Never had grey looked so vibrant. Light and dark battled for centre stage as greyish faces watched the artist from the shelving. Some were finely carved, almost human. Most were still waiting for their features. They had survived the abortion of the carver’s knife.
The artist looked at the shelf above him. Another clay face smiled back knowingly.
“You will just continue to fall downhill.”
The words WASHED UP were carved across it. The shame of this realisation was deeply embedded. The artist ignored it at first. He lifted the carving knife and reached for the clay in front of him, unborn, formless. He wet his hands in the bowl. The cool water did nothing to relieve his intoxicated mind. He reached out and caressed the clay carefully, searching for the curvatures.
“You are nothing.”
Three identical masks observed him, perched high. Each of them bore the word DOUBT. The artist leant back on his stool but his drug-addled mind was too far-gone to keep his balance. He leaned back too far and as he jerked forward he knocked the water bowl over and cut his finger on the scalpel he used to carve details into his creations.
“Fuck!” he exclaimed as the vibrant red began to gush from the wound, spilling onto the grey. His vision was blurry. He didn’t normally feel this way after a hit. Joe must have gotten purer than usual.
At age twelve the artist had turned to smoke. The calming effects saw him through pre-pubescence. It calmed the storm of his teen years. He tried powder and pills along the way but when he reached his twenties only needles would do. He had come off them for a while as his career as an artist took off. He had it all then but the high of life shook him, gave him unrealistic expectations, sucked him dry then left him with nothing but the needles for comfort. His friends encouraged him but no matter what he did, his work could never reach those heights again.
The needles didn’t think he was washed up. They were always there to make him feel better. They even numbed the pain as he put a deeper cut in his hand as he tried to grasp the scalpel again.
“A pathetic excuse for a human being.”
The artist looked at a clay face that lay discarded on the bench. The word FRAUD was embedded into it.
The artist swung his legs round but it threw off his balance again. This time he tumbled to the floor. He looked up towards the window. A figurine of a slim woman was hanging by it’s feet.
“He’s just a little down on his luck.”
The figurine spun around on the wire that held her captive. Her face was flat. It had no features yet. Only her buttocks had any detail. The words HAS BEEN were written into her.
“Fuck off the lot of you!” the artist cried, climbing to his feet. “What do you know about it?”
He swung his arms in a meaningless gesture but it caused him to fall into his bench. The corner caught his hip painfully.
A hand fell on him. He shrieked. The clay digits clasped his shoulder.
“You had it all. It’s gone now. You are nothing. You had no real talent.”
The artist cried out. Hooks, shelves, walls, more clay faces and figurines watching him, accusing him. Whatever he did have it was gone. His artistic vision was gone and all the needles in the world would never numb that kind of pain.
The faces closed in.
“A talentless junkie that got lucky!”
The artist hated that he had become a tortured cliché. He hated even more that everything he turned his hand to lately fell flat. It wasn’t inspired. It wasn’t bold. He struggled to get even those closest to him to give a second look. He was an artist cliché without the talent. He thought he was giving birth to kings and queens whose reign would be spoken of for centuries. Instead he held still born after still born. So he hung them, scraped away at their skins and occasionally, when provoked, he smashed them to pieces. Paintings, carvings, models, all deserved incineration. Burn them all. Never let those failed experiments see the light of day. They would tell everyone how uninspired their creator was.
The artist turned on his stool. Dizziness overcame him. A large male figure was looking down on him from the shelf. He had no legs and was leaning on muscular arms. The muscles in the arms and abdomen were painstakingly clear and well-defined. As strong as the figure looked, he would never have those legs. Below his waist would remain as absent as the creator’s mind.
“Why bother even trying?”
The question startled the artist. He stood up again and kicked the stool over. The eyes of the legless figure had more life in them than the artist’s own. The last time he dared look in a mirror his face was vacant. He looked dead. He might as well be. The dark roots were showing through greasy, bleached hair. His lips were grey.
“Leave me alone!” he warned them.
He stumbled out of the workshop, falling to his knees on the sodden grass as he missed the last step. He looked back up. The statues would always be there. They would always mock him for the ridiculousness of their existence. David Finn’s career as an artist was all but over.
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