Day 205 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Write about a passionate, but unpopular artist.
Erin: People always looked at me a certain way when I would show them my work. I could see their judgements: I was wasting my time, no one would ever pay me, and I should focus on my “real” job. That didn’t stop me though. My art was for the love of it, not for any other gain. I bleed onto my canvases, sharing my view of the world was my only goal and that is what I was doing.
Shannon: “Why do you always have to get so upset when people don’t understand your pieces? I know you think you’re this creative genius, but welcome to the world. People are allowed to have their opinions. Everybody gets criticized, you’re not the exception,” I blew up after he punched a hole through days of hard work.
“I know,” he snapped the wood panels over his leg a few times. “I know,” he repeated, throwing it to the ground. I’d never seen him this upset as he stopped down again and again until I forced him to stop. “I just want one person to get it,” he pleaded, begging me with his eyes.
“I get it,” I reminded him.
He shook his head, “No, I want someone who doesn’t know me. A person who doesn’t have a reason to get it,” he looked down. “Maybe it’s time to move on,” he shrugged and I saw the pain on his face right before he stormed off.
“What about your work,” I called after him. When he didn’t turn around, I took it upon myself to clean up. That’s when something strange happened. I picked up the canvas he destroyed, expecting the worse, but I saw the exact opposite. He had to see this.
Create a character that is creating something of their own.
Paint stained every solid surface, including furniture that I’d loaned from friends so long ago I couldn’t remember whose they were, in flamboyant shades of neon green and hot pink. Streaked across the cupboards and doors were angry strokes and flecks of what could have been blood, and I couldn’t tell you for certain it wasn’t. Sunlight filtered through the two-storey windows in splintered cracks and tinted with smears of ugly, sun-bleached colours. Canvases lined every wall, leaning against each other on the floor and hanging from rustic ropes and hooks. Dripping down from the spectacular ceiling were torn scraps of fabric and brilliant scarves that made the room feel almost like the cave of a world-traveller.
The sliding door crashed loudly, shuddering against the frame and locks; the unit was retrofitted as a suite, but there hadn’t been any locking mechanisms when I rented it, so I kept it sealed with more bolts than a bank safe. While I’d been here a while, I didn’t get many visitors that would have the nerve to wake me this early in the afternoon, so I groaned angrily at the intruder. Two thirty-three in the day was far too early for me to be awake, let alone sober.
Sliding off the lumpy mattress, I landed on the clothing-strewn floor with a cramp in my shoulder and heaved myself onto my feet. It took me a few minutes to find a shirt clean enough to be presentable and, shivering in the breeze coming through a cracked window, I threw a hoodie that was splotched with bleach and blood on over the shirt. Still shrugging the cramp in my shoulder out, I strode across to the metal door and began undoing the locks at a leisurely pace; that’d teach whoever it was to wake me up before dinner.
As the last heavy lock hit the floor at my feet, bouncing away toward the coffee table, I slid the door shakily with a frown plastered to my exhausted face. “What?” I growled, leaning against the doorframe to obscure as much of my apartment as possible for no reason.
“Alias?” squeaked a mouse of a man in a finely-pressed brown suit, clutching a suitcase to his tiny chest. As he’d spoken in a halting manner, the minuscule slip of a moustache on his lip quivered minutely as though it were about to walk off his face and hide.
Rolling my eyes, I sighed heavily and frowned even more as I croaked, “Yeah, I’m Alias,” as I shrugged and headed for the kitchenette. Surprisingly, as I staggered around the rusting coffee table, the mouse followed me with light, quick steps on the painted floorboards. “What’d’you want?” I turned around and the man almost ran right into me, blushing furiously from the tip of his nose to his ears.
“Well, uhm, I have a uh, a proposal from, well, an admirer,” he began, swinging around me to brush some mossy dishes off the kitchen table and opening the case with a flourish. Yanking a small stack of papers from the container, he grinned at me, showing off a row of genuinely horrifying teeth; they were minute and pointed like a shark’s. “She, my employer, that is, has been watching you going into art shows with dozens of paintings and leaving with the same for ages now. She’s, uh, she’s quite the, well, the collector of fine things.” He set the papers on the table and drew a pen from the inside of his jacket that was bejeweled with what appeared to be rubies and sapphires of the highest carat. Squeaking, he continued, “She has made many a deal with artists the world over, and each one has found new levels of notoriety because of their deals. Of course, they are quite strict and you will have to act in a timely manner,” he sighed, tilting his head as someone in the know would do when being forced to explain a simple idea to someone beneath them.
