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Rated: E · Essay · Experience · #2200314
A memory of a painting.
A Definitive Painting

When I was a child and living in Cape Town, my father brought home a painting. This was unusual; he had never spoken about an interest in art or suggested a visit to a gallery. The story was that a friend of his was an artist who had allowed him to choose a painting from several displayed in his studio. Knowing my father, I suspect that he picked one that he thought might become valuable if his friend ever became famous.

Regardless of its history, the painting was hung in a prominent position in our living room. When my father was transferred to Zimbabwe, the painting came with us and was put on display in our new house when we moved in. It stayed with us as the family moved up in the world and changed houses to reflect our greater status. Effectively, it became a motif of my life until I reached adulthood and left home. I studied it often through the years, it being the only original painting in the household.

It was not large, being about twelve inches wide and nine inches tall. A combination of land and seascape, it portrayed Cape Town docks from the ocean. Buildings lined the shore and a few steamships were lined up in front of them. The overall effect was pleasant enough and might have had some historical value but it seemed unlikely that the painting would ever be worth much.

There was one strange thing about the painting, however. Right in the middle of the scene was a building that was completely out of proportion to its surroundings. Taking into account the mountains in the background and the ships docked in front of it, the building was huge, towering above the other buildings and ships around it. My father explained that, when he chose the painting, his friend had told him to wait a moment and then worked speedily to enlarge the building to its present size. This was necessary for composition considerations, the artist claimed.

Looking at the painting in later years, when my own ambitions had begun to bend towards the artistic, I could see what the guy meant. Had the building been left as it was, the expanse of mountain behind it would have been too extensive, leaving the eye to wander around, searching for a focal point. Enlarging the building left no doubt about the point of the picture. One’s gaze was drawn inevitably to that monstrous hulk of a building in the centre.

Just recently, I submitted a piece to a competition in WdC and then realised that I had mistaken the word count specified. My story was about 150 words short of the required minimum. In a panic, I threw it into Edit mode and added paragraphs on things I had considered including but rejected for one reason or another. Working much faster than is my wont, I managed to get everything completed before the piece had any views.

It was in the aftermath of this that it occurred to me that I had just done the same thing as had my father’s artist friend. Suddenly I understood exactly how that guy felt as he saw his picture about to disappear out of his reach. He had to get it right before it went.

This is so typical of all artists. We have to get things perfect before allowing our creations to venture forth into the cruel world out there. Even though we let them go eventually, we cannot stop thinking about how they could be improved.

I can only hope that no one notices the enormous building in the middle of my piece!

Word Count: 610
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