Important Lessons on the Value of Art
I was sitting in downtown Los Angeles in front of a juice bar in the jewelry district on Spring St. I sat on a wooden crate with my leg slung on the tabletop. I was waiting for the rest of my group to arrive. We had a full day of painting ahead. I was lost in my thought, when I quietly heard, “Excuse me, Miss.” I looked up and saw a tall black man on a bike with a cardboard sign which he waived at me. The sign stated he would draw me for $10. He was well groomed and he owned a bike but I thought he was likely one of the many homeless living in the mission nearby. I told him that I was waiting for friends and was not sure I would have time. He smiled at me and promised to be quick. As a fellow artist I wanted to help him out. I thought, ” who knew perhaps he would be really good.” So, I consented. I tried to be a good model and hold my pose. He would look at me and smile with delight and then look back at his work. I watched him. He had taken a regular pen from his bag and he seemed to be scribbling. I in hope was looking for signs he was hatching or cross hatching. He worked quickly and was done in under the ten minutes he promised. He proudly handed me the sheet of paper which I later noticed was printed on the back, likely recycled from a local printer in the library or a Kinkos. He declared with a huge smile, “It looks just like you.” I handed him the ten dollars and took a glance.. he had signed it Andrew Ward McDaniel Jr., at the bottom. I didn’t really think it look much like me, but I liked Andrew. I admired his spirit and willingness to take what little he had to offer something to someone, give himself a purpose and improve his life. Looking back I wished I had shared that I was an artist and encouraged him to continue to develop his talent at the library. I shook his hand and thanked him and wished him a good day. I thought about leaving the picture behind a few times. I told a few people that I showed the drawing to that I though I looked a bit like Fiona from Shrek. Later when me painting teacher showed me a portrait her son had painted of her .. warning us that she looked a bit like Michael Jackson in it.. I felt a bit less guilty for my comments. The portrait made it home from LA and I realized I would be keeping, in fact it felt a bit like a treasure. Andrew had drawn it for me. I had purchased it. We had shared a moment together. And the love I feel for this unrefined ballpoint pen sketch on recycled paper taught me a lesson about how people also value my own artwork. I may not always feel that I have the most talent or the best paintings but when someone decides to support me and my work, they will treasure my gift too.