Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2321513-The-Painting
Printer Friendly Page Tell A Friend
No ratings.
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2321513
A writer attempts to paint his own cover picture.
The Painting

Jim’s main problem was daydreaming. It was not that it prevented him from writing but, now that his books were beginning to sell, he had realised that his cover photograph was unsuitable. The choice had been very limited as most of his photos had been lost, and the one used did not really reflect him as he preferred to see himself.

Jim wanted something that showed him at his present age, with life and wisdom reflected in the wrinkles that held his craggy features together. He should, perhaps, be resting his chin upon a closed fist, to demonstrate his serious, thoughtful approach. His silver hair could be a little windswept, just enough to show an adventurous spirit. For a while, he considered holding a pipe but discarded the idea as too old fashioned.

The blame for his original choice of photo he laid squarely at the feet of John Grisham. The early legal thrillers had shown Grisham as a dashing young fellow with a knowing and worldly wise smile on a tanned and chiselled face. Though Jim loved the books, he hated that self satisfied gigolo that gazed out of their back covers. To compete, he chose a picture of himself in his youth, long before he began to write in earnest, in his hippy stage, all long, romantic hair and smouldering grin.

How he hated that photo now.

After a few years, Grisham had changed his cover photo for a much later one that showed him as he really was. His older, more weathered, and slightly pudgy visage now gave a much more respectable impression of the writer. Jim realised how silly he looked in his old photo and longed for a better one.

He dug out his old camera and took shots of himself from all angles. None were suitable. Having to prepare the camera with delayed shutter and then hurry to assume the required pose, left him with pictures that never said exactly what he wanted. He bought himself a new phone with advanced camera facility and twisted himself into knots, trying to get that perfect pic. Nothing worked. He always ended up looking nothing like his imagination had decided upon, and too much like himself.

There were days when he did nothing but stare into the mirror, changing expressions and poses, in search of that moment that said all the best things about his writing ability, while retaining a passing resemblance to himself. He came very close at times,even hitting upon reflections that were so near to the desired result that, had there been some way of freezing the moment, he would have been satisfied with that. It was one of these occasions that produced a possible answer.

A painting.

There had been a time when Jim had harboured ambitions of being a great artist. At the time, he had acquired sufficient skill in oils to be able to produce a pretty good picture. Though his dreams in that field had withered as writing began to get a grip on him, he reckoned he could still produce a worthy portrait of himself. He and the mirror could work together to create the perfect cover photo.

He rushed out to buy a canvas, a few brushes and paints, a new easel and anything else that looked as if it might help.

The bathroom was chosen as his studio. The mirror was at exactly the right height and he only needed to see his face and shoulders. Plus, all those polished, hard surfaces of porcelain, tiling, and plastic would be easy to clean afterwards.

Jim began the painting gingerly, uncertain of how much of his former ability he had retained. He dabbed at the canvas with little strokes, patting away at it like a pointillist. That did not last long, however. This was not him at all, he realised, and launched into the great, sweeping strokes he remembered from his youth.

Very quickly, he had a basic shape representing the head and shoulders. So fast was he working that drops of sweat ran into his eyes and blurred his vision a little. He found that he did not need to see with great precision; his mind held fast to a vision of the pose and expression he desired, and now the mirror was only required for confirmation of detail and nuance of light.

He worked far into the night, at last turning from the portrait in exhaustion, and staggering through to fall asleep, fully clothed, upon the bed.

In the morning he awoke with a mouth as dry as the Atacama. He felt his way to the kitchen and made some coffee, before wandering through to the bathroom, mug in hand. He wanted to see the portrait in the cold light of day.

It waited for him, propped up on its easel, like the head of a very thin and spindly man with legs spread. Jim looked at it in disbelief. The painting was very, very good.

He could see at once that it was him. Oh, he had never been a strict realist, attempting to duplicate exactly what the eye saw. And this painting was typical of his old style, with emotion visible in the colours and attack of the brushstrokes. It was the face of Jim laid bare for all the world to see the complex creature that looked back at the world through his eyes.

It was really quite exceptional, easily the best thing he’d ever done.

Jim went closer to examine the details. In doing so, he became aware of his reflection in the mirror. He turned to look at it.

The face in the mirror was the image of the painting. It was not that the portrait looked like him - he looked like the portrait. He was now a colourful, ragged construction of strokes dabbed in feelings intense and absolute. So true to life was the painting that its subject had abandoned reality for the greater expression of creation.

House Martell

Word count: 997
For "Game of Thrones The North Remembers, Stolen Artifacts Prompt 26
Prompt: Write a story about someone trying to paint (or otherwise create) a self-portrait.
© Copyright 2024 Beholden (beholden at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates have been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work.
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2321513-The-Painting