水禾田 Pan is (or was?) a popular artist based in Hong Kong. He takes photography, he draws and he designs. He blogs now too (perhaps?). One night in HK, I was having a dinner with my friend Jane and her gang (she’s little famed amateur photographer with a small followings) and then walked in the diminutive and casually dressed 水禾田. We only guessed that his family name must be Pan from his moniker. At time, Pan worked closely with 黄霈 and the social butterfly 林燕妮, the two media celebrities. Over period of 7 years in HK I traveled a great deal, mostly to Europe but also made over to Egypt and Japan. By the time I met him, I just came back to HK after living in Frankfurt for little over a year; working at Bloom + Voss and trying to write my first book during my spare time (after hanging out with Jane, lol).
Pan didn’t speak Mandarin but he made effort to chat me up in my salty Cantonese – at that time, Mandarin was the dialect of poverty, totally uncool. By end of the dinner, he not only encouraged my book-writing endeavor, he volunteered to design the jacket. Jane over heard and said,
“Hey, she’s my charge and takes everything seriously .. don’t kid her if you have no desire ..” then added that I won’t be able to afford his astronomical fees anyway.
Pan’s already red face from few drinks turned purple, he put right hand over his heart, yes he meant it and he’d reduce his fee to only HK$500.
I always treasure the opportunity of meeting mentors. They are generally older and so much wiser. Not every mentor’s sophistication fit my taste or need at time, but they are the most invaluable resource that guide my growth. I don’t think you can specifically seeking out one; S/he comes to you at random and unexpected. The trick is you’ll have to recognize it and seize the occasion, be appreciative. Jane was a good mentor, so was Pan.
Few weeks after the dinner, few phone exchanges, he told me it’s ready. When I showed up at his studio, he wasn’t there. The young boy handed me the proof, looked at the invoice then wowed,
“He’s really nice to you for he never cuts his fees ..”
Before I left, the middle aged lady, perhaps his business manager/partner or agent, called me over to her desk.
“I heard about you from Pan … don’t let him down ..”
I was deeply grateful.
The book was published that year (1986) in the autumn after I settled in New York. The publisher and I had a grand plan that this was to be a series of travelogue books .. unfortunately it never materialized.