It was Day 16 of my crowd-funding campaign and I had only cried in public once. Twice. Online crowd-funding is not for the faint of heart.
This was a few years ago, when I was raising the funds to create The Working Artist. It was my dream to create an online business school for artists and photographers. I’d spent years working with blue-chip art stars and introducing new names to the market. I wanted to share what I’d learned from my career in the art business so that others could succeed too.
The launch party for my fundraising campaign was a huge success and I exceeded my initial goal in terms of donations. The next two weeks were a whirling dervish of emotions and bloody hard work. I was glued to the computer constantly posting, tweeting, imploring, and pleading.
And when I wasn’t at the computer I was out on the streets handing out promotional materials, chatting up artists, and speaking to every art and photography group that would let me in the door. The month, it seemed, would never end.
And thus, Day 16 began. I was halfway through the campaign, I’d begged every friend, relative, and ex-boyfriend I knew and had raised just over half my goal.
Now what? I was exhausted, and feared I was having a crisis of faith.
On my bicycle whizzing down a hill under a bridge 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 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?” he asked.
Yes, that sums me up pretty well. He looked impressed, “I want to be like you when I grow up.”
What’s that? “An artist,” he smiled.
He showed me some of his other, earlier, chalk drawings. There was a large piece called “People Pasture” of a unicorn eating people. I moved to shoot a picture of it but he stopped me, “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 wanted 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 your self. 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 everyplace he ever goes more beautiful for him having been there. “Like you do with these walls,” I told him.
I told Harrison about my crowd-funding campaign and he encouraged me not to give up. “Look how much you have helped me today,” he said. “Crista, this is your work.”
He added, “It’s so good that I met you.” But it was I who was blessed. This 8-year old artist had given me faith again.
I asked to take his picture with my phone and he made me wait so he could put on his glasses. He posed proudly.
As I left, he told me that he would be back tomorrow, making another drawing, should I want to visit him. “I will photograph you again,” I promised.
“Bring your good camera this time,” he said.