The Unskilled Artist

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
It is a short story with a pinch of mystery, misery, and longing about an artist who is in agony to create a masterpiece based his visual image of a woman.

Submitted: August 09, 2017

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Submitted: August 08, 2017

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To begin with, the colours mixed alright. He looked at the pallet with some satisfaction, almost drooling over the canvas, where he was anticipating the marvelous result of his work. With a step back, the artist was standing across the white sheet. His hand was moving in the air, putting the invisible brushes of a silhouette of a woman. He saw her. He visualized her well. He could see each curve of her perfect body, the delicate lines of her face, and even the sparkles in her eyes when she laughed so naturally and open-heartedly. He was staring at the canvas and his hand kept waving and waving in the air, as if a conductor managing the orchestra in a music hall to tune the instruments in. Finally, he allowed the brush to smear the canvas. With the true refinement and perfect delicacy he was putting a stroke after a stroke on the canvas. From time to time he shut his eyes closed for a few minutes, and it was vivid how his eyeballs were moving behind the eyelids. He was following the volatile figure of the woman in the attempt to catch each wrinkle, each crinkle, each flaw of her flawless body, each mole on her irresistibly-looking skin. In his reminiscence he was collecting all the details, all the evidence of the beauty. He could not cast a thought of missing a spot or drawing a deceitful line that did not belong to his imaginary model. A subtle smile played about his face. The artist scrutinized the pallet. He stood perplexed for a several minutes; then cautiously probed a hue on the canvas. It looked like it, but something in the colour was missing. It might resemble the complexion of her skin, yet slightly. The artist murmured a silent curse, and changed the hue for a pinch darker one. The olive skin with a deep touch of the summer sun was dissolving from his memory. He was getting angry with himself for not being able to catch the thin line between the one he saw in his mind eye and what was appearing on the canvas. He was probing a shade after a shade, a smear after a smear, his moves shifting from rapid and hectic swings, to restrained and careful glides and sweeps. Her voice… The painting must reflect her bluebell-like voice, the charm of her laughter. It should be visible though the colours he was extracting from the pallet. Yet, all looked trivial to him in comparison with that terrestrial beauty he immobilized in front of his eyes. The artist was trying harder and harder. He could not stop himself for a minute. What if he would lose the grip of the image and the picture would fade away? No! He could not let this happen. So he carried on working despite the exhaustion and the dreadful numbness in his limbs. His beard had grown long, his jaws and collar bones had sharpened, a nasty smell went off his rumpled clothes. His flesh was in desperate need of a wash, his weary brain a good night of healthy sleep, his weakened body a portion of nourishing food. Barely keeping the balance, the artist wiped his forehead, leaving traces of paint all over his face, and staggered back. Instantly, he gasped and slid down on the floor, as though a wounded animal. A grotesque figure was smirking at him from the canvas. The artist was gazing at the painting which bore no resemblance to the one he had been cherishing in his imagination. All her virtues turned into a disgusting unnatural figure, more of a caricature than of a perfect image of a woman. What could have happened? The question was like a whirlpool swaying in his head, making him feel dizzy and nauseous. While he had been painting, he had seen how the dabs of the colours were lying on the canvas, creating a lifelike image. What could have gone wrong? Where had he made a mistake? Which moment had his hand misbehaved and betrayed his design, his vision? Maybe he was too tired and his eyes were cheating on him? Having taken a few deep breaths, he got back on his feet and giving the last desperate glance at the canvas, left the studio. He just needed a few hours of rest and sleep. When he comes back to the studio, he will see her, the goddess of his dreams. Half a day later, he hesitated at the door, lacking courage to step over the threshold and look the truth in the eye. He approached the canvas with his eyes closed. On opening them, he had to grab a chair not to plummet down. Her face was a grimace of a wicked lady, all wrinkled and withered as one of an old woman. Her body was distorted and nebulous. And her skin! Of a repelling colour it was, all yellowish and hollowed. Terrified, the artist clutched his head in a horror of the moment. He needed light! All he needed was the right lighting. He could improve it all, nothing had been lost forever. In a split of a second the artist sprung on his feet, drew open all the curtains in the studio, letting the sunshine lit the whole room. Yes. Yes! That was it! The sun rays were sparkling and glistening, reflecting golden specks off the painted body on the canvas. He grasped the pallet and the brush and rushed to the unrealistic figure, which was in an urgent need of repair. The sun was going down behind the horizon. The artist fearfully was casting glimpses out of the window. How he wished to adjourn the approaching twilight! He was squinting and rubbing his eyes trying to focus his vision and was hurrying to add the last strokes to the improved figure of the lady. The studio had almost plunged into the darkness, when he dropped the pallet and the brush and drowned himself in a sleep. A new day touched him on his cheek. Reluctantly he lifted his heavy eyelids only to avert his eyes in disgust again. This time the figure on the canvas had a lopsided grin; the whole silhouette was mocking and gawking at him. The body of the woman seemed bent in an extinguishable laughter over the misfortunes of the poor artist. He dropped on his knees. Embracing himself, he started to rock side to side. Moans of agony were leaving his throat. The sounds of a trapped dying animal filled up the room. Slowly he crawled to the canvas. His hands were sliding the body of the woman, caressing her like a terminally ill lover, praying her to cure and shine again. Silent exhortations mixed with roars, he never let his fingers off the canvas. Crawling and creeping on his knees, he moved around the studio lighting one candle after another. Soon the room was filled with the flickering light. With the shaking hands, the artists picked up the pallet and the brush and brought them closer to the canvas. One stroke, another one, yet another one, and one more. Like a madman he was standing on his knees in front of the figure of the woman who seemed to be peeling off a skin of an ugly creature and turning into a god-blissed miracle of a woman. He saw the change. He was witnessing the alteration. A Madonna was looking down at him, all her body stretching towards him in the longing desire to embrace and lullaby his worn-out being. Her heavenly smile was inviting him for a kiss, her skin for the touch of his skin. As the dawn was breaking in the coolness of the air outside, he dropped his arms, he let the pallet and the brush out of his hands. He approached his face to the canvas, gave a kiss to either foot of the woman, leaving wet traces of his tears on the olive-like skin, and fell into a deep quiet sound sleep of relief. The goddess on the canvas moved slightly. The sweet smile was adorning her calm face. The look in the eyes was soft and warm like the coming promising day. One graceful move of her perfect gorgeous leg and she stepped out of the canvas. Her light step hardly touched the floor. She was not even moving, sooner hovering above the floor. Like a breath of breeze she came up to the evenly breathing man and planted a rose-like kiss on his dry faded lips. And one more, and one more. He did not stir. The silhouette of the lady got up and headed for the window, towards the brightening up day. She turned her head to throw one last glance at the sleeping artist and walked out of the window. He woke up by a slight pull inside his chest. He opened his eyes again, unexplainably alert, his hungry searching gaze at the canvas. Only a coarse sigh went out of his mouth and he closed his eyes back, unable to endure the look on the canvas. A monster of a deformed, perverted shape was wickedly staring at him… The unskilled artist, he was mistakenly creating a masterpiece of his own delusion, never seeing the real image of his own goddess behind.


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