6th of Cylus, 718
He began his work by adding the first layer of oil into the canvas. It was a murky black, brushed across the whole canvas. All his art was composed on a black background. He found comfort it in, as if finding the concept of something spawning out of the darkness reassuring. Once the canvas was fully darkened, Buer left it to dry whilst he worked on the second, smaller canvas. Oils were slow to dry, hydrophobic by nature. They didn’t need to dry completely, but just enough so that the smearing did not kill the different hues used.
A stick of charcoal was sharpened, and then brought into the canvas. With gentle, feather-light rasps, he began sketching out the outline of his vision. Imprecise as they were, it was only one in twenty that were to his satisfaction – perhaps one in thirty. It was not that he was a perfectionist; surely every artist felt his art deserved the most refinement. Outlining a piece began with the tracing of a few reference points to safely and precisely work on the dimensions and proportions. Buer was not an expert, despite his experience; without guidance, the proportions of his pieces often went awry. With the help of the ruler, he traced a few lines from which to get his reference points, and from there, he’d trace with the charcoal elements like the eyes, the nose, the lips and the like would go.
Afterwards, Buer traced a few diagonal lines stretching from the lower left edge of the canvas up to, more or less, the center of it. These would be his reference for the depth of the piece. Next, seeing what he had traced as the would-be-head, he divided the canvas into eight cells by using horizontal lines, all carefully calculated in their position by the use of a numbered ruler. Yes, it was boring work, one not often depicted by novels, plays and rumor. Somehow, seeing an artist use these novice tips immediately disappointed the audience, as if discredited by his perfectionism. God forbid one makes use of a shield if shot by an arrow! What kind of warrior doesn’t know how to stop such arrow with his bare, muscular chest?
Once the references were done, Buer traced the rest of the outline. Slowly, the shape of the female body was seen, borne onto the canvas, already hinting at what would appear once the product was finished. There stood the frame of the legs, of a body, of two bare feet. Two hands joined the chest, limbs so vague in their shape they looked like wavy pasta. It often began like that; from the pasta grew the childish arms, then the proper arms. As more traces were added, more and more precise, the arms gained detail and depth, wrinkles of the flesh, hairs sticking out. Scars and moles, and with the shadowing, there came the realism, as if a true arm had been severed and magically shoved onto the canvas. Art was not the impersonation of real life, but the creation of a life the world forbids. Who’s to say what one can or can’t put on a canvas?
Buer maintained a very strong contentration whilst he worked, proper of one’s true passion. Hunger, cold, or lack of sleep were sensations he simply could not feel, just as he didn’t feel the pssage of time. Locked in his basement and with no windows, there was no way to know just what time it was. He didn’t care, anyway. Every so often, when a couple of his candles had burnt out, he’d be forced to abandon his work in order to find replacements. In one of those moments, he felt that peculiar sting under the eyes which begged for rest. A false promise was consciously made to sleep later, knowing all too well he would not. Nightmares awaited him like every night, and if they were of the truly bad ones, Buer feared he’d lose grip of his vision. Realistically speaking, his work wouldn’t be completed in one day. Maybe in two, possibly on three, most likely on four. It was a depressing thought.
Sometime after he had began, he checked the oil in the first canvas. It was dry enough. Using a dark, murky gray, he added the second layer. Using a large brush, he’d spread it out, but not cover the whole surface. Most of the borders were left on the original black, intending for the center of the painting to be sort of like ‘in focus’, as if everything that wasn’t the central element blended together into a blur. After the layer was added, he returned upon his drawing. Step by step, it was all coming into focus, gaining detail using that slow, endless repetition of trace, trace, trace. There was a whole lot more to see, and what was once a mess of lines was starting to gain true shape, a true artistic quality to it. No wonder Buer felt so compelled to keep going; he was making something out of nothing. The concept was truly fascinated once fully understood. Thoughts came from somewhere beyond comprehension, and those with the capacity to capture them could reproduce them in the material world. It sounds crazy. It is crazy.
It takes a lot of time to create that something out of the nothingness. It also takes a lot of effort. After adding a third layer to the oil, this time another murky brown, Buer felt his endurance was at his limit. He was tired, hungry, and needed to go to the privy. Working any further would compromise the quality – something he had to repeat to himself enough to forgo the urge of going on and on, of trying to finish it as soon as possible. He even left the drawing aside. He blew off the candles, fell into his bed. Fleeting memories of the play came into mind, accompanied by the orchestral pieces that still rung their heavy-felt chords through his flesh. He felt it all, as if still trapped there, in that seat, holding onto it lest he was sucked into the drama. And when the drama sucked him in at last, at God knows what time of the day, it was he who took on the role of Ruby, and he felt what she felt – only harder and deeper.
When Buer awoke, his head hurt and his stomach ached. His sheets were damp with sweat and piss. Once again, his nightmares had made him wet the bed. Disoriented, lost in the dark mess that was his studio, the artist stumbled out of bed, bumping into tables and canvases, into stools and whatever else he managed to strike with his abused pinky toe. He felt ill, and wanted to puke, but held it off like he did every morning. Stumbling about his room like a walking corpse, it took a while for his head to clear, to finally reach his door, unlatch it, unlock it, and open it. A cold, cleansing draft of air wafted its way it, as did the faintest crimson glow from the Bloodlight plants. With no idea of what time it was (being Cylus and all), Buer returned to his bed and waited for his head to clear.
In order to get the horrific memories of his nightmares out of the way, he recalled his vision, and found it still there, intact, preserved in amber for him to use. He wanted to finish it; he wanted to continue it. He wanted it, but he couldn’t, for he knew he had obligations outside his studio. His family could get worried, decide he was obsessed. Maybe they’d go down the stairs, lamp in hand, and witness just what he had been painting, and with wide-open eyes, stare at him as if he had gone mad.
If art isn’t terrifying, then it is not art.