Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Critic

When the unbelievable becomes believable...

“Yikes! Don’t use that color green. It looks lackluster. You need to add more yellow.”

Lackluster? What the hell? Okay. Whatever...I dabbed a bit of yellow on the brush and mixed it with the green tones. The trees on the canvas jumped out with a new vividness. Okay, so he was right.

“You still don’t have it right,” he said. “You’ve now got to add more green, the lighter one. They don’t even look like trees. They look like cartoons.”

Cartoons. What does that mean? “Maybe you’d like to do it?” I mumbled aloud.

“Don’t even think about using that color red for the apples. Have you ever seen an apple that color? It’ll turn orange as soon as you put it on the canvas. I thought you learned that in art class. Remember when the instructor told you about mixing yellow with red?”

I bit my lower lip and stood back from the scene, studying the hues. The trees standing before me weren’t as green as those on my canvas. The apples on the ground looked almost brown. I darkened the red tones and then mixed in a dab of yellow. I dripped a smidgen onto the palette before touching the canvas, fearing it wouldn’t work.

“Don’t hesitate. Why are you hesitating?”

The color on the palette melded into an ocher that looked good enough to eat.

“That’s it. I think you’ve got the right shade for the apples. What about the sky, though? That’s going to be a huge challenge, something that might go beyond your skill.”

Blue, my God. There were so many shades. How to get that perfect hint without being coarse? I twisted my neck to relieve the tension and lifted a tube of deep blue —

“No! That won’t work at all!”

Panic made me drop the tube on the freshly mown lawn. I rubbed the sweat off my brow and replaced the tube with a lighter color, almost periwinkle.

“Closer,” he said.

Whoever said painting was a way to relax?

My heart thudded. I mixed the periwinkle with a darker shade and a dab of white. A rich cool-looking azure emerged.

“Don’t you dare touch the canvas with that god-awful mess. It’s not even close. You can’t think what you see in front of you looks like that. Do you need glasses? Maybe your eyes are failing.”

My stomach clenched. Ever heard of creativity? Does it have to match perfectly?
I squinted at my work. Maybe I do need glasses. Maybe he’s right. Isn’t he always right? I moved my trembling hand closer to the canvas and touched the upper right hand corner.

“Now you’ve ruined the whole thing. I don’t know why you’re doing this. You’ll never be any good.”

I clutched the brush as if frozen and readying myself for a blow.

“Wow, Daniel, that’s unbelievable,” the voice of my teacher echoed behind me.

I jerked my head around and dropped my brush on the grass.

“Didn’t mean to startle you. It looked as if you’d taken a break.”

“Well, I sorta had. I stopped ‘cause I didn’t think it was coming along well at all—a huge mess. I was about to start over.” I picked up the brush and cleaned it with a cloth.

“Who says so? I really like it. I particularly like the sky. It’s such a vivid color and those trees. Very well done. It’s abstract, somewhat Impressionistic. The colors are amazing.  You’ve made unbelievable progress. Keep going. Don’t let me interrupt you.”

It’s not you. It’s the voices. They won’t leave me alone. They never stop.

I eked out a smile. “You really think it’s that good?” I sounded like a kid looking for approval, but I couldn’t help it.

“Don’t believe a word your teacher says. She’s just buttering you up for something. Probably wants you to pay for another class. Hopeless!”

Shut up!

“I do, Daniel, but what’s more important is what you think.”

I stood back, gazing at the painting. The colors danced in front of me. I glanced from the painting to the scene. Waiting, listening for the voices. Nothing. “Perhaps you’re right. I think I have made some progress. But, it needs more work.”

My teacher patted my shoulder and left.

When I turned back to the painting, I lifted the blue to fill in the sky, planning to use the open spaces of the canvas gray tones as clouds. I waited for the voices to scream at me. Still nothing but blessed quiet.

I touched the color to the canvas and without interruption finished the sky.

Afterward, I stood back and studied my work, waiting. Not one peep. The voices remained muted.


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