Quick Stories #7 Artist as a Child

Moggill Farmhouse Brisbane Queensland © Elle 2019

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the three prompts (courtesy of AWC Furious Fiction) were 1. The story’s first sentence must contain only four words. 2. The story must include something being shared. 3. The story must include the words paint, shift, wave and toast.

Artist as a Child

His pose seems unrehearsed.   Gavin sits with one shoe raised on the chair, leg bent.  His elbow rests on his elevated knee, arm dangling.  A persuasive artist, gallery patrons arrive and gladly absorb his relaxed aura.

This unperturbed look is the impression he gives to anyone who doesn’t know him better.  Apart from guest appearances, he is an horrendously difficult person to be around.

Oil paint, turpentine soaked rags, brushes, and canvas torn from frames habitually litter the studio floor.  Thus I dispute the saying “order out of chaos”.  If Gavin could do that, he would never paint a single picture.

One of his latest, and most important works, was completed in an afternoon of ranting and raving when a courier delivered the right set of three wooden easels wrapped in the wrong brown paper.

“It’s for an art installation.  It has to be unwaxed brown paper!”  He paced the concrete floor.  “The whole idea is to paint in situ.”

The courier didn’t want to understand the significance.  He was already backing out the door, having encountered Gavin’s artistic temperament once before.

“Take it up with the boss,” he said, sliding our huge door shut with a thud.

Gavin pulled irritably at the neckline of his t-shirt which had seen better days, soon to join the castoffs on the floor.  “Sabotaged!”

“I can order a roll of brown paper from the newsagent.”  I tried not to sound too down-trodden.

Gavin hissed “Elle, I don’t want stuff they cover school books with!”

I let my office diary drop, scattering a zodiac of tiny seed pods across the work bench.

“Improvise, Gavin.” I said calmly.  “You may find it works better without the absorbency.”

I dabble, you see, landscapes.  His eyes lit up and I almost heard his brain creak.

He accepted help to shift the easels closer to the window for natural light, jostling unfinished works aside.

We share the art studio, an unusual arrangement for siblings considering one is famous and the other does not want to be.

I had declined to organise tonight’s chat and chew platters, believing that I already fill the role of sales and booking manager so catering was a bit too much.  The honorary title of art advisor suits me.  Nowhere does it state I must “arrange tiny scraps of organic food on dry toast.”

When our spendthrift patron Lady Augusta arrives, she gives me a quick wave before aiming straight at Gavin to discuss her eighth portrait sitting.  Goodness knows where these works end up.

Gavin quickly grabs an illustrated catalogue, head down, apparently ready to discuss technique with a notable art critic. He tells the critic “They want me on the cover.” I wince.

Guests are moving aside as Lady Augusta swoops, all fluttering chiffon and swinging pearls. Nevertheless the exhibition is a success and I sell my lone painting; at the evening’s highest price.

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward