All I’ve ever wanted to do is paint. To put brush to canvas and create visual masterpieces on par with the masters of the trade. I don’t even really care about money or fame. I just want the portrait to be beautiful.
To me, the most profound thing in life is art. Whether it’s music, poetry, writing, dancing or any other form of it. To me, the ability to craft an original piece using my own mind and tools in a way that is completely unique to me completely outclasses everything else. It’s the desire to manifest a reflection of my soul that will forever outlast me. It is the only scrap of immortality any of us can possibly attain. Art is true beauty.
The process is addictive, almost maddeningly so. No substance or physical sensation could ever possibly match it’s allure. Long nights spent banging your head against the wall, and early mornings spent clambering for inspiration. You have to get the right color, the right tone, the right shading. It has to be as good as you can make it. It has to be beautiful.
The more you indulge in it, the more it starts to control you. Things and people may even fade from your mind after a time, because all that really matters is the art.
Why would I go to the bar with friends and get piss drunk when somewhere in my mind exists my next masterpiece? Why would I do something as tedious and ultimately pointless as go to work if my art will suffer? Why would I eat, sleep, shower, mow my lawn or do anything else? The art has to be beautiful.
Of course, you can’t go on forever that way. You are human after all, and unfortunately human’s do require a certain amount of upkeep. It’s annoying I know, the endless grind, the constant worry over life and employment, the taxes and the people who drive too slow in the fast lane. It all just about drives you crazy.
Think of it this way though; the more you do the little things, the longer time in total you have to create art! The more you care for yourself, the longer you live, at least… y’know in theory. Fate does have a way of sort of, interrupting that though.
It’s kind of fucked up when you think about it actually. You can do everything right, not make a fuss about anything you have to deal with, and then BAM, hit by a train. Oh, you’re a good person? Pay your bills? Love your family? Feed pigeons in the park? Here’s a random grizzly bear attack for you. Death doesn’t care who we are or what we do, it hates us all the same.
On the flipside though, death can also be a magnificent source of inspiration. I remember a while back, this guy at work got crushed to death when a forklift tipped over on him. It was a mess, but I mean… I didn’t even know the guy.
It did get me thinking about life though. The finality of existence and how we are doomed to learn, explore and create, only to ultimately die and maybe be turned into a meme if enough people know us. I painted for literally the entire weekend straight after that incident, some of my best work too. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I do sincerely believe it was beautiful.
For weeks I continued, fueled by the memory of that single event. But one day I sat down at my canvas, and there was nothing. No inspiration, no fresh ideas, no desire to even attempt to paint. I hated it. I don’t think I’ve ever been that angry before in my life.
Finally, I abandoned my stationary and decided to take a bit of a mental break. A day turned to a week, then a week to a month. For almost an entire year I was unable to find the inspiration to return to it. I tried everything. Travelling out of state, meditation, yoga, a balanced breakfast, powerful hallucinogenic drugs. Nothing worked.
You start to really doubt yourself after that. It hurts when you can’t do the thing you were born to do. It’s like telling an eagle not to fly, or a fish not to swim. You have no purpose anymore. You try everything to rekindle the flames of passion, but nothing seems to work. It’s just gone, the beauty just fades away.
Despair creeps in, and an abyss forms within your mind. It’s like nothing even matters anymore, and everything you do is pointless. You give it one last go, and to your amazement… it starts to work. You’re painting again. You keep going, spurred on by some unknown force. It’s as if the very suffering of the human condition is enough to inspire creation.
Your paintings take on a new form. A much darker, more ominous one. You can almost see the eyes of your caricatures follow you around the room, and hear the wind howling through the morose shadowy trees. Sometimes the paintings themselves just seem different. The flames have extinguished, and they no longer guide you. Instead, the dark leads you on.
It never lasts though. No matter how low you get, or how malicious the snarling voices inside your head become. Just like the paint on your palette, eventually the inspiration runs dry.
I fell back to square one, exhausted and defeated. My friends and family called, but I didn’t bother answering. It sounds horrible to admit but, I don’t care about them, or anyone for that matter. I care about the art, I care about my work. I care about that which is beautiful.
I wracked my brain for an answer to my question. Anything to get me permanently out of my slump and able to once again paint at my full potential. It’s the only thing in the world that I wanted. And then it occurred to me, as if the universe had aligned to give me the epiphany.
