In the year 5324 A.C. on the planet Cunvinda 55 or something, nobody really knew anymore since all called it Earth 3, Maeve was sketching a small skeleton on a piece of yellowish paper, covered in big strange spots. Her car was advancing slowly in the traffic jam on air lane 34.
The car of the 18-year-old girl hovered over the arid canyon engulfed in red sand for so long that the Toyota’s flaking grey paint began to mix with the sands bellow.
The line of cars moved, so Maeve forced the engine, squinting against the sun, reflected by the skyrises. She raised a hand to wipe away the droplets covering her forehead.
A dull choking sound erupted from the car, engulfing it in dark smoke.
The jam broke entirely and Maeve tossed the piece of paper on the backseat where a ginormous blanket laid. The beast was stitched up of 5 or 6 smaller blankets and suited to cover the entirety of the back seat.
Over it, curled in a ball, laid a pair of clothes and a torn small blanket with carefully embroidered roses, detailed with leaves, stems and thorns.
Maeve looked at the watch with a concerned frown. It showed 5.07 in the morning, but the girl forced the engine further.
She flew past a few giants made out of bricks and reflective windows and slowed down over a narrow street between 2 glaring skyrises with ugly crowns assembled of blue solar panels.
Beneath her, dozens of stands were being pulled up and various objects put on display. She couldn’t make the goods from the distance, but she noticed all the slots were taken.
“Come on” Maeve murmured as the street approached its end.
A small hole between 2 stands caught her eye and she jumped on the pedals to get there before someone took it.
She parked next to the wall, reserving her place in the Market.
Maeve pulled off a stack of boxes out of her ‘gallery’, which was really the car’s spacious trunk.
She took out and assembled 2 make-shift easels, made from scrappy pieces of wood and a lot of duck tape, but painted black to look semi-professional. Then she stuck her entire body in the trunk, took out a small table and unfolded it between the easels.
Maeve unpacked the boxes full of paintings and began arranging the artwork - the small paintings on the table, the medium ones propped up, upfront. They consisted mostly of evergreen mountains, small exotic birds from Earth 1 and creatures like otters, dragons and wolves, created with acrylic paint.
“And what is that supposed to be?” A hoarse voice enquired behind her back.
Maeve turned around to meet a full-face covered with makeup, shadowed by raven hair and thick glasses. The middle-aged woman pointed at the painting with the otter with a finger weighted by a heavy emerald.
“It’s an otter,” Maeve answered swiftly.
A sharp laugh slashed the air. “Why did you make your robot paint fairytales, child? Everyone knows there were never such things like otters,” she looked at another painting with increasing smirkiness “or wolves for that matter.”
“Though, judging by your look…” The woman scanned Maeve from the greasy shoulder-length high blonde hair through the loose denim shirt, the heavily scarred arms and the battered money watch down to the muddy black jeans and the knee-high metal-padded boots. “…I’d say you don’t even own A robot let alone one with a painting setting.”
Maeve blushed and the woman raised an eyebrow, satisfied with her deduction.
“That is none of your business”, Maeve spat out and returned to arranging her paintings.
“How did you get them then?” The woman persisted. “Did you steal them?”
“No” Maeve snapped and looked the woman in the eye, slightly towering above her. “I painted them!” Maeve stated proudly.
The woman looked at her as if an apparition had replaced her. Then her loud laugh boomed all over the big alley so all the sellers could hear.
“You hear that folks? She painted them!” She shouted.
Tears gathered in Maeve’s eyes but she clenched her teeth and in complete ignorance, or at least a pretend one, she took out the big paintings and placed them on the 2 easels. The woman bought her posed disinterest and after a few minutes, the jokes and laughter subsided.
The day rolled slowly and with the increase of the infernal heat people got crankier and bought even fewer objects.
Nobody paid attention to Maeve’s artwork. These days the norm was perfect lines and shapes and people usually bought portraits of themselves, their spaceships, the planets they owned or the planets they wanted to own and of the latest models of cars, as to afford them somehow. Didn’t someone say that a great painting is the same as the real-life thing? Nah, I don’t think so. They just wanted to be cool, but couldn’t afford the cars. I mean who could? Those things were basically miniature spaceships.
Therefore, Madam Marrie’s booth gathered most of the clientele uninterested in food, drink and animals. She had placed a neon sign upfront, so it was a bit hard to miss. The woman had brought her art robots with her, upgraded with the latest software for drawing and painting or at least she said so around 1000 times just by noon.
The 2 human-shaped thin cans gathered the clients to make quick and perfect portraits through photo-imaging of the sorts. Basically, the metal ‘creators’ would look at one’s face, take a photo, turn to the canvas and paint it on. The results were perfect of course because they were robots.
The rest of the people bought the general things that were pre-painted: cars, planets, roads, houses, computer systems, celebrities and everyday objects. Usually, if something wasn’t available, the robot would reproduce it immediately.
The ‘deviator from the norm’ Maeve Peters just ate her sad triangle sandwich (containing only ham) on the side.
Nobody cared about her pieces and really she couldn’t do anything about it, so after 6-7 hours, she stopped paying any attention and began painting a tidal wave with the fluidity only humans can master.
“A human painter what a novelty.” An unknown classy voice called to her attention. “Or was it antiquity? I don’t remember.”
