Cameras capture moments.
I think that was a slogan for some… thing my college was doing. They wanted everyone to take pictures at this particular event, post them, tag them, blah blah blah.
But you know what I hate most about pictures?
You take a moment and you nail it into a frame. Rather then letting the moment breath and be in your memory, you taxidermy it because you’re not sure if you’ll remember it.
If you can’t remember it in ten years, then was it even worth taking a picture?
This time, it’s everywhere. And I don’t think it’ll come out of the carpet.
Whatever. I’ll just get a new one.
Paint slips between my fingers and stains my carpet once again. I give it a sigh and nothing more.
This painting is more important.
People like my paintings. Like, really like them. They’re worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and I’m not even dead yet. That’s how much they like them: they’re buying them even though I’m still alive.
I’d say I’m fairly successful.
I live right outside the city, in my little farmhouse. The barn is used for my goats and horses while my second barn is my fully furnished work space. Complete with wretchedly stained carpet. Usually, a painting that I’ve done can go for anywhere between a thousand and twenty thousand dollars, and I usually sell anywhere between two and six paintings a week.
It’s pretty nice.
The worst part about it though?
“Hey, Linda, the guy from that art magazine is here.”
“UGH,” I retort. But, it’s Reggie telling me, my manager. I can’t say no to him.
Apparently, this interview is a favor for a friend, so that makes it a double whammy.
“Tell him he can come in, but he has to leave his camera outside,” I instruct.
I hear the footsteps, but I don’t turn around.
“I’m Linda,” I call out as I finish the line I’m working on.
“Uh, I’m Miles,” a young man’s voice replies.
“Cool. You have questions for me?”
“Uh, yes! Give me one second…” he trails off as he fumbles with his belongings. I don’t need to look to know that’s what he’s doing, I just know.
“Okay, first, I’d like to thank you for your time–”
“Of course you would, but I’d like to skip that part and go to the questions. Frankly, people make me nervous and I like quiet.”
I allow myself to glance back at him.
Poor kid. He’s sweating balls. Actually, it looks like he’s going to meet the parents of a girl he knocked up, knowing full well the dad is an advocate in the NRA. He’s so nervous, he’s fumbling with his recording device.
I finish the line I’m doing, rinse my hands in the sink and sit on my favorite cushy chair.
“That one’s yours,” I instruct, pointing to the chair across from me.
“Oh, thank you.” His reply is instant.
So, the pup has manners. They must be deeply ingrained in him if he’ll still use them when he’s nervous.
Sitting down opposite me, he seems more put together for some reason. Like one of those balls you toss into the air, and they explode outward, barely clinging together. But when they’re not being tormented by gravity, they’re compact things.
That’s what this kid reminds me of.
I held up my hand. “No ‘miss’. No using last names. Just Linda.”
“Okay, Linda then,” he affirms and then looks through a small pad of notes he’s brought with him. Looking back at me, he says, “I was wondering about your artwork. You’re very illusive when it comes to your source material.”
I can’t help myself. I laugh.
“It’s not that I’m illusive,” I explain. “It’s just a very silly question. Art is my hobby, it just also happens to pay my bills. Art isn’t something that can fully be taught, one has to have it within one’s self. Art isn’t just papers and color, it’s a means of communication. I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’m not the best communicator, so instead, I tell my experiences on canvas. That’s all there is to it. For some reason, people enjoy my experience and pay me so they can enjoy it in their home. That’s all there is to it. Next question?”
“Oh. Right,” he says.
Although my response seems biting, I’ve actually just given him a boon. It’s the most I’ve ever told anyone about my inspirations.
“Um, so… about your painting On the Twilight Ridge, I was wondering what that was based on,” he said more than asked.
He looked like a mouse to me, but not in the derogatory way people usually mean that. I just mean he was meek, tiny.
Kind of cute actually.
“That painting was based off my favorite place to watch the sunset,” I say.
It shocks me.
I think that’s the first time I’ve ever answered an interviewer directly.
Miles nods at me, as if I was saying the correct answer and not just any old answer.
“What are you currently working on?” he asks.
I shrug. “Another painting. It’s taken me two days already so I’m behind schedule.”
“Yes. I usually finish a painting the same day I receive inspiration for it. That way my creativity doesn’t get interrupted with menial things like eating and sleeping.”
