Can I Draw You?
When Grampa had people over to the house for a visit, people who didn’t know him well, he’d ask permission to draw one of them.
“I’m something of an artist,” he’d say. “A hobby artist. But I don’t do landscapes or fruit bowls, only portraits. Would you mind if I drew you, for some practice?” This was a surprising and possibly flattering request, or maybe it was just weird. Whatever it was, people often said yes.
He’d have them sit in profile like Whistler’s mother did all the time — she couldn’t be stopped — and then he’d begin.
The subject or “sitter” would sit very still, vanity taking over as they strained to make their nobleness rise to the top. They’d advance their chin, or lengthen their neck, or bite down and push a twinkle into their eye.
Grampa would glare at his subject, glare at his work. His dead silence communicated his state of mind: that of an artist who pours every ounce of his existence into every attempt to capture the elegance and severe beauty of the reality of your face.
Minutes passed. More minutes. The longer he drew, the more the sitter believed they were about to look upon a reflection of their truest self, a masterpiece.
Finally, Grampa’s agonizing would be done, and he’d say something like, “I think we might be finished here…wait!” then he’d add one more thing, and maybe another thing, and then finally, he would present his work.
“Ready?” he’d say.
“Ready,” the subject would say.
Then grampa would turn the portrait around, and it would look like this:
It always looked like this.
In fact, here’s one he did just a couple weeks ago. Before you see it, know that he’s an 85-year-old artist who’s just about beaten his body to death with workaholism. His hand isn’t as steady as it used to be.
Here you go: