The small. self-contained, Hispanic boy who comes into the Paint Club is a delight. He stands there and watches carefully, doesn’t speak unless spoken to; once invited to watch a critique session where each painters work is evaluated by everyone, he sat through the whole thing, even though it dragged on a bit.
Do you like to draw? Some.
Landscapes, portraits, what?
Finally I elicit, he’d like some art supplies.
It’s all I can do not to sweep him up in my arms.
He’s been fascinated by art since he was a kid, he says. He’s all of eight or nine—too young to be in the Senior Center, but no one will ever run such a well-behaved child out.
He’s become a ghostly presence, watching, ever watching.
It’s fascinating to be the object of such fascination—is he judging what I’m doing? Is he thinking: I could do better (I bet he soon will).
When I realize he lacks materials I start thinking—what of mine would he best suited. Much of what remains to me is professional stuff that I doubt I’ll ever use again. But I don’t want to overwhelm him or distress his parents, make him feel like an object of charity.
Art has moved on—to the computer, to the web, where I will never follow, my hands won’t tolerate it. Half the charm of art lies in making it with your hands. The vision that is inside your head takes form (or not) and you have created a physical, tangible reality that didn’t exist before. You can hold it in your hands, touch it, feel it, smell it. This is so wondrous you are charmed by the power, not of the thing itself, but by the process: transformation of an idea into what may be a work of art.
And here’s this kid, no taller than my shoulder when I’m sitting down, lusting, yearning for this experience. How can I resist participating? Not that he’s likely to turn into Michaelangelo, I tell myself, although he might. It’s just such a delight to find that clarity of purpose.
Ah, the charm of the very young. No weight of vocation, no daily bread issues, just this young boy with light in his eyes for art, reminding me of my childhood, and what every kid’s childhood ought to contain.