In certain areas of Los Angeles (and I suppose in any large city), a plein air painter can expect to be solicited by a panhandler for a few coins. If the artist handles the situation properly, the encounter can be a good experience for both the artist and the asker.
Some panhandlers would rather work than beg, especially if it is noticeable work. What’s more attention-getting than to be the subject of a portrait, like when it’s done on a street corner under the watchful eyes of pedestrians and motorists.
So, I got the bright idea to make them work for their money. I tell them I will give them a certain amount if they pose for me. So far, all have agreed and have been painted on the spot.
Whenever they try too hard to pose, they get stiff, so I tell them to relax and tell me about themselves. I’ve heard some very interesting stories. Once on Hollywood Blvd., my model broke out in a song. He had a beautiful operatic voice that stopped motorists. I soon discovered that I had to work fast, as their patience often wears thin quickly. I can seldom keep them for more than ten or fifteen minutes.
I met Ole (above) in a park in Pasadena, CA. Along with his very pronounced worry lines and goatee were his very dark, black eyes. I talked to him about Jesus. He, like many street people have heard about Jesus, especially if they have stayed in a homeless shelter. They also profess being a Christian. Some of them struggle in life because they refuse to obey the scriptures while others struggle due to mental disorders. Either way, God continues to reach out to them.
How do you handle panhandlers?