I’m always running out of paper.
Like this time on December 31st in London Gatwick airport, on my way from LA to Munich. I had something like a five-hour layover there. I passed through security, made my way to the train ticket counter to see if I could visit the big city. It didn’t have to be long—a breath of fresh air would do. “Uh-uh,” the ticket vendor said. “Five hours? There’s no way you’ll make it back in time.” I sit in the airport.
I don’t have a smart phone, but I have about thirty sheets of really special, not ordinary, thick, light green paper, and two pencils. I know what to do with them. I draw everyone around me during my five hour layover: a young Alaskan couple making their way to Italy. A Russian family with a young girl, hair braided and legs swinging. An Indian man with a great big mustache. An old British couple. A French brother and sister, who try to teach me their language. And with each person I draw, my stack of special lime-green paper gets just a little thinner.
I draw two families travelling with about six kids. They’re on their way to a snowboarding exhibition. They want to pay me. I explain what I really need is more paper. “Sorry, we don’t have any.” The stack gets lower. I’ve got four, three, two, finally one sheet left. I look left, then right. I shake out my hands (it’s important to take good care not to overwork them). I start on my final portrait. “-Don’t worry!” a young girl says, in the most adorable British accent. “Paper is on its way!” Her parents and a few of the kids were dispatched to find me more paper. They head down the terminal, asking workers along the way. Soon I’m all done with this portrait. I hand it over. One of the little ones assures me: “they’re going to bring the paper soon.” Such a cute accent.
And the paper does come. About twenty sheets of everyday, ordinary, A4 printer paper. With it, I am able to draw until my plane takes off. It’s not the paper that’s special. It’s what I can do with it. When I land in Munich, and have to take my train back to my apartment, I run out again. I’m always running out of paper. But there are always more people. There are always more smiles to create. So on the S-bahn heading home, I use the back of my boarding pass to draw just one more person. Shuffling through my folder, I find my itinerary: even just *one more* person. It turns out, it was his birthday.
Forty-six people in one journey. I am always running out of paper.