Still Life: A Moving Portrait
Everything you can imagine is real -- Pablo Picasso
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The blank canvas stares at Anthony Stephens. Taunting him. Making him pull at his hair. Making him pace around the room, frenzied thoughts escaping him. Even the walls are painted, but not his canvas. Not the most important tool of all artists. How on earth is he going to complete a painting in enough time? It is his first commission. He should have more inspiration than this.
He lays down on the sofa. He needs to think some more about his subject. Should he paint what he's used to painting? Storms. Rages. Fires. He thinks for several moments. No. He's not feeling it. Nothing is speaking to him. He lets a sigh escape from his lips as he stares at the bleak ceiling.
The walls around him are grey. The paintings, his previous ones are grey and lifeless. No inspiration, even in the most turbulent image of a tempestuous oceanic storm. There is the ship, trying to make it through the storm.
Anthony is in his own ocean. His own battle, trying to make it through the tempest of his mind. He closes his eyes, taking deep breaths. He approaches it once again, pencil in hand. He cannot even come out with a proper sketch. The room is too small. The splattered paint on the floor becoming too unbearable, even for him.
He is stuck in this small room. He's tried it all. Painting along the Seine, painting the Eiffel Tower, painting a café filled with people, chattering about nonsensical notions. Nothing works. His mind is a desert. The room feels like it is closing in on him. He kneels down and cries out. Why must he mind be so dry?
Pacing around the room, staring at walls, he closes his eyes and takes a deep breath.
Think, Anthony, think. You must have something deep in your mind.
The canvas is still a virgin one. It still taunts him, reminding him that he has one week left until the day he must turn the painting into Monsieur Augustin.
Anthony walks to the window, staring at the street of Paris where he lives. The snow is falling down slow and steady, as it has been all day. Women, with their distinct Parisian walk, remain arm in arm either with a female companion or someone of the opposite sex. Anthony knows that this is the perfect scene to paint. But it is not original. He thinks of all the artist who paint this scene, especially foreigners like him. He won't be able to depict a French scene like a true Frenchman. He groans, raking his hands through his hair.
What is it going to take to paint something worthwhile? What is going to take to do something he can be wholly proud of?
He looks out of the window again, seeing the expanse of rooftops. Rooftop after rooftop, for miles and miles. He begins to wonder if he needs to be in Paris at all. The distance, does it need to be painted? Is there any place he's never been before?
The room looks larger now as he stares at the snowy canvas. He knows then, in that moment, that he is not going to paint anything in Paris.
He packs up his belongings, thinking of the perfect place to go to. Montpernier, just outside of Paris. It is the perfect place to paint what he needs to. He looks forward to his visit to Montpernier, for it has been some time since.784Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡvfD176NIxh
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Anthony walks down the weather-beaten path with his easel under his arm and his painting bag in hand. The sun is a bright yellow, beating down on his neck. It is nice to see the sun, especially after the bleak, overcast sky of Paris. It is like permanent gloom in the city. But here, in Montpernier, the trees have stories to tell, as they stand proud and tall among the small rose bushes. Anthony kneels down, inspecting the vibrant red of the rose. It is strange to see such colors from a flower, for it is winter time. Roses should be withered away into nothing. He stands up and looks around.
In Montpernier, nothing looks the same. It is supposed to be winter. Yet why does it resemble springtime in all its pastel splendor?
Anthony shakes his head, ignoring the clear lack of white which makes up most of Paris and France. He walks further along the path, feeling younger with every step he takes.
There is no one on this path but him. Anthony finds it strange. He thought that Montpernier was a village full of people but he finds himself thinking that he may be wrong. There is no sign of life for miles and miles. With a furrowed brow, he continues his search for the idyllic spot to paint.
He will find it, he assures himself.m that he will. Even the air here is more beautiful than Paris, though Anthony admits the romanticism of Paris at night and very early morning. There is something about Montpernier that calls out to him more than the beautiful women of Paris and the Seine River, which flows and flows for miles.
It is simple here, Anthony thinks as he stops for a moment. Perhaps too simple to paint this scene. I won't find anything. The colors and shadows need to be perfection itself.
He continues walking, passing a rivulet. Then, he stops. He notices that the water is not flowing as it should be. It is stagnant. He blinks, processing it all. He looks up at the trees, noticing they too are not moving. Everything is dormant. Even the clouds in the sky, against the deep cerulean blue, are not moving. Puzzled by this, he still continues walking. He needs to find that ideal spot. Needs to let inspiration take full control.
After all, his project is a commission from one of Paris's wealthiest men. A politician of some renown. Anthony cares not much for the man, but he is paying him a handsome sum and money is something he needs to return to his homeland of England.