In front of Maeve’s stand stood a tall man, enveloped in a dark suit with white hair and a somewhat familiar face.
“Um thank you, I guess,” Maeve answered not sure, whether that was a compliment or an insult and placed her brush in the glass of muddy water.
“Oh no, no. Please don’t stop on my account. I’ll just take a look.”
People began watching the man from a distance. Obviously, he was Someone, but Maeve couldn’t place his face.
“Mr, don’t bother with that. Come see some real art”, the covetous woman proded from the neighbouring stand.
The man ignored her.
“Please, excuse this ill-mannered lady. She simply does not understand.” He said with eyes fixated on the paintings while Maeve observed him with unfiltered scepticism.
“You paint with so much raw emotion and with the lack of all cautiousness.”
“If it works, it works.” Maeve shrugged off the comment, anticipating the oncoming joke.
“Exactly!” The man brightened.
“What?” She staggered.
“Robots are nothing but cautiousness.” He raised his glowing eyes to meet hers.
The excitement in his voice transformed her face. Maeve glued her eyes to the paintings to hide her reddening cheeks and widening smile.
Too many eyes were directed at them and people began to approach without discretion.
“Robots are masters of the form. Their art is perfection” Madam Marrie joined in. Her smugness poisoned the air.
“Excuse me Madam, but their art is not art it is a computer-generated paint-by-numbers print. If anything, it is science.”
“There is nothing creative about a series of numbers, computations and algorithms. If one should be appraised for their work, it should be their designers.” The gentleman stated and Madam Marrie reddened with anger as if he had slapped her.
A warm glow reached Maeve’s eyes. It’s had been a while since anybody considered her paintings as art and not an abomination.
The swarm of people increased substantially. And all interest in their conversation ceased to be hidden.
“Someone once said to me that art must have imperfections. They are its history. The vase is chipped because its author threw it in a fit of rage, the drawing is smudged because a passing lady caught the artist’s eye.” The man stated.
He moved closer to one of the big paintings, displayed on the easel. It showed a majestic deer with a flock of crows in flight forming a crown above its antlers. The big animal was half-submerged in water, which reflected both the deer and the mountain range behind it.
“The painter’s hand drifted slightly hesitant because of the enormity of the conceived image.” He lifted his hand as if to trace the gentle lines on the deer and the water. “That is what gives the art soul. Robot’s art is faultless, but it is also soulless.”
He looked at Maeve’s green eyes. “There is no art if its creator is without a soul.”
Madam Marrie appeared to have swallowed her tongue and so did everybody else for that matter. Maeve stared at the gentleman in anticipation and inability to muster up anything to say. The awkward silence stretched while he gazed at the paintings.
“I love your art, miss. I would like to buy your paintings.” He said abruptly.
“Uhm,” Maeve was shocked “…which ones? The little ones are 15 pieces, the medium ones are 25 and the big ones are 40.”
“All of them.” He answered as a matter of fact.
Maeve’s jaw dropped, but she recovered quickly.
“Okay let me calculate it for you.” She started counting the paintings while the gentleman typed something in his money watch.
“Oh, there is no need.” He answered after registering the sentence. “I believe 1500 is enough?”
“That is far too much!” Maeve shook her head.
“No, it is not. Your art is unprecedented and very underpriced. I’m not taking my chances to find another artist like you while the walls of my ship stand blank.” He answered and looked at her.
“Please.” He offered his wrist with his money watch.
Maeve reached for him and tapped her chipped watch against his, which was the latest model. The pieces transferred with a click.
“I’ll pack the paintings in a minute,” Maeve said and disappeared into her trunk to get the boxes.
The gentleman was waiting patiently and typing something on his phone while Maeve started packing the paintings. The crowd had dispersed into smaller whispering groups.
“Oh, could you leave that one on top, please?” He asked while pointing at a small picture of a bird with feathers light as touch. It was an exquisite combination of colours collapsing into each other. The bird soared high above mountainous trees and a fine braided wire was on top of it to indicate the forbiddance of such world to the humans, destroyers of worlds. “I want to give it to someone.”
“Sure,” Maeve said. “Do you need help carrying them?” She asked while closing the last box.
“No, thank you. I called my Robs.”
The man pointed at 2 approaching robots.
“Oh.” She exclaimed.
Maeve grasped the man’s outstretched hand in a handshake.
“Thank you!” He said with a smile.
“No, believe me, the pleasure is all mine,” Maeve answered and let go of his hand.
He looked at it. His palm was lined with blue paint.
“Sorry”, she murmured awkwardly and gave him a towel to wipe away the paint.
“It’s alright. I miss the mess that accompanies art. You see, my wife Lillie used to turn the entire ship into her canvas.” He said with a dreamy look. “Sadly I lost the ship in the war.“
“Good luck and goodbye, miss.“ He said.
The robots took the boxes and with a final nod, the gentleman walked away.
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.
I thought this was a neat story! I'm not an artist, but reading this made me want to try my hand at painting. I really liked some of the descriptions, like "...Toyota’s flaking grey paint began to mix with the sands below." I also always enjoy the "rude, snobbish person gets shown up" plotline in stories, so that was nice! Something that helps me with my own writing is to read it aloud to myself. If you haven't tried that, it will almost certainly help you when you're trying to come up with good prose and dialogue!
Thank you very much! :) I will follow up on your advice about reading it aloud.