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Truro News - 2021-11-25

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Gift of art to strangers

Sports

JEN TAPLIN SALTWIRE NETWORK jtaplin@herald.ca @chronicleherald

Acouple of friends. A mom and son. A couple out on a date. They’re sitting in a bar, a coffee shop, a sunny spot outside on the streets of Halifax. Involved in their conversation, their personal dramas, gossip of the day, when a young man named Maxwell Macaulay approaches them with a piece of paper, freshly ripped out of a book. He’d say something like “Hi I noticed you and drew a sketch of you sitting there. You can have it if you like.” The reaction is usually a combination of amazement, surprise, gratitude and appreciation of his talent. But once in a while they’ll think he’s up to something nefarious (he’ll promise he’s not, that he’s just trying to spread joy), curse at him and tell him to leave. On this particular rainy Monday in Halifax, the surprise art is for Faith Lamoureux and Ellis Burry, friends who meet every week to linger over coffees and a meal. They found a cozy booth in The Nook on Gottingen Street. “Oh that’s really cool! You did such a great job,” Lamoureux says when they’re presented with Macaulay’s sketch. “That’s amazing, I love it so much,” Burry says, then looking up at her friend: “I get to keep it, you don’t.” Their laughter and surprise is a big reason Macaulay, 23, does this kind of thing. It’s also not bad for his social media accounts either. He’s had millions of views on Tiktok, Youtube, Instagram and others (@slick. skills). And with all that attention has come commissions from all over the world, making Macaulay think he can make a serious go of this artist thing. NO TRAINING Teachers made all the difference for Macaulay. In junior high, his art teacher encouraged Macaulay and sparked in him a love of the craft. But then in high school, the support wasn’t there and his interest in art faded. He suffered from depression and he had to drop out of his first year at Dalhousie studying sciences. “With that, I found my passion in art again, so through that time I did more art and sketching … Out of everything else, I felt it was something I was good at and I liked too. That’s all I want to do full-time, somehow.” Wanting to make art for a living, he enrolled into business classes at the Nova Scotia Community College, hoping to learn how to be an entrepreneur. In the meantime he started a Tiktok account in 2019 and started making videos. At this point, they were comedy videos, not really related to art as well. Then he started producing videos featuring his sketches and those did well. “I was like, OK, I need something else.” LIKE WILDFIRE He was sketching strangers on a bus, or out in a cafe just to practice his skills when he decided to activate video on his phone, and put it in his pocket to capture the reaction as he gifted the artwork to strangers. Afterward, Macaulay asked people for their permission to post the video. The videos took off in the first few weeks of March 2020 with some getting well over five million views on Tiktok. He got in about three videos before the first lockdown, he said. “Right when I couldn’t go outside, or if I did, people would be pissed at me,” he said. Macaulay notes that not long after, Devon Rodriguez started posting videos of sketching people on the New York City subway. One of the most popular artists on the platform, Rodriguez has over 20 million followers. “It just started dying because this one guy was doing very, very well.” But Macaulay kept at it and posted as many videos as he could when restrictions eased. He was also getting people contacting him, mostly the U.S. or the Philippines, offering to pay him for his work. He gets between $30-$4,000 depending on the extent of the piece. He said he’s learned that you don’t have to be really good to make a living at art, you just have to know how to market yourself. “I wanted to do this from the start because I wanted to get better and because when I was giving people the drawings they liked it, which made me feel good. I felt like I have some good work.” NEXT COOL THING Instead of sketching just one moment in time, Macaulay is partnering with friends who have talents in video and storytelling on a new project to use art to capture more of people’s lives. People email Macaulay a personal story — it must be true — and Macaulay will sketch it. Along with his friends, they’ll illustrate the story with video mixed with clips of Macaulay’s sketching. The first videos will likely be posted this week. “I’m looking to do 100 stories … and eventually it will turn into a book.”

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