“Hello, Mr. Van Gogh,” I greeted the familiar artists when he walked into my father’s store.
The red-bearded man nodded and replied a gruff hello as he ambled past me toward the rolls of blank canvas at the back of the room.
Such a strange man he was, I thought to myself. My father said all true artists were like that, wholly lost in their craft and unable to adapt to the normal social interactions many of us would expect because the artist’s mind was enraptured with the image of life that played in his head.
“They see things differently than us,” Father once explained. “And the only way they’re able to communicate that to us is through paint, chalk, acting, or song.”
I admired men such as Van Gogh, who was fully emerged in his art, only willing to take a break from his vision when he needed new brushes or paint or sometimes food. Every so often, I caught him seated with Paul Gauguin or Emile Bernard at a cafe two streets over from our store. There they sat, fully consumed in their heated discussions about artists’ influences and the rigid techniques they preferred to abandon for their own forms of self-expression.
The artist’s life seemed enchanting, but I could ever be one, I should think I’d dress and appear nicer than the cold, disheveled man who occasionally ambled into the store to “borrow” canvas from my father.
“The plight of a true artist is not always rewarded with money,” Father acknowledged. “You must remember that there are more starving artists than well-fed fat ones. The absence of food and materials feeds their imaginations and helps them to create their truly magnificent art.”
Then he made me promise not to tell Mother, who felt no sympathy for men who couldn’t pay. She doesn’t understand the artist’s way, my father cautioned me, but his secret was hidden for only so long because I heard her shouting about “lost inventory” and my father’s weak character.
“You’d give away the whole store if you could!” she squealed. “Until that man’s art pays for our store, he is not getting one more inch of canvas from us, do you hear me?”
Father had nodded to calm her, promising no more freebies to artists or beggars alike, and yet as I stocked the shelf with spools of thread, Mr. Van Gogh shuffled past me, hugging a bundle under his coat.
I glanced at my father, who winked and smiled, a sheepish look on his content face when he gave a little wave and called out, “Thank you for your business, Mr. Van Gogh. We hope you have a wonderful day!”
– Written by Miss A on December 18, 2011