By: Anthony Ward
Will painstakingly painted the same scene over and over. Like Monet’s Rouen Cathedral. Except this was no cathedral. It was the stone wall that enclosed his own back yard at the end of the lawn behind a willow tree. He’d mixed up every grey and green perceivable. Yet still he’d continue to replicate every nook and cranny to the canvas.
‘Why don’t you paint something else? Sara would ask. ‘There are so many other things you could paint. Landscapes. People. A bowl of fruit even. All you paint is the same thing over and over.’
Will’s words would treacle from his throat as if wrought from a contraption. Though the contraption functioned well within- like an old trusty car or refrigerator that had outlived its guarantee- his words were delivered thoughtfully.
‘What’s wrong with belonging to the place your born in? You’re advised that you have to get out and see the world. I’ve known people who have travelled the world over and not discovered as much as they would if they had stayed in their own back yard. They like to say they’ve seen things when they haven’t seen anything at all. They’ve never looked long enough to appreciate the detail.’
‘But you’re seeing the same thing over and over again. It’s as if your life’s trapped in a loop.’
‘I’m seeing the same thing in a different way. That’s what’s most important. The light changes from morning to night. Throughout all the seasons. It’s never the same. There’s always another depth. I like to explore the intricate.’
‘You’re exploring a wall. Like a prison. There’s a whole world beyond that wall. You have the key to let yourself out. Anyone can be an artist who appeals to themselves. It’s being an artist who appeals to others that gets you noticed.’ Sara’s words rustled his thoughts like a breeze sweeping through a tree, echoing with repetition, before being carried away softly to silence.
‘I don’t want to be noticed.’ he replied, dipping his brush into his easel.
As the years passed, he’d eventually succumb to Sara’s fallacies and took a vacation to the south of France. He stayed in a secluded village that bore an exacting quietude of a Signac or a Seurat, with the silence of a winters landscape even in summer. He painted the fields unfolding before him with shades of shifting light. Highlighting shadows. Creating prominent recesses in brisk permanency. Encapsulated in variations of colour.
At first, he convinced himself that this was what he needed. A fresh perspective. A new freedom where he could leave the wall behind.
‘So, how does it feel? Sara asked, beaming as bright as the afternoon sun. ‘I think these are the best paintings you’ve ever done.’ Her words whispered from a distance.
But he knew he wasn’t content. He felt numb without pain. His bulked eyes began to sink back into his face as he found himself being drawn to the wall at the far end of the garden. Except, it was much further away than his wall at home. How he longed to get back to it.
He soon returned to his wall, where he painted it even more painstakingly, the shade of autumn dusk.
‘This isn’t life!’ shrieked Sara. Her words falling to their knees.
‘This is my life.’ Will replied unperturbed, carefully anointing the canvas. ‘All those people who supposedly live life to the full are never fulfilled. Whereas I’m fulfilled by my small tedious existence.’
Her words and his mingled like leaves scuffling in an autumn breeze. They echoed through him as he scrutinised his cracked hands that resembled dry earth.
‘Where am I in your life?’ Sara balked. Not getting an answer.
She got her answer a few days later, when Will surprised her as he sat contemplating a cup of tea on the veranda.
‘Why does tea cool much quicker than coffee?’ he asked.
‘Maybe because coffee’s granules and tea is just filtered.’ She replied pondering the analogy of her own words.
Will picked up his cup. ‘I’ve been thinking,’ he said turning it around in his hand as a distraction, ‘I would like to paint you.’
‘Me! Sara honked. ‘You don’t do portraits.’
‘I just thought I’d try something different.’
‘How about now?’
‘Now!’ she fumbled anxiously with her hair. ‘Ok. Where do you want me?’
‘Over there.’ Will pointed towards the willow tree in the centre of the lawn. ‘Just on the grass beside the tree.’
‘Wont that put me in the shade?’
‘No, no. It’ll be fine.’
Sara sashayed towards the willow and playfully placed her left palm behind her neck. ‘So, is this how you want me?’
‘Perfect.’ Will replied pointing his pencil.
Will began caressing the canvas. Tracing the outline of Sara’s body in the tentative light as a breath of wind blew intermittently across their flushed complexions. Sara studied the attention on Wills face as he vigorously worked away. Completely immersed in his determination. Prodding and poking away, rubbing his fingers in. This had to be the most sensual experience Sara had ever felt with Will.
When he’d eventually finished Sara came up to inspect the canvas. She looked at her portrait, delighted that he captured her resemblance, but dismayed by the duskiness of the light she was bathed in. Then she noticed the background, how the bright sunlight intensified the grey green tones of the wall.
“Is this how you see me?” she mused, nodding knowingly.
Will lay looking forlornly at the painting that was now hanging to the right above the bedhead where Sara used to lie. She’d been freed from his prison for some time now.
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