Kate Feiffer

Sweet Smell of Success, pen and ink

In 2013, MJ Bruder Munafo asked me if I wanted to exhibit my artwork at the new Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse Art Space. “What artwork?” I asked. “I doodle.” “Okay,” she said, “Do you want to exhibit your doodles?”

MJ and I were collaborating on a musical, and she had found out that I have a chronic doodling problem. Faces and figures fall out of my pen. They show up on scraps of paper, shopping lists, receipts, the backside of envelopes, party invitations, and book contracts, when I’m lucky enough to get one. My copy of the script we were working on had little people parading across the margins.

I reluctantly agreed to have the show.

Reluctantly, because for my entire adult life, I had kept my doodling and my doodles (which I was now starting to think of as drawings, thanks to MJ) primarily to myself. The reasons why are part of a longer essay — it’s enough to say it has something to do with my last name.

Agreed, because it was a generous and thrilling offer, and the time had come to get over myself.

This was the first piece I sold. A dear friend came early to the opening reception and bought it. Later that week, I brought a childhood friend, who was undergoing chemotherapy at the time, to see the show. She walked over to this image, looked at the red dot, and said, “I wish this was still available.”

“Dave bought it,” I told her. Dave is a mutual friend. Someone close to both of us for many years. “That scoundrel,” she replied.

It’s been a year since that first show, and that first sale. I now have work in several galleries and am illustrating for publication. My childhood friend, someone I have admired, sassed, and loved for decades, has been told she doesn’t have much time left.

I went over to her house the other morning. She was sitting on the couch, looking beautiful but weak. She got up, walked into the other room, then came back in holding the picture and smiling. “Look what Dave gave me.”

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