I had been planning to write a blog about my drawing, its healing powers, how it exploded into my daily schedule on November 9, 2016, and hasn’t let up since. How it began at age six, when my mother and I would sit out on the terrace with colored pencils and draw people we knew…
The Gentleman from Jacksonville
But then I got an e-mail from a man in Jacksonville, saying he admired the artwork on my web site and would like to purchase some pieces for his wife for their upcoming 20th wedding anniversary. “It is so fascinating, so vivacious, looking at each piece of work I can easily see that you added so much dedication in making each work come out to life.” He was willing to pay $500-$5,000, but “I could be flexible with price.”
Good heavens. My “artwork!” Fascinating and vivacious. Is this the start of a whole new source of income, just sitting around and drawing whatever comes into my head? Wait till I tell (my agent, my financial advisor, my publisher, my friends…) How much should I ask for? Maybe three drawings for $5000? But don’t mention money yet.
I waited awhile before replying that he should know that the drawings were only 4”x6” but the originals were especially vivid and showed how I had laid on colors. Which ones was he interested in? How soon was their anniversary?
A day went by. He was probably clicking on the drawings, deciding. It was fun to imagine which ones he might choose. What if I asked for $5,000 for TWO drawings? Oh, this was too good to be true. I checked to see if he was on Google. It was a fairly common Anglo-Saxon name combination, and sure enough there were lots of them. The first was a Jesuit writer and teacher, the second was the head coach of the Jacksonville Giants, and… WHAT WAS THIS?
“How to recognize an art scam,” advice from the Agora Gallery in New York City.
Yes, my man had been in business for a while. There was also one named “John Glenn,” and oh dear, his letter also mentioned his fascination with the artist’s vivaciousness… “Looking at each piece of work I can easily see that you added so much dedication in making each work come out to life…” The Agora Gallery said always look for a tiny grammatical mistake and there it was: “come out to life.” Then I spent some time reading replies from artists thanking the Gallery for warning them. Some artists had gone too far, far enough that the promised cashier’s check bounced…but only after she had shipped off the painting. However, one computer-savvy artist succeeded in tracing my gentleman all the way back to IKEJA, Nigeria.
Humility…scripture…back to drawing…
The trouble with art scams, explains Agora, is that “they are based on something you would like to believe.” And when something seems too good to be true it usually is just that.
What a gullible fool I was! I felt chastened and in need of support. What was Jesus’s great sendoff when he was about to send his disciples out to preach in a hostile place? “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves…” What did that mean, exactly?
Well, there was plenty of exegesis about the serpent and the dove waiting for me on line, including a concise and subtle sermon on the serpent and the dove by Brother John Brought SSJE (the Anglican Society of St. John the Evangelist, whose North American houses are in Cambridge and West Newbury, Mass.) You can listen to the sermon on a podcast (www.ssje. org/wise as serpents), but here are the nuggets I took away from it.
The serpent’s wisdom lies in knowing that no matter how perfect things seemed in paradise the first man and woman were not perfect, they were incomplete, vulnerable, and limited. The dove, in Jesus’s day, was considered an innocent creature and thus was an acceptable sacrificial offering from the poor.
The only thing God doesn’t have
Reply from “Jacksonville”
Dear Gail, I’m relocating to Ireland soon and our wedding anniversary is fast approaching. I am buying the “…And this is what I wished to have!” art piece as a gift to her.”
Then came the instructions exactly predicted by the Agora Gallery about the shipping agent arranging pickup and what was my full name I wanted on the check and the contact address to which the check can be mailed.
(“Let me know the last firm price you are selling this to me. I think it’s worth it anyway, so I’ll be sending a check.”)
I won’t be replying anymore, so I will have to live with my unsatisfied curiosity. Why did the man from Jacksonville, or his bot, choose that particular art piece “This is what I wished to have!” from my Jane Eyre series?