Ty, the Rambling Artist
The art of making drawing smiles and making connections, anywhere in the world.
This reminds me of Dale Bedford. A technical engineer guy for fiber optics. Who I met drawing caricatures at Six Flags over Texas. He was a grown man with an established career that wanted to loosen up and rediscover his creativity of his childhood. He did okay, drew like an engineer. Kinda tight,stiff drawings. Not a lot of flow or rhythm in his work.
Eventually life separated our pathways we went on our individual ways. Then as life randomness often happens,we met up about ten Years later. I was drawing at a blues festival. I had some time so it visited the arts guild tent. And in this tent was a booth full of these large elaborate Italian baroque. Period catholic paintings of Jesus. Dark emotional masterpieces with drama in every brush stroke of heavenly light coming of the flesh of Jesus. They stopped me dead in my tracks with their beauty. I would never hang one in my house mind you, just not my style, but wonderful works none-the-less.
Then I hear this familiar voice behind me. "Got's pretty good hasn't I?" It was Dale.
These? Are yours? I asked in amazement. And yes, they were his works of original paintings. Here's what happened in the time he left our group of caricaturists back then.
He left our group feeling a lack of confidence when he compared himself to the rest of us. I wish I knew this. I'm sure I'm. Guilty of leading him to that conclusion with knowing I said something lightly that was taken in the wrong context or whatever..
So he picked up a new hobby. Ti Kwan Do. He became very good at the martial arts. In fact it was during one of his black belt requirements that he got kicked just above the left eye. Knocked him cold. Concussion the whole shebang. A week after the accident he felts as if he was able to drive to the store. During his trip he blacked out and ran into a tree. In the hospital they ran scans and tests and found that some bone fragments had broken off from his eye socket of his skull and were loose digging around in his brain, causing all sorts of problems. In short, they had to do surgery to remove them or he would face very serious damage.
Well the operation and damage caused by the accident left him not knowing how to read or write. A major part of his rehabbing required relearning from about the sixth grade level and up from there. And part of his personal addition to all his newfound school work was learning to draw simple cartoons. From a "How to draw cartoons" children's book. He got pretty good at drawing everything in the book, then he got another "how to" art book, then another. And started accelerating his drawing skills and knowledge as re rehabbed. The he was so confident in his art skills he took an oil painting class at the community college. And the "this just started to happen. I found myself duplicating art history examples from. The Italian baroque period. " Dale explained.
All of this story of his was unfolded before me by him over a nice Little lunch. My only response to this was "Dale, you have a sock hanging out of your pant leg and no sock on your foot, but you have your shoe on."
"That's what happen to it!" I was looking for that sock all morning.
All of this recollection about Dale moved me to look him up and reconnect, but this is all I found. I've once again missed an extraordinary personal opportunity to better myself by knowing someone remarkable.
The last memory I have of Dale was visiting him after a class he was teaching an art class for people with demnsia. He had a little two legged chihuahua with him that rode around in his backpack.
This was a listing in Google that I found on Dale.
November 5-28, 2010
The third part of the themed November exhibit is work by the late Arlington artist and teacher Dale Bedford whose artistic talent blossomed after he suffered traumatic brain injury in an accident. Dale's large scale oils on canvas have a depth of meaning and spiritual content."
Last night I was doing my typical saving the world one smile at a time routine and I had the pleasure of meeting the Assistant Chief of EMS of Washington DC. Now, there's a true hero. Our conversation quickly turned to me admitting my shame of making a mockery of real heroism by pretending to "save the world with a smile" antics. After all, this man has risked his life saving citizens in life and death situations most of his life. I'm just a clown with a pen.
To add to his greatness, his wife is a teacher of 22 years. She currently is dedicating her services to teaching underprivileged children in the inner city district of DC. There, my friends is a true super hero. Imagine, this woman has the opportunity to do whatever she wants in the education world and she has chosen one of the hardest paths anyone can imagine. That my friends is pure servitude.
It gets better. Their son is a fireman in the same firehouse of his father. The Assistant chief's father was a fireman and his great grandfather helped organize the fire department of some comminity I fail to remember. These guys are true first responder legacies. An entire family history of heroes.
It was a delightful and very interesting time with them. Yet, I felt silly as they seemed so much more interested in what I was doing with my smile making abilities. I continued to attempt to turn the conversation towards their remarkable life saving services and duties, but they seemed to shrug it off as if what they do in life is nothing at all. Remarkable people.
