“NO, We can NOT have a painting of a naked woman on the wall, for immortal’s sake! How can you even be thinking of such a...Improper and scandalous motif for a good old tavern like Blacksmith Arms, Yrmellyn! No way!” Rufus Hemlock, the owner of the tavern Blacksmith Arms was furious. “Not in my tavern!”
“You wanted a paining that would attract more customers and increase the sales, Rufus.” The painter Yrmellyn Cole was an artist in anger. “What did you think I meant when I promised to paint it for you? Perhaps a painting with a cow on it? Some people are wild for paintings with cows on. I didn’t think you wanted people to think of milk ! ”
“There’s nothing wrong with a normal nice picture of happy folks having a good time! An ordinary tavern painting is what I expected, not this...indecent crap! Besides, it’s not like your kind of painting in unable to make people think of milk. Heh! ”
Yrmellyn was trying to keep her promise. She was bent on doing it, because it wasn’t just a promise to Rufus Hemlock, it was also a promise to the immortal Vhalar. Whether the tavern owner wanted it or not, she was going to give Rufus Hemlock the painting they had agreed on in the deal they had made earlier in Cylus. It was only a question of persuasion. She had been trying to persuade him for half a break now. The tavern keeper had however turned out to be less open minded that the painter had expected.
She decided to try to persuade him by pointing at the money he could earn.
“There’s nothing wrong with ordinary tavern art, but it’s not going to increase the sales. If you want lots of new people to find their way here you need spectacular art. Something that sets rumors in motion and makes people curious. A must see. People will hardly find one more normal picture of tavern guests having a good time interesting enough to care to come here to see it. My ideas...”
“No. There’s other motifs. Cheery people. Beautiful bar maids. Nice bottles of ale and wine. Steaks.”
The stubborn goof had no understanding at all about art. Steaks! Yrmellyn drew in breath. She was going to try to persuade him by referring to her knowledge about what makes art add to a place and make a difference. It was somewhat theoretical, but perhaps it would work.
“It’s not like you have steaks on the menu. You have stew and beer. It’s not a very elegant upscale tavern for the nobility. Those eat things like delicious fish soup and beautifully arranged vegetables and such. This is not even the kind of reasonably decent tavern where merchants meet to have steaks and fine wine. It’s an underground place where people eat uncomplicated and affordable food. The location is rustic and it doesn’t add anything to put up a rustic picture on the wall. There’s no contrast between rustic and rustic. The painting I have started on would be something totally else! It would shine like a star on the night sky and spread glamour over the tavern. The contrast between rustic and glamorous is huge. Nobody would be able to not notice it!”
“It’s not like I couldn’t have fish on the menu if people would want it.” Rufus Hemlock spoke calmly now but there was a streak of triumph in his voice. There the painter could see that he wasn’t in any way the stubborn stew-lover she tried to paint him out as.
A long, long silence followed.
“So...” said the painter eventually. “Would you be okay with fish on the painting instead of cows, stew or beer?”
“Of course!” The tavernkeeper smiled smugly. He felt he had won the argument.
“Perhaps I could paint a very big and special fish for you then. Something unusual and interesting that will start rumors and make people come here in droves in order to have a look at it?”
“Yeah. That could be it. A monster shark!”
“A monster shark showing it’s big teeth will maybe not make people feel so hungry? It could be better with something they want to look at for a longer time, over and over again.”
“Herrings? They are quite nice to look at, the herrings.”
“Rufus, I think it would be best to leave the small details to me. I’m the artist, remember? You don’t want a painting of a somewhat disheveled beautiful woman resting on a canape, but you like the idea of a painting of fish. I’m going to paint fish then. I will make an enthralling marine painting with water and fish and...such. Can we agree on this?”
“That’s exactly what I meant. Deal.”
They shook hands. The negotiations were finally over and Yrmellyn could start to work.
As usual she had asked the customer to pay for the materials and prepare a canvas of the desired size, mounted on a light wooden frame. It was her way of asking for part of the payment in advance so she could avoid losing money on customers who changed their minds. If they would bail, or refuse to pay once the job was done, she would keep the painting and sell it. Rufus Hemlock had the requested canvas waiting for her in the back of the tavern room.