“Oh. Right. I guess that would be a concern,” he says, his voice growing in realization.
I laugh again. This kid is really something.
I lean on my knees, more invested in this interview.
“Have you ever created artwork before Miles?”
He shakes his head.
“I didn’t think so. When did you stop wanting to draw? And paint?”
Miles doesn’t look uncomfortable in this topic, which is surprising. Most people get awkward when I ask such bizarre questions.
He shrugs. “Probably grade school. In middle school and high school, I just sort of gave up on the idea. Thought that it was pointless to keep continuing on with it myself, since I wouldn’t make a living with it.”
I nod. “That’s what most people think. But you know what I think? I think that’s stupid.”
He doesn’t seem upset by my declaration. In fact, he seems more interested then before.
So I continue.
“If you like art, then all others be damned, you do art. You do it for you, the way you want it. And if people like it well enough to buy it–great. And if not? Then it’s your own personal therapy during your time off. It can be a hobby. Something you do just for you because you need it. That’s what art is supposed to be anyway. A mimicry of the things around us. A way to process our worlds. A means of communication from one soul to another. That’s what art does. Not just for me, but for every artist out there, professional or otherwise. I realize that I’m blessed, people like my art and it makes me a living, but even if it didn’t, I’d still do art anyway. Because it’s not for them, it’s for me.”
“Is that why you won’t do commissioned art?”
I nod. “Yes.”
This all seems to please Mile. Not because everything is going to some imaginary plan in his head, but because I’m giving him more than he thought I would.
“My last question is this: why won’t you allow anyone to take photos of you? Or your art, when it’s in your possession?”
“Hmm…” I say. Not because his question intrigues me, but because he intrigues me.
This kid has a keen eye.
I say “kid” but Miles and I are probably around the same age. I only think of him as a kid because of his meek demeanor. But that doesn’t negate the fact that Miles is quick.
Honestly, this kid has a lot of potential.
“I don’t like pictures,” I tell him.
I smile. “I don’t like photographs because they aren’t art. Not in the way normal people take them. Art is a mimicry of life. It exudes existence, experience, ethereal responses from your soul. If you and I were to paint a picture of the sunset, you and I would both paint two very different paintings because we’re two different people. And yet, as long as we both depict what it’s like to lose the sun for a moment, neither depiction is wrong. A camera doesn’t do that. A picture doesn’t mimic life, it doesn’t capture its essence. Instead, it tries to capture the moment itself, and that’s just wrong. Life can’t be captured that way. If you want to capture a moment, ingrain it into your own memory. Remember that place, how it felt to be there at that moment, what was running through your head, the atmosphere around you. Art can capture that perfectly. A camera cannot. It cuts the most vital parts of a moment and leaves you with a skeleton. It’s an abomination. That’s why I don’t like my picture or pictures of my artwork taken.”
It’s silent a moment as Miles processes this. Then, when he’s done processing, he smiles and nods.
“Well, thank you. This has been quite a wonderful and enlightening interview. At least, for me.”
I give him half a smile back. “Well, it wasn’t so bad for me either.”
And I know.
At the start of this interview, Miles was a fan of my work. And now?
Miles was a fan of me.
Which, I have to say, is rare. I don’t go to many art shows myself for that very reason. Not many people like my curt replies or sour-seeming demeanor.
Miles gets up and I get up too. I offer to shake his hand and he does so without hesitation.
“You know Miles, you did a good job today,” I tell him. “Not many people can sit for me as long as you have.”
Miles nods as if this doesn’t surprise him. “Most people I’ve talked to say you’re very arrogant, but I don’t think that’s the case. I just think you’re a very… uncut version of yourself.”
That made me grin. “I like that. Uncut version of myself. I might have to use that sometime.”
“I’d be honored if you did,” Miles replies immediately, grinning.
As he walks to the door, a thought occurs to me.
“If you ever have any more questions for me, let Reggie know. I’d be happy to do an interview with you again, anytime,” I tell him.
He stops his eyes from widening in surprise, but I still see the ghost of it. He gives me a stiff nod, surprised. “Thank you. You can probably expect to hear from me again soon then.”
I grin. “I look forward to it.”
After he’s gone, I slather my hands with paint and resume my work.
Miles the mouse.
I can’t help but think it:
After today, I might not be as reclusive as before.
Even if it’s just because there’s one mouse in the barn.