The artist painted.
His name was Giuseppe. His parents had moved from Italy to New York City before he was born and there they lived happily. His father was an artist too, and his father, and his father before him as far back as anybody knew. Giuseppe had always loved painting, fascinated with the beauty and craft. He appreciated all styles of art but he truly enjoyed impressionism the most. Van Gogh was one of his favorites, but then again, who doesn’t like Van Gogh?
Giuseppe was a street artist. The urban life of New York City was his studio and every day he made his living painting the streets, the buildings, the people there. He would move around the city frequently, for a week at a time, before relocating and painting some more. When he would finish a painting, he would set the canvas on the ground for passersby to look at, admire, and buy. On good days he’d make a few hundred bucks, on bad days nothing at all. He managed to squeak by, pay the bills, make some New Yorkers happy, and have some fun in the meantime.
Most people moved on from this stage of life, he realized. Plenty of people tried to pursue what they loved, but after a year or two of hardship and failure, they seemed to give up. They moved on to stable jobs, ones that made their wives happy, ones that allowed them to own a fancy car or comfortable furniture.
Giuseppe refused to move on. Success is a relative thing, and for him, it meant doing what he loved to do. He felt a profound sense of fulfillment in painting and he simply wasn’t ready to give that up.
It was a breezy day, the trees moving together in a strange sort of synchronized dance. The smog that typically hovered about the city was gone, the sky impressively visible above the high cityscape, and it was a rich sapphire color. Clouds like islands drifted along the currents of the ocean sky. Below them, birds soared, enjoying every second of flight gifted to them by the good Lord above.
Down below, Giuseppe had found a quiet park to paint in. It was serene.
With a smile plastered on his face as he hummed contentedly, he drew a scene that sat picturesquely before him. Sitting on the edge of a fountain with the full grace of the water splashing at his back, a musician strummed his guitar and sang passionately. He was good. Giuseppe was within ear shot, enjoying the melodious tunes as he ordered his brushes around like soldiers on the battlefield of his canvas.
Here was the man’s head, now his guitar, now the fountain behind him, all created out of nothing on this white canvas. He was rather pleased with his painting thus far and thought about keeping this one for himself.
A voice behind him startled Giuseppe. It was the street musician, who was standing behind him, admiring his artwork and grinning widely.
“Yes, a little,” Giuseppe smiled back at the man, “I did not even notice you were gone from the fountain!”
The man was bigger standing up than he had seemed when he was sitting. Giuseppe perceived he was about six and a half feet tall.
“I like it,” the man gestured at the painting, “Can I buy it when you’re finished?”
“Of course! What is your name?”
“Thomas,” he said, extending his hand around his guitar to shake Giuseppe’s hand.
Giuseppe received the man’s outstretched hand with his own.
“Giuseppe is my name. I enjoyed your music, you are quite talented!”
“Thank you! You’re very kind. I’ve been playing for ten years and never regretted it once. What about you? How long have you been painting?”
“Ever since I was a kid. My father taught me how to hold the brush and make nice strokes. I have always known that this is what I wanted to do forever.”
They conversed a few minutes longer before Giuseppe returned his attention to his art and painted a magnificent brown and green tree in the distance.
Thomas watched, enchanted with the artist.
“That’s incredible! I wish I could draw,” Thomas said.
“Here, draw a little tree next to that big one.” Giuseppe offered Thomas his brush. “Take it. It is your painting anyway, you will not ruin it.”
Thomas took the brush emphatically and painted a sloppy tree next the magnificent one Giuseppe had made. He laughed.
“It is not so bad. Here, let me finish the painting and it will be yours to keep,” Giuseppe said, taking back the paintbrush. It was turning out very nicely, he thought; Thomas thought so as well.
“How much?” Thomas asked.
“You can have it for free, my friend, but would you play a song for me?” Giuseppe returned and smiled up at Thomas’s beaming face.
“It would be a pleasure!”
Thomas played a sweet tune as Giuseppe finished his painting and handed it to his new friend; they both admired it for a minute before Giuseppe spoke.
“I will be here for a week, will you be at that fountain every day?”
“Yes, I’ll always be here I’m afraid. I’m destined for a street musician’s life.”
“I am sure you will find where you are meant to be soon. This can only be a phase. Just like me! Painting for passersby is just a phase. I will one day soon have a nice studio and gallery and people will come from far and near to see my art! You wait and see, Thomas, my friend, It will happen soon; sooner than later! And the same for you. Not too long and you will be playing your music in front of thousands of people. ”
“I wish that would be true. Maybe it will happen one day.” After a long sigh and a moment of silence, Thomas added on, “But if I’m destined to be a street performer the rest of my days, I’m okay with it. It’s not about being famous and getting to play for a bunch of people, it’s about making a living and enjoying life with people. I truly believe that. Although it would be nice…”
For the next week, Giuseppe painted in the same spot by the fountain, selling his work and Thomas played his music for the passersby, occasionally receiving a few dollars in his open guitar case, and a few times throughout the day, Thomas visited Giuseppe and they would banter amiably.
Finally, at the end of the week, Giuseppe had to move on to another location. Before he did, however, he spoke to Thomas one last time.
“Why don’t we pool our money together and rent a place where we can show my artwork and you can play music? This is what I am thinking, a small show with a stage up front. I am painting and the people are watching, and you are playing your music, and the people are listening. We charge five dollars for them to enter, and we share the profits. This way, I have a place to show my talents and you have an audience to enjoy your music.”
“What a great idea! Let me think about it. I’ll tell you tomorrow. Let’s get lunch and I’ll have an answer by then.”
They agreed and parted ways.
Thomas was late to lunch the next day, but when he finally arrived, he looked excited and happy.
“Come with me, Giuseppe!”
Thomas led Giuseppe to a small, vacant shop that was ready to lease.
“This is it!” Thomas said with enthusiasm, “This is our venue, Giuseppe! It’s perfect. Big enough for you to display your art and it has a stage for us also!”
They were in business.