People think it’s being able to draw with two hands. No, that’s not it. People tell me they wish they could draw portraits so fast. No, that’s not it. “That’s a gift you have,” some tell me. It is. But it’s not the drawing that’s the gift.
Today I walked up the hill from my little home in my small Bavarian town. I made my way into a cozy cafe to enjoy an hour of peace. Because it’s been a tough week.
Project deadlines before the holiday vacations aren’t a big deal. Working long hours to get things wrapped up isn’t a big deal. Losing sleep isn’t a big deal. But this week, a friend of mine attempted suicide. That’s a big deal.
So I’ve been blue. I open the door to the sweet little cafe. I take a seat. I order something to eat. And I start to draw: an older couple in front of me. Their conversation slips seamlessly between English and German. My pens move. I don’t know how they’ll react to me drawing them. It takes a bit of courage to just draw strangers. I finish the one, than the other. I snap a photo, and rise from my table. I step over to theirs. This is for you. Their reaction is…
“Oh this is so nice!” the woman says. “Her nose is better than mine,” she adds, pointing to her portrait. The man stares at his own. They smile. They love it. I sit back down. “Is your name Escher? No? You’re just a fan of his? Did you see the movie?” I wasn’t expecting such a warm response. I sip my cappuccino. I’m warm inside.
I draw two more. They sit at the window: two friends sharing some time. I’m not in a rush. This isn’t a train. There are no stations we need to get off at. Some minutes go by. I’m done. This is for you two, I tell them, handing over their finished portraits. “That’s so nice,” they say. They really, genuinely, appreciate it. “Are you an artist?” one of them asks me. Yes, I say.
I nibble on some bread, butter, and jam. There’s fruit salad and yogurt. I set my eyes on an older man reading beside me. I write the usual details on this page: the date, my website, his portrait number. I take a look at him and start to draw. “I don’t need a portrait,” he says. You don’t want one? I clarify. “No.”
It’s no big deal. I get a new piece of paper. I draw another person, in a corner of the cafe. He’s with a friend. He’s seen me draw these other four. He’s not sure what to do. I take my time like usual. It isn’t long before I snap another photo, and hand it over. This is for you, I say, one more time. He hesitates. He wants to say something. “Einfach so?” (“Just like that?”). I just smile. Just like that.
He and his friend look at the details on the page. “Here’s the date I guess, and a website...” And on the side there, is the number of people I’ve drawn, I tell them. They take a look. “Ten-seven...Ten-seven-two-one,” they read back. They look at eachother. They realize how many that is.
The man with the book pays his bill. “Good luck on the drawing,” he tells me. “I wish you lots of success.” The two men also pay. The one comes to me and holds his hand out. He shakes my hand and looks into my eyes: “thank you,” he says.
The two women friends pay their bill. “Thanks a lot for these portraits,” they say, holding them up for me to see.
I pay too. I pack my things up. The staff tells me, “see you later.” There’s a twinkle in her eye that wasn’t there before. I walk out into the winter day in bliss.
That’s the gift. It isn’t being able to draw portraits with two hands. It’s making people happy—wherever I am; whoever they are; whatever language we speak. It’s making people happy that makes me happy. A few moments of sharing, einfach so (just like that), turn a blue day into a wonderful one. That’s the gift.