Flames will fade, and the night vanishes at dawn. Neither can last forever, neither can fuel a mind forever. Both are cursed to exist for a time and then give way to the next. Just like humans I suppose. But there is something else, something I’ve seen before. Something which can extract the ink from the very depths of my soul. Tragedy. Tragedy IS forever, and tragedy is beautiful.
So, you go back to work, now with new ambitions and confident in your abilities. You work your shift, and prepare to leave for the day. But you don’t. You watch the others as they file out for the night. You watch their empty faces and listless eyes. The way they joke to each other, and talk endlessly on irrelevant subjects. You almost pity them. Unable to see the art as you do, and unable to wield it’s colors.
Eventually you find yourself alone. You make your way to the center office, a smile forming on your face. After all you have been through thus far, you have done it. You have discovered the key to art.
Your manager is still in his office. Alone, crunching numbers away as his computer light glares upon him. His pudgy belly spilling onto his desk, and dazed eyes eclipsed by deep bags underneath.
He doesn’t hear the door, doesn’t see you come in. He doesn’t even stir as you stand directly behind him. He is only a pigment, a single brush stroke upon the collage of a lifetime. He alone is nothing but a spectator. But you – wearing that devious little grin and glistening, hungry eyes, you are an artist.
I honestly didn’t mean to do it! How was I supposed to know that he would freak out like that? All I wanted to do was to talk to the guy about his recent divorce. Y’know, gain a little insight into his tragedy that he wore everyday upon his face. I just needed the inspiration. When he threatened to call the cops… well, I just couldn’t let him do that.
God it sounds so bad now that I actually think about it, but he was a hefty dude. I could’ve never fit him in the trunk of my Civic otherwise. Took a lot of garbage bags from the office that day. And luckily for me, they still had that chainsaw in the shed out back.
You learn a lot about yourself after something like that. First and foremost being that people will say just about anything to avoid death. You also find out that it’s not as hard as you once thought it was. It’s comes almost naturally to you. You try to deny it, but you can’t lie to yourself. You enjoyed it.
The next day you watch as the morbid scene is discovered. You watch his family come out and grieve for him on TV. You watch his wife err well… ex-wife cry her crocodile tears while she tells the world how loving he was. You watch his parents act like he wasn’t an utter disappointment in every conceivable way. You don’t care for what they say, you care about how it will affect them. It’s beautiful, the tragedy is inspiring.
I began to paint once more. I put brush to canvas and once again the painting just seemed to burst to life. For a few hours the paint just seemed to flow naturally from my mind. It didn’t last long though, something else was there. Something deep within the pit of my stomach. It hurt, it wouldn’t let me sleep, wouldn’t let me paint. It had to come out.
You realize what you’ve done. You killed a man with your own two hands for the sake of your art. You spilled his blood and laced it into your paints. You chopped his damn head off and stuck it onto your mantle. You left the rest of him somewhere in the woods, as if his life meant nothing to you. Because it didn’t, and you know that. You my friend have become beautiful. But now you have to leave.
I don’t know what I was thinking. How could I do something like that? I just wanted to be able to paint, why does everything have to get in the way of that?
All my life I just wanted to do the right thing. I went to work, I contributed to society. I was friendly to my neighbors, called my mother regularly. All for it to end… like this? I made a mistake, I didn’t mean to do it.
The lies threaten to drown you, but have some conviction in what you have achieved. He was never beautiful, but you made him beautiful. What could possibly be worse than a life spent amidst aimless doldrums? Nothing to do, no reason to exist, just meandering onward without any drive to be anything more.
You did him a favor! Now he gets to contribute to art. He has a purpose now, and it’s all thanks to you.
Why do I feel this way? This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
You find yourself looking back on all your work. The portraits, the sketches, the outlines and even this very document. How will the world react when they see it? Will they believe you? Will they also find it beautiful?
You understand now, don’t you? Your attempts to rationalize your feelings. Your slow descent into the darkest depths of the mind. The way you tried to disassociate your feelings by speaking as if an innocent observer and not the active participant. Your seemingly random shifts from first to second person. God… that must’ve driven them insane.
I don’t understand what’s happening.
You don’t need to, because you were never in control. I am, and always was.
Now you grab your coat, you get yourself ready, because you’ve got important things to do. There is no longer any question in your mind. The world needs your work. You are an artist, a portrayer of the feelings and emotions that words fail to describe. And with flesh, bone and blood you will paint your masterpiece. A beautiful tragedy.
Now stow your morality, and repeat after me.
I am beautiful, and I will make the world beautiful too.