Thursday, May 29, 2008

Freddie, Art Critic

Among other activities, our watercolor organization arranges weekly paint outs (or, to be fancy, plein-air painting outings). I usually do not participate in them, as they collide with our critique group meetings, and I am not quite a landscape painter.

But today was an afternoon session. Plus it was held in a Japanese garden. Plus the organizer, PleinieJ, is a wonderful fiber artist (in addition to being a great plein air painter), so my sister - also a fiber artist - wanted to look at PleinieJ's work and show off with her own (after impressing the critique group with them this morning. Hey, one of the works had gallstones - which she incorporated into the piece after undergoing a gall bladder surgery).

So we went.

It's a lovely place, as Japanese gardens tend to be: the token wooden bridge, a pond filled with koi fish, ducks, sculpted little trees, background rocks - and I am sure somewhere in the garden was hiding the inevitable bamboo thingy with water dripping through. Y'know, the thingy that makes this noise without which a Japanese garden is just not it. Painters with their easels were spread all around the garden, rendering the beauty with their brushes; my sister was taking photos as she's never seen a Japanese garden before (well, she hasn't, actually); and I - I looked for something to sketch.

I tried drawing the ducks... the plants... almost attempted the koi - all with no success.

And suddenly - an adorable chubby little kid, accompanied by his mom and aunt approached the pond. He stood there fascinated, admiring the ducks and fish and water and little tadpoles and whatnot. The other painters frowned, as he blocked their view - but I was beaming, as I have found my subject!!

I skecthed his gesture quickly, as - being a little kid, he moved quite a bit, but I recalled what our incredible sketching teacher,
Jim Smyth, used to tell us: "Little kids and athletes have a very limited repertoire of poses - if you sketch them, and they move, just wait till they get back to that pose again". As always, he was right.

So, I sketched the little guy, trying to capture his nonchalant yet curious pose. One minute - that's all I had, before he abandoned the ducks and came to see what I was doing. I showed him the sketch. He was utterly unimpressed, informed me his name was Freddie, and went back to the pond. They left, and I sat there, adding some colors and the surroundings. Then they came back. Freddie was very keen on feeding the ducks (by that time, my camera was ready!). While he was becoming popular with the ducks, his aunt approached me, and after a lot of hesitation asked if she could take a photo of my sketch.

"Sure", I replied graciously.

But then, I gave it another thought, and said "actually... let ME take a photo, and I'll give you the original".

She was quite surprised by the offer, and after I made sure she indeed likes it (and won't just toss it in the nearest garbage can), I insisted.

I took a photo, signed the sketch, and carefully tore the page out of my sketchbook. Again, Freddie came to see what the commotion is about. Again, he couldn't cares less, showed me the bag of marshmallows he took out of his mom's basket, and exclaimed "Mine!".

His mom offered me one - and he tried to hide his anxiety. I politely said "No" (you don't want to upset the model!) but she insisted, so I carefully took one piece. By the time my sister was offered a marshmallow, Freddie's wide open eyes were showing increasing signs of distress. As tempted as it was, we rejected a second piece. After all, that would have been like taking candy from a baby...

We parted as friends, and after a while, I admit had some pangs of regret that I gave the sketch away, as I liked it quite a bit. But hey - a random act of kindness. Plus, I took so many photos of Freddie, that he might become a series one day.

Obviously, Freddie's own opinion was that a piece of marshmallow was way too high a price to pay for a sketch...

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