Sighing in frustration, he yet again discarded the paper he had been working on, and began anew.
The tableau before him still had the power to amaze, searing his heart with its intense, breathtaking beauty.
Why could he not capture the scene on paper? He meticulously sketched all the nuances of the fluffy clouds, preparing to show their vaporous movement with variation of pigment and style later on. The trees came next, with their massive trunks and magnificently colored leaves. He paused, and then with a flick of his wrist, created a smudge to soften the leaves’ textures. He could already imagine the palette colors mixing and vibrating his drawings into splashes of contrasting dull and bright leafy wonders.
On and on he penciled. Fastidious lines cob-webbed each uniquely shaped bird’s nest, the varied tree limbs, and the birds with pulsating wings poised ever so slightly, their heads cocked just so.
“Yes, yes, that’s IT!” or “No, that will never do!” punctuated his critical musings as he labored on what he hoped would become a masterpiece of skill and objectivity not equaled amongst his peers.
The afternoon shadows lengthening, Michal carefully placed his sketching tools in their cases.
“Now, for the real fun,” his eyes gleamed in anticipation as he sat down on the ground next to his hamper. He methodically lined up his glass paint bottles in a row on the flat rock next to his easel for a third and final time. Taking a deep, cleansing breath, he once more gazed at the view, taking in the variation of color and position before deliberately closing his eyes to inwardly envision the completed artwork. He memorized the sounds as they awakened his drowsy ears—a meadowlark’s ancient hymn resounding, squirrels scampering in the brush, the refreshing slaps of the brook’s waves against the shore, crickets’ legs rubbing in the distance. He knew that the most devoted artists stopped for these cleansing exercises of the senses before any color passed from palette to easel. Eyes still closed, he stroked the waxy surface of a newly fallen leaf on the ground beside him and pulled a blade of grass slowly between his fingers.
“Oh, the wonder of it all,” he marveled, opening his eyes.
Then, almost feverishly, Michal began dabbing his brushes, sometimes two at a time, from paint to palette to easel. Short, deftly soft strokes or long, heavy swirls—all intermingled into a sort of graceful orchestrated concert, led by this conductor’s brushy wand.
It was finished.
“This is my best yet,” he thought as he compared the colors on the canvas to the objects of the view.
“But, something is missing. The trees, the clouds, the foliage all seem true, but they lack vibrancy—they do not move me as did the real-life panorama,” Apprentice Michal complained later to his master.
“Ah, I see what you mean. They almost appear lonely and stark.”
“Yes! Exactly!” agreed Michal.
“Come, walk with me,” Master Artist beckoned.
Exciting the studio, they walked arm-in-arm to a rustic bench in the middle of the fragrant garden, the painting between them. A breeze ruffled their hair, and the willow tree over yonder swayed a slow rustling waltz.
“Compare your work with these surroundings and tell me what is missing,” Master suggested.
And a flash of insight stirred Michal’s spirit.
“The horizon! The background! I took the models out of their natural habitat!”
Master Artist smiled his approval.
“So, how will you fix it?”
Michal’s face fell as he realized that it was too late to frame his art with the needed features. Even an amateur knew that adding to a finished product would make the piece skewed. The exact time of day with all the nuances of light and shadow upon a backdrop had to coincide precisely to the subjects.
“It isn’t possible.”
Master Artist nodded his approval.
“It is ruined and I have failed you and myself,” Michal lamented.
“It is true that you will have to begin again, my child. And you may never be able to recapture the vision and passion you have shown here,” he slowly traced his finger in and around the tree branches and cloud furls. “But you have learned a valuable lesson, have you not? Therefore, you have not failed. You will now remember what is fundamental. Your next piece will be successful, I promise!”
And Apprentice Michal became Mentor Artist, not only in his career, but in life as well.
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