It's families like this that teach me so much. It's families like this that keep me hungry to reach out and give more of myself for others.
In other news.... Ty The Art Guy is now bonded and Insured.
I guess that means that if a kid should swallow one of my markers or someone I draw suffers a life threatening paper cut, I'm covered.
I also have background checks available.
It was after closing hours. The guests were settling into their rooms. The parks, the restaurants the attractions were closing up. The wash down crews and maintenance teams were starting their shifts. Cast members from all walks of life were making their routine stop at the Gas station before they commuted home. I myself am waiting in line to pay for my milk, cookies and a tank of gas.
In front of me is an older man in his formal waiter attire. He's probably in his sixties. He has about five of those "certified foreign language badges on his name tag. "Luisao" it says on his name tag. He, like many cast members is joking with the cashier. They laugh, he leaves, I make nothing of it. I pay for my after work snack and gas and make my way to pump 14.
On pump 13 is Luiso. We both pumped our gas listening to the piped in pop music. He looks up at me and says "This music, it's pathetic. It has nothing." I agree with him and reply that there is no thought in the lyrics. There used to be real meaning in the lyrics. He stares at me and gives me the international shrug of approval. "In my car, I have Pavarotti." Was his reply. I told him all I have in my car is the jazz radio station. He smiled.
He then asked if I was a cast member. I said no, I'm just a caricaturist at some of the resorts. I quickly followed it up with a prideful, "but my wife is a chef in Epcot." Then he told me he was a waiter at Monsieur Paul. " I serve happiness. I've been there 30 years. Which restaurant does your wife workh at?"
"The Garden Grill, in the Land Pavillion. I like that you serve happiness, I like to say I draw smiles for a living. " he smiled at me warmly and chuckled.
Luiso put his pump handle back into the pump and stretched his hand out for me to shake as he said "We are lucky people, you, your wife and I, yes?"
"Yes, Luiso. Yes we are. Travel home safely. There is much more happiness to make tomorrow." I shake his hand. Put my pump handle up and as I'm getting into my car, I hear Pavarroti drive off into the night.
The reason I’m saving the world one smile at a time is because of little moments like this one I had the other night. I drew my first blind person. A young communications student from Puerto Rico and her husband/boyfriend. Sweetest, nicest, happiest young man I think I’ve ever met. Immediately I knew he was a very special man, and how could he be any less? He loved this young woman so much, he was her eyes to the world and happy to be called for such a life. I drew them both together as the rest of her family watched and social networked the moment. It was one of the sweetest moments I’ve had drawing smiles in quite some time. They were delightful and grateful just to be there. She even proudly proclaimed it was her their first trip together. He blushed. Her mother laughed and continued to film as I drew them.
Then after I drew them,which they loved. He and the family described it to her in a variety of excited detail and gestures. It was all very amusing to say the least. Then with her radiant smile. She asked me “to draw her without her dark glasses, but don’t draw the scars. She was asking If I could see past the damage from the accident that caused her blindness and draw her eyes before she lost her sight.”
“Of course” I said, “I’d be delighted and honored to do so.” The family all gathered around and described every line I drew. We all laughed, they told stories about how they met, but we never discussed the accident that took her sight. Nobody mentioned it after she showed me her scars. It was really fun and her face was just glowing. The onlookers seemed to be recognizing that this was indeed something special going on. I will not describe the scars. Dreadful as they were, it’s beside the point. And the point being this is why I love saving the world one smile at a time.
Better yet, it seems the world is saving me one smile at a time. Either way, it’s a win win. And the best of it all, how many street artist do you know that can say he drew a pretty blind girl funny and she loved it?
*first draft, pardon the boo boos.
I’m pretty certain that in any industry, occupation, or what have you, that we have all encountered a few customers whom seem to be lacking in intelligence. Now sometimes this perception of ours can be unjust. After all, Einstein said that you can’t compare how well a monkey clibs a tree to an elephant climbing a tree, or some nonsense like that. My point is, sometimes people may appear to be dim witted in our view, but they most probably have redeeming values of greatness in skill sets that we may never see. Think about it, most encounters with our customers or guests are slivers of moments in comparison of the big picture of life itself.
