Gentle early morning sunlight had quickly turned into the overwhelming noonday sun. Only John Murphy’s demeanor and the blank canvas before him remain unchanged.
The longer he stared at the canvas the more this opportunity felt like an impossible assignment, a challenge meant to produce madness.
John absentmindedly chewed the end of his paintbrush handle as memories from last week further undermined his focus.
With his reputation on the line and having received his biggest commission to date, John had taken his work down to the museum a week before his deadline, proud of what he had accomplished. Dr. Straignier had been less than impressed. Although she hadn’t used the words “amateur” or “commercial,” her encouragement to tackle the project again and produce something “worthy of the commission” had angered him more than he had expected. He thought his piece was better than “a good first attempt.”
As a former starving artist, he was used to people hating his work. This was part of the path he’d chosen. But to have doubt thrust upon him at this stage in his career when he felt he was producing something of substance was unnerving.
He sighed heavily and walked around his studio, his gaze falling on the 10-foot speckled canvas covered in blue, yellow, and white. That felt like his best work, his authentic self. His voice was so clear in what he’d done. But it wasn’t good enough for Dr. Straignier–who, in his mind, had come to symbolize the plutocracy–and the problem was he needed to have a completely new painting in the next 36 hours.
John walked back toward the blank canvas and stared into what felt like an endless chasm. His ears felt deaf to the whisper of inspiration, his eyes blind to what could be pulled from the canvas that would speak to others.
Now was the wrong time to be at a loss, but this was where he’d landed. John glanced once more at his painting.
He knew he had two choices. Either he could paint something that was acceptable or return the check and be embarrassed in front of the art community.
John surveyed the paints around him, listening intently, waiting to be prompted by one. But nothing came.
Maybe it really was time to send back the check.