One of the more surprising things that happened in my high school: There was a kid I’ll call Sal who was a jock through-and-through, athletic, competitive, football star, his dad was one of the coaches. Junior year Sal badly injured his knee and was out for the season.
Sal would sit on the sidelines, still wearing the team jacket, to watch all the practices. One day I noticed he had a sketchbook with him. He’d taken up drawing to idle away the time. Then he realized he loved it.
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By senior year Sal had transformed into an art student with a weird haircut and dark wardrobe. He immersed himself in art classes, and we wound up going to the same art school. I just looked the guy up, and this kid who was once a football scholarship shoo-in became a professional photographer.
I thought of this because I just learned about Itsuo Kobayashi, who worked as a cook in Japan until a neurological disorder laid him up at 46. With difficulty walking, Kobayashi had to spend a lot of time indoors, and whiled the time away by drawing the meals he ate. Regularly. For 32 years.
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Kobayashi, cook-turned-artist, is now represented by Japan’s Kushino Terrace art gallery. His decades’ worth of hand-drawn food diaries were recently on-show at the Outsider Art Fair in New York.
I wonder how many artists have been accidentally unleashed by injury.