I was on my bicycle, whizzing down a hill under a dry wash, when something caught my eye.
A little boy was drawing with chalk on the concrete wall. My camera was at home with a dead battery. But I have a phone, I reminded myself.
I hate photographing with a phone and I don’t photograph children, but something told me to turn back.
I asked his mother if I could take a picture. I tried to get a good shot of him as he drew, apologizing for not having my good camera.
“So, do you just ride your bike and take pictures of things that interest you?” he asked. I nodded and he looked impressed, saying, “I want to be like you when I grow up.”
“An artist,” he smiled. He showed me some of his other, earlier, chalk drawings along the wash. There was a large piece called People Pasture of a unicorn-eating people.
“But I don’t think that’s my best work,” he said gravely. His name was Harrison and he was 8 years old. His drawings filled the walls with their childlike graffiti — he’d even written poetry. “Faith. Justice. Believers matter,” he wrote.
“Sometimes,” he confessed, “I have doubts about my work.”
Harrison wants to be a famous artist. We spoke for a long time. He told me how it hurts when people don’t like what he does. I pointed him back to his own words: “Believers matter.”
I told him what it is to be an artist, how it’s important to always take chances, to make your life an expression of your work, of yourself. I spoke of integrity. He drank my words in thirsty gulps.
I told him how fame is a false prophet and how his life’s work, as an artist, is to work hard to develop that which lies inside and to always look for ways to express it, leaving every place he ever goes to more beautiful for him having been there. “Like you do with these walls,” I told him.
He said, “It’s so good that I met you.” But it was me who was blessed. I asked to take his picture with my phone and he made me wait so he could put on his glasses. As I left, he told me that he would be back again, in the wash, tomorrow, making another drawing.
“I will photograph you again,” I promised.
“Bring your good camera this time,” he said.
Crista Cloutier works internationally as an artist and writer. She is the founder of The Working Artist. Over the course of her career, Crista has collaborated with some of the most significant contemporary artists showing today. She is certified as a fine arts appraiser, has worked as a licensor, arts writer, gallerist, award-winning documentary filmmaker, fine-art publisher, and she has curated dozens of exhibitions. Crista has worked with artists whose careers range from blue-chip to just beginning. She knows firsthand how successful artists manage their careers and has witnessed where aspiring artists often stumble. Visit TheWorkingArtist.com to find out more.