A while ago I was in another country, in a very remote spot, painting plein air, when a man from a nearby village saw what I was doing and kept wandering into the scene I was painting, a winding road. He would wander down the road, stand there for a while, then wander away, then wander back behind me, then ... wander into the road again.
It took me a while to figure out that what he was doing was trying to get into the painting. He was, in effect, photo bombing my painting. I find this remarkable. First, that he might think I was fast enough to put him into the painting while he was standing there. I'm pretty fast, but not really all that fast in oils. And secondly... and here is what I'm thinking tonight.... he wanted to be remembered. He wanted to be remembered, for somebody to notice that he was there. He wanted the immortality (? hmmm? depends on the painter, I suppose) of being in a painting.
In an earlier blog post I was fretting that people often like to stand in front of me while I sketch in museums. It just occurred to me - are those people in headsets trying to photobomb my sketch?
Suppose you are a good artist but you are slow as molasses and besides, you only work from professional models who can hold a pose for a long time. Wouldn't it be a wonderful thing if you could speed up things and draw or paint some average Joe and just... well, just give it to them?
I try to do this whenever I can. I will draw or paint practically anybody who sincerely wants me to, to tell you the honest truth, as long as they hold still, let me light them the way I want to and (very importantly) don't try to direct what I'm doing. I don't always want to give the drawing or painting to the person - I am trying to make a living with this, after all, and sometimes people would rather be paid for their time - but when I do give the drawing away, it's been such a memorable experience, for me, anyway. Especially when you reach across cultures. It's been wonderful. Art really does have the power to unite, and all it takes is pencils, paper and some patience.
People want to be noticed, to be seen, to be remembered, to have a record that they existed. I suppose photos supply a lot of that but there is something very special about having an artist paint or draw you, of being truly looked at for once in your life. I'll write more about this later on.