Listen to old people they have a lot to say

I met an old man today. He told me about a life lesson he has learnt; ‘Work…’he said, ‘…is awful. It is so very hard, but once you have set up something you love, you’ve done it. You’ve become successful’.

I volunteered at a local art festival to invigilate. Whilst sitting talking to my friend, the old man entered the makeshift gallery located in a closed down retail shop. He walked around the room, looking in detail at the many pieces presented on the walls around us. Then finally once he’d taken in all he could, asked us if he could tell us a story. I nodded, excitement in my eyes; I love stories about life and history.

He told us that when he was younger he lived in London for a while. He worked in an art restaurant and one night his manager had said to him to go draw in the studio. If he did this, he would receive a lavish meal. So that’s what he did every night for weeks, he drew and ate. He said how he never had worked with pastels but had watched many other artists doing so; carefully watching their technique and stance. He became accustomed to them and decided to use the techniques he had seen to create a drawing of a woman. With haste he laid lines down on the paper until it was complete. His manager entered and was amazed at the masterpiece in front of him. He wanted to buy them and said he would give him a shilling for each. The old man was given five pounds in total – he was amazed.

He hurriedly sent them home to his mother to show her his work and it was then his world turned around. His mother upon seeing the work tore them up commenting that they were ‘indecent’. The man never received the five-pound he had been offered for the pieces and never again drew – his confidence was gone. He told us how by looking at the pieces in the gallery, it was nice to say to himself that he could do what the established artists could – he had proved that many years ago.

He told us he was 77 now, retired and living in a small flat. He could not create any art because the flat was too small. He had said he had tried to draw but he was looking after his mother at the time who would exclaim ‘you care more about the art than you do about me!’ His work had to come second but his passion was always there.

He said work was like this:

If you can design the most beautiful garden for on person then your life is sorted. Because then they tell their friends, who in return tell their friends and so on. Before you know it you have a business. But there is a harsh reality to this as no one will design the most beautiful garden because they have to make a living and that’s what gets in the way of your passion.

He was right. We are all too busy trying to make a living that we forget where our passions lie. We forget that we used to be good at art or being creative and we become accustomed to doing things that keep us living rather than keeping us alive. In this day and age no one can make a living from being creative because it just doesn’t put food on the table. Their passion and talent comes second to merely living. And that is what saddens me. It is as if no one appreciates the real beauty and meaning of art any more and that is a sad thought to consider.

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