The Artist (A Real Short Story)


The Artist

At his usual parking spot by the far entrance to the woods, he turns the front of his car away from the low morning sun and switches off the engine. He sits for a while, sucking a mint, studying the bare trees as he waits, memorising their various winter hues, determining how best to aesthetically represent their sleep.

After five minutes or so he sees her. She has a dog on an extendable lead, a struggling pup too small to climb the high stile leading into the woods. She lifts the pup with one arm, uses the other to hoist herself up and over to the other side. He gets out of the car, locks the door, and swings his rucksack over his shoulder.

He carries a set of pencils and a hardback sketchbook inside the bag. The first eighteen pages have been neatly sliced out of the book, projects complete, but the cut-lines barely show. His paints are in his studio with a bed, a kettle, a wardrobe, a bookcase, and, lined up against the walls, his paintings. A canvas, primed brilliant white, stands blank on the easel ready for his return.

She walks slowly. He finds this strange for such a cold morning; normally the dog walkers are brisk, they want to be home and warm. She wears jeans and boots; there is a twist to her step, an unbalancing so slight it needs a sharp eye to notice the way her left leg compensates. No eye is sharper than his… he observes she has stronger thigh muscles in that left leg, maybe a touch of cellulite on the right. Narrow shoulders, small waist above the width of her hips. Her jacket is short, fitted; the long fur trim of its hood forms a halo of white that half-circles the back of her slim neck. So far, so good. Multi-shaded hair, blonde, gold, copper; short and dyed, arranged in a careful disarray he guesses took a long time to style. She is promising but he needs a front view to be certain she is exactly what he wants; experience dictates plain Janes and wilting Violets transfer badly. Two of his early canvasses had to be shredded, slashed – the insipid blandness of his subjects showed through in his work, spoiling the whole. As he overtakes her, slowing down to keep in step, he looks, meets her eyes… emerald green, long lashes. Oval face; plump cheeks; nose with slightly too much of an upturn; neat mouth with well-defined lips. The cold makes her eyes bright and brings red to her cheeks. Although she is older than he thought, late twenties, the life-spark he wanted to see in her is vivid, lending her features a lustrous, striking radiance. But she is not beautiful, yet.

She nods a reserved greeting. He says, ‘Freezing, isn’t it?’ and she nods again. He smiles his trust-me smile, wide enough to allow the mint of his breath to drift out. They strike up a conversation centred on the pup. Her voice is light, airy, and his heart leaps when she tells him the animal’s name is Wilde, after the author – she reads, she has a brain. He favours his intelligent subjects, they inspire their own subtleties of tints and tones; he will limn this one in pure bronze, the colour he keeps specifically for the clever.

He maintains an assuring distance as he talks her towards his quiet spot, a small clearing surrounded by sycamores and oaks. The main path is far, far behind them, the wet leaf-bed underfoot too thick for sound. His practised manner is polite, interested – it invites her to speak the trivialities he needs to illuminate and colour her. She obliges. He anticipates she will shine on canvas.

He tells her he is an artist, a recorder of nature. She confirms her intelligence by asking knowledgeable questions about technique, texture, line and perspective. He answers leisurely, with long looks that hold her gaze; she does not look away. He mentions Rossetti, Holman Hunt, Millais, and a nearby gallery in which some of their paintings hang. ‘We could go together. Tomorrow?’ Her eyelids lower and she says, ‘I’d like that.’ He can smell, almost taste, the tartness of her need, her loneliness. They discuss addresses, times, transportation. Soon afterwards they reach his quiet spot where they stand for a minute or two watching Wilde scrabble down into a pile of black leaves as he digs for the source of some compelling odour.

He asks her to sit for him one day. She stiffens. He smiles (trust me) and says he merely wants to sketch her. He reaches into his rucksack and shows her his book and pencils. A few seconds pass before she nods, ‘Maybe. We’ll see.’ He asks if she means yes. ‘All right,’ she laughs, ‘yes, you can sketch me. One day.’

Her consent given, he takes the knife from his pocket. She freezes, her eyes widen and he has to blink rapidly to stop her life-light from blinding him. He stabs, one precise tidy thrust under the left breast – in, up, and twist. In less than half a minute she is ready to be posed.

The dog lead remains gripped in her hand; a slice to the twine and the pup runs free. He works quickly to remove her clothing, sees he was right about the cellulite. It distorts the line of her right thigh so he lays her on that side, in the root-hollow of an old sycamore, to hide the ugly puckering from view. He arranges her limbs, rests her head gently on the root. A thin channel of blood runs down past her right breast, seeps into and through her bed of leaves. He thinks he will emphasise this line of blood heavily with his darkest mix of carmines.

