There are many street artists all over the world - some of them good, some of them not. I wonder whether you have ever tried anything like that?
Well, of course. It happened in France many years ago. Me and my wife, we met a friend there. At that time we had a small, old and rusty Renault car that took us to Paris only with difficulty. This friend of ours took his fancy car and decided to go on holiday with us. And off we went. In Rouen we wanted to see the local fortress. Since we were awfully thirsty we first headed for a local tavern. It was a lovely French tavern with four tables and an old grandpa left here by his children so that he could not cause any trouble. It was just wonderful. We were sitting there drinking and we thoroughly enjoyed it. All of a sudden a bus stopped right outside the tavern and a crowd of American tourists jumped out of it. All of them in their seventies. They were tapping with their sticks, but cheerful as if they were sixteen. Some sort of an American old folks home that was put on board a plane and sent to France. And they sure took the right attitude to this trip. They did not tour the sights but those beautiful French taverns and they were having a great time. Simply they were a great bunch of folks. One of them was this nice guy with huge ears, a beret on his head and a big folder. A typical American artist in France.
The group was having a great time and he was painting them. He was not very good at it, but he was extremely cheerful and nice. A kind of a good luck charm. And then that friend of mine says, "hey, you sure can draw a nice picture of a spouse and I have got an idea". He stood up and went to the artist with huge ears and told him, that he had a friend from Czechoslovakia over here who loved to draw and that as a souvenier he would love to have a picture of his wife. And since he I do not have my utensils with me, would he lend me his for a while. This American guy agreed willingly. I could draw my wife with my eyes closed. I just started to scribble when a lot of onlookers were all around me. That is exactly what my friend had expexted. That artist stood right behind me kibitzing a bit, but then he stopped doing it and suggested that we might draw a picture of each other. He did not really do very well, but I did. For when drawing a picture him it was enough to draw huge ears and that was it. As soon as I finished the picture of him an elderly lady came to me and asked me whether I would draw a picture of her as well, then another lady and yet another came around... simply in the course of the afternoon I portrayed all the passengers from the bus. My hand was all numb, but it was a fantastic experience. The tourists kept ordering exquisite champagne, singing, dancing and rejoiced over the pictures like small kids. When I was working on the 30th portrait an old American man brought a straw hat filled with money. I have never ever seen so many dollars at a time. I asked what was that supposed to mean and their answer was that it was the reward for a beautiful afternoon and evening. Ever since then I have got the feeling that perhaps I would be able to make my living as a street artist.
An excerpt from an interview with Z. Netopil
© 1997 Zdenek Netopil, ArtForum / ICZ a.s.