The art of getting by
'What is it?'
It was an attempt at a background, but I'd got frustrated and ended up spending the last 20 minutes stabbing red paint onto it.
'Ouch. What did the canvas do to you?'
Ander's humorous expression instantly made the frown on my face lift.
Since meeting Ander at Jake's parents art gallery, I'd taken him up on the offer of joining a few classes at his art studio. I was definitely one of the youngest that attended but I liked the fact that no one here treated me like a kid.
The classes were fun and completely different to what I was used to learning at school. Plus it was nice speaking to people that were actually quite successful in the industry and get their advice.
On the days that there weren't any classes Ander let me work in an area of his studio along with a few other of his friends. Generally most of those days it was the same group of people but other times a new face would join us.
Everyone tended to keep to themselves whilst we were working but sometimes once we were all out of the zone we'd hang out for a bit. Most, if not all were a little crazy, but I loved hearing the stories about how they all met each other and the wild adventures they'd been on that interwove their friendships.
Now that I was back to Earth I realised I'd attracted quite a bit of attention whilst trying to murder my canvas. I smiled apologetically to all the people I'd disturbed and thankfully most of them chuckled in understanding.
I smiled at Ander before turning back to my canvas and frowning.
'It won't tell me what to do.'
'Oh we've all been there.' Ander pulled up a stool and sat beside me.
'Is it for something specific?'
'It's for the competition.'
Ander was thrilled for me when I told him about the Goodwin scholarship competition. He spoke quite highly of the school and thought it would be a program that I'd be perfect for. Along with Ms Stevens, he'd really been a massive help in getting me to the stage I was in the competition.
'I've just hit a roadblock and now the deadlines creeping closer and closer I'm really starting to panic.'
Initially when I found out they wanted me to create a piece of art of my choice I thought I had loads of time. Loads of time that i'd managed to fill dicking around and now I only have one week left with nothing to show.
Ander nodded in understanding.
'Ok, now I see where the frustrations coming from. Have they given you any direction?'
I laughed, picking up the email I'd printed off which had been sat on the table next to me.
'Well they've given me the topic light or dark. But then they've put, "however we want you to show your personality and have fun with it". Part of me just wants to draw an angel or devil and be done with it.'
'Well that would be quite literally the most obvious thing you could do.'
I'd rather die than do something so obvious and Ander knew it.
'The problem is you're thinking about what they want to see, not what you want to do.' Ander pulled his chair closer and lowered his voice.
'You know, when I visited London for the first time I went to the Tate modern art museum. I thought, I'm an artist, that's what I should do right? Go and show some support to other great artists. I can appreciate most works of art, even if it isn't my usual taste but..'
He glanced around making sure no one was looking.
'..There was a whole corner dedicated to a wooden swing with some mud on it.'
The look of disbelief on his face made both of us break out into fits of laughter.
'The point I'm trying to make is, arts subjective. Some will think it's a load of shit and other's will think it's the greatest thing they've laid their eyes on. Don't overthink it kid.'
With that, Ander patted me on the back and left to leave me thinking about his advice. He was right, I knew he was, but that still didn't help the fact that I didn't even have a starting point. I hated every idea I'd come up with so far and felt a complete lack of inspiration.
'Come on Evie, light or dark....black or white....sun or moon.' I sighed and threw my paint brush down onto my table.
'Hi, erm, sorry to interrupt your talking to yourself.'
I glanced up and looked over at the young woman sat further down from me on my right side. I hadn't seen her before so she was either new or she hadn't been here in a while.
Her accent was what caught my attention first. It sounded transatlantic, she was definitely American but I could hear a British lit. She was young, maybe in her mid twenties and her vibrant clothes completely clashed but she pulled it off in a way most people couldn't.
She came across as the kind of person I'd normally shy away from as I'd think I wasn't interesting enough for them, but the gentle smile on her face made me instantly warm to her.
'You know most folks would be concerned about that but I see it every time I come to Ander's studio so I'm not worried. Although...saying that, maybe that just means all of us are a little odd?'
The way she was almost having a debate with herself, titling her head to the side and frowning as she thought, made me chuckle.
'I think I'd prefer to be a little odd than normal. Normals boring.' I concluded which earned me a grin.
Do you come here a lot?' I asked.
She shook her head.
'Sadly no as work has me out of town but every time I'm back I like to make an appearance. I'm Rebecca.' She extended a hand to me.
'Hi, Evie.' I accepted her hand and shook it.
'Sorry, I didn't mean to eavesdrop but I just wanted to expand on what Ander said. Sometimes he thinks he's helping but he kind of just leaves in the middle of a conversation and expects you to fill in the blanks.'
