I love Easter because it symbolizes rebirth. Who doesn’t like the idea of a do-over? I grew up in the Christian church, but Christians have not cornered the market on rebirth. This symbol is in every culture and religion throughout world history- Adonis (Greek), Horus (Egyptian), Jesus (Christian), Krishna (Hindu)… they go on and on. But they all symbolize rebirth and resurrection. It can be deeply personal when it is identified with a chosen faith, but no matter where or how you connect with it, it is a universal symbol that rejuvenates the human spirit.


I’m out in Seattle painting the first bee-themed mural of the season. Spring is springing and it is time for the bees to wake from a long winter. For me, hope tends to seep in and permeate my soul on Easter. Some go to church, but I prefer to paint. Even after decades of being an artist, after hundreds of murals and thousands of days with a paintbrush in my hand, painting still seems magical to me.  To me, as an artist, a box of paint and brushes is possibility.


It has been about a year since the first bee was painted on the wall in LaBelle, Florida. I spent an enormous amount of this past year trying things that didn’t work. Or… to put a lighter spin on it… trying things that were necessary to bring me to the next step in creating this initiative. I walked through a lot of fear and vulnerability wondering if I was someone that could successfully make the leap from the already precarious nature of being a professional artist to being a professional artist that focused all of his attention on one subject, the bees. I have no desire or intention to martyr myself. And I wondered if people want bees on their walls? I suffered some mild depression as my bank account plummeted. I questioned everything about this choice to do this work. Honestly, if I hadn’t literally known in the core of my being that I had to do this work, I would have ditched it in a heartbeat. A painter paints because they cannot, not paint. I don’t paint for emotional therapy. In fact, being a painter (or an artist of any kind) is often quite masochistic. But I can’t not do it. And what makes an artist an artist, is that we create based on what inspires us… and the bees have washed a tsunami of inspiration over me, so here I am.


I do have a method to take some of the pressure off. I have a litmus test for the big faith-based decisions. I lie down on the ground, slowly close my eyes and visualize myself on my deathbed taking my last breath, having my last thought. Then, with the issue in question in my mind, I ask, “As I lie here on my deathbed, do I wish I had done this or not done this?” The answer is ALWAYS immediate. Since I am in Seattle painting bees, you already know the answer I keep getting.


Easter, this year, is coinciding with some grateful momentum around The Good of the Hive’s mission to paint 50,000 honeybees in murals across the US (and beyond). As of today, I have only painted 244 honeybees toward this mission... and I bent the rules of the initiative for 225 of them because they were bees that I was hired to paint not in public and not on walls. But these patrons appeared when I really needed the money to keep going. The placement of them didn’t fit with the plan I’d originally envisioned, but a big part of this initiative is letting go and letting things change when needed. This is a collective effort. So those patrons will be honored in this journey with as much gratitude and celebration as anywhere the bees land in the coming years.


And as of today, there are 20 sites ready and willing to participate in this initiative. We are booked with murals through 2016 and beyond! So the bee count is about to start climbing… and hopefully the actual bee count across the world will begin to climb simultaneously. On this symbolic day of hope, I took a moment and rather than question whether I will wish I had done this when I am dying, I simply laid there and pictured the bees rising again in perfect balance with the natural world around them.


Peace to all.

Matthew WilleyComment