Clearing my throat, I waited until the world stopped spinning to continue into the kitchen in search of some water. Where there had once been cabinets stocked with canned goods, plates and cups, I’d destroyed the doors, thrown out the food, smashed the plates and mixed paints in all the cups. Once pristine quartz counters were so stained and full of odd bottles of whiskey and paint that the place might never have been a kitchen at all. I’d filled the fridge with booze and leftover takeout containers that had begun to grow mold, but that was the only part of the corner that resembled a place in which to eat.
Breathing heavily and feeling as though the man in my apartment were talking in gibberish, I splashed water on my warm cheeks and drank a few good mouthfuls of crisp water. I finally turned back to him and asked in a polite tone, “Okay, what do you mean she wants to make a deal? ‘Cause I don’t really need any help with my career, thanks, if that’s what this is about. I don’t need a sponsor.” With a backhanded wave at the man and his papers, I filled up a dirty glass with what I hoped was juice and headed toward my couch to rest my eyes. As I stumbled against the soft end of the couch, I dropped the cup on the table, sloshing orange liquid onto the newsprint-covered surface, and leaned back on the fluffy pillows.
“Look, Miss Alias, I have to give my employer an answer and I implore you to take her deal; it will make you more famous than you’ll know what to do with. Up until now, the only people to purchase your artwork are friends and family, but if you sign on the dotted line, no one will be able to stand not owning at least one of your pieces,” he implored, setting the papers before me and snapping his suitcase shut with a snap. “I shall be back in six hours for your answer. Please, though, take her up on it.” With that, the strange mousy man was gone, with only the strange, black and white pages to prove he ever existed.
Still partly believing him to have been a hallucination, I got up almost immediately and had a scalding shower, threw some comfortable clothing on and hunted around for my rum. After I’d taken a few drags on the partial bottle, I stood before my paintings and admired the heavy-stroked flowers and pop-art faces that stood out on the plain backgrounds. There were dozens of symbols that popped out from natural landscapes in hues of dust and olive, while others were ships tossed on oceans at midnight. Animals leapt from tall canvases filled with jungle and savannah; their fur spotted with petite brushstrokes that made them feel rough and harsh as life. I fell into the swirling abstraction of a midnight sky with unknown constellations prickling from the indigo plains.
After finally beginning a new painting, in which I could see a symbol as plain as if it had been carved into the canvas itself, I became entranced in my work and splashed the walls with fiery scarlet and umber. Hours flew by and it was suddenly seven in the evening, the sun having already kissed the mountaintops and penthouses goodnight. When I staggered out of my stupor, my arms were bloody with paint smudges and the painting before me was fire engulfing a dove’s wings as she struggled against it. Breathing as though I’d just gone for a run, I made it to the kitchen and washed chunks of paint from my skin before getting changed.
In the bar down the street, I sat at the counter nursing a rye and coke, listening to the disdainful wailings of a failed poet put to music and studiously ignoring the bartender’s advances. Around the room, couples cuddled under the flatteringly dim light, tables of bikers wagered without fear of intrusion and women with painted faces made eyes at every man they saw; everyone was at least on their way to being drunk enough to enjoy the entertainment. I drained my glass in a large gulp, letting the fire burn down my throat and wishing secretly that I could be consumed by the flames from my painting. When my phone buzzed furiously in my pocket, I sighed and pulled it out, blinding myself with the sudden light.
“AVJ want art goone 2nite. Coem now.” The text was from my agent, who happened to be my direct competition in the art world, and wasn’t the most welcome on a night like this. When he got drunk, his spelling got worse, so I had to assume he was more wasted than I was and made as anything at the show room throwing me out. Growling, I threw a bill on the counter, took one final sip to get the last drops of fire into my mouth and headed out the door and into the chilly night air.