“Here it is. You should be able to work undisturbed. I’ll keep the guests in the front part of the room. Can’t guarantee that nobody will sneak past me to have a look at your work in progress. You know how curious people can be. I’ll try my best to keep them all away from you though.”
He paused and as it was obvious that he was thinking of something Yrmellyn chose to wait silently.
“I was wondering if you want something to drink while you work. Artists are known to need to drink at work, I think...well, I have beer on the menu. If you want a beer, I mean.” Pause. “On the house.”
“Yes please Rufus, give me a beer. I think I really will need it. Make it a big one.” She pulled out her oil pastel crayons.
“Wait. Aren’t you going to paint the proper way, I mean with colors on a tray and brushes and chemicals and things? I want a proper painting. Just so you know.”
“It will be a proper painting. Don’t worry. You don’t want the smell of turpentine and colors and chemicals to ruin the appetite of your guest, right? And once the painting is done, you don’t want to wait for age for it to dry and take the risk that someone puts finger on it and smears out color and so on. You know how people are. Most customer prefer that I use dry colors for my commissions when they think twice of it. This paining will be ready for hanging on the wall the moment I finish it. Way more practical. If you want a frame you can send for a carpenter tomorrow.”
The tavern keeper accepted this, fetched a beer for the painter and went to speak with customers who had begun to drop in. After downing half the big beer, Yrmellyn took a piece of coal and briefly outlined a big happy fish tail which she started to work at, alternating between the crayons in order to paint the scales. She put in a lot of effort, because she had a feeling the fish tail would need to be extraordinary well done in order to silence potential objections to upper body and the head. She would paint the upper body later...once the tail had gained the approval of the tavern keeper.
As usual when she was working she lost her sense of time. She had no idea how long time it took her to make the first half of the painting, the tail part, but she could see that more customers had started to arrive. Rufus was keeping his promise of keeping them in the front part of the location, but the line of occupied tables keep creeping closer to where she stood.
At this point Rufus Hemlock arrived with a new big beer to replace her empty tankard...but his real purpose was to have a look at the progress of the painting and potentially meddle in her work. Yrmellyn showed him what she had completed so far. The fish tail was an excellent artwork, if she dared say so herself.
“Far better than I had expected” he said bluntly.” Carry on!”
Yrmellyn drank more beer. She wasn’t always drinking when she worked, like Rufus seemed to assume, but she wasn’t going to say no to free drinks. Being from Rharne she had a liberal view on alcohol.
Now...she cautiously outlined the dangerous second half of the painting. Good thing Rufus had already been there for an inspection. She hoped it meant she would get time to complete the painting before he came back. Once he saw the front of the fish he would like it, wouldn’t he? Hopefully the guests would like it and help her convince the tavernkeeper... otherwise she counted on being able to sell the painting to someone else!
A painting of an attractive mer would pay off, regardless of the final buyer would be Rufus or someone else!
Another artist might have gone for conventional colors, made the water green and blue and the mer’s coloring stronger and stranger. Yrmellyn painted in softer, paler colors in order to create a contrast to the rough dark walls of the rustic tavern. The mer’s dark red hair was the only vivid color of the picture, but her skin was pale and the gaze in her eyes was enthralling. No “indecent body parts” were visible. Rufus had made it very clear that he was not having naked people on his tavern walls. So, there wouldn’t be any “naked people” on her painting. It would just be a beautiful mer staring into people’s eyes and flapping its tail at them. Yrmellyn felt sure it wouldn’t be too strong stuff for the kind of people who frequented Blacksmith Arms.
Yrmellyn worked on. Some curious people had come to watch and the painting was starting to gain attention and appreciation. For now the painter was content to bask in the praise of those who knew to put value on true art.
She showed it to Rufus a bit later, when people with better taste in art were already cheering. At this point the tavern keeper found it fairly easy to change his mind once he got over the surprise and realized that his customers actually liked the painting...he gave in and paid her!
The atmosphere in the tavern was rising to new heights now when there was fish on the menu.
There was song and her tankard was full of golden beer again.
The painter laughed. She drank it all.