Gum Wrapper

Mike remembers a story about a Korean artist that his mother once told him. This was back when Mike was young and fancied himself an artist, sketching everything and filling up stacks of drawing pads. The artist — the name escapes him now — was someone very poor, barely able to feed himself. Always sick and feeble, this artist would still look for ways to draw things. Lacking money, the artist used cheap charcoal pencils, and for his paper, he often used gum wrappers that he found in garbage cans. Mike’s mother mentioned how the artist obsessed over apples, drawing them over and over again, sometimes smudging away the previous one and redrawing right over the smudge. The artist never made much money and died young and obscure. But after the Japanese occupation, his work became better known and widely praised.

The story had inspired Mike as a little kid. The young Mike admired the resourcefulness and persistence of the poor artist. And he loved the part about the gum wrapper, an object so easily overlooked and thrown away. Mike amazed at the transformation of the gum wrapper into a blank canvas, full of possibilities well after its intended use.

Staring at his laptop, Mike realizes that the story no longer resonates the way it used to. The gum wrapper is no longer as important. He wants to know what went on in the mind of the artist. How did he fight the hunger? How did he not obsess about food or money? Why was drawing so important when his basic needs weren’t being met? And how could he keep on creating art when nobody would notice? Did he ever think of giving up?

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