The man who makes people happy

Mario Vargas Llosa

He paints and sketches portraits, but if someone should ask this man what his true vocation is, he would immediately reply, without hesitation or doubt, “Making people happy.”  In fact, nothing is so rewarding to that heart that has been beating for more than seventy springtimes as the delight on the face of a passerby who has paused a few moments to pose for him when the artist holds up the pad with the portrait, and his subject recognizes his face—improved over real life.  “But how well you captured me, señor,” they tell him, grateful.  “You’ve even made me good-looking.”  And the girls, happy to see themselves so beautiful thanks to his pencil or brush, often give him a kiss.

The happiness of his clients makes the artist happy, too.  There is so much misery in this world that lifting someone’s spirit and helping him believe—if only for a minute—that life is worth living, is to do a good work.  And isn’t it wonderful to be able to do that by drawing and painting, that is, by practicing the most gratifying of callings?  He discovered how fascinating it is to draw when he was a little boy, and although he has spent his life as an artist, what he does still has the power to move him and stimulate him, and make him wonder if besides being art, drawing and painting aren’t also some kind of miracle.  Because that is what he feels when the charcoal lines on his sketch pad begin to evoke a face that reproduces not just his model’s face, but his character, dreams, and soul as well.

Since life is hard, and one has to eat, he charges for his portraits, of course.  Not much; a fair price and no more.  But if for some reason he is especially fascinated by a face he works for nothing, for the mere satisfaction of having painted something worth painting.  Although young and old, men and women, have emerged from his hand, his favorite models are children.  To help them sit quietly, like this little girl, he tells them stories as he learns their secrets and transposes them to the portrait.  So he makes them doubly happy.  Who can doubt that life is beautiful when you work at something you love?

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