Audrey wanted to do something different for her birthday which was one of those momentous numbers, more so for women than men. The thought of drunkenly lurching about town with some of her girlfriends all festooned with cheap feather boas while being too loud held not appeal for her.
She asked if I would paint her and then afterwards would be a party.
I agreed readily enough as there was something of an awkward swan or perhaps giraffe about her which I thought would make for a compelling piece.
There was no preconceived notion of how I wanted to put her, organic body language was of the most importance to me.
“How do you want me?”
I told her to just get in any position that was comfortable. While I worked fast, she still needed to be able to maintain the pose.
I began to study the way her shirt draped on her shoulders, the bunching of material at her wrists.
She settled by the window but there was too much light coming from behind her. Moving to the couch she stopped a moment inhaling then exhaling deeply as would a diver before a fall.
One of the buttons to her shirt went missing with a sound that reminded me of candy as it hit the floor. Now nude, Audrey took a Cleopatra pose on the couch.
To my surprise she was calm during the session. It was only afterwards, at the party she seemed to become a little giddy as she told people what she had done.
None of us want to talk about the weather. I understand the etiquette need for small talk. For someone who has just done something; come back from a trip, bought a house or dog, executed a painting, it is more fatiguing as the same comments and questions are presented over and over.
I did participate until I had encountered one example of everything there was to say on the matter of being an artist & the painting I had just done of Audrey.
I found a quiet corner to sit and nurse my drink. Audrey’s friends were all polite so that she could put out the good stuff and the crowd would show some restraint, allowing it to last the whole night as opposed to merely an hour as some other crowds would have done.
An old man sat across from me. He had on a short sleeve powder blue shirt in whose pocket i saw poking out an eyeglass case and the rounded end of a cigar. We gave each other the casual nod of our chins.
When I was younger and asked about my work or art in general there was an over earnest need to try to make people understand. Now I realize that , when it comes up in the casual conversation, at best it is on account of a mild curiosity. No one wants to to sit through a soliloquy on painting at some social function.
I had expended all my painterly small talk. A woman holding a martini glass at a perilous angle wandered over to our spot. She asked the old man:
“What is it that you do?”
“I…am what you call a tinkerer.”
A friend called to her from across the room and she flitted away.
“I was going to say that.”
He pulled out his cigar.
“Do you mind?”
“Not at all.”
As he lit up with three deep puffs his eyes twinkled.
“I know I am not supposed to be smoking in here but no one ever yells at an old man. An old man and midgets can get away with anything, taking the last slice of pie, over staying our welcome, anything. Because no one wants to reprimand us. One would think it would be similar for children but if a child annoys, you can let go at them and then make yourself feel better by telling yourself that it’s a teaching moment.”
The scent of his cigar was good. I thought of my grandfather’s study while imagining that Berlin now was very different.
“Audrey’s Birthday” 9×12 watercolor & mix media paper
“Sy” 9×12 graphite & paper