Jamie covered his clothes with his father’s old shirt and started to paint a picture.
He began with a clean white sheet of paper and painted a blue swirl on it.
He added a jagged yellow line.
Then he painted a blob of black, some pink circles that looked like balloons, some orange spots resembling freckles, some red lines similar to jackstraws, and some green smudges just like the green smear on his chin.
He added a lavender patch like the one he had dropped on his dog, Sam. He painted dashes and slashes and twirls and curls.
Then his painting arm got tired. He was finished.
Jamie stood back and looked at it. “It’s beautiful,” he said.
Sam looked at it and growled.
Jamie ran all the way to the art museum where the art contest for the school was being held. He showed his picture to the director, Mr. Lundy, who scratched his head and said, “It might be a good painting and it might be a bad one. I’ll have to let the visitors decide.”
Mr. Lundy hung the painting, and under it he put a writing tablet, a pencil, and a sign. The sign read “If you like this painting, please vote for it.”
Jamie sat on a high stool beside his picture and anxiously waited for the visitors.
The first visitor was a man with a beautiful red beard. He looked at the painting and smiled.
“Do you like it?” Jamie asked, then held his breath.
The man nodded. “I’m a mountain climber and I see that this painter has painted the very mountain that I once climbed in far-off Switzerland.”
Jamie looked at his picture in surprise.
“It’s a mountain?” he asked.
“Yes, Mount Skyhook.” The man reached for the tablet. “I’ll be glad to vote for this picture.”
The next visitor was a teacher from Jamie’s school. She looked at the picture for a long time, then wiped her eyes with a lace hankie.
“Does the picture make you sad?” Jamie asked, forgetting he was always a little shy around teachers.
“Oh, I didn’t see you there.” She quickly hid her hankie in her purse. “I haven’t seen my father for a long time, and this artist has painted a picture of my father’s spectacles.”
“Your father’s spectacles!” Jamie blinked in astonishment.
The teacher nodded. “This artist must have known and loved my father. Now that summer vacation is nearly here, I’m going to take the next train home to see him.” She wrote her name on the tablet. “And I’m going to vote for this painting.”
Jamie had scarcely recovered from the reaction of the second visitor when a third appeared. The man was dressed in the clothes of a sea captain. He stared at the picture as he whispered softly to himself. Jamie couldn’t quite hear what he said.
Finally Jamie asked, “Do you have a boat?” Before Jamie had decided to become an artist, he had planned to be a sea captain.
“Ho there, boy. Didn’t see you.” The captain shook his head sadly. “Once I had a ship, the Dory-D—the sweetest little three-masted schooner afloat. We sailed the seven seas together, me and my Dory-D.” He wiped a blue sleeve across his eyes.
“Did you lose her?” Jamie asked, wanting to cry too.
“Aye, in the wickedest storm that ever lashed the African coast. So broken up I was that I settled on land and vowed never to set foot on a deck again. But after seeing my Dory-D …”
“Your Dory-D?” And Jamie stared again at his picture.
“Aye, lad, someone has painted my Dory-D to her very last jib. The picture has given me heart again. It’s off to sea I am with a deck under my feet and a sky over my head and oh, laddie, won’t that feel great!”
After that twenty-two people came to see Jamie’s picture and twenty-two people voted for it—each one for his own special reason.
When Jamie told the director about the visitors, Mr. Lundy nodded. “In your picture people could see what they wanted to see and it made them happy. Therefore, it is a good painting.” Then he added, “Of course, you and I know that it’s really a painting of the prize rosebush in my backyard.”
“No,” Jamie said, “it’s a picture of my dog, Sam. And Sam was the only one who didn’t like it!”