Meadow had agreed to remain overnight on the studio couch, so that, if the urge struck her, all the tools for painting were within easy reach. To her surprise, she woke up the next morning to the aroma of bacon and eggs and the appealing smell of coffee. Her watch said it was almost eight o’clock – she had slept for ten straight hours without waking. She knew she likely needed it because of how drained her emotions were the previous day.
The question now was: what should she do? Meadow knew that Les would give her the time she needed away from the restaurant; that wasn’t a problem. But the door that had opened in her soul the previous day didn’t come with a set of directions for what came next. She felt suspended between the present and the future, between Charlottesville and Clifton Forge, and, ultimately, her desire to pursue art and the need to pay the bills.
The studio was chilly, so she kept the blanket around her as she shuffled into the kitchen. Koay, his back to her, was moving efficiently between the stove and the sink. Meadow marvelled at his practiced dexterity despite his physical constraints. He turned, smiled, and motioned her towards the French Press coffee container. She lifted it from the counter and placed it between them on the table.
“You slept well, I take it?”
“Yes … and I’m surprised. I haven’t slept that well in some time,” she replied.
They chit-chatted for a while, enjoying each other’s company. He expanded more on his painting software and how it had developed over the years to give him more control over the digital canvas. He updated her on new techniques being developed on brushwork, layering and perspective.
Meadow was particularly interested in a procedure called Sgraffito. “Great strides have been made in the last two decades concerning how to scratch away paint while its wet to expose the painting underneath.
“I have tried it myself when I wish to depict scratches, hair or various kinds of grasses,” he noted.
“Your software can do that?” she asked.
“Of course. The ability to turn back the clock and delete what has recently been painted has been around for years, but now it is possible to actually go into what has been painted and remove finer points from the piece.”
“What else?” she inquired.
“Underpainting has made remarkable advancements, especially in digital software. I hardly ever work from white backgrounds anymore. It is better for me to create an underpainting in burnt amber or burnt sienna to establish shadows and depth. I start with a thin mixture, making each layer afterwards increasingly thicker. I leave it to dry for a few days, then use that as my canvas for a new work.”
“Show me,” she urged, rising from the table.
Kaoy laughed slightly. “I knew you’d say that, but I think it better if I teach you.”
They spent the next two hours learning the procedure, with the teacher only able to give verbal instructions. It took Meadow some time to develop the technique, but eventually she had mastered it.
“This changes everything in regards to shadows and colour,” she observed. “But I thought you said that the Eastern method of painting doesn’t focus so much on colouring?”
“The software is just so easy to work with that I’ve found myself developing more depth in my work and, as you say, the shadowing brings a new dimension.”
They compared notes for a while longer, until Kaoy said, “Now you must wait until your layer has dried so that you can build on it.”
Meadow nodded in understanding. “That’s why digital works so well for you – the paint on the screen is neither wet or dry. You can do whatever you want, when you want.”
“Yes, that’s likely why I have taken to it recently.”
They cleaned up, then Meadow offered to take him into town for groceries and some medication. Smiling appreciatively, he said, “Just let me change,” and disappeared into his room.
“Have you thought what you’ll do now?” Koay asked as she pulled out from the drive onto the main road.
“Well, not last night; I slept through it all. But I have been wondering today if I should return to Charlottesville or remain here for a time.”
“You know that answer already,” he mused. “You have waited years for this moment. Can you pursue it back in the restaurant?”
Meadow sighed, since she knew it was a rhetorical question. Tapping her fingers on the Ford’s steering wheel, she confessed: “It’s really a question of funds, Sufi. I can get more time off, I’m sure, but I wouldn’t be paid. I’ve been there for years, but don’t make enough to put away any savings, so it’s difficult.”
“Did your parents leave you an estate of some kind?”
“They did, but it was all used up with Mom’s care. I had to sell the house, Mom’s car, and then deplete whatever she had left in the bank. She didn’t know any of that, of course, because her mind was too far gone. I’m afraid nothing is left.”
It seemed clear with the discussion that she had no choice but to return. The thought of it saddened her. More than anything now, she wanted to paint, neededto paint. She sighed without realizing it, alerting Koay to the fact that she felt defeated. He felt his own spirit sink. He had a little put away, but not enough to get his student what she required. She could stay with him, saving on the rent, but what she required more than anything was disciplined study – the kind he could no longer deliver due to his condition. She needed other students, more qualified teachers, and the challenge to press on with her talent. These, he felt, he could not provide. His retirement on a limited pension left him with few choices.
He had seen in the painting she had presented him that her genius was still there. But it hadn’t carried the refinement of the work she had done as a child. Back then it was as if the entire world centred on her, catering to her every need, leaving her free to pursue her genius. In the painting she had given to him yesterday the lack of development was clear, though he didn’t mention it to her. He, too, now felt the heaviness of defeat.