An artist that paints in two worlds
Jakob Graham tugged at the bow tie that threatened to strangle him. Even though accustomed to the crowd of patrons that thronged his openings, he still felt uncomfortable in a tux. He stood with his back to the window as people made their way to him with their compliments and whispers of paintings they purchased. He smiled so much his cheeks quivered from the strain.
“Successful opening, my man.” David Harcourt squeezed Jakob’s shoulder as he stood next to him. “We sold all of the paintings. I've been asked if you would be interested in doing some commission work.”
“No. I only paint what I feel or experience,” Jakob repeated the litany.
“You don’t know what you're missing. There's a lot of money to be made painting the whims of the wealthy.” David turned to face him. “What is it about these paintings that's so secretive? You never tell anyone where you get your inspiration. You rarely give interviews. Is someone else painting these, and you're just the front person?” His eyes narrowed as he witnessed Jakob's reaction.
“If you don't believe me, I can take my paintings to another gallery. I don't want to work with someone who thinks I'm a cheat."
"Come now, Jakob, can't you take a joke?" David forced a laugh and ran his hand across his smooth chin.
"I paint them all.” He held out his reddened hands where he had practically scrubbed the skin off trying to get the paint removed.
“Then why the secret?”
“What secret? You get what you see. I go out to the country and paint what I see. What is so secretive about that?” Jakob shoved his hands into his pants pockets and walked toward one of the tables where a caterer cleared the last of the appetizers. He snagged a plate and some food. He wasn’t hungry, but needed a diversion, something for his hands to do until he could leave.
David followed him, grabbed some fancy appetizers and a napkin, “You paint ghosts, and people are buying them sight unseen before I can list them. Are these paintings hexed? Are you putting a spell on these people when they come in here?"
“If I was, you're sure making a lot of money, so what are you complaining about?” Jakob was tired of the whole business and just wanted to leave.
“If I could get you to make them buy some of my other artist’s work, I would cut you in on the deal and a few more people would be as rich as you.” David hoped for a positive response. He wasn’t sure what the score was, but there was something odd going on. “Take the painting with a broken tractor. it's not just the tractor; it's the action of all the field hands, farmer, and animals around it. It's as if you are looking at something that's actually happening in the past. I can almost hear the little girl calling her dad in for lunch. She has it all spread out on a checkered cloth for him.”
“That one is special. It's very detailed. I saw it all as it was happening.” A smile tugged at Jakob's lips.
“In your mind,” David added.
“There too. I can hear Barbara yelling for Leo- that’s her dad.”
David leaned against the counter and crossed one Corinthian leather loafer over the other. “You talk as if you were actually there. These paintings look as if they took place, in the twenties or thirties, long before you were even thought of.”
“True, but I must have an old soul because I see things as they must have been back then.” He sat the empty plate on the tray of dirty dishes and started toward the door. “David, it was a fine feast and show. I know you'll handle all the business that went on tonight. Send me the statement. I'm going to take a vacation for a while. I’ll see if I can get inspired again.”
“Listen, keep your cell on, I may want to talk to you to see how you are doing,” He called at Jakob’s back, but the door closed before he had the last words out.
David gave a rude snort. Jakob didn’t like cell phones, odd for a man in his thirties. Five years ago he walked into David’s gallery with a couple of paintings and some photographs of his other work. Immediately, David recognized the attention to detail and the potential on the market. He'd signed Jakob to an exclusive contract, and they came to an agreement on the number of prints; one thousand of each painting. David fought hard for more options, but Jakob held firm. When David had asked to have them reproduced into smaller sized prints, Jakob finally agreed to two sizes and only five hundred prints of the smaller size.
When he'd set up that first Gallery Open for Jakob Graham, no one knew who he was. Most just came as a favor to David or to get free food. What they got was far more. Every one of the paintings sold. The highest price went for the painting of a father and son ghost, flying a model airplane in an early sunrise. The same thing happened for the next show. There were demands for invitations and bribes to be on the guest list. This last show was smaller but all the paintings were spoken for. David hoped Jakob was going to paint his heart out.
Jakob climbed to the top of the hill and looked back down the path. It wound around to his dusty truck parked next to the trailer he lived in. Beyond the truck the ruts disappeared into woods and eventually ended at the highway. He'd found that road by accident. Or was it?
He turned and took a few steps toward the slope of the hill. He knew what was below; a forgotten farm, but it was more than that. In this invisible valley was his inspiration. It was his love and his family.
That first day when he walked down this hill and set up his easel, was the beginning of a new life. The people were real but lived in another time and plane. He alone could travel between the two worlds. The paintings were about the people but the land was what he saw in the present world.
“Are you coming?” A woman stood at the rock wall below him, waiting at the barrier that prevented her from coming with him into the present. She carried his son on her hip. He waved and looked back at the truck and the present world that held no meaning for him.
“I’ll be right there.” He braced and ran down into the past.