Rain drove down divining rods from heaven the morning I met the Dot Man. Welcoming me into his studio, he asked me two seemingly simple questions. First, was I an artist. I answered like a lap dog expecting a treat or a tummy rub. “Why yes, I am” I replied. Second question…had I ever sold any of my art? That one took me off guard and was a harder one to answer. Hesitantly I said “No”. A self-protecting thought ricocheted off my brain, comforting me in the fact that since I had not put any of my work up for sale, then how could I sell anything? I sensed the second question was the most important for it determined the direction he would take in the next few minutes. Self-consciousness began to rumble around my empty stomach as my eyes began to absorb the densely packed gallery. I was sorry I stopped by, for I had surely misinterpreted that damn flashing neon “OPEN” sign! The sign’s invitation was like a siren pointing at me, recoiling her finger back to herself, exposing my curiosity as desperation. As the Dot Man made small talk, I eased back into his humble nature and good humor.
The Dot Man proceeded to give me a tour around his studio. Since I was neither patron, schoolchild or film crew, he would give me the abbreviated, casual version. I saw the magnitude of work for sale. Ribbons that he had won hung in the windows like curtain valences and newspaper clippings from a show he was a part of at the Smithsonian pinned onto his wood veneer paneled walls. He showed me his prize collection of Christmas cards from friends, clients, and families from near and far.
But what I wanted to know was what he was creating when he got the pink paint stain on the black leather band of his Timex watch. I wanted to know where he drew his inspiration from or what was his most memorable piece. I was too shy to ask. Instead, he talked shop and compared how much this piece would fetch in a gallery in NYC versus an Indianapolis craft fair.
My deepest fears were being loosened in the newly compacted soil of self-confidence. As the tour continued, I was reeling to return home to pour fertilizer on my own creative process, produce something, anything, that looked like “art”, open an Etsy account and pimp my wares to someone, anyone that would purchase a note card. Wasn’t this mindset the exact opposite of what Sam the Dot Man represented anyway? Was I any less an artist because I hadn’t put a price tag on a picture? Is a writer any less of a writer because I never read their work?
The last piece the Dot Man showed to me wasn’t a picture he had painted. As I exited his studio, he drew my attention to a framed picture his nephew had painted for him in school when he was ten years old. He said he loved the picture. He said he was inspired by the sense of innocence and simplicity his little nephew captured. He said he wanted “to do it like that”. It was the only picture in his studio that was not for sale.
I thanked the Dot Man for the tour. He was kind to give me his time and guidance. I pulled my jacket over my head and walked to my car in the rain.
Sam McMillan’s Art Gallery
701 Northwest Boulevard
Winston-Salem NC 27101