famed actress Emma Thompson. In Chicago shooting her new film Stranger Than Fiction, Thompson was eating at a table outside Carmine's Restaurant. The Dyla duo walked over, introduced themselves as huge fans and struck up what turned into a 20-minute conversation.

During their chat, Marie Dyla mentioned that her daughter was an artist and that she had some sample slides in her purse. Thompson took a look and commented on one in particular, an oil and pastel painting of strawberries and other tropical fruits that Dyla had done while in high school. She offered it to Thompson, who cheerfully accepted. Later, after getting it framed, Dyla would deliver it to Thompson's hotel.

"She was very kind and extremely talkative and very down-to earth," Dyla said of Thompson, who later wrote and called to express her thanks. "[She's] a very nice person."

That same day, as the Dylas shopped in a small grocery store near their Gold Coast neighborhood, the excited mother started talking to a stranger about the Thompson run-in.

"She's very proud of what I do, and she wanted to brag about my recent success," Dyla said. "It was very random."

The stranger was Michael Anderson, owner of an upscale pastry and chocolate shop on Chicago's fashionable Michigan Avenue. After he saw the strawberries slide, he commissioned Dyla on the spot to paint a mural with the same fruit motif in his store.

An ecstatic Dyla called relatives and e-mailed friends with the news. But rather than go out for a celebratory dinner, she got started planning her new job.

"We were very happy and very excited that it happened, but when I get a new piece to do, I'm very concentrated on exactly what I have to do to be ready to do the work," she said.

Now, about three weeks later, she's just about finished what will become her first mural.

"I'm happy with it," she said, adding she's received many compliments on the work in progress.

And she has just one word to describe the Wednesday that changed her life: "Wonderful."

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