By Denise Domena
This story is about an artist’s love for the arts. It touches upon passing the baton to the next generation of creative individuals.
He wiped his forearm across his sweaty forehead hoping that his sleeves weren’t covered in any paint, although he’d gladly embrace a multi-color-streaked face if it meant completing this mural before the sunsets.
High up on his ladder, The Artist felt at ease. Years of practice allowed his feet to shift effortlessly on the ladder without a sliver of doubt in his movements. The Artist’s trusty ladder does not even make the slightest of whines from his body weight as if completely accustomed to every fiber of his being. If anything, the ladder has become a part of his body. Something The Artist doesn’t pay any mind to or notice until someone with a death wish walks underneath, causing his heart to skip a beat.
The Artist isn’t one for superstitions, but a little caution never hurts.
Out of the corner of his eyes, he watched over his scattered paint brushes, trays, and buckets as people walked by. They tended to pay more attention to their phones than where they were going. If only they would consider taking the time to look up and admire his hard work, even just for a split second. Instead, The Artist held his breath from a slight nudge to a tray or a trip over one’s foot as he prayed for his beautiful equipment and the clumsy individual to go unscathed.
When he isn’t focused on his tools below, The Artist is fixated with the paintbrushes he is using, allowing them to be an extension of himself. Each feather-like stroke grew more and more effortless as the minutes and then hours passed by. He felt as if the brushes were always five steps ahead of his mind, guiding his hands’ next move before his brain could process what shapes and lines were being created. Together they worked in perfect harmony, for all his strokes were finishing his brain’s sentences before they could even be said into existence.
A perfect pair the two were.
As the sun began to set, The Artist descended from his ladder and walked onto the street to stare at his creation; he was quite satisfied with his work. Of course, some adjustments needed to be made, but he had tomorrow to finish up. Then again, he was never quite done with a mural piece. He believed every work is never completed and contains constant room for improvement, but the sun was setting which meant this was a matter to be resolved for another day.
And probably the day after that.
Or even the day after until his wife finally convinced him to move on to the next project.
While packing his supplies away in his worn-down Toyota, The Artist spotted movement from a window directly across the street from the mural. In the barred window closest to the stoops of a Brooklyn apartment, The Artist could make out half a face inching closer into view behind curtains. More specifically, a young kid’s face staring at the mural.
The Artist remembered having a brief conversation with the married couple who lived in this building about their son’s love for drawing. They explained that their son would sit by the window and watch him paint, but The Artists never caught sight of the kid until now.
Packing the last of his tools, The Artist looked back to see the child still behind the window. He waved, and with a bit of hesitation, the boy waved back and then quickly hid behind the curtains once more. The Artist chuckled at the endearing innocence before heading into his car and driving home.
Bright and early the following day, The Artist was on his way to his colorful mural. He had gone to bed the night before, his mind racing with ideas on how to accentuate the faces he had sculpted with black paint and how to make the larger-than-life insect wings pop. He was practically bouncing with pure delight as he carried his equipment from his car to the worksite but came to an abrupt stop as soon as he turned the corner of the street.
Covering his rainbow explosion that featured detailed outlines of insects he admired and towering faces of people he felt like he knew since forever were bold graffiti letters dripping in cheap metallic spray paint. He could tell that the bubble letters spelling out “Voice” were sprayed on half-heartedly from the way the letters were sloping downwards, failing to remain horizontal and indicating the possible preteen vandals beginning their transitions from traditional tagging to bubble graffiti.
If the culprit of this crime had loved art, they wouldn’t have covered another hard-working artist’s work midway through completion, he thought to himself. They would have at least attempted to make a decent array of letters instead of these big smudges that bleed into his fine lines of intricate detailing for his soaring butterfly. Instead of appearing graceful in motion, the butterfly looked like it was melting in the Brooklyn summer heat.
Flaring his nostrils, The Artist gripped his paint bucket in hand and felt the rage begin to creep up.
However, instead of letting his temper consume him, he loosened his grip, put down his tools, and got ready to start painting once more.
“I’m sorry about your mural, mister,” a soft voice said from behind The Artist as he was covering up a metallic droplet. Looking over, the man saw a small boy who quickly looked down at his intertwined hands in front of him. Once eye contact was made, he used his Yankees baseball hat to shield his eyes. “It’s really pretty.”
“Thanks, kid,” The Artist weakly smiled. He knew this kid. It was the same one from yesterday who lived across the street. “Do you like to paint?” he asked, noticing the Converse sneakers the kid wore showcasing various superheroes and colorful paint.
“Yeah, and draw too,” the boy said, still looking down.
“Well,” The Artist stood up from his seated position and dusted off his pants. “Care to help me?” The boy’s face shot up with bulging eyes, and a smile made its way onto his face.
“Really?! I mean, yeah, I can help,” the boy quickly recovered. The Artist couldn’t help but chuckle at the boy’s eagerness as he handed him a paintbrush and began teaching the boy the correct techniques needed to fix the mural. The boy listened intensely, nodding his head and never shying away from asking a question. Though he was a little timid before, talking about art made the young boy’s walls slowly crumble away.
Now, this was someone who appreciated a good mural.
Inspired by a photo I took in Brooklyn of an artist at work on his mural, this story was first drafted in my first year at Girls Write Now. I wanted to circle back to the piece and complete it using what I have learned in Girls Write Now workshops and my English courses. In the piece, I wanted to explore the admiration artists like myself have for the arts, the obstacles we may face along the way, and the hope I have that the future generation will carry on our love for the craft.
Denise Domena is a native of Brooklyn, New York. She is college freshman who plans to major in English Literature and concentrate in creative writing. In her free time, she embroiders, plays ukulele and piano and bakes cookies. Denise hopes to one day publish young adult fiction novels and perhaps a collection of poetry.