Not so starving artist



The knock comes on the door just as I finish the last stroke of blue along the bottom of the canvas.

I think it is the buyer coming early to collect the work before the paint is dry or I can spray the sealant over it.

Everybody rushes me these days.

Three years ago, when I needed them most, when I nearly served and the landlord nearly put me out for lack of rent, nobody rushed to my door at all.

I look at the painting and I know it is not right.

I ought to repaint it.

But I have no time.

The knock comes again.

I yell for the person to be patient, then slowly white the blue paint from my fingers with a rag, while I study the blues used for sky and the blues used for water.

Again, the work seems incomplete.

The water does not lap the banks the way I see the scene in my head.

I know I will sell the thing anyway, as it is, and remember my friend Paul screaming at me three years ago when I started to sell works he also believed were incomplete.

He claimed I was betraying my genius.

I told him I simply didnít want to starve.

Rats crawled out of my closets at night to feed on the crumbs of bread I had no refrigerator to protect.

Paul claimed my works had degenerated into mere entertainments, rather than visions of the world, and that over time I would no longer see the world in the same way, losing the gift the gods had given me.

Paul, I knew, only painted the ugliness of the world, pushing the details of reality into the faces of a resentful public.

He often expected me to do the same, or at least paint into my pictures some less than perfect details all real art required.

By giving the public what it wanted, I helped keep the public blind, he claimed.

I said giving people what they wanted allowed me to eat, and I needed to eat, even if it meant painting blind folds.

The argument sent Paul away.

While he went to present reality, I continued to paint incomplete entertainments, and became famous on their account.

The knock persists.

This is my maidís day off so I put the rag down and make my way across the bright studio to the door, getting out half my statement about the work not being finished when I see through the half opened door not the wealthy investor I expected, but a nearly starved figure of Paul.

He stinks of alcohol and lack of washing.

Yet his hair and fingers still show the stain of paint.

He laughs at me as he stumbles in and looks around, telling me that my new life looks exactly like one of my paintings

Very slick and equally incomplete.

And by my silence, I admit, he is right.


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