It all started with a drawing, which I fell in love with at first sight. It is titled Gosho The Cattle Herd.
Look at it. Simple, if not childish. What’s the big deal?
Story 1 – The Drawing
There he is – Gosho with his herd, a bit scruffy in his patched trousers and galoshes looking at the cows with a Mona Lisa smile-smirk. The dark curly hair and the shape of his nose hint that he is probably a Roma, which fits with his occupation – hardly an aspirational one for Bulgarians, who largely consider themselves superior. You are not sure how to read his face – he appears listening intently to something, but there is also an air of contentment about him. He is right in his element, holding his crook with all the authority in the world.
Now look at the cows. If I ask you to draw a cow, you would probably go for a lateral view, something like this:
(Image source: howtodrawanimals.net)
It is easy to draw and certainly looks like a cow. However the artist has chosen the much more challenging front view. His cows are facing You. In fact one of them is looking you right in the eye – SMILING! Standing out from the herd, balanced by the only one, which looks down, grazing, the smiling cow is the focal point of the composition. Then there is the cow behind Gosho, who has turned her head towards him giving him an affectionate lick.
See how cleverly the artist has marked the meadow which the herd is in – just a little grass in front of the grazing cow – but somehow you know that there is grass everywhere. See how each cow has a character – do you doubt that Gosho can tell you all about them as if they are his children? And finally, notice how the the scene oscillates with movement – the flies and the cows tails wagging them away, the rhythm of the shapes and textures.
What moved me in this drawing is the affection and simple joy of life that emanates from it, the subtle psychology of the narrative and the ingenuity of the visual language. This is most certainly a drawing from memory – it is immediate and non contrived. What talent, what sensitivity does it take to produce it, what originality! Who, on earth would choose Gosho the cattle herd as a subject matter of his artwork – and manage to tell all there is to tell about the most important things in life?
Story 2 – The Artist
His name is Anio. Although his parents are alive, he grew up in an orphanage – the most problematic one in the region of Sofia. His brother who was adopted by a foreign couple. He is still in college, though he is 3 years past the normal graduation age, and if he graduates (yes, IF) he will be the first kid from that orphanage to do so in the last 15 years. In terms of talent, I rank him in the league of Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat. I don’t know if he will be lucky and resilient enough to realise his talent, but I am certain that for the rest of his life he will have his art as a place to go when he wants to escape from it all. This is Anio’s story – an open ended one.
Story 3 – Milena
Milena is my friend who founded ‘Embrace Me’ – an association which works with underprivileged children, involving them in creative activities. She started small and alone and now has a network of creative professionals who engage children from orphanages in art, crafts, music, literature, drama, take them on vacations to the Black Sea like the kids of middle class families – and more. Some of her ‘graduates’ now work with the young ones. ‘Embrace Me’ gives the children sense of worth, confidence and faith – a life beyond their physical needs. Milena campaigns, raises funds, manages, networks, fights all the difficulties which the situation in Bulgaria, the poorest country in Eastern Europe puts in her way – and succeeds despite the odds. Here she is:
Anio is one of Milena’s kids. That’s how you ended up reading these three stories.
If you want to find out more about Anio, or Embrace Me Association, please let me know.