I chuckled as I remembered the first time I met him. I'd never noticed it before but he really did jump back and forth in conversations a lot.
'He was right thought.' Rebecca continued. 'In this industry you'll face a lot of knock backs. One person will think you're a genius and another will think you're just a copycat. It's for a competition right?' She motioned to my canvas.
'Yeah although so far I have nothing.'
'To be honest most of the time these people don't even really care much about the brief, they just want to see your personality in your work. As long as you can tell them how it links back to theme, you're good, even if you are pushing it a little. Put onto that canvas what you feel, what you've experienced, and then no one can tell you shit about it because it's your personal experience.'
I laughed at her frankness but I guess she had a point.
'Thanks. That actually really helped.'
'No problem.' Rebecca waved off. 'Now get yourself a pen and paper and start brainstorming because that canvas ain't gunna paint itself.'
With more enthusiasm than I've had all week I did just that. I put my headphones in, blasting 5 Seconds of Summer's new album so I could block out the outside world. Then I started coming up with words, finding pictures on Pinterest, articles, poems, anything I found interesting that could fit with the theme light or dark. By the time I was narrowing down ideas it was dark outside and everyone had gone home apart from Ander.
Rubbing my eyes I sent a text to Taliah asking her to pick me up and then started packing away my things.
'Hey Ander do you mind if I come back after school tomorrow?'
Ander looked up from his notebook and chuckled.
'Ahhh her eyes are shining and there's a smile on her face. Am I correct in thinking that she's got her motivation back?'
'You would be correct yes and what I've got planned is big so I don't think I'm going to be having much of a social life this week.'
'The life of an artist is very antisocial when the inspirations flowing.' If Ander wasn't like this all the time I'd wonder if he was high.
'Tomorrow's cool with me as well. Get here when you like.'
The rest of the week flew by in a blur. Thankfully after I started working on my art piece I got in the zone and managed to get it competed just in time. I very nearly cried out of pure happiness because I loved what I'd created so much but I managed to hold it together. With that, school and helping out with last minute wedding tasks, I was exhausted.
Oh yeah, so that was the other thing the universe thought would be comical to do to me.
As well as having to create an art piece of our choice I also had to have a face to face interview.
Seeing as the school's in London, I had thought that this part would be a video call but I guess they ended up having a few people in this part of the world that had got to this stage, as they were holding it at a university about two hours away.
Normally this wouldn't be a problem but.. of course this all happened to be taking place on the same day as Hailey and Caron's wedding.
Yeah you heard me right!
Thankfully the interview was in the morning and the wedding in the afternoon so fingers crossed I should still make it in time, but I was still stressing.
Being the amazing teacher she was Ms Stevens offered to drive me to and from the university as everyone else would be busy with the wedding. However the anxious part of me was still coming up with a million and one scenarios about how the day could go wrong.
There would be traffic in the morning making me late for the interview. Traffic in the afternoon making me late for the wedding. We'd get the directions wrong, the car could break down, food poisoning. The list was endless.
With my hectic week and anxiety getting in the way I looked and felt like a zombie when I woke up on Saturday morning. Everyone else was buzzing with the excitement of the wedding but I just couldn't get into that zone until I made it to the venue on time later.
Seeing as Taliah was queen of preparation and lists I dumped all of my worries onto her and let her organise my day. So from the moment I woke up I was sticking to the plan. I had a shower and washed my hair, letting Taliah blow dry it out so it was all curly and bouncy.
'Your hair looks like a masterpiece again.' Taliah said frankly.
'I really have outdone myself.'
I would've rolled my eyes but she wasn't wrong. My hair really did look great.
'Why can't you wear heated rollers to your interview again? I'm scared the curls are going to drop out by the time you make it to the wedding.'
'Because I haven't reached that level of extra yet but I promise to put them in during the car journey on the way back.'
I wanted them to take me seriously and I had a feeling anyone would have a hard time doing that when I looked like a brunette version of Sheri Squibbles from Monsters university.
Taliah rolled her eyes.
'Fine, I'll just put a shit tonne of hairspray in it.'
An hour later I was dressed, fed and helping to put my things into the back of Ms Stevens car.
'Ok so you've got everything?' Lindsay asked as she faffed about with her own hair.
'Your canvas? Snacks for the car? Your phone.'
'Yep I've got everything. Everything I need for the wedding I've packed into a bag and put it in the back of your car.'
'Ok good. We'll bring anything else that we think you might need.' Finally satisfied with her hair, well at least for now, she turned and pulled me into a hug.
'Good luck sweetie, text me when you get there.'
