Due to a slight obsession with making art (though I’m not terribly good at it), I usually carry a sketchbook around me wherever I go. I keep one on hand so that, should I get an idea to draw or see something worth sketching, a place to sketch would always be available. Naturally, I carried a sketchbook with me in London at all times throughout my travel study trip.

One afternoon, my group and I sat down at a local Italian restaurant, the ornate and rich interior was nearly empty aside from an older couple, my group, and a family sitting down beside us. The loud and chaotic chatter from the mobs wandering the street outside betrays the quiet and peaceful atmosphere the room maintained.

I’ve already ordered my food and the waiter is stepping away to relay the orders to the chef when I begin to hear murmurs from the table beside mine as I pull out my sketchbook to make a few jots and notes.

“Look!” a bewildered child exclaims to his mother. “That guy’s an artist!”

Despite my poor hearing, I’m able to hear the conversation clearly enough to meet the mother’s gaze with a smile. I happily introduce myself, shaking hands with the woman and her son, and we begin to discuss the child’s ambitions to one day become an artist! I describe my hopes of illustrating my very own graphic novels, and the boy returns my enthusiasm with his own. He talks (partially through his mother out of shyness) about how he’d like to become a painter, and I give advice when he asks how I got to where I am. Even after our conversation ended, I could still hear him and his mother talking about what I might do for a living, how long my artistic journey took me, and what it would take for him to reach my level.

The most incredible thing about this, is that I consider my work mediocre, hell, even sub-par. In all the years I’ve been drawing, I had never imagined that someone else would admire my work as I did artists with capabilities far beyond my own, creators I’ve looked up to for so many years, authors and illustrators who have reached milestones and accomplished things that I could only reach in my wildest dreams. I’m far from the only one that see’s their work in this light, it’s natural for an artist to be the biggest critic of their own work. But this moment reminded me that everyone looks up to someone, there’s no ending to art, there’s no way to learn it all. We all get better with more work, we all keep climbing, and our current goals are replaced with greater ambitions each day.  If I could show a younger me what I’ve created today, I could only imagine that I’d react the same way that child in the diner did, having just began his creative adventure.

That tiny moment, so brief in the scale of my trip, reminded me that even when I feel that what I’m working towards is out of reach and impossible, I’ve come closer than ever before. Great things start out small, we were all a bewildered child looking up at those ahead at some point, it’s where inspiration truly begins. That day, with some doodles and sketches, I inspired another, and its for moments like that that I do what I do. It’s a reminder to keep working hard, and keep stoking the fire, to live through moments like that again someday.

–Mitch Stanke