He gave birth to beautiful paintings on a desert canvas. He gazed at them for hours which turned into days; locked in his workshop, he only prayed to the powers of his vision. He never shared his work. It was his to create, his to admire and only his to abandon. Creating only for and out of himself was his principle ideology.
The word about the artist spread through the rustic village where the artist had migrated. Villagers hastened by his workshop in the evening to experience what they thought would be a pleasant escape from their routines. The artist threatened them, “If any one of you ever visits me again, I will burn each one of you alive and cast my paintings in the same fire to fuel it. You can then look at the paintings for as long as you want”. Under the soft light of the moon, his words blazed through his stormy eyes; no one spoke a word further. The villagers declared the man insane. They realized he was just a deceiver, he was no artist; just a drunkard who had lost his mind to some shattering truths of life.
The artist continued painting through the years. On one evening when the sky was a particular rare shade of midnight blue intertwined with a hue of olive, a wee boy was returning home with a sachet of oil paints and a sheet of paper. A mighty gust brought the fragile body of the boy onto the ground and the wind stole the sheet from his fingers and spit it in a big, hollow chamber of what looked like emptiness. The boy ran for it. He climbed the gate, ran further through an open door and steeply landed right in the middle of the chamber. He picked up his sheet of paper and smiled with utmost joy after taking another glimpse at the result of his favourite hobby. His eyes gently settled on another canvas. Not on the one in his hands. The canvas was stained with almost a replica of what the boy had painted a few hours ago on his own sheet. A shade to shade cast, a stroke to scene mimicry. The artist appeared with a glass of water in his hands and a bucket of rage in his eyes.
“How dare you enter my temple?” he screamed with all the weight of the words he hadn’t spoken in years. The artist’s eyes fell on the kids painting. The buckets of rage were now upside down and he remained still for an unknown period of time. Encouraged by the calmness in the atmosphere, the kid asked him, “Where did you learn to paint like that, sir? The sky, the river? I did not see you by the bank of the river”.
The artist replied with explicit calm and broken thoughts, “Years of training. For years, many years’ worth of paint has dropped by as I have crafted thousands of skies until my vision, my devotion, my patience, and my intellect molded in harmony to give birth to this shade of sky. Through my own trials and my own learnings, I came up with this particular shade of sky. I learned to paint only from myself, and only for myself. How many years have you been painting for? How did you learn to paint that shade, kid?”
The kid turned red with joy. “Oh, I wish I could learn to do it like you one day, sir. It is beautiful. Why don’t you ever share it with the villagers? The villagers say you’re egoistic, some say you can’t dissolve criticism. My mother thinks you’re hurt and so you’ve closed. My sister told me that maybe your ideas are so ahead of its time that they won’t be accepted and so you rejected the society before even giving it a chance.”
“Enough with the questions. Where did you learn to paint like that? Who helped you imagine that? You copied my work, didn’t you, you lying filth?”, the artist demanded.
The kid immediately chirped, “Oh no, sir. I have no powers of imagination like you, sir. I have no magic to think ahead of my time, I can just see what is now. I just went outside by the river and the sky shared with me its shade of midnight blue with a hue of olive. It’s just what the evening looks like today, sir. Had the sky not shared itself, how could I have ever known that the sky is blue and that it is above and not below?” he giggled and ran towards the gate hopping in the wind, trying to hug the clouds.
The artist who never shared, shared the ache of seeing the sun behind the moon. He saw that the sun had all along shared how much he had blinded himself in his pursuit of excellence and being the best version of himself, but truly, just being a better version than others. The dark of the sun had always emitted his intoxication in trying to create a simulation of the very world he lived in, trying to compose a perfect symphony, that he had drowned deep enough to not be able to breathe the world around him, to breathe nature and what it already has to offer, because nature has always been willing to share.
A tale by Rohan Dave.
Late Summer ’18. San Francisco.