Brisk as it was, most people walking around were scantily clad, this being the wrong side of town, and I did my best to ignore anyone I passed. Down the street, I turned right and walked right in to the closed showroom, searching the paintings for my agent’s; if I was out, he was probably in. When I couldn’t find any of his signature looks, I headed to the back room and found him smoking a hand-rolled cigarette and bobbing his head to the rhythm of some rap group.
“Hey, Alias, glad you’re here; they didn’t sell anything of yours but they want you out,” he shouted smoothly, forgetting he had earplugs in. It took me a minute to realize my paintings were already piled on the floor by the door, looking like an abandoned puppy.
Nodding to him, I called in an echoing voice, “They really didn’t sell any? They’ve been here for months and I have dozens more in my apartment.” Even if he couldn’t hear me, he’d understand the tone; at least I hoped he would.
“Nah, they said they suck,” he replied shortly, tapping the canvases with his toe as though I wouldn’t recognize my own work. “They wanna close up. Take ‘em while you can.” With a sickly smile on his yellowed lips, he took another drag on the cigarette and ground the butt into the rough surface of my work, chuckling darkly as he walked into the back room.
Having dragged my paintings back to my apartment down unsightly streets, I felt the urge to throw them in a pile, but resisted. Instead, I leaned them up with the others, grabbed another drink and settled down on the couch to eye the jewel-studded pen that rested on the deal. It seemed so inviting; I could sign those papers and become more famous than I knew what to do with. On the other hand, the partly sober part of me wanted to know what I would be agreeing to before I signed it. Flicking through, careful not to spill any alcohol on the stiff pages, I searched the legal jargon for a description of what I’d be giving up, but couldn’t find a single word on the subject. All it said was that the signee would be granted fame and fortune.
After skimming it three more times, the door rattled again and slid open to the mousy man, this time with rage easily seen in his steely eyes. “So, what have we decided, eh?” he asked, stepping around a pile of rags that may have been clothing at one time. When he was standing at my shoulder, eyeing the unsigned paper warily, I turned my watery eyes on him.
“What am I, uh, I am, what signing away, away, anyway? I mean, I probably should, should hire, one of those, a, a lawyer or something, right?” I slurred drunkenly, spilling my cup on the pillows.
“Only your soul, my dear. Nothing at all, really,” he assured, helping me to grip the pen. Something in my brain was screaming to not fall for it, but the rest of me was far too drunk to listen to reason. I scribbled my signature, the paper disappeared and I could hear a booming laughter as the man vanished into thin air.
Finn can remember vividly the moment he was inspired to be an artist. He was only in elementary school, at a park while he waited for his father to pick him up. He sat watching the other kids, not wanting to join in on the games because they didn’t make sense to him. He just liked watching, observing.
He looked away from his spot to a young man sitting on a bench not far away. Finn noticed he would look up from his lap, then look back down and move his hand back and forth. Finn stands up and walks over. He looks at the man, then the pad on his lap.
“What are you doing?”
The man looks up. He sees Finn’s expression and smiles, “I am drawing.”
“Oh.” Finn tilts his head, “What are you drawing?”
The man pats the bench beside him, so Finn hops up to sit next to him. The man points across the park. There is a little girl sitting there, with crutches leaning against the bench. An older girl sits with her, talking and reading a book as the little girl watches the kids.
Then the man points to his sketch book. Finn sees the same girl on the page. The first image is the one he saw, but then the man flips the page to show the girl taking off from the bench with wings. Finn stares in awe at the artwork.
“Those are pretty,” Finn states.
“Thank you. I love drawing people. Their expressions are so unique, don’t you agree?”
Finn looks at the other kids. He can see their reactions, their excitement, and every move is without thought, yet carefully planned out. “Uh huh.”
“Would you like to draw something?” The man asks, flipping to a new page.
“No, I can’t,” Finn states.
“How would you know if you never try?”
Finn looks at the paper. He takes the pencil and tries drawing a person. But it fails. “No… Yours are a lot better.”
“That’s because I’ve practiced. But… to be honest,” the man leans a little closer, like it’s a secret, “drawing doesn’t get much money. I’m hoping to turn that around though.”
“Because I love creating art. Maybe you will, too,” the man stands up and walks away with his sketch pad. Finn sits and watches the kids, until his dad arrives. They take a surprise visit to a toy store. Finn isn’t sure what he wants, but then he sees an art set.