Monday, May 26, 2008

Unexpected Visitors

When the doorbell rang yesterday, Jeanette leaned into the studio and said, “Jim, would you get it?”

A silver BMW with spoke wheels had parked in the driveway. Two men with blue shirts were standing on the front porch.

I reached for my sketch pouch and stepped outside. The younger man said, “Are you concerned about the future?”

“Sure,” I said. I opened up some folding chairs and invited them to sit down. I asked the younger man if he would be willing to sit for a sketch, and he agreed. He opened his Bible and read the stories of Adam, Noah, Job, and Lazarus.

“According to Jehovah,” he said, “God is bringing this system to an end, and suffering will come to mankind.”

The older man followed along with his index finger in his own Bible. He glanced up from time to time to watch me draw. I was using a 4B graphite pencil. After I sharpened it a couple of times the pencil became almost too short to hold. The older man said, “I was wondering when you were going to get a new pencil.”

The younger man said that no one had ever sketched his portrait before. He brought out a camera and asked to take a picture of the sketch and of us together.

The older man reached into a leather case and handed me a book entitled "WHAT DOES THE BIBLE Really TEACH?" and "SHOULD YOU FEAR THE FUTURE?" They said they would be back again. I’ll have my watercolor kit ready.


  1. I have a problem with psychological manipulation.
    Yes, I do.
    The story as told here clearly shows how to do it.
    Be very friendly and patient.
    Pretend that your motives are absolutely harmless.
    Have a seat and talk a bit.
    This will create a good starting atmosphere.
    Once that is established, present a gift of any form. Say that you want to do something for the other person.
    This will break their last suspicion.
    They are now defenceless.
    This is the moment to STRIKE!
    And strike hard: show them that portrait and BINGO !
    A new soul lost to Dinotopia!

    So watch out for people wearing Dinotopia T-shirts!

  2. This is a beautiful story and portrait. When people come to my door preaching, my first reaction is to get angry and to tell them to go away. I like your reaction better. Looks like everyone won.

  3. My father use to let them in too.
    For a long discussion.
    But I stick to polite rejection as I think it's pointless to try to get my point of view through.
    However, I saw a documentary on I think young American Mormon's "recruting" in Germany.
    At the end, one of the US boys who was raised in a Mormon family(!) was really getting doubts about it all as a result of all these discussions. He said something like he'd "heard some things that he found difficult to ignore".

    So what's the lesson here?

    Germans are manipulaters to!!
    Knew it.

  4. Wow, just when I'd thought I'd seen everything on your blog Jim! This is a really interesting post.

    Nice of you to invite them in and have a chat. People so often say that "you shouldn't talk about religion and politics", but I find that those topics are often the ones that reveal our hearts making us question and interact with the things that really matter in this life. Keep us posted on the return visit!

    Fun sketch too, how long did they stay?

    Have a good holiday!

  5. Praise the Lord and pass the pencils and paper...

    This is great, where we live we get the Mormons, they don't come around very much. When they do I have to say I will have to try this next time they show up.

    Interesting that they drove such a nice car, the lord has provided for these gents...

  6. Great story! And great picture.
    Very funny Erik!

  7. I never answer the door unless I'm expecting someone.

    98% of the time it's someone I don't want to talk to and my time is far too valuable to me.

    Certainly an interesting way to abate the situation and get a live model to sit for free.

    Anyone ever accuse you of being too nice? :)


  8. No such thing as 'too nice' me thinks. People that are nicer than me are better than me. Period.
    How nice you are is a good barometer for how positive your attitude is. (provided you don't fake it of course)
    It's a mental healthcheck.

    Besides, didn't James Gurney just illustrate that you can be 'too nice' and still 'take advantage' of a situation. Someone here called it a win-win.

  9. I like the way you handled it! We used to have people who came around to "talk". They didn't recruit me, but they were kind and interesting. The first time that they came, I had just moved to this area and my dog had puppies the day we moved. I said that I would listen, if they promised to come back for puppies. When the puppies were ready...they took three. (Three more went to a Catholic church festival. God stepped right on in there and dispursed 'em. LOL) Mahatma Gandhi said, "Religions are different roads converging upon the same point. What does it matter that we take difernt roads so long as we reach the same goal?"

  10. Thank you! These are wonderful philosophical thoughts that you are all raising. Radikin, I think they were here for about 45 minutes.

    I had another memorable encounter a few years ago. A car packed full of young missionaries pulled up and three stepped out, getting ready to engage me in a discussion on religion.

    Instead on a momentary whim I handed one guy a baseball and said "You're pitching," and gave another a plastic bat and said "You're up." I told the third one, "We're the outfield." And so began a game that went on for an hour, with all the other people coming out of the car one by one--all of them wearing suits and dresses, mind you.

    They never got around to their other "pitch," but one of them said, as he was getting into the car, "This is the most fun we've had. Maybe that's what the Lord is all about."

    So you see, Erik, baseball is a religion here in America.

  11. Manipulating a whole congregation?
    Now you really got me scared.

  12. Wow! I'm impressed.

    I used to be able to get rid of religious solicitors (as recently as a few years ago) by claiming that I was not an adult and my parents weren't home. That only works if they're elderly, since 31 is not exactly the teenage years...

