People sometimes have an emotional reaction to my pencil portraits. Many a visitor has cried in my booth (see, I’m not the only one) out of family love or loss, picturing their own special somebody. Just because they cry, doesn’t mean they call me. They usually don't. But at least they get it.
With a bazillion people at up to three shows a month, it's a blur after awhile. In my first year or two of drawing full time, I apparently met a woman at an Arts in the Park event. The only thing I remember about that particular outdoor show was that beer was plentiful starting at 10 am, plastic cups in almost everyone’s hand.
A couple years later, I got a phone call. “Remember me?” a husky, gruff voice asked. “You know, with my husband and the Harleys?”
I have a horrendous memory. It is feeble. I can’t remember why I’ve come into a room, when I am just reentering that room after just forgetting why I was there. My initial fear of motherhood was that I would forget I had a kid.
I had no idea who this biker chick was. So I lied. “Of course I remember you!” Why should I hurt her feelings? Plus I am always eager to tap into new markets that I fantasize will lead to my eventual fame. Motorcycles aren’t cheap and there is a whole consumer subculture there, like Deadheads or Jimmy Buffet or being a Republican.
From the moment she walked in my front door, Harley Diane was a bleached blast of in-your-face personality.
"I need you to draw THIS," she rasped, proudly showed me a photograph of herself and her husband standing in a parking lot full of motorcycles. I’m talking hundreds of motorcycles.
“Wow.” I said, my meager math skills failing to calculate drawing time vs. her potential budget vs. how much I didn’t want to piss her off. At a loss, I suggested, “Wouldn’t it be better to just draw you and your husband on one bike together?”
Diane cocked her head and thrust her chin at me in a quick aggressive movement. “FIRST of all,” she said loudly into my face, “they’re not BIKES. They’re HARLEYS. There’s a fucking DIFFERENCE.”
I may have peed a little.
“And I DO want ALL of it in the picture,” she went on. “It represents the biker life, you know? We're totally in it, it’s all around us. It’s a big fucking deal.”
|If one motorcycle is $20 or if I do three for... I give up.|
“Okay, great!” I said, nodding agreeably like someone whose ass didn't need kicking.
“And I want it BIG.” Diane said firmly. “It’s going over my new leather couch and it’s a big wall. How big can you draw it?”
“You should give me some photos that are clearer and closer of your faces,” I told her. “That way I can get a better likeness since I can’t see you that well in this one.”
Diane stared at me a second and yelled, “WELL WHY THE HELL DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THAT? I could have brought more!”
So Diane stomped out and then stomped back within a couple days. “I brought my modeling photos!” she hollered.
MODELING? Reading my surprised reaction, she explained, “All my friends say, ‘Di, you got pretty eyes.’ So I figured WHY THE FUCK NOT?!” Diane looked to be in her mid 40’s, hard as nails with heavily mascara-ed eyes so blue, she must have been wearing neon colored contacts. Suddenly a little shy, Diane handed me her modeling album. Turning the pages, I found myself disappointed in whoever took them. They were lit harshly and taken with a cheap camera. Model or not, the photos didn’t flatter her. Diane was growing on me and I felt strangely protective of her hopefulness. We chose a softer photo that Diane liked. Then she presented a big, close-up photo of her husband.
|Burt, not Mr. Harley.|
“Isn’t he HOT?” Diane asked with pride. Mr. Harley had a 70’s moustache Burt Reynolds thing going that wasn’t really my cup of beer, but I could see the attraction.
“Sure,” I agreed. “He’s a good looking guy.”
“I keep trying to meet people on Match.com,” Diane confided. “It’s hard to meet cool people to hang out with, ya know?”
Wait, what now? Match.com? Images of why Diane and her wild Hooper husband would want to “meet” people flashed through my head. Were they swingers? Was I getting my first swinger invitation? What do you wear to a swinger party?
“But… I thought you were so into your husband?” I stammered, stalling before I made my final swinging decision.
Diane glared at me, stunned. There was a big weird pause. “It’s been TWO fucking YEARS!” she finally snapped, guardedly.
Um, I don't understand what is happening.
Oh my God, I am such an idiot. I did remember. The fog faded and I could see her bright blue eyes filling up with tears when we first met as she talked about shock and pain, trying to describe the portrait she had in her mind… a tribute to their 22 years of marriage, to their biker life, so full of joy.
“He knew the risks of riding,” she said, quiet for the first time since I’d met her. “It was our life and he lived it to the fullest, on the edge. He wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
The day of Diane's last visit, my friend Vicki was over. When Diane called to tell me she was on her way, I nearly peed again, this time with glee. “YOU’RE GOING TO MEET HER!” I yelled at Vicki, Diane style.
Diane didn't let me down. “GET FUCKING THIS!!! I just saw a sewer truck!” she announced, as she strolled in familiarly, kicking off her boots. “It feels like it’s meant to be that I’m picking this thing up today!” The truck had something to do with how her husband had died. “You know, the guy that was riding with my husband that night never stepped up to the plate.” Diane roughly wiped unwanted tears away, then suddenly leaned her head back and yelled, “That MOTHER FUCKER!!!! HA HA HA!!!” She laughed lustily and loud and with complete abandon. Vicki and I were frozen to our seats, jaws gaping. Diane could change moods so quickly and intensely, it spun your head around.
“You know, I tell it like it is!” Diane cried, “I’m not afraid to put it out there!”
After instructing me to adjust her hair (more feathered), Diane wanted me to fix her husband’s biker hat, which I had drawn like Chef Boyardee. “It’s flatter,” she said, disgustedly. “You know, like a biker’s hat.”
“I don’t know what a biker’s hat looks like,” I admitted with shame, exposing the poorly hidden secret that I am an uncool dork. I prayed that Vicki wouldn’t laugh and get us both killed.
After I made the changes, Diane was happy, smiling a big tearful smile. “I’m having a baby shower for my daughter and I wanted to have this ready in time.”
Off she went, cussing happily with her portrait rolled into a kitchen garbage bag.
“Don’t you have anything better to give to your clients?” scolded Vicki. I do now. Good friends like Vicki and Diane always tell you like it is. Once Vicki finished making fun of my half ass professionalism, she echoed my exact thoughts. "Diane was wild, wasn’t she? Don’t you love to meet people like her? She was so different than us. I loved her. She told me that she’s from Crestwood, which explains a lot.”
“That’s south side.”
“Oh,” I said knowingly, not knowing. I really don’t know anything about anything. And besides, when did Vicki have Crestwood discussions without me? Maybe when I was pulling out my fancy garbage/sales bag.
I loved Diane, too and I was so glad that I got the chance to share her high decibel, wonderful self with Vicki. I can’t get over the amazing range of people who actually pay me to draw something precious to them. I fall a little bit in love with so many of them.
I hope Diane has found a new hot biker guy who appreciates her strength and respects how much she loved her husband. I also hope that Diane isn’t pissed at me for writing about her.