The Customers who Bought My Paintings
John and I continued to go to the Metropolitan Museum to set up the stand. The first painting that was sold was the painting of Youghal harbour in Cork. A young man in his 20’s bought it.
Next, I sold two other paintings. It was to two Japanese women who looked a little older than me. They came to my stand, probably because they saw the sign in Japanese which I had written and attached to the front of my stand. I think I wrote something like “Welcome to New York!”. They bought the Monaco and Arcachon paintings. They were from Osaka and gave me an extra $5 for coffee.
The next person was an intelligent-looking woman who also looked a little older than me. She bought the Duck painting (my favourite piece). I was selling all of my original paintings for $20. John asked me how much I had sold them for, so I said $20. Then he was shocked that I had sold them, especially the Duck painting, for only $20.
Customers continued to stop by. A young Asian woman came and bought a colourful reddish painting of a street in Paris. There was a man from Dublin who came by. I said I had been in Ireland before. He asked me how it was and where in Ireland I was. I said I really liked Ireland. He was the first Irish person I met in New York and he seemed friendlier than other New Yorkers.
Another man came and was staring at my Derry City painting and said skeptically, “Did you paint it?” One another man pointed out that “Beehan’s Bar” was misspelled on the painting, as it was supposed to be “Behan’s Bar”. A young boy who looked like a university student walked by with other boys and saw my paintings. He said “Cool!” and bought my Behan’s Bar print.
One day, there was a tour bus parked on the street and it was just across the side-walk from my stand. And a man came off the bus and stared at my abstract paintings and kept saying they were really nice. In the meantime, two women who looked around my age stopped by. We chatted for a while and they bought a large abstract painting on canvas board and also the Blackrock Harbour painting. They asked me to sign the large paper so I did that in pencil. Also, they asked me for a picture taken with them. And they said that they would keep them until I became famous.
Some artists selling at the same location were also asked to take photos with the customers sometimes. Other artists and craftsmen who had their booths there daily were friendly and nice. Once, my paintings were blown away by the wind and a young man who was selling at his stand chased after them immediately and handed them back to me. One day, John pointed at a building where Yoko Ono lived, from where we were at my stand, but I think Yoko’s building was on the other side of Central Park.
At Studio Marino
At Marino studio, the artists who regularly worked there were Marino and Brian, a sculptor who created figures. Brian had made some important sculptures that had been installed in New York City. He was around the same age as John, or one or two years older and he had a young American girlfriend who was a teacher. Brian was very nice and friendly to me and Marino also seemed curious about me. John would tell them every day how many paintings I had sold by the Metropolitan Museum and they were impressed. Marino, Brian and John were the only males using the studio regularly then.
John often said that there was too much tension in the studio during the day, probably from many artists working on their pieces. So, he was often out of the studio in the daytime and worked at night when no one was working there. That was why he was quite flexible with running errands for me in the daytime. He showed me his sculpture of John Lennon playing the guitar and a Jazz musician with trumpet. Both of them were made in dark bronze. The style of those sculptures was quite contemporary. He was also working on some small wooden pieces and some with other materials.
John told me that he originally wanted to become a veterinarian and he had studied that in college. But he decided to be a sculptor and went to Norway to study for a year or so. The reason he went to Norway was that it was where his mother’s family had originally come from. Sometime after that, he studied at the Art Students League of New York.
A Visit to Art Student League
One day, John put on his navy-coloured suit and took me to the Art Students League. We looked around inside the campus. There was a Japanese girl who passed by us and John spoke to her. She was studying there, but she wasn’t very friendly. We went downstairs and John walked into the teachers’ room. He spoke to the school director and introduced me to her. And he asked me to show her the female figure drawings I had done in Ireland. Then he asked the director if I needed to study drawing further. She said confidently, “She doesn’t have any problems with drawing.”
At the studio, John told Marino and Brian what the director had said to me and after that, Brian started doing more drawings by himself.
John told me that so many people had helped him when he decided to become a sculptor, so he felt he owed some favours to them. Also, he mentioned that, when I first came into the Marino studio looking for a studio space, and while I was talking to Marino, he thought I looked naïve. And he thought, if he didn’t help me, I would be eaten up by other people. Those were the main reasons that he had started helping me.
John cooked dinner for me every night. It was usually pasta with tamari soy sauce and cheese on top. He would boil the pasta in a small kettle that belonged to Marino studio. Sometimes he cooked Broccoli Rabe and added it to pasta. There wasn’t a shower in the studio so I washed myself in a sink.