The walk seems to go on forever. That is, until Anthony discovers a patch of woods in the not so far distance. He smiles. His perfect spot must be in there. It has to be. There is something about it that is beauty itself.#
Anthony is right. The woods are enchanting. A wonderful locale to paint. There is a charm here. Yet Anthony notices that the leaves are quiet. It is altogether strange that there is any foliage at all, considering the season. But even stranger is the absolute quiet. It is like everything, suspended in time, is just for Anthony's eyes alone.784Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡpDpUqXAGBB
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Ideas begin rushing through his head, much to Anthony's elation. His ideas are a river. His mind is a forest now.
In Paris, the ideas hardly ever come. I was beginning to think that I was a failure for not being able to conjure up even the most simple of ideas.784Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ2M19H9g5Hg
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This is it. This is where he is to paint. He rushes to set his easel down putting the canvas on top of it. He bends down to his bag to reach for his pencil. 784Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡPqSZnmajW8
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His pencil reaches the canvas and soon, he begins his sketch. There it is, in front of his eyes, a wonderful scene full of green and pink and yellow. The flowers, tulips and pansies, are sitting there, as still as ever. The sketch is rough, yes, but Anthony knows that they will come to life at any moment now. He finishes the sketch, taking a step back. Something isn't quite right. Something is missing. What is it? He closes his eyes, trying to imagine the scene he wants depict. His eyes remain shut, suspended in time and space altogether. His deep, conscious breaths become one with the scene. His eyes open.
Looking beyond the canvas, everything is different now. Things that were once still and almost perfect in appearance are now moving. The ambience is now the sound of leaves rustling, the wind picking up. Birds call in the distance, singing a dulcet melody. Anthony hums along with the birds, as if he knows the ballad they are chirping.
He walks away from his canvas and walks towards the river, now flowing with water so pure that the bit of sun creeping in through the branches looks like diamonds in the water.
Anthony pauses for a moment. Kneels down and studies the water as he immerses his hand in it. It is Winter cold but not cold enough to cause pain. As he takes his hand out of the water, his jaw drops. Real diamonds. He is holding the most flawless diamonds in the hand. He tries to store them in his front pocket but the diamonds crumble into something resembling pixie dust, floating away with the wind that picks up again.
Anthony hears something in the distance. It sounds like voices. Human and unmistakably female. He stands up taking a step back. He hears the voices again but there is no one surrounding him.
He makes sure he is alone. There was no one there. But he is still left bemused, still holding the pencil in his hand. He looks for the canvas but it is nowhere to be found.
Everything around him is now alive. He turns around, squinting to see the distance. Beyond the woods there are lights. He saunters up to the shore of the small river, crossing the log-bridge.
He is careful not to fall, balancing himself. Once he crosses, he is now on the other side. He hears a distant melody. Similar to the coloratura passages of the birds, though the voices are feminine. Human.
A little further and he notices them, in a circle. The women are not floating high off of the ground, but rather, are levitating as they sing. The flowers around them are floating. Fascinated with this sight, Anthony stumbles closer towards the women with skin like pearls. Their hair even looks white like snow as the speckles of sunlight shine through the branches of the trees.
A moment passes, they stop their singing and turn to look at Anthony. He stands there, petrified. He's just fallen because of fascination and he is the cause of them ceasing their unearthly music.
“Oh please,” Anthony says. “Do continue your music.”
A woman, dressed completely in white with a red sash in her hair, says, “We've been expecting you.”
“You, you have?” he asks, blinking. “Where am I?”
“Why you're on the other side, Anthony.”
“The other side?”
She walks closer to him, revealing her eyes to be lapis lazuli blue. Anthony cannot move or speak at all. Her eyes are swirling with knowledge. With power. Anthony doesn't know who she is but he feels she is significant. She must be. She has to be the one he's been needing to see.
“Who are you?” he asks.
“It is not necessary for you to know my name. But you must return, Anthony, after I give this to you.”784Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡUU3Zl8HjnW
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“What you need to complete your painting.”784Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡlamtbZEQIk
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He looks down and in his hand there is a lapis lazuli stone. It is there that he sees his reflection in the stone, he sees himself standing at the canvas.
”What is this?”
She smiles. “Just open your eyes."784Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡPTDz5qvz6B
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He opens his eyes. There he is again. In his small apartment in Rue Montparnasse, standing in front of a fully painted canvas. The scene is idyllic. A group of women, singing in a circle. There is a man standing on the outside, looking in. Colors of blue, white, and yellow dance on the canvas as if alive. 784Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡmCycZBqtba
In his hand, there is the lapis lazuli stone. 784Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡPOcyjjY6XD