To be an artist; in particular one who preferred painting people and other living things to still life and landscape; was to also be a voyeur to some degree. It was as good as inescapable. Even when she wasn't holding a sketchpad in her lap or was sat in front of a canvas, Eliza found it difficult not
to observe others going about their break to break lives with a particular level of interest.
Faces, mannerisms, expressions, these were just a few of the things from which the daughter of Ymiden drew inspiration. Whenever she was anywhere new, strangers from time to time might realize they were being looked upon and express some sort of discomfort, whether they said anything or not.
But once she'd become a familiar fixture among any given populace, those same subjects would smile, nod, and then whisper to their companions, 'Not to worry. She's an artist. It's that thin line between, you know."
As if it excused completely any eccentric behaviors on Eliza's part. She tried not to watch too long, however, to the extent that it seemed more an intrusion than an observation. This morning in Desnind wasn't unlike so many others before it.
Eliza had risen early and taken a morning meal at the inn before venturing out into the cool air with her leather satchel clutched in one hand, and a small canvas tucked under her arm. She'd found a rustic bench beneath a seemingly ancient tree in the center of town, and had set up her canvas. Ordinarily she only sketched when she was on the go, and some of those sketches had later turned into paintings. But from time to time, she enjoyed painting freehand. Fresh from the brush and her imagination, and not drawn beforehand. Darwin, the enormous wolfhound that had accompanied her from Caervalle Town, was stretched out on the ground by her feet. And Eberhardt, the tiny primate sprung from Emea itself had only just discovered that Darwin's thick waving coat was a very nice place to snuggle into, to get away from the cold.
Eliza had taken out her brushes, and then her wooden pallet board; then she'd squeezed a few drops of paint onto it, in a variety of shades and color. Then she'd waited, but not long before a likely pair of subjects came into view. At first it seemed as if they were simply a mother and child; like so many other mother's and children that Eliza had seen before. Those sorts of paintings made for good, marketable art where the general populace was concerned. Eliza had done a few of those herself in order to keep the landlord at arm's length. But in general, she tended not to paint for the masses. She looked for something different instead. Therefore she'd almost dismissed them to look elsewhere, until something caught her eye.
The child was clearly loved and well cared for. A happy, laughing little thing who'd probably been shielded from any number of cares or hardships. She was also a very beautiful little girl, different from many who Eliza had seen before. But it was the child's mother
who interested Eliza. Undoubtedly she was unusual looking. As for just what had made it so, perhaps Vri's blessing had equipped Eliza with the sense of what and why
. Or perhaps not. What
she was, was of less interest to the painter than who or why. What might have seemed more critical, had Eliza not already lived in excess of two centuries and seen quite a lot
in that time. By now, though Eliza knew it wasn't true, she sometimes imagined she'd seen it all.
As a portrait painter who'd been at it for more than a century, Eliza had learned a little something about people and their natures. Even without speaking or taking action, there was a lot to learn from simply studying their posture and expression. Like the invisible but telling lines between other lines of prose or poetry. That bit both fascinated and frustrated her as an artist. Too many of her clients had insisted on a finished work that depicted them, just as they wanted to see themselves, even if it wasn't the truth. It wasn't so difficult to paint a small gleam into the eyes or add a few creases at the corners of eyes or around the mouth. But Eliza preferred honesty in the faces that she painted. From her perspective, that's what made them unique and beautiful. And multi faceted rather than flat and expected. Sometimes, on some rare but wonderful occasion, those who she'd painted honestly had been grateful, and preferred it themselves.
The mother smiled when the child laughed, but from Eliza's trained eye, that smile never reached the woman's eyes. Clearly she loved her child. But there was something else, not just in her expression, which had faltered once or twice since the artist had been observing. But in her posture as well. The combination of happy, laughing child and complicated seeming mother, was what made the pair appealing as a subject. And so Eliza had begun to paint the scene. A small one, since a much larger canvas would have been difficult to carry around. But there was the child, crouched down behind a crop of foliage as if she was hidden; but not at all. Peeking out at her mother and laughing. In turn, the mother with the smile that didn't quite reach her eyes and the shoulders that seemed heavier than others, feigning the inability to locate said child.
Of course, while others passed by and carved wide paths around the pair before going on their way, Eliza had stayed put where she was. In that way, it would be difficult not to be noticed at work, if she'd made any effort to go unseen. She hadn't, and wasn't concerned. Although she remained aware that not everyone
would feel enthusiastic about being watched and painted. But Eliza had developed a knack for overcoming those rare but troublesome moments. As soon as the woman strayed close enough to where she was sitting, Eliza smiled, held up her brush and gestured to her work in progress. "Good morning. I hope you don't mind? Your little girl is quite beautiful and I couldn't resist. It's yours, at no cost, if you'd like to have it."
Of course, Eliza wasn't in the habit of giving her work away for free. It was rare that she offered. Before she'd mastered the art, she'd done it more frequently in order to get her name and work out there. But every now and then, something compelled her to revisit that approach. Besides, she'd rather give one of her works away to a subject that had caught her eye, rather than destroy it completely should they prove to be disagreeable altogether.