Note: This is an older blog entry, originally posted August 22, 2018.
This past weekend I went to Concerts on the Dock to read (I know it’s weird but I’m trying to blend in with the local community so, you know). Anyway, I’m perched atop a stool, sipping ginger ale and enjoying my book, when this kid (probably 8 or 9) waltzes up and unhesitatingly plants herself on the stool next to mine…and starts spinning. It bears mentioning that although my stool is also capable of spinning, I am not spinning.
Now, as a frequent “public reader”, I am used to being interrupted, so it’s really no big deal. Being the warm gentleman that I am, I take a moment to glance up from my book…and deliver a deliberate 1-second cold stare across the top edge of the page before dropping my eyes and finding my place again. This communications burst catches her mid-spin and I’m worried she’s missed it and won’t understand that even though I’m ignoring her, I really wish she would just leave.
“What book are you reading?”
Dammit. As I insert my bookmark (slowly, for emphasis), I begin to describe the thesis in as few and simple terms as possible.
What follows is a conversation about Harry Potter, someone named Percy Jackson, mythological heroes wielding magic swords, video games, toy swords, real swords and at this point I’m wondering if maybe I should try my stare again. My new friend (her words – not mine) explains that much like many others at Lowe Mill, she too is an aspiring artist. She runs off, but before I even have a chance to sneak a longing look towards my book, she returns with her art supplies. It’s a large kit containing oil pastels, watercolors, colored pencils, felt markers… in short: the works.
Apparently, it’s a hand-me-down from her older brother, and upon close inspection, it’s obvious this kit has seen better days. Several of the colored pencils are worn down to short nubs. The eraser is missing. And what’s left of the watercolors is cracked and crumbling. My new artist friend informs me that she is currently putting together her portfolio and hopes to share studio space with an established artist once she has enough work to put on display. She has apparently already sold drawings to her friends at 25¢ a piece.
You might say I have a soft spot for struggling artists, so when she asks if I’d like to buy art from her, I smile, and say:
“I don’t have any cash, sorry.”
Turns out this one’s pro bono, and I get to choose what she draws me. What a kid. I suggest she draw me something from that dumb fantasy novel she wouldn’t shut up about earlier (I didn’t use those words exactly), and she gets right to work. While she labors over a new creation, I step aside to acquire some cash.
As a new art investor, and her first sponsor, I figure I can do better than 25¢ – after all, it’s important to support local artists, and she really needs new supplies (it’s for her portfolio you understand).
After overcoming some minor obstacles along the way (that missing eraser turned out to be a real problem), I am presented with a stunning still-life pencil drawing of a sword with blue sharpie flames. As she removes her newly minted masterpiece from its college-ruled spiral-bound canvas, I surprise her with not one, but three crisp $1 bills.
“This is for new art supplies”,
I tell her with a smile, but just sternly enough to let her know I’m counting on her to work hard, apply herself, and make her dream of becoming an artist a reality (of course it went without saying that I had purchased her work at twelve times the going rate and expected some return on investment). Well… someday.
“Someday this will be worth lots of money”,
I tell her. We grin at each other. She’s happy. I steal an anticipatory glance towards my book. I’m happy too. We shake hands as up-and-coming professionals and their altruistic supporters often do, and bid one another farewell.
Fast-forward ten minutes.
I’m roused from my book by the swirling of pink hair above a spinning stool. It’s none other than my young artist friend.
“Hey, you’re back”,
I say, but before I can ask her how her portfolio is coming along, she holds up a small zip-lock bag for me to inspect.
“This one’s amethyst, and this one’s rose quartz”,
she says excitedly, and I do my best to match her enthusiasm. A true polymath, this one. She tells me the story of how she just got them from a vendor down the hall. How they sell all different kinds. How they only cost $3.
The word “crestfallen” gets thrown around a lot these days.
I hide my disappointment by nodding silently to everything she’s telling me, but I don’t really hear what she’s saying anymore. I’m a fool. This is what I get for thinking with my heart. For doing something kind. This is why you don’t give kids money. Because they don’t understand the value of saving and just end up blowing it on the first shiny piece of junk that catches–
“Want to buy more of my art?”
I look at her expectant face. We both laugh. It’s a strange mix: the mirthless chuckling of a man who’s just been hoodwinked by childhood innocence, and the cautious giggling of a four-and-a-half foot mineralogist who isn’t sure why we’re laughing.
I’m suddenly aware of the odd sight this kid and I are no doubt presenting to bystanders. I tell her that it was nice meeting her and that someone is probably looking for her, and send her on her merry way.
The future is still open to this kid, with all the occupations she would no doubt excel at, from artist… to con-artist. All I know for sure, is that my cold stare needs work. And if anyone is interested in original, local art, I can point you in the right direction.