Back in the dorm Soul got out his sketchbook, after staring at the page for an hour he began to draw, the strokes came to him slowly, and he didn’t have a finished image in mind, but the smooth crumble of the charcoal on the page soothed his heart and mind.
The sun had begun to set when Jon returned, his cheeks were flushed and he immediately began chatting about his plans with his new friends, Rose and Sarah had the day off too, and were going to begin running lines both for class and to audition for Romeo and Juliet. Soul hardly listened, and didn’t speak. Still he drew. The picture was done completely in negative space, but Soul wasn’t erasing. It was difficult to imagine the shapes that would bring the shadowed figures into the foreground, but he managed.
The image was one Soul had drawn before, but not in this way, there was a ring of people and monsters holding hands. It was a starry but moonless night in a forest of hands, the nails growing in spirals that faded into smoke. Sometimes the smoke mixed with smoke from a fire, sometimes the smoke formed words. This time it did neither, and the ambiguity somehow made the picture all the more frightening.
“Whatcha drawing?” Jon was pulled from his retelling of one of Scott's legendary critiques when he noticed Soul's activity. Soul didn’t reply. “That's kinda scary, where'd you get the idea to draw that? I don’t think I would want to be in that circle, wait, are those hands? God, dude, that's really freaky.” Jon took a step back.
“I don’t know, I’ve drawn it before.” Soul carefully shaded the space that would define a tendril of smoke from a star. “Some things you can't explain you know?” Jon nodded, and was, for a moment, speechless.
“I used to always ask my mother why, why everything was the way it was. She would always say just that. 'some things are the way they are, just because they can't be any other way.' You know I told her I wouldn't miss her, but I do?” he paused for another moment then Jon was back to his bubbly self, introspection forgotten. Soul nodded, but focused on his drawing, filing the knowledge of Jon's deeper side away for the future.
Soul found it was easiest for him to draw when he was either irritated with Jon or when he was out of he way. He found it irritating that he fit this other cliché. A tortured artist, he needed pain for his art. The other thing that inspired his art was Scott. Unfortunately Scott was in two of Soul's classes, one of them drawing.
“Fancy seeing you here.” Soul looked around the side of his easel into a pair of the most purely hazel eyes he could remember seeing, it was a little disconcerting, they were so uniform with almost no striation or variation in tone. “Don't you remember me? I’m Scott.” It was the class Soul looked forward to his whole life, a class freshmen almost never got to take, and now it was going to be ruined.
“I remember you.”
“Don't look so forlorn, I’m not that bad. Plus now you don’t have to get to know your easel buddy, cause you already know me.” Scott flashed a smile that was all teeth. He looked rather like a demented werewolf from a pre-CGI horror movie. Soul shuddered.
“I wouldn't mind meeting someone new-” but before he could finish the professor entered the room. He looked like he should be the curator of some prestigious museum. He was tall and slim, but with broad shoulders, his hair was a deep chestnut brown, just beginning to go gray around the temples though it was apparent that he had seen his share of years.
“Students, hello. Some of you hello again, to some of you welcome. I don’t like too much formality, especially as this is a studio environment. I want you to see me as more of a mentor, and my critiques as suggestions. This class is for you to develop your perspective as an artist, for you to be able to defend your art to a critic, and o be able to maintain your style through fads and changing tastes. You cannot do that if you are always trying to imitate your peers and please me. Today, since it is the first day and I do not know many of you I just want you to sketch, and I will walk around and chat with each of you, see what you have been working on over the summer that sort of thing.”
The professor reminded Soul of how a grandfather should be. Kind and warm. Distinguished, but not afraid to get dirty. Soul could feel himself settling in, even with Scott across from him. Soul crossed his legs and picked up his favorite graphite pencil. He wanted to start with something light, but all he could think of were forests of teeth. He drew lazy daises, trying to think of something, anything he could draw that would impress the professor without scaring him away. But as the professor meandered closer, Soul couldn’t think of anything and had nothing to show for his effort but a paper littered with artless tufts of grass and flowers.
“This is nice,” the professor said to Scott, “I can see your inspiration.” Soul could hear the smile in his voice, even if he couldn’t see what Scott had drawn. Scott was supposed to be a theatre major, but to be in this class as a freshman he would have had to have presented an impressive portfolio.
