A Beautiful Coin Flip

She had a weakness for writers. Maybe it was the brooding nature, the way that a sitting silence could fill volumes. Maybe it was the self-assured smirk that so often sat below haunted eyes. Maybe it was because she was never so good with words.

Her creativity was one of warmth, one that filled the lungs with flowered fields and the kind of sky with lazy clouds, cornflower and cut through by an occasional feathered journeyer. Her art was one where the heart beat by the sounds of a sonata, one with eyes that could look lovingly at the sun.

She filled finite spaces with frameless things, pieces unbound by logic and thrumming with a life felt far beneath the surfaces; the Marianas Trench of empathy and compassion. Her life, the artist’s life, was one in broad strokes and tight feelings, messy in practice and pure in completion.

There was something about writers, though, she thought as she stared over a mug of hot chocolate, through the whips and whorls of steam stretching free from it, through a window pane polka-dotted with drops of water. Something about the way they could take the ambient light of a rainy day – that light that was somehow both the warm gray of rabbit fur and the faded light blue of acid-washed jeans – and translate it into reflective comfort. The way they captured the pit-patter along the roof while muffled cars splashed past in the street while she sat curled up against the armrest of her couch and the cushion quietly relaxed for her.

She had a gift, but writers had a gift. It was easy for her to lose track of hours in bed, bath or beyond amidst the pages of a novel. It could be fantastic, with fire sprites and warrior women; it could be something futuristic, with strange worlds, clone companions and oceans of crystal; or it could even be something so simple as sudden, sensational love between two people meeting at the right place at the right time.

As she moved from that portal looking out at a drab day to a porcelain basin full of water (hot, to match her chocolate) and lavender scented bubbles, she brought along a dog-eared paperback she could practically quote.

A rainy day. A bath to soak in. A writer’s soul bound within a laminate cover. It  was something she was left to think about and to feel; she was never so good with words, after all.

…..

He had a thing for artists. Maybe it was the unbridled passion, the way each movement made was filled with purpose. Maybe it was the determined line their mouths made, set under eyes filled with lightning and focus. Maybe it was because he was never so good with visuals.

His creativity was one of specifics: a particular metaphor, a precise description, an aesthetic arrangement. It rattled around his mind like a Scrabble bag in a Yahtzee cup, like walking through a sandstorm while trying to picture the oasis. It pounded in his head like a timpani and roiled in his blood, a serpent stepped upon. His art was one that – when it worked – was Pandora’s box of emotion, flooding history and emotion over a barren page, twenty-six symbols tossed together to create an intangible picture, phantom lives, and ghostly worlds.

He filled blank space with puzzle, one in which linear parts formed a whole picture. He bled on paper with memories and anguish and love and what potion brewed from it was something altogether different, echoed by the familiar. His craft was stark honesty, a nude model dressed in the garments of a foreigner. It wept behind bulletproof glass.

There was something about artists, though, he thought as he looked through the glass in his hand, through the swirling amber whiskey that tasted like the dirty hands and knees of his childhood and gifted the deep stars of winter what told him a man’s life is equal parts the least important (to the universe) and the most important (to himself and the human race, a largely selfish and stressed creation but one that exists and feels and loves right there when you think about it) thing to be.

Something about the way they could capture the chips in the edge of his desk to show it has age and character, a piece of furniture with development, one kept from sentiment and usefulness, one built to hold love in its splinters. Something about how they could capture  the bags under his eyes and see every story there in vague detail, every worry line that told five years in the showing, every askew paper that demonstrated the most recent interests as he tore through his notes to find a project that currently spoke to his mind.

He had a gift, but artists had a gift. It was a gift that put a hundred thousand words and stories upon stories into one sight. It spoke of time and love and feelings, good feelings and bad feelings but true feelings. It was something he could  view fleetingly that would haunt him for days. A picture’s worth a thousand words until the one comes that takes them all.

As he moved from that desk, cluttered with things to read and things to do, away from the gun most people called a pen and a page that showed no mercy, he took to bed with him the last beautiful picture he saw. One painted with affection and care, and he pictured the gentle, no, tempestuous, no, dedicated (all of the above) hands that spun gold silk out of air. He went to bed, pillow grasping lightly at the contours of his busy skull, visualizing the artist poised to make a brighter future.

A bursting workshop. A mattress to cradle him. An artist’s soul drifting through the after-image clinging to the frame of the inspired. It was something he was left to think about and to feel; he was never very good with visuals, after all.

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A Perfect Place

The way she brushes
Her hair from her face
The world from her shoulders
Paint against canvas
Lips against mine

I picture a wide, open space. The interior of a warehouse, for example, with a paved floor. Concrete, probably, smooth and certain. A comfort in its consistency. It’s a place with a tall ceiling and high windows. A place with natural lighting which, mixed with white walls, lends a pale glow to the interior.

I say interior, but I mean work place. This is a place for art, a place to pull the demons free from a heart-filled ribcage, a place to spit beauty from our fingertips with all the grace of a maestro, the energy of an Olympic free-form swimmer, and the rage of a mother bear protecting its cubs. Or a mother elephant. Or a mother badger. Any mother, really, and like a mother, it’s in this place we give birth.

