24. I Suppose It’s Creative

BED686E9-970A-4446-9259-B4421AC92D04While I was drawing this a woman and a boy drove off from the house behind where I was sitting, and about 15 minutes later the woman returned alone, and came and stood by me and started talking to me.
I took my earbuds* out and said hello and she told me how much she liked my drawing.
‘Do you live there?’ she asked me looking toward the house, and I told her no.
‘Are you doing it for money?’ she said and I told her no again, and then as briefly as humanly possible, I told her about my hundred houses project and told her that she would be today’s story.
‘Oh, oops,’ she said, followed by ‘I should get out and do some drawing, but I…’
‘Oh,’ I said, ‘do you do some art?’
The woman, who was twirling her car keys and wearing what looked to be track pants, a flimsy tee shirt and bare feet, told me that she had done art a long time ago, but that now she worked on Photoshop, inside.
‘So I suppose it’s like…you know,… creative.’ she said.
‘These are soft pastels,’ I told her, ‘have you ever used them?’
The woman said no, but that she would like to.
‘You should try them,’ I told her, holding one up toward her, ‘you have to get really good ones, though, and really good fixative.’
‘I’ve never drawn on black,’ she said, nodding toward my paper, ‘that’s a good idea.’
Then she told me about a friend of hers who painted on trash, and who had then done an exhibition of made up album covers, and that Spike Jonze had come to his exhibition.
‘Michael Stipe came, too.’ she told me.
‘Oh,’ I said, a feeling of minor envy rising, ‘nice.’
‘Must be great to, you know, just… follow your dream.’ she said to me, ‘Do you draw all day?’
‘No,’ I told her, ‘I’m only up to number 22.’
Then I told her about my ‘day job’, and how and where I live, and that it allowed me time to draw, and she said oh that must be cool.
And then I asked her what she did in Photoshop.
‘I create layers, and colours, and you know, backgrounds so I suppose it’s… creative.’ she said, still twirling her keys, ‘but it’s not like what you do.’
‘But what’s it for?’ I asked her, and she told me it was for ads, mainly, and that once upon a time she¬†used to come home covered in acrylics, and the bath would be covered in paint but now she uses a computer and a stylus.
‘So you went to art school?’ I said.
‘Yes.’ she said.
‘You should come drawing with me,’ I said to her, ‘I go out for a couple of hours at a time, and if you come with me you would be forced to do something.’
The woman smiled and asked me my name.
I told her my name and she held out her hand and I shook it and she told me her name, and then I told her my number while she put it in her phone, knowing full well she’d never call me, let alone come drawing with me.

Today’s podcast: Classic Desert Island Discs- Victoria Wood

23. Can I Help You?

21While I was drawing this a woman came out and stood in the driveway, hands on her hips, and stared at me for a few, maybe 20, seconds.
I wanted to wave to her, but the idea of her coming over to talk to me and me having to explain to her what I was doing: telling the same story about my hundred houses project, was more than I could bear, so I decided to keep my mouth shut.
Eventually she dropped her arms and turned and walked away, and I put my eardbuds* in and got to work.
About 20 minutes later, a man reversed down the driveway behind me in a black SUV, stopped just before the road and leaned his head out of the window and asked me a question.
‘Can I help you?’ he said, his face expressionless, his voice authoritarian, like a government official with a small amount of power but a big head.
‘No,’ I said to him, sitting there on the kerb on the edge of his land, ‘I’m just sitting here drawing the house across the road.’
Then I heard something I’d call a delighted squeal and a woman leaned forward from the passenger seat and smiled at me and gave me a little wave.
I returned the smile and wave, and then the man, who was wearing a black cowboy hat and had a little goatee beard and spoke with some style of Southern accent, smiled and told me to have a nice day and finished his reversal out of the driveway and drove off down the road.
I sat there for a moment, watching them drive off and thought about him asking me if he could help me, when what he really meant (from a primal perspective) was why are you on my territory, stranger, and are you here to kill me and my breeder and steal my fire stick.

*Today’s podcast: Desert Island Discs- Kirsty Young with Annie Lennox