Giving

"Road Traveler"
Road Traveler, Watercolor/Gouache on paper, 1985

My first job was selling the Grit newspaper on weekends. I was 9. During that time I began selling greeting cards for a company that advertised on the back pages of my favorite comic books. I made enough money to buy a bicycle and a pair of roller skates. I used the bike to help me deliver newspapers faster. The skates were shared with my younger brothers; they had no income other than their weekly 25 cents allowance.

I sold enough cards to purchase some colored pencils and drawing paper. Then I made my own greeting cards—Merry Christmas, Happy Easter, Get Well Soon, etc.—and gave them out for free to my newspaper customers. Later I learned my handcrafted cards were treasured by many customers for the artwork.

I gave away a lot of my art as gifts, even when I became an adult. “That’s not a good business venture,” an acquaintance told me when I started my career as an artist. He asked how I thought giving away my art could be profitable.

All my gifts are given with love, and my profit is the smile on people’s faces when I give them my art as gifts. Being an artist isn’t always about making money.

On the other hand, the painting I’ve included in this post is one I gave to a brother for his birthday. That was 1985; I was 28. Twenty-seven years later it is proudly displayed in his home with the other paintings he has received from me. During that time his friends told their friends about my artwork, word got around and I made money selling my art to them and their friends, and then to their friends, and so on.

Not profitable? I suppose it’s how you define the word.