In 1978 my wife and I and our then semi-infant son went to see San Francisco in all its glory. My wife was born there but hadn't been back since she left the hospital. She was glad to be anywhere but Alaska at the time, but she has since grown to love it as much as I do. Either that, or she loves me enough to stay another winter. Anyway, that's a different story altogether.
Anyhoo...we were strolling around Golden Gate Park, observing leftover hippies who never got the messge that Alan Ginsberg was dead and such. We encountered a middle aged Japanse lady with a lot of gold teeth and an oversized sun hat painting ducks in the pond. (No, she was not applying paint to the ducks; she was applying paint to a canvas in the form and color of the ducks in the pond. (I find I have to clarify these things ever more frequently....I don't know if it's me or everyone else)). We politely observed said Japanese oil-painting lady for a while; she seemed to be amused that she had an audience of sorts. After a while, however, she seemed to be a bit frustrated.
"It's not working," she sighed.
I said, "It looks great to me!"
"Do you want it?" she asked.
"Er...um....," I said, or words to that effect. "Are you serious?"
"Of course. I can never fix a painting once it starts to go bad."
"How much do you want for it?"
"I can't take any money; it's a bad painting, and it's not even finished. I think the ducks would be embarrassed."
"Well, my mom's an oil painter, and she always said it's a crime to give away art. Besides, you might be famous some day, and it will be worth a fortune."
"Yeah right," she said. "How about twenty dollars, to pay for canvans and paints?"
"Agreed!" I gave her a twenty and took her unfinished painting. I neglected to ask her name.
We went our merry way as anonymous gold-toothed Japanese lady packed up her easel and her folding lawn chair and headed for parts unknown.
Last week, our youngest daugher, who had jsut flown the coop a month ago, returned to collect a few more stray items from her former bedroom. While she was there, I gave her a few of my paintings to cheer up her new apartment, and in the process, discovered the unsigned duck painting by the anonymous Japanese duck-painting lady. Number Three Daughter liked that one too, and she took it to her new digs.
I'm sure there's a moral or two here. Without waxing too philosophical, we can probably state a couple of the more obvious ones.
1) When buying a bad painting from an unknown Japanese artist in Golden Gate Park, be sure he/she signs the thing....no matter how bad it might be.
2) There's no such thing as a bad painting.
There....that should just about cover it.
Causes Eric Nichols Supports
Free Burma Rangers, Partners Ministries (Thailand), Literacy council of Alaska, Access Alaska.