And like a mother, we deal with art with nurturing care, with frustration, with delicacy, with harsh words to get the point across.

In this space, there is a desk. It’s my desk, this wooden beast, clumsy and cluttered and gifted with two deep drawers. This is a dream, you see, so I can only guess what is in the drawers, but I imagine the top is full of notes and the bottom is home to a bottle of rum and a glass whose origins are lost to time. A gift, or more likely a thrift shop purchase, because I like thrift shops and any time I can give a loving home to a lonely-looking item on the shelf, I endeavor to do so.

The top of the desk is patterned with pages. There’s the book I’m working on, the book that’s next, a binder for the books left to come, and a book I need to read. I keep three pens by it all at all times, always. My primary, my back-up, and the one I use when I inevitably use or lose the first two into oblivion.

A desk is hardly a desk without a lamp, so I have one of those, too. A black one with an adjustable neck. Battery-powered, because who the hell wants to put a desk next to an outlet with all this open space, and if I brought an extension cord, I would find a way to trip over it somehow. The floor is concrete. Smooth. Certain. Hard.

This desk is where I work. Where I write. Where I give birth. Where I am. Who I am. I am the desk, the work, the art.

I am not alone.

The way she moves
Swimming through air
Gliding across the floor
Passing through the world
Across the canvas
Across my skin

She has an easel, and it’s a bit beat-up. It isn’t one of those fancy easels, not a socialite’s easel. It isn’t the easel toasting Jay Gatsby at a gala. The wood is scratched and stained and looks a little unreliable, but it stands straight and steady and she assures me it will last, and while I know a little bit about being unreliable, I know nothing about easels, so I take her word for it.

I asked her why she wanted something so… used when we could save up and have something fresh and completely yours, and she told me it was the same reason you should adopt a pet from the pound. “It’s got personality, it appreciates good care because it knows bad care, and all it really needs is a good home and someone to love it.”

Well. Makes sense to me.

Her palette, a dozen-welled beauty, is a different story, however, immaculate and well-maintained. I don’t know what she spent on it, and I didn’t ask. I’m simply impressed by how much care she takes of it and her brushes.

“One must treat their tools with respect so that they might produce the desired effect. Besides, a brush is much harder to replace than a pen.”

Well. Makes sense to me. I stole this pen from a bank yesterday. I imagine brushes are harder to come by.

She keeps hers on a tray, lined up in a row like a torturer’s kit. Like a torturer, she uses them to bring out the truth from her subject The Canvas. She exposes the truth of life, of love, of honesty and the universe. The brushes bristle at untouched space and the bristles rush to correct it. Or not. Sometimes they do so in measured strokes, methodically, deliberately.

Her tray sits on a cart that contains the tools of her art. Paint cans and pencils and a palette knife that she brandishes when she speaks to me, though never threateningly. Not yet, anyway. There’s a bowl of water for cleaning, a towel for drying, an eraser for…well, you know.

Everything has its place and she moves from memory, pulling and replacing, dabbing and rinsing, and when she’s done and the piece is dry, she sticks it against the back wall. Paintings sit there in a row, each with their own space to breathe and be, all waiting for the next art show in which most will be sold off to a new home with a new loving owner, like her easel and my rum glass.

She also has a lamp. Hers is tall and elegant where mine is short and crooked. Hers is white where mine is black. Hers casts a halo where mine is a spotlight. Such are our lamps. Such are we.

We work together in silence mostly, though one or the other of us will occasionally put on some music. Music is a great facilitator for great things, not the least of which is art. So we work, we listen, we pace, blood on the page, soul on the canvas. Occasionally we will do a thing like talk, and ask for opinions, and bounce off ideas.

We work into the day with sun pouring through our high windows like honey, illuminating and warming us without distracting us with visions of outside. We work into the night, hunkered over our pieces, aided by our halogen allies and warmed by each other’s company.

This is what I dream of. This craftsmanship and companionship. This private, shared workspace. The room to move and think and shout and punch the air and a spot to come back to and think and create. With her there. With her creating. With her.

The way she paints
Music with her motions
Love with her passion
The world with her mind
Me, with her inspiration

Stoke the Fire

They say a picture is worth a thousand words
But her portrait must be twenty
Twenty thousand words
Introspective and ethereal
Robust and sultry

Intricately chaotic words and
None find their way to my mouth
Nor through brushed lips
As brush tips kiss canvas
Life slips within colored lines
Once confined by four corners but
Liberated by the wings of an artistic mind
Crowned by hair that spills down like rubies in a waterfall
Eyes, glittering like city lights at midnight
Dance across the details of her work and
The dips where lips meet cheeks turn up a fraction
There is a ballroom where the sun dances with the moon
Along the edge of her satisfied smile

Elegant but unyielding
Supple but fierce
A silk tigress
When the day sleeps, she is what it dreams of
When the shadows slink out, she is the light they play by
Art given form giving art
An ourobouros of creative majesty
Stardust in her paints and
A universe with every stroke she makes