I’ve had the pleasure of drawing a plethora of people from all walks of life in my career as a street artist. Recently I was drawing a crowd of smiles at a museum fundraiser. A gala event full of acedenmic types. Professors and u oversight department heads from all over the state were at this event. The casual uplifting banter was delightful and on a cerebral level that I was the moron. I may have been the most happy enjoyable Moron. These brainiacs have ever encountered. Who knows what stories of my idiotic perceptions they may be telling their colleagues at the water cooler. It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess.
There have been times to note that I was the cerebral heavyweight in the room. Ponder that for a moment, yes, me being the smart one in the room. It’s a sad state of humanity when a street artist is the goto guy for wisdom. One particular event that this occurred happened a while back. I was a young adventurous art guy drawing smiles at state fairs around the country. It’s tough work to be a “carney”. There was decent money to be made, but tough work. The travel from state to state amounted to long days on the road. For me, my long road trip traveling days were done in a 1972 Volkswagen Westfalia. No air conditioning, leaked a little oil. Sometimes the left speaker would go out. This vehicle is still by far my favorite former vehicle I’ve ever owned. Not for its mechanical ability, good god something was always breaking down on it. This big white shoebox design was my favorite vehicle because of all the memories and adventures I had traveling from one state fair to another.that Volkswagen bus took me to almost all the national parks in the western states. It was a sorta safe shelter in some horrendous weather. On those long empty highways between lower badlands of Utah and the civilized cities of Salt Lake, it was my companion. My only companion on the road. Very much like the volleyball was to Tom Hanks in that movie where he was stranded on an island. My bus was my Wilson.
My Volkswagen I shall now name Wilson and I were working the fair circuit one year. This was the last year of drawing crowds at state fairs for me. I felt it coming. It was burnout. We’ve all experienced it in one form or fashion. I was ready to move on to something else, like a nice art director job. Which actually I did move into. More on that later.
Where was I? Oh, yes, I was suffering from the early stages of burn out while working the state fair circuit as a caricature artist. A Carey who drew crowds of smiles. What a wonderful time it was up to the burn out. Then it got ugly. Just everything seemed to fit wrong with me. It was me, not them, not anyone, but me. My attitude plummeted to the desire to be a hermit. Actually, I guess I kinda was a hermit, traveling in my little Westfalia home on wheels. Setting up art displays at state fairs. Working long hard hours from sunrise to late after midnight in most cases. It was tedious work. The Carney life is a hard life. It’s fun for a little while while you find amusement in being set up to a guy who has a conspiracy theory for everything. Crazy Carey’s set up their booths on your isle can prove to be brilliant entertainment t, but it to begins to wear on you. When you catch yourself buying into the conspiracy theories about the Aliens from outer space and John F. Kennedy not being assassinated, but just going back to his home planet, then it’s time to get out of the fair circuit.
Not that that actually ever happened….
I remember one fair I was done. My soul had a spiritual departure from my body a week before this particular moment and the fair had another three days to go. I was at my caricature stand watching the crowd of people flow back and forth down the vendor isles. The a family of people stopped in front of my stand and just starred at my displays. Mind you, have you ever seen the TV sitcom “Night Court”? There used to be this hillbilly family that would show up in the court from time to time. YouTube it, you will find them. Well, this family in front of my stand was the living parody of that hillbilly family. Straight out of the ozarks. The mom, the dad, the kids. Maybe mom and dad were sister and brother. It could have been possible.
They just stood there looking at my samples and signage. I had front view samples. I had side view samples. I had prices for front views. I had prices for side views. I had prices for couples and groups. I had prices for color or black and white drawings. I could understand how this was overwhelming for these folks. I would make attempts to interact with them. I’d ask questions like “Can I help you?” Or “What would y’all like to be drawn doing in your caricature?” Or “Y’all have the same ears, y’all must be cousins.”
Crickets. Nothing. Natalie. Absolutely no response or acknowledgement that I was there. They just kept to the,selves very quiet with an occasional whisper to one another. Until finally the one that I presumed to be the father or Older brother, or both came up to me and asks. “Hey, what’s a front view?”
This was the exact moment that I knew it was time to quit the road. I paused and looked at his blank stare and I calmly replied “two eyes, a nose and a mouth, sometimes a chin, pending on the subject.”
From Ty Walls:
After four decades drawing smiles I often encounter remarkable people. I've learned to create little special moments for people from all around the world with my simple smile-drawing skills. But sometimes, life creates little magical moments for me. This blog is my attempt to share them with you.