One morning on my way to work a little boy sat down next to me on the train. His mom and his little brother sat across from us, but he chose to sit next to me. I was drawing, and he wanted to watch. As my hand moved he shifted in his seat restlessly to be able to see the pen make contact with the paper. I’ve met a lot of children on the train. On rare occasion one turns out to be an artist like this young artist named Avian. I asked him if he liked to draw, what medium he used, his favorite subjects, if he used color, etc.
Young artists are like older artists: some like to talk about it, others do not. Avian was not a talker. So I asked him if he knew what collaboration is. He shook his head so I explained how it’s two or more people working together to complete a project. He repeated the word collaboration out loud. I asked if he would like to collaborate. That he could start a drawing and I would finish it after he was gone. I got out a clean sheet of paper, and he set to work immediately. No pause. Blue pen. Not red. First came the Basquiat skeleton figure, then the guy with the muscles. He was all about his business of drawing. No idle chit chat.
His younger brother came over to watch. He was a talker, and it was his birthday. He said he could draw, but Avian could draw anything. We agreed that Avian was an artist. Just as it was time for us to separate I asked Avian if he would like to write his name on the drawing. Again there was no hesitation. His mom beamed and mouthed thank you. I sat with the drawing for a few hours before touching it. I didn’t want to ruin a good drawing, and I thought about what decisions Warhol had made when he painted on top of Basquiat’s work. I had to do my thing decisively, or I would fail Avian and myself.