Setting the Scene – A Short Story of an Artist at Work

Her beautifully painted red toes gripped the concrete floor as she padded across it’s iciness at 6.15am. Kicking an overthrown cardigan from the only seat in the room, she sat between two offensive rips on the brown leather upholstery and sucked in a sharp breath of hot steam from her coffee cup. Condensation attempted to saturate the window pane in vain and instead, on accepting defeat, rolled to the floor, drip by drip, off the edge of the sill. Her small dog licked the puddle away and looked at his owner bashfully.

The time had come for the morning routine a la frenzy. She pulled her long sleeves back from being wrapped around her chilled fingers and coffee mug, which was quickly discarded upon the floor in a careless fashion. Its life-giving qualities were forgotten in but a moment. Clothes were thrown from the wardrobe, hitting thirsty houseplants and the little dog in their wake as he gazed up at her, the whirling dervish of scent, fortitude and panic driven by the thought of waiting yet again for another unnecessary hour at the bus stop. The chilly air hit her body as she moved, her white limbs looking chalky white and contrasting sharply against her dark mane. As she dressed, her cold fingers trembled and she gripped her own waist fleetingly to enjoy the sensation, almost as though a lover had snuck up behind.

Eventually there she stood in the hallway, perfectly painted toes now cosseted within fine leather shoes, stockings free from ladders leading up to too-short-skirt and jumper and really little else. Like a chaotic Madonna with child, she held the dog under her right arm whilst the left one skimmed the top of the door frame for a key, ready to make her exit. And then she was gone.

Female artist

The familiar creative process began on a Friday night when upon returning home from work with renewed enthusiasm and she picked up a small brush playfully dabbing the dog’s nose, streaking him a Celtic warrior with forget-me-not blue. She chicaned around furniture gathering her crop of tools, the discarded coffee jars for water, the empty tubs for mixing large quantities of paint, pallet knives, battered looking teaspoons, pencil sharpening surgical scalpels and well loved brushes, all dumped in a big pile in the middle of the floor. Then she ran to the kitchen and pulled out some essentials; a jar of coffee, some less battered looking teaspoons, a stale box of cornflakes and a clean ash tray which she admired in awe of her own cleanliness for at least twenty seconds before ploughing back into the studio to her almost complete nest.

And so it began. Hour upon hour she worked the canvas and with each hour she smoked more, the now forsaken empty bottle of decent red wine and the once pure ash tray littered with deceitful butts. It was beginning to resemble a mass burial with those thin white bodies disposed of in a heap, rings of red lipstick around them as if blood soaked and grey ash ever falling to cover their sins.

She crouched on the unforgiving cold floor, a square tipped brush behind each ear. Bare feet as always, with loose trousers revealing the edges of pink lace lingerie like icing on a cake, there she was, peering at the picture before her and blissfully unaware of the quantity of yellow ochre on her face which made her look liked a jaundiced pixie. Moments of serenity hung in the balance always with her. Like a landmine with the potential for annihilation she was merely in constant suspension between this world and the world she could create, should she wish to.