His posture portrayed a sense of serenity but his eyebrows were furrowed with concentration. At times he would pause, gaze pensively out the portico, then resume his frantic scribbling on the canvas before him.
I watched him work from a distance. Quietly, I inched towards his gallery trying not to disrupt his focus. As I grew closer he began mumbling under his breath. I looked around, uncertain as to what he was saying or to whom he was talking to.
Without raising an eyebrow, his mumbling grew louder.
“English,” I whispered, assuming he had been speaking Hungarian.
“This is my work.”
With his eyes still buried in his lap he handed me about 10 images.
“These are my drawings of Hungary.”
(Photograph taken by my teammate, Brooke Dunnigan*)
The detail was incredible. Using a ball point pen he sketched illustrations more imaginative than I have ever seen. While I did not understand the meaning behind his pictures, I had profound appreciation for his creativity.
“You are very talented, where do you draw your inspiration from?” I inquired, deeply curious.
His eyes wrinkled from the subtle smile now painted across his face.
“My head. It’s all in my head. I draw, and it comes to me. See this boat I am drawing, I thought of it. Now, I will draw a lamp. I will put the lamp here,” he said while chuckling as though he were from an old, 1960’s cartoon.
As he said, he sketched a lamp. Enchanted by his character and charm, I looked around to see who else might be delighted as well. Sadly, even amongst the sea of tourists, Brooke and I stood alone.
When we said our goodbyes I could not help but feel great admiration for this man. In that moment he wasn’t making a lot of money nor turning a lot of heads; but the small gesture of marveling his work brought him so much joy.
And now, here I am; writing a story on an artist with whom I spoke to for less than ten minutes. Come to think of it, I didn’t even catch his name. The moment his eyes lit up after I complimented his work has been replaying in my head like a broken record. Perhaps it’s the realization of what I thought was mindless tourism ended up being a profound encounter for someone else.
I think sometimes we forget that even the simplest gesture, like taking a moment to pause and appreciate those around us, can create such a ripple effect of happiness.