'Thank you and I will!'
I received another good luck from Erika, Taliah and Hailey.
'I promise I'll get to the wedding as soon as I can Hails. If all goes to plan I should be able to get to the venue before the ceremony starts.'
Seeing how chilled out she was this morning in comparison to how much of a bridezilla she'd been this week I was convinced someone had slipped her something.
'Don't stress Evie, just make it when you can. The important part is being there for cutting the cake as, damn it's good ass cake and trust me you don't want to miss out on it.'
After last minute checks that we hit the road.
The journey was long but thankfully the traffic was light and we made it to the campus on time.
I was so glad Ms Stevens had offered to drive me as lifting my canvas to the room they wanted us to leave it in really was a two man job and I wouldn't have enjoyed dragging it around on public transport with me. Thankfully the worry about the canvas making it here in one piece was something I could tick off my 'to worry about' list.
'Good luck Evie! Not that you need it!' Ms Stevens hugged me before leaving me to check in at reception.
There were 7 of us in total waiting so my logic was, surely this shouldn't take too long? Huh. Funny.
Cut to an hour and half later and I was still sat in the same seat chewing the skin around my nails. If Taliah was here she'd kick me in the throat for ruining my beautifully manicured nails but I didn't care. I was too damn anxious for this shit.
'Hi, sorry to ask again but how many people are in front of me now?' I asked the receptionist when I was worried I'd end up with no fingers left.
Since I'd explained the situation to her earlier she gave me a sympathetic smile.
'One more after the person that's already in there. Don't worry sugar I think you'll make it in time.'
'Thanks Mabel.' I forced a smile and went back to my seat.
Of course the one time I'm on a time crunch they decide to do the interviews in alphabetical order. With the surname Townsend I'd been sat here watching almost everyone else be called in before me.
I slumped down in my seat and glanced at my watch.
'Somewhere to be?'
The voice came from an indie looking girl next to me. The whole time she'd been sat next to me her leg was shaking like she was getting angsty so I thought it was better not to strike up a conversation with her. She was smiling at me now though which made her seem less scary to talk to.
'That obvious huh? A wedding.' I answered.
'That makes sense. I thought your hair looked a little fancy but didn't want to ask in case you'd be offended.'
We both laughed and it felt like it eased a little of the tension in the waiting room.
'Maybe I should've worn the rollers like my friend suggested. At least it would make it really obvious.'
'You're right it would've done but I wouldn't have sat next to you.' Her eyes crinkled into the shape of a banana as she smiled, making the strong features on her face soften.
I motioned at her jiggling leg which she stopped when she realised she what was doing it.
'Yeah. I do that without realising.'
'I was going to ask if you needed to pee but I didn't want you to think I was weird.'
The girl burst out laughing.
'I guess I should've just spoken to you sooner. With how long we've spent waiting here and the 4 hour drive I had this morning, I'm going a little crazy.'
'Wow 4 hours? Did you not want to stay here overnight?'
'I would've loved to but then my parents would've found out where I was going.'
'Are they not supportive of this?' I asked, frowning.
'Yeah they're not supportive at all. I come from a family of doctors. My brothers have all gone into the field so I was next on the list. When I told them I wanted to study art instead they basically told me I'd be a disgrace to the family and had little to no chance of being successful.'
Shit. Her parents sounded like assholes.
'They said they're not going to pay for me to go to art school so if this is what I want to do I'm going to have to pay my own way. It's either get a scholarship or put off art school until I can pay for it myself.'
'Wow. That really sucks. I'm glad you're not giving up though.'
'Yeah well now I'm worried that I travelled 4 hours to get here and now I'm going to screw up because of my damn nerves.' Her leg started jiggling again and she looked a little like she wanted to puke.
Before I could say anything reassuring the blonde woman that had been calling people into their interviews interrupted us.
The girl next to be stilled before collecting her things and getting up from her seat.
Before she walked off I grabbed her hand and gave it a squeeze.
'Don't be nervous. You'll be great, trust me.'
Madison smiled and mouthed a thank you back to me.
With Madison gone I couldn't help but wonder if I was here for the wrong reasons. Jesus, Madison definitely deserved this over me. This was my dream that I wanted more than anything in the world but if everyone here was as desperate for a scholarship as Madison, then I'd feel wrong to take it.
My phone buzzing in my pocket caught my attention and I instantly smiled when I saw who the text was from.
Harrison- How's it going? Have you gone in yet? X
Nope not yet. Still waiting. Are you at the hotel yet? Has Hailey killed anyone? X
Harrison- Just got to the hotel. No one dead yet but one bridesmaