Contest #141 winner 🏆

149 comments

Fiction

“... I want to paint you.”

She was surprised, sure enough. But she was also curious. Her face concealed nothing, and that was what fascinated me. As she walked through the gallery, each piece evoked something unique from inside her, and she did not bother to mask it. Anyone could read the critique in her face, if they took the time. It is an artist's dream – to clearly see the emotions we inspire with our work.

Many had passed by my work since the showing began, pausing for a moment, offering a quick word of praise. I didn't approach them. But, when she came to my painting, she lingered. At first, she kept a sort of distance, taking in the portrait from optimum perspective.

Then, she moved closer. Closer, still.

Narrowing her eyes, following the strokes of brush that formed arms and legs, and the arch of the neck. But, instead of smiling, like the others, she was disturbed. There was a distinct anxiety resting in her eyes. And that anxiety shattered me faster than any editorial the local paper had ever dished out. Editorials can be shredded with triumphant pleasure. But in the slight furrow of her brow, and the downward tug of her lips, this woman single handedly brought my heartbeat to a most uncomfortable rhythm.  

It was this distinct discomfort that pulled me from my place of observation and motivated me to speak.

“Something wrong?” I asked. 

I startled her, but she smiled and returned her attention to the portrait.

“I was just looking at this dancer,” she replied.

“Yes, but you seemed... upset?” I ventured. “What is it about the dancer?”

She darted her eyes at me for a moment, but only long enough to decide to continue our conversation.

“It's just, I feel sorry for her,” she explained.

“Sorry?” I wasn’t sure what to think, really. “Why?”

“Because, I think she is lonely.”

That threw me off guard. I was accustomed to the usual praise.

“Beautiful.”

“Profound!”

“Truly, one of a kind.”

It grew tiresome in a way, but it was comfortably expected. The local venues were always thrilled with my offerings, but over time, my enthusiasm was reduced to contempt. When my secretary had first booked this showing for my latest piece, I almost threw my coffee at her. 

I was exhausted with the weekend shows at The Courtyard. True, they had conjured a good deal of business as of late, but I felt no satisfaction at the end of the day. All I could hope for were a few simple remarks, no real conversation. No true appreciation.

I had little expectation for this showing. My most recent work was a portrait of a ballet dancer. A studio had commissioned it, but agreed to let me display it at the show before delivery. It was simple in concept, but stood out amid the offerings of that particular show. Amid the bulky sculptures and spattering of interpretive study, my dancer's clean lines were in stark contrast. Dark strokes outlined her body against white canvas, highlighting her single color.

A pale violet tutu.

“Please, what makes you say that?” I pressed her.

This time, she turned to face me, surely intending to end our discussion, or perhaps threaten to call security. I had to save myself quickly.

“Forgive me, it's just, I am Stephen Erik,” I said. 

Her eyes widened, right on cue. “You mean, you're the--”

“Yes, I'm the one responsible for this… sad little dancer,” I replied, through somewhat gritted teeth.

Sad. Sad was not the word I had imagined when bringing this piece to life. There was a soft laugh mingled with her smile, and I thought I saw a faint blush in her cheeks.

“It's wonderful to meet you, Mister Erik. I always hope to see something of yours here at the gallery, and I've never been disappointed.”

At this, I felt I was able to breathe again. “And, you are?” I prodded.

“Grace.”

“Well now, Grace, please, indulge me? Why do you say the dancer is lonely?”

For a moment, she hesitated, and I almost regretted revealing my identity as the artist. I’ve discovered that nice people are often afraid to offend the creator of the work. Perhaps they think we mix our own blood into the paint, or clay, or watercolors. I have never had such an attachment, although others surely have. More than spared feelings, I always craved true reaction. And, happily for me, Grace could not taper her true impressions.

“She holds herself tightly. Like no one else has ever held her before,” she told me.

I looked again at the portrait. Yes, her arms were crossed over her chest, and her feet tightly planted in fifth position. I had sketched her hands myself, and yet, I had not quite noticed how tightly her fingers grasped. Or, perhaps I had done this.

Perhaps I had subconsciously slipped my own hands into those of the dancer.

“That's quite an observation,” I replied. “Is that all?”

“No,” she admitted. “The color. Purple. It's such a lonely color.”

I chuckled a little. “As opposed to, shall we say, yellow?”

Her eyes darted back to me, wholly unamused. “Yellow can be lonely, too.”

“Oh, really? How so? Tell me this philosophy of yellow,” I implored.

“Yellow is a friendly color. It has lots of friends. Lots of people flock to yellow, because it smiles so much. And then, when yellow cries, they don’t know what to do. Because yellow is the one who smiles. So they just wait. Maybe they hand yellow some tissues or something. But it’s not what yellow really needs. So yellow is lonely, too,” she replied. "Even surrounded by people who love them."

I was silent for a long while. I didn’t really know what to say. So much thought, so much perception into a color that rarely graced the edge of my palette. 

“And… purple?”

She took a breath. “I think purple holds all of its feelings inside itself, until it is alone. And then, it cries. But nobody sees.”

At that moment, I knew.

I wanted to paint this woman.



April 10, 2022 18:00

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149 comments

Rebecca Wonsang
19:01 Apr 22, 2022

This story, while very short in length, it is immense in meaning. In its tightened length, it speaks volumes. You explained the portrait so vividly through both characters eyes, that I felt I could touch the ballerina myself. I've never felt color so deeply before. I pray one day I can write this way. I just started up again after so many years, but I'm hoping it comes back just like riding a bike. Your writing inspires me.

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20:03 Apr 22, 2022

Rebecca, thank you so much for reading my story! I'm so glad that you were truly able to immerse yourself in it! :) I will be sure to check out your work <3 keep writing! you've got this!

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Thom Brodkin
18:50 Apr 22, 2022

I'm a fannah Hannah. The first story of your that I read was The Gospel of Tea. I remember how i felt such depth in that story. I feel it again here. It feels like you have to be both the painter and the woman to see both souls so profoundly. It's a gift. I'm glad I get to read your gifts. Great job, deserving win.

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20:04 Apr 22, 2022

Thom, thank you so much for your kind words, they truly mean so much to me! I want more than anything for people to "feel" something when they finish reading my stories, and you reassure me so much!

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Nandini Shukla
03:31 Apr 27, 2022

Hannah I read the story first, and re-read it backward. I love how you portrayed colours here. And the way you described yellow? It blew me away. It is true, yellow is everyone's happy colour. But from now on, I don't think I will look at it the same way again (in a good sense, of course) 😁 A wonderful piece that got me thinking. Congrats on the win! You are an inspiration to all young writers like myself. ~Nandini

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17:27 Apr 27, 2022

Nandini, you are too kind! I’m so glad you enjoyed the story, and I will be sure to take a look at your work as well 😊❤️

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Karan Padda
17:35 Apr 25, 2022

This story has a meaning that creates a definite impact on the perspective of an artist. I like how you described what the character was thinking while she was painting. I also liked how you described the physical features that the character was making while she was painting. This story had many details that appeal to the senses which made it engaging for a reader. This was an excellent story, good job.

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01:24 May 10, 2022

Karan, thank you so much, I really do appreciate all the comments people leave for me! <3

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Kevin Broccoli
16:12 Apr 22, 2022

Congratulations! What a well-deserved win. Your language and the way you evoke the different moods within such a short space is really amazing.

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18:03 Apr 22, 2022

Kevin! Thank you so much, that means a lot! I worried it was too short, but the moment had depth and energy for me, so I just let it sit and here we are :)

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Mike Panasitti
15:44 Apr 22, 2022

Hannah, I am a part-time painter and hate to explain the reasons behind my paintings. There usually aren't any, other than to make impressive use of color. Perhaps that's why I rarely paint anymore, but I could really understand the character's dejection when hearing platitudes about her work. I'm glad she didn't throw the coffee into her secretary's face, a cheapskate collector would have been much more worthy of the insult. Take care.

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18:01 Apr 22, 2022

I understand what you mean! I did some painting in high school, and often there was not a "deeper meaning" to the painting. It just was something I enjoyed! Yeah, the coffee moment was definitely her "artistic temperament" coming through. Thank you for reading the story! I truly appreciate it!

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Catelyn Crabtree
01:07 Sep 15, 2022

My friends always tell me that if I were a color, I'd either be yellow or purple, and after reading this I can definitely see why they'd say that. I tend to be very bubbly and always do my best to stay positive, especially at school, but when it's just me and my boyfriend, I tend to let my cheery facade drop, and sometimes I get a tad overwhelmed and stressed. I've just started high school, and don't cry that often, but when I do cry, it's usually weeks of bottled up stress and emotion that just comes pouring out, and 95% of the time I only ...

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20:02 Sep 15, 2022

Catelyn <3 I love how all of my "yellows and purples" are coming forward. I just hope the story made you feel a little seen. reading about you, I get the feeling you're a very caring and kind person. just remember, even your "purple" side is beautiful, and you don't have to hide it. thank you for reading my story, and for stopping to comment on it!

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Timothy Cooper
06:18 Aug 14, 2022

Hannah, you angel, if it's one thing you can do, it's write. My goodness. I'm most definitely a yellow, but my favorite color is purple. And your descriptions, in my opinion, are so accurate it's almost scary. Lots of people cling to me, and I usually have a LOOOOT bottled up inside, but I try my damndest never to let anyone else see me sweat. If I knew the artist personally I would ask him why he doesn't make the attempt to engage more with those who praise his work and ask the questions he would like the answers to, just like he did wit...

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21:25 Aug 15, 2022

Hey Timothy :) just, thank you SO MUCH for these comments! this means more to me than you may ever know. I'm so glad that you connected with the colors! I think people can very much have more than one color to their soul. And the Yellow and Purple people are extra special to me <3

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Tommy Goround
04:40 Aug 12, 2022

Hi. Sometimes I just stop into this story and reread it. It makes me happy.

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02:20 Aug 13, 2022

Hi Tommy ❤️ I want you to know, this just made my heart so happy 🥲 thank you so much for these kind words

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Lily Finch
18:13 Aug 11, 2022

Definitely has an impact on readers as your dancer appears through both characters' eyes. It captures the appeal to readers' senses. (I hope that makes sense?). I enjoyed this piece. Thank you, Hannah. LF6

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Mr Sichuan
02:02 Jul 16, 2022

Dear Hannah, we have to tell you that we read this story on our 2-months anniversary of texting, and we thoroughly enjoyed the contents and especially my reading of the contents. It was incredibly inspirational and has triggered us to introspect our own lives and reevaluate how we live it. Therefore, we would like to dearly dearly thank you for making this night so overwhelmingly special for us 💖 lots of love julia and laura

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02:15 Jul 16, 2022

That is so sweet! I’m so glad you enjoyed the story, and thank you for telling me! This made my heart happy 😊❤️ Happy Anniversary!

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Eliza H
01:44 Jul 04, 2022

I feel this so deeply.

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04:28 Jul 04, 2022

you must be one of my purples 💜

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Eliza H
00:48 Jul 05, 2022

I think maybe I could be both, at times. With my close friends I think, I must be yellow; with my family and others perhaps purple.

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03:06 Jul 05, 2022

I can understand that I’m glad you could enjoy the story! Thank you for reading it 🙂

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Dm Pelley
17:34 Jun 21, 2022

Really, really well done. Thank you for creating this.

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Dionne Nichols
23:19 Jun 13, 2022

Hannah: I loved your story. I studied Art in school; although a terrible artist, my art teacher praised my abilities in art history and appreciation. I was able to truly connect with your characters, their exchanges, and the scene. Well done! The woman's descriptions of colors in connection to loneliness - very inciteful.

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Mansi Raj
14:52 May 09, 2022

Now I'm believed that perfect ending does exist. Amazing story.

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01:25 May 10, 2022

you just made me blush :) thank you for your kind words!

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Prithvi David
03:00 May 09, 2022

Just a quick question. Does this story have like a certain time frame to it?

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11:16 May 09, 2022

So, I didn’t have a specific date, but I intended it to be a fairly modern era (within the last 20 years or so) hope that helps!

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Kenneth Allan
00:01 May 09, 2022

Brilliant. The portrayal of the woman had so much depth and sensitivity.

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01:25 May 10, 2022

Kenneth, thank you for that! I really try to step into my character's heads Lol

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Dillan T Ajer
22:59 May 08, 2022

Disappointing. I read it to the end, which I rarely do, and I see only a fading brown, which is..... ....disappointment.

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00:23 May 09, 2022

Hey Dillan, sorry this one wasn’t your thing. But I still do appreciate you reading it all the way through!

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Dillan T Ajer
09:34 May 09, 2022

Hi there Hannah, It was nothing personal and I don't usually feedback disappointment. I think you caught me at the wrong time, being tired and grumpy. I've slept now so I apologise if I offended you. I think the setting of your story intrigued me, being a failed artist, and I was hoping for a more poignant and gritty statement about art and artists. I was maybe hoping she'd call him a fraud and tell him to f off. I couldn't figure out why he wanted to paint her, other than alterior motivations! Anyway, your story was a winner so you're enti...

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11:13 May 09, 2022

Hey Dillan 🙂 no worries! As a writer I value all forms of feedback! I know my style/story won’t ALWAYS deliver, I can be too subtle, but my intention was that the artist (Stephen) was lonely. And Grace picked up on that because of how she sees color (the emotions in it) So he suddenly felt “seen”, and decided that he wanted to paint her because she actually understood he was feeling discouraged and kind of stagnant. Anyways! I will take the note and think about flushing out the motives more fully in my next piece 😁

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Dillan T Ajer
12:41 May 09, 2022

Ha, I never got that, but others must have. Stephens lack of confidence and loneliness would account for his opportunism. Unbelievably, your story was also a prompt for me, though it might be viewed as stealing. I outlined a similar, less sweet scenario with a known artist, looking for reassurance out with his sycophantic entourage, but who got much more than he bargained for. Not sure if I'll bother. Your idea is solid.

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16:19 May 09, 2022

… I’m gonna be honest, I would love to read this story!

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Viscaria <3
07:13 May 07, 2022

Oh, my God. I think I just fell in love with the way you write. It felt as if I was there, watching the scene unfold! And it's truly amazing. Great Job. You truly deserved to win!

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20:46 May 07, 2022

You are too kind ❤️ I’m so glad you liked it so much! This makes me feel so happy 🥲 sometimes I question if I should be writing, and then I see comments like this and it reassures me. Thank you so very much!

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20:46 May 07, 2022

You are too kind ❤️ I’m so glad you liked it so much! This makes me feel so happy 🥲 sometimes I question if I should be writing, and then I see comments like this and it reassures me. Thank you so very much!

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Elayna B
02:50 May 06, 2022

this...this is incredible. you had me tearing up, because purple is my favorite color and the way you described it in your story just...wow. thank you SO much for inviting me into your world <3

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13:06 May 06, 2022

Elayna 😊 I’m so glad you connected with the story. My bestie’s color is purple too. So I bet you are a very kind and caring person ❤️ Thank you for reading and commenting, I truly appreciate it

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