Half-finished Painting


The painter looked at the half-finished landscape and figures on his canvas, and suddenly put his brush down.

Something was missing. He gave it a day, a week and then a month. Came back to the canvas which sat miffed on the easel, and frowned whenever he looked at it. Day and night, the thought of the half-finished painting tortured his soul. The patron who had commissioned the painting had narrated a story to him and had wanted him to bring out that story onto the canvas. At first he had thought, it would be quite easy and had set about sketching and making rough drafts the next morning itself. But now when he was halfway through, something held him back.

The brushes had a life of their own. The strokes just had not gone the way he had thought they would. The colors were all wrong; he had imagined a different palette altogether and now was taken aback at what had unfolded on the canvas. The outlines were blurring and making him, the creator of the painting confused, as to what lay where. The figures were getting merged into the landscape.

He had no idea what he was going to say to the patron. He had already been paid a handsome sum in advance, which he had used up for rent and endless rounds of cigarettes and cheap wine. He thought of calling one or two of his friends, to ask them for objective advice, but became insecure at the thought of his failure being exposed. Yes, it was a failure, indeed.

When a painter loses track of his own work, his own creation, it almost means that he has lost the thought process that binds it all and gives it the soul that even written words can’t.

He started to recall the story narrated to him by the patron. But to his utter and sheer dismay, he could barely remember a single detail. What is happening to me, he thought. He could not possibly go back to the patron and request for the story to be casually recounted again for his benefit, because there would be questions. A lot of questions. The deadline for the painting was fast approaching. The patron might just throw a fit and ask to be shown the painting before hand, and when the disaster would come to light, would demand back the advance paid and give threats of ruining his reputation in the market. All sorts of thoughts ran through the painter’s head. None giving him any comfort or solace.

At last, the day of the deadline came, a morning grey with foreboding for the artist who could not remember.

Could not remember what he had been creating and the reason for the creation. He was a wreck; nervous, dirty and shaking with worry. He was fighting with himself to come up with a solution. But there was no solution at hand…except, to escape. To run away from it all. So that’s what he did.

He packed up the essentials of his minimalistic living and ran away. He stripped his house bare of every single thing except the half-finished painting which sat grimly on the easel, waiting for judgement. He could not get himself to go near the painting or bear to be in its presence in any way. It’s as if the painting was waiting to pronounce a curse on him, for leaving it half-finished.

In the afternoon, when the patron knocked on the painter’s door, there was no response. They knocked a couple of times more and then realized the door was open. They went in and saw that the house was empty.  They went from the kitchen to the bedroom and finally to the room where the half-finished painting sat.

They silently looked at the painting, not saying a word.

The man next to the patron finally gathered the courage to utter a few words to break the ominous silence.

“It has happened again,” he whispered weakly.

The patron was silent, did not respond.

“It must have driven him mad,” he tried again.

Finally the patron spoke.

“I thought it had been a while and probably, just probably, this time it would be done.”

“Do you want me to look for the painter?” asked the man.

“No. We already know he won’t remember anything,” answered the patron.

“I hope…you will give up hope of this ever happening…and not pursue any more artists…,” asked the man.

The patron turned to look at the man.

“I will never give up. The story has to have an image…a picture…I have to see it to believe that it happened…I cannot give up. My soul will not allow me to rest till I see it.”

“But…”

“We will wait for another couple of months and then start our search again.”

The patron and the man left the house. On second thoughts, the patron came back to take the half-finished painting, to add to an already growing collection. A collection through which the patron was trying to discover truths from the past, which many were afraid to talk about.

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6 thoughts on “Half-finished Painting”

    1. It’s a beautiful piece, a perfect short story. I’m curious to know what inspired you???

      Memories are simply memories … one can’t recreate those, one can simply preserve in thoughts! Superb!

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