  13. My dad also invited some churchies in once. Lets just say that my parents house isn't on their list anymore.

  14. Mr. Gurney, you obviously have a confidence that most people, including myself, don't share. That's impressive!

  15. That is a brilliant way to get a free model to sit for a bit. You rock.

  16. everyone wins! way to go jim!
    smiles around the table served!
    buen trabajo!

  17. Winter time and the frigid chill cut to the bone.

    The mighty Mormon male duo appeared and I allowed them to enter to bask in the delightful warmth inside.

    I laid the ground rules... stay until thoroughly warm but no proelytizing since I was already well-versed in their cult's ways and means... and I view all religions as cults.

    Nice kids appreciative of the warmth.

    They became regular visitors. Perhaps my offering prevented frost bite.

    It was also an opportunity to introduce the lads to the "dirtier" side of life, relating tales of what occurred in Oriental ports and at various places across the USA.

    Who knows what tales of lust and greed and a plethora of other sins made it back to Utah.

  18. Mr. Gurney,

    I'm impressed that you handled it this way. They make an honest, loving effort to go door to door to share the scriptures and encourage people as Jesus did. No need to fear them or hide from them. This way you all had a nice conversation and everyone felt good. Nicely done Mr. Gurney.

  19. Genius. just genius... maybe when i grow up a little i can be as cavalier as you. Im barely able to draw people on the train without fearing theyll catch me...

  20. Forgive me for my ignorance, but where did you get your shirt? Was it a custom printing or was it once an available piece of merchandise?

  21. Hahaha, priceless! I like Jorge's comment about growing up to be as cavalier as you. I love stories where people engage strangers in a way only commonplace in the "good ol' days" where one was innocent until proven guilty and not the other way around. We all have a great potential to bring happiness to those around us, and you seem to use it to the max.

  22. That is a fantastic idea! I've gotten where I (I don't want to be rude) either act like I'm not home- that doesn't work because I'm a poor actor, or I open the door quickly and say "no thank you!" and close it quickly... But a model... deliverd to your door for FREE! That's a great idea! Thank you, I can hardly wait for my first unsuspecting victim/model! Bwa-ha-ha!

  23. James, I laughed so hard I had tears rolling down my cheeks! This is awesome! Good for you to be able to make good use of a situation and make this a memorable encounter for all.

  24. Found this blog through Pharyngula - great story and your artwork is stunning.

    I had JW's call a couple of weeks ago and I invited them in for a very enjoyable debate - it never even occurred to me to draw them! Brilliant. :)

  25. You rock! What a great story. Wholehearted fun!

  26. what a great idea!! I am not sure I could pull it off, but I'm glad YOU did.

  27. y, Very cool story. The sketch is cool too!

  28. That Mormon or Jehovah Witnesses gives me creeps :| ... Every religious fanatic does, indeed.

    But you managed it very politely and kindly... You are my hero.

  29. haha free models in the comfort of your own home, you're my hero

  30. Hi

    Just thought I'd share: I was recently in Brazil at an outdoor bar sketching. Some little girls came up to try and sell me fake flowers. I was a bit annoyed - mostly that little kids had to sell flowers. Then one girl asked me to draw her so I did. I didn't buy any flowers but I gave her the picture. I'm sad a didn't get a photo of the drawing but I'm sure it meant more to her than me.
    I've also heard of people going to poorer areas of town and setting up a free portrait stand. Sounds fun . . .

  31. I must complain!!! My shirts are white, not blue, but I have also given out those publications, and no one has drawn my picture!!!

    I want a picture, LOL

    Great web site, and I am sure your kindness was appreciated.

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  33. Hugs for Gurney!

    I would not feel psychologically manipulated by such a welcome. I wish I could come to your door, and see what new way you find for me to participate in your life!

    For a really interesting story about Noah and his grandchildren, have them read it to you from our paraphrase version, The Bible in Living English. It's a work of linguistic art.

    I think you probably designed that shirt yourself, didn't you?

  34. I actually enjoy chatting with the various missionaries who come around, but maybe I'm just starved for companionmship! At any rate, I am certainly going to use this technique next time they come by.

    Also, a bonus to JW literature: Frequently it features (unsigned) illustrations by none other than Drew Struzan, who famously joined their ranks a few years back.

  35. Very gentlemanlike way. Reminds me of my mother. When I was a child we had a visit of mormons. Two very handsome looking young men well dressed. My mother showed them in. They had a little paper theatre to show the birth of Christ. I enjoyed the play and afterwards my mother asked if it was true that mormons could have two wives. They smiled and admitted that if was true. Then she asked if a woman mormon could have two husbands. They said no. Then she said that in that case she vould not join the mormon religion. They went out laughing.

  36. i know this post is years old by now, but i've been reading through your blog (start to finish, oi!) and i had to comment once i got here.

    there is so much good stuff in here. your positive approach and ability to find a drawing opportunity where most would usually not even look are as inspiring as the content i read from you on your blog and in your books.

    thanks, i've learned so much from you. both on the page and off, so to speak.

  37. Hey, Eignh, Thanks for leaving a comment. Wow, that's a lot of reading. You're not even halfway.

    I do get email alerts from earlier posts, so feel free to leave comments along the way.

  38. Interestingly enough, despite the comments, these two aren't Mormons, but of another sect, possibly Jehovah's Witnesses?

  39. Justin: Yes. I didn't mention the affiliation because I wanted people to hold off their assumptions.


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