He crouches on one knee, rests his sketchbook on the other as he prepares to stroke her every detail onto the page. The sun is at his back, higher now. Her outline forms an exquisite horizon of contours as it dips and rises. The green of her eyes complements the intensity of the copper undertones in her hair, picturesque against the darker shades of the tree bark. Her delicate veins thread blue across her skin, stilled streams of life, and he knows with absolute certainty she will transfer perfectly from life to page to canvas.

He smiles.

She is beautiful now.


Leave a comment


  1. Holy shit, Dotty, that was a dandy! (But please tell me the dog ran off and got adopted by a nice new owner.)

    xoxo Mme Weebles

  2. Dear Dotty,

    Wow! I like this a lot! I especially like that you started so innocently with your protagonist, and even though his manner doesn’t change til the end, I felt a tiny chill creeping up the back of my neck. Submit this somewhere. This is good.

    Love, your biggest fan!


    • Dear Judith,

      Cheers, m’dear. I stayed offline today because I couldn’t be bothered with the WordPress bugs and thought I’d have a go at something else for a change.

      Love Dotty xxx

  3. I enjoyed it. Strange, I watched Burton’s first Batman last night, thinking about his older movies, and the Joker considered himself the “world’s first homicidal artist”.

  4. O Dotty!!
    What a talent you are. I really wondered, when he was being all creepy and stalkerish if he was up to no good. And I was right. Brilliant storytelling♥

    • Dear Lisa,

      Thank you.

      Love Dotty xxx

      P.S. I don’t know if I’m still Amy or not, I’m not going near a comment box (except in my comment reply bit of the blog) until I get up in the morning.

  5. You know, at first I was a wee bit not expecting that, but on other hand was. Then after I sat back and thought about it, I really liked it! Well done…

  6. Ok Dotty.
    I’m really not like your creepy Picture taking stalker, but I did post about you today.


    I have killer taste in amazing writers. So: Hope I did your amazing work justice♥

    With deepest admiration and affection,

    • Dear Lisa,

      Thank you very much. 🙂

      I’ll make you a big fat Cumberland sausage sandwich. Or twelve. They’re fucking lovely. 🙂

      Love Dotty xxx

  7. I had the nasty feeling early on that the lady was going to die. Then, you confused me and I thought that I was wrong. I was thinking, “What a pity! That would have been such a good story. Perhaps, I should write something like that.” Then, you went ahead and killed her off! And there goes another story I’ll never write! You did a really good job on this one. It’s better than mine would have been. I don’t have the knowledge about Art that you have.

  8. Dorothy

     /  May 12, 2012

    Dear Dotty,

    Spell binding. I was drawn right in and held to the end. I’m amazed at the talent that floats around WP…..incredible writing!

    Love Dorothy

  9. Grumpy

     /  May 12, 2012

    Dear Dotty,
    There was I, after breakfast, an expectant hush over the laptop, scrolling down and blissfully unaware, waiting for that romantic Mills and Boon fluffy bunny mushy type of dénouement. Then, Good Godfreys! You certainly had me going there kid!
    Extremely well written. Very ‘hitchcockian’. Loved it.
    Grumpy x

    • Dear Grumpy,

      Thank you. I once to tried to write a Womaggy type of slushy story but they ALL died in the end. 🙂

      Love Dotty xxx

  10. Dear Dotty,

    While I guessed what was going to happen I loved it. Get this published somewhere!

  11. the howler and me

     /  May 12, 2012

    Dear Dotty,
    WOW! WOW! WOW! I was NOT expecting that…. YOU ARE AWESOME!

    a totally blown away howler and me

  12. Dear Dotty,
    Disturbing, but I like it. I thought he was going to murder her from the begining though. I think I am too suspicious of men :/
    Love HS xox

    • Dear HS,

      Thank you. No, you’re not too suspicious, it wasn’t intended to be a twisty ending. You got it. 🙂

      Love Dotty xxx

      • Dear Dotty,
        Hurrah! It was fun, it was definitley one of those stories that made pictures in my head, but I guess it’s only because of the good writing 😉
        HS xox

      • Dear HS


        Love Dotty xxx

  13. Persephone Jones

     /  August 11, 2012

    Dear Dotty,
    but why didn’t you include the Pig Owl Pig Owl?
    P xx


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