A Tale of Two Capitalists: Origins 1

drawing of cat and human hand

The first dime I ever earned was by selling my art. Here's how I made and lost my money.

Marketing by way of president

I was ten years old. My teacher had us draw two U.S. Presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. It was February of that year, and both men's birthdays were during that month.

Afterward, she posted our drawings outside our classroom, on the walls of the hallway. My drawing of Lincoln drew a lot of attention, even from students I didn't know. Both of my drawings caused something of a buzz in my room, and a couple of my classmates asked if I would draw them something. They told me they'd pay me a dime each.

Hot darn! I thought. (Keep in mind my age and relative innocence.)

Somewhere I found a source of Disney art when I got home that day. This was decades before the Internet, so I must've had a copy of the book Bambi lying around. With my ten-year-old tongue in one corner of my mouth, I copied a picture of Thumper, Bambi's rabbit friend. Then, I made a copy of Flower, the skunk.

So, the next day I delivered my drawings, collecting a completely illegal dime for each: the Disney corporation never suspected anything was afoot.

Thing is, the student for whom I'd drawn Flower wanted his own copy of Thumper. And the Thumper dude wanted a Flower. AND about half a dozen other kids wanted their own copies.

Building out my business

After fulfilling those orders, someone told me they wanted a larger drawing. So, I raided a supply closet at school, a room pretty far from my classroom (which I reasoned was away from prying eyes), and I took a stack of 11" x 17" construction paper and a felt-tip marker. I brought those supplies home and worked my little heart out. I sold those babies for fifteen cents a piece! Holy cats!

I also began drawing different characters and subjects, broadening my inventory. I had no clue what inventory was, of course. I just followed my gut.

Because demand was pretty high, I made the mistake of doing some of my drawings during free time in my classroom. My teacher was complimentary, but then she asked me where I was getting my supplies. Even though I was a thief, I was honest, and I told her I'd gotten them from the supply closet. Gee, was I not supposed to do that? She laughed and then forbade me from taking any more. I checked later, and sure enough, the supply closet was now kept locked.

My own personal Judas

About this time, a boy whom I'd considered a friend told me I should have a manager. Maybe you see where this is going, but I hadn't a clue. Todd said he'd get me the supplies I needed. Well, I guessed that sounded okay. And he said he'd spread the word about my art. I privately thought I didn't really need that, but he was my friend. So, I said okay to that as well. Then, get this: he said he'd collect the money and we'd split it fifty-fifty every Friday.

Hmm. That doesn't seem like something I need. But he must know what he's talking about, so . . .

I put away my negative thoughts, trusting my friend, and kept myself busy fulfilling orders. I don't think Todd ever got me any supplies (which should have sounded a Klaxon in my head), so I got my mom to drive me some place at which I could pick up some of my own supplies.

Geography protects the wicked

My family moved right after school ended for the year. Todd hadn't given me my share of our business's income in many weeks, and there was no evidence that he had done any marketing. So, I found myself living 1,500 miles away without most of the money I'd made that spring. I never did find out where Todd was -- I'm under the impression that his family also moved.

The lessons I learned all those many years ago included the two biggies: when doing what you love coincides with what people like, an honest exchange of value is so possible it's almost inevitable. Things are rosy, the sun shines, and birds sing. Just like a Disney cartoon.

The other lesson is to guard my heart and mind against those who are more than willing to take my money without delivering on the promises they make. When I don't guard them, roses are thorny, the sun hides away, and birds are silent because they're wet with the rain of sadness and shame.

There's a huge industry that deals in fine art. Exorbitant prices are agreed upon for reasons no one can cite, except maybe that the artist is dead. It helps if he or she was never really understood and died penniless.

But getting wealthy after death never made much sense to me, and neither did a lot of what passes for groundbreaking art. I render what I find moves me, and I let my market find me. That's not considered good marketing, but I have no you-know-whats to give about it. My customer base today is expanding, and I'm living the life I wanted when I was ten.

That's my contribution to capitalism. I provide pieces of art that others value enough to exchange money for it. That's it. What you see on my site is what you get.

If you're looking for something tricky or sly, I know a guy -- or I knew him. Dude's probably out there somewhere doing just fine in today's business world. Maybe he's a lawyer. Good for him.

If, on the other hand, you want to share in a furious pursuit of goodness, truth, and beauty, let's talk. Pretty soon you'll see a wolf in my gallery. I'd enjoy knowing what you see in his eyes.


© 2020 by Stephen D. Wedan