“Great right?” Scott laughed. Soul fumed, Scott should have been the one drawing the flowers. “I think that with this kind of beauty in front of them anyone would be able to draw.”
“Well,” began the professor, “good luck, I have the feeling you are going to need it in the next weeks, and you Soul is it? What have you drawn.” Soul blushed. He should have just drawn what he was thinking, he might have looked crazy, but better crazy than stupid.
“I couldn’t think. I’m sorry.”
“Well, it is the first day, you had quite the portfolio. You were the one with the unconventional forests weren’t you?” Soul nodded. “ I think that is the direction you should stick with. As nice as all these flowers are, they aren’t the kind of thing that got you into my class. I will expect better from you in the future.” The professor patted Soul on the arm and gave him a look that was worse than any punishment , and moved on to the next station.
“Flowers eh? Well better luck next time. I mean flowers are great, but that's the kind of thing my little sister draws for me.” Soul wished he was the fighting type so he could punch Scott. Why was he even talking?
“I don’t usually draw flowers.” Well that was a great comeback, Soul thought.
“I'm glad, neither do I, but this time I added a few. I think they add a nice touch.” Scott leaned back to admire his art. Soul wanted to know what he had drawn, but more than that he didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of asking.
“That's nice. I’m sure it's lovely.” Soul had meant to sound sarcastic, but the words we just a bit too close to the truth to have the proper effect.
“It is. I like it.” Scott flashed a blinding smile then turned to perfect his picture.
Soul gave up on drawing for the day. He shaded in the grass and flowers and waited for the hour to end. And to think this was the class he was most excited for.
Later in the dorm Soul felt like drawing, but didn’t feel like he deserved to. He looked out the window and watched Jon practice expressions in the mirror. He was listening to Phantom of the Opera, it fit Soul's mood. Aching for quiet Soul went to find the library. He took the long way around, behind the dorm buildings and through the arts quad. The states and trees were calming. The still summer air felt like a blanket sweaty wool blanket, and by the time Soul reached the library, the air conditioning felt like heaven.
The building was new, but the architect was obviously inspired by Gothic European churches and cathedrals. The building was made of some smooth white stone, but it still gave the impression of being dark. The windows were large but narrow, filled with clear hand made glass that bent the light into soft waves on the stone floor. At this hour this early in the year the library was relatively empty, and on the third floor, where Soul headed, there was not a breath of sound. Very different from the dorm room Soul had left.
As he sat in one of the many window seats and watched the distorted trees through the unique glass, Soul realized he should have brought something with him to do. He did have some homework, even if it wasn't much, and he didn’t want to get behind this early in the year. But soon, all his thoughts drifted away, he drifted away and faded into the light.
“Damn, I wish the light didn’t fade so fast.” Soul jumped. The sun had set significantly since he had drifted. The waves of light were crimson and gold, and his arms and legs were stiff from sitting still for so long. Soul turned to see who the voice belonged to, he almost couldn’t believe his bad luck. Sitting at one of the long tables was Scott, with a large pad of watercolor paper. His hair was tousled and a light stubble graced his cheeks, glowing in the fading light. He had a smudge of charcoal on his cheek and a pencil behind his ear, another in his hand.
“Why are you here?” Soul stretched his legs slowly. He didn’t want to seem like he was running away. He got the impression running would make Scott chase.
“If you checked Professor White's web page you would know that we have a mini series of sketches due next week. Something that is based on what we drew today.” Scott ran his hand through his hair again. The one with the pencil in it. Somehow the streak of black the soft lead left looked avant garde and almost attractive. Soul debated not answering, but he was too curious, he had to know.
“That doesn’t answer my question. Why do you have to be up here. I obviously wanted to be by myself.”
“I wasn’t bothering you, you didn’t notice me for nearly an hour, plus how am I supposed to draw you if I can't see you? ” And with another smile and what looked like a wink Scott gathered his drawing and jogged down the stone stairs.
Transitions and dialogue are hard! So is writing in general, but really those are the hardest. So is finishing things that I start, but that's a whole other story! Again any feedback, comments, anything- is very, very welcome, happy Thursday :)