Blog post by Reed S. from Washington, DC.
Last year I introduced you to Carlton, a 45-year-old homeless man who took up painting a few years ago and discovered an untapped talent.
Yesterday I was walking around the west side of the traffic circle at Dupont Circle where I found Carlton in the exact same location I found him last summer. Sweat beading down his forehead, he greeted me with an upbeat hello. “Everything is cheap. Really cheap,” he told me. I reminded him who I was and he claimed to remember meeting me although I am not sure.
He reminded me why he chose this location to do his paintings. “I used to panhandle right here and now I want all those people who knew me then to see what I am doing now!”
Having not seen him much lately I asked if he had started painting someplace else. He explained that he had been down in Norfolk,VA helping with his mother who is struggling with diabetes.
Sitting on the concrete sidewalk, just feet away from some leftover puddles from a mid-afternoon shower, Carlton started to work on a clean canvas. “I painted a parrot today!” he blurted out. “I’ve never painted animals before.” I prefer his landscapes.
Carlton, who battles HIV, stays healthy by walking and biking throughout the city. “I’m staying over near Gallaudet University now and ride my bike all the way over here.” That’s about 30 blocks and in this heat it’s easier said than done.
He seems to turn into Bob Ross and starts painting happy bushes and trees. “I ran out of black paint,” he told me as he used a piece of sponge to smear a terracotta colored horizon.
Always working the crowd, Carlton is keenly aware of when the eyes of passersby focus on his work. “I’m Carlton, the homeless artist,” he says in his raspy voice. “They’re all very inexpensive.” She’s silent and he goes back to putting in some trees on his newest work. “Talk to me,” he says grinning and hoping she will make an offer on one of the half-dozen paintings that surround him.
I shove a few dollars in his cup and shake his slippery hand. “Now you tell your wife (I’m not married by the way) that you didn’t fall in the mud, you tell her you shook Carlton the homeless painter’s hand!”