The art studio was quiet. The candidate artist manoeuvred the charcoal around the page. He was deft, he was quick. The brittle dark splintering across the cream canvass. His fingers traced the line of the model’s back, her hips, her buttocks and the dark between space. His fingers lingered a moment.
The shape was good. The work was hurried, but it showed form, style and energy, no hint of the failings he had experienced last year. The stiffness had seen him without a place, a suggestion of architecture. He would not be beaten that easily. But this was his last chance, his last audition.
The room was white, cavernous, old rococo ceilings and bleached walls. Like a fat pale woman in a hideous hat. And he had been swallowed. The easels creaked under the pressure of the application from the candidates. He stood back a little further. He needed to beat the men, not beat himself. He glanced left and right, one had failed miserably to capture the lines of the shadow cast by the large open window, the other seemed on a par with his own work. Though he had not understood how to use the medium as well when it came to hair and fine detail. The issue was not to capture every strand but to capture the essence of the sheen from the long flowing tresses.
He had been close to failure before, over analysing, over thinking, but that chance meeting. A model, a muse, she had shown him that he could see so much more. No more figures that hobbled like matchsticks, no more static faces and frozen jawlines. Movement and fluidity. In one Viennese spring he learned to love.
The clock seemed to speed up. The hour almost gone he made the final touches to the work. Always tinkering, always touching in the past he had learned the most important lesson from her. ‘The work is never finished’, don’t try.
He stepped back for the last time. Confident, happy, at peace. He drew his hand across the clean shaven face she loved so much and wondered poor as he was, could he afford flowers for her tonight.