Monday, February 07, 2005

Two artists collide

I went to Vons this evening for buying, not brainstorming. As I was leaving a man addressed me.
"Miss?"
(I was wearing my Elmo T-shirt and jeans, with my hair down. Funny how people view the uniform and not the person.)
I looked up.
"Would you like to contribute a dollar to support the arts?"
He was here when I went in, but farther from the door. I've seen him here before, and at Target, and Starbucks...
He looked like an artist---- well, like one stereotype of the artist---white pants, white T-shirt, black leather jacket, long skinny ponytail and huge portfolio.

"I do support the arts," I said. " I've seen you before. So, what is it that you're doing?"

"I'm raising money to support my art." He indicated his portfolio. Taped to the front were about a dozen 5 x 7 copies of pencil drawings. They weren't bad, really.

"So, you're begging."
"I'm supporting my art."
"Soooo...." (He rubbed me the wrong way, for some reason, and I found myself suddenly in the mood to pick a fight.) "Why don't you get a day job?"

Like the rest of us. I thought. There's a vague flood of endless hours working hard, doing things I didn't really want to, to support myself those YEARS until my art started to sell. Maybe I was feeling a little self righteous, knowing the long hours I work even now, to make a living as an artist.
I don't know this guy from Adam's off-housecat. I don't know his story, how he may have arrived at this spot, whether there was some reason he couldn't do something other than beg. ---He looked pretty fit to me. Mid 30's maybe, or late 20's with drugs or alcohol...

I saw his chin lift. I knew what was coming...

"Because, I am an artist."

Bingo. Told ya.

Suddenly I didn't feel like talking to this guy anymore. He was making the rest of us look bad...

"Well, good luck there, bud," I said. I turned and walked to my old, beat up car. I had a nice warm dollar in my pocket.
I thought briefly about going back. His work looked to be fantasy in nature. I could tell him about conventions and grant opportunities and...
Fuck it. I surprised myself. I'm tired of trying to rescue people. He has every right to do things his way. It's none of my business. I felt suddenly selfish and miserable. I left a different way to avoid having to drive right past him. I looked in the rearview before turning out, just in time to see a woman handing him money.

Good luck, buddy. I meant it this time.

I'll see him again, no doubt. Maybe I'll look at those drawings again. But I won't give the fucker a dime.

I'm going to get Orion to sleep and tidy up, then get back into the studio to finish a strange little table I'm sending to Boskone on Wednesday.
G'night.

2 comments:

Carl V. said...

Beggars of any kind are always and interesting phenomenon. Working in the social work field I determined a long time ago that I wouldn't make it a habit of giving people on the street money. There are too many organizations which help people are donations are usually better served going there. I'd much rather do that, or buy them lunch, then give money and have to wonder where its really going or if they are legitimately in need or just scamming.

Maureen said...

I don't understand why he wasn't just selling mini sketches or paintings (with contact info on the back) for a buck. Just a little hand-done sample something... gets his art "out there" along with contact info, and seems a lot less dodgy than begging for money...more like an art version of busking.