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I think I will just wish you a nice weekend, and get out of the way, so Jacqueline's fine story can do the work. Enjoy.

Eolake Stobblehouse

The Artist
Fiction by Jacqueline Foreman

I am an artist. God, I love to say that. From the moment I began painting it felt so natural, so right. I can still remember the first time I held a brush in my hand, dipped it into the beautiful acrylic paints on my palette and then slashed at the canvas until it came alive with vibrant colors. I was ten years old at the time and my teacher Miss McCall told me it was the best abstract she had ever seen from any of her fourth grade students. From that moment on I was hooked. It was as if God had whispered in my ear and told me that this was my path in life to follow.

My parents objected at first to my adamant need to pursue a career as a painter. My father thought it was stupid and pointless, afterall, he was a vascular surgeon and I was his only son. I was the one who was supposed to carry on the family name and make him proud. I was supposed to be a doctor like him or a lawyer -- maybe even pursue a career in politics. I was never supposed to want to be an artist. Art as a hobby maybe, but not as a profession.

By my senior year in high school, my parents realized that I was not going to change my mind. I had refused to apply to any schools other than art schools. When my father insisted that he was not going to pay for any of these programs, with the help of my guidance counselor, I pursued a scholarship to an art school in New York. When I actually received the scholarship, my father relented. He has always been stubborn, but he knew a lost cause when he saw one. Art was my future and nothing was going to deter me from it -- not even my love for him.

My first year at art school was surprisingly disappointing. I wanted to paint, that's why I had gone to school. But instead of painting, the first year was focused on theory. I had to read books, write papers and dissect the works of other great artists. That first year I think I touched a paint brush four or five times. I was so frustrated I considered dropping out, but decided against it. Looking back on my life now, I am thankful for that decision.

By my second year, things were picking up. With most of my theory classes behind me I was able to focus on the actual craft of painting. When it came to my work, I was interested in the conceptual. My paintings weren't of things -- I didn't paint fruit or flowers, I didn't paint people -- no, my work was a wild mix between the styles of Cy Twombley and Jackson Pollack. I was a visual thinker who painted in the abstract. I saw more beauty in my own work than I ever did in nature. The accolades of my teachers and peers only further reinforced this belief within myself. It only took only an hour to change my mind.

I was on my way to class one afternoon -- I wasn't really looking forward to it either for two major reasons. The first was that I was simply tired after a late night of working in one of the studios on my latest masterpiece; the second reason was that this particular workshop focused on painting nudes. Now don't get me wrong, I did not have any qualms about seeing people naked. On the contrary, I had seen more naked women in the year that I had been at school than at any other time in my life. Apparently, chicks dig artists. But, the idea of painting nude people just did not appeal to me. I couldn't see the beauty in that. As my thoughts wandered and my apprehension grew, I walked straight into a young woman who I hadn't even seen prior to nearly mowing her down on the campus lawn.

"Oh . . . I'm sorry." I reached out and steadied her so that she wouldn't fall. She looked up at me with the most beautiful brown eyes I had ever seen and my heart did a flip in my chest. She said: "I'm trying to find the Wick building and I seem to be lost. Do you know where it is?"

I had never seen her before. I was sure of it. I would have noticed her. She was one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever laid eyes on. "I'm going to the Wick building right now. Why don't we walk over together?"

The young woman nodded. "That would be great." She paused for a moment before speaking again. "My name is Amanda."

I felt the heat rush to my cheeks. I hadn't thought to introduce myself to her. In fact, thinking at all was difficult when she was so close to me. "I'm Aaron." I began walking again and Amanda followed suit.

"So Aaron, I've never seen you before. Are you a new student?"

"No. This is my second year. What about you . . . I don't think I've ever seen you before either -- you a student here?"

Amanda giggled as if the suggestion itself was farcical. "Ah, no . . .unfortunately I have as much artistic talent as a tree stump. What about you? Are you an artist?"

I nodded. "A painter."

Amanda let out a deep sigh. "It must be wonderful to possess such a talent."

"I enjoy painting tremendously."

Amanda did not respond. The only sound I could hear was the pounding of my feet as they hit the sidewalk. Soon we would be at Wick and I feared that I would never have an opportunity to speak with her again.

"So, if you're not a student why are you here?" As soon as the words were out of my mouth I regretted them. It was none of my business why she was there, I knew that. So why had I asked? Why did I feel that it was my perfect right to know everything about this woman after knowing her for less than five minutes?

"I work here. I'm a nude model."

I stopped dead in my tracks and looked at her in total disbelief. "A nude model?"

"Don't look so horrified, Aaron. You're an artist, surely you've seen a nude before."

I shoved my hands into my jean pockets and began walking again. "Of course I have. It's just that I think we're on our way to the same class."

"Don't tell me you're a model too?" I could see from the grin on her face that she was joking.

"Hardly." I croaked. "I'm on my way to paint a nude."

"Well, Aaron -- I guess you're about to see more of me than you ever bargained for."

At that thought my heart began to race and I felt lightheaded. I had no idea why but the thought of seeing Amanda nude, the thought of painting her that way, appealed to me greatly. "Well, we're here."

We both stopped in front of the Wick building and starred at one another as if uncertain how we should part. I extracted my hands from my pockets and crossed them protectively across my chest.

Amanda was the first one to break the silence. "I'd better go inside."

I nodded, unable to speak as she turned and walked away.

Once inside the classroom I looked around for Amanda, but did not see her. I quickly began to set up my area, preparing myself for the moment that she would come out and present herself. It wasn't long before Amanda walked into the middle of the studio wrapped in a blue bathrobe. She looked around the room until her eyes locked onto mine. The moment they did she untied the garment and allowed it to slowly drift to the floor revealing her body in a way that was so innocuous, so pure it fairly took my breath away.

I effortlessly began to paint Amanda with a passion I had not known existed. Each stroke brought me closer to her heart -- closer to her soul. She was a heady mixture of straight lines and curves. Her arms, her hips her legs -- all perfectly proportioned. The artist in me was in control now and all I could see in front of me was her. I continued to paint, wondering how I could have missed the splendor of depicting something so bold and primordial. I had made love to many women up to that time, but had never taken a moment to actually look at one -- I mean really look -- not through the eyes of lust but through the eyes of artistry.

For hours I felt as if I was in that special space that bridges the time between sleeping and waking. Those moments were like an epiphany for me. It was like facing the light after a lifetime of darkness.

After that class I vowed never again to paint in the abstract. Ten years later I have held true to that promise and have made a name for myself in the art world. I paint nude figures directly from life. In the words of painting maestro Widayat, "In drawing a nude, a painter has to try to avoid negative things; pornography causes passion. The female figure in the eyes of a painter is a beautiful creature with the lines of her body attractively moving, only an artist can make the beauty of the work eternal". His words ring true in my heart each day. This is the gift that Amanda has given me -- the ability to see the natural beauty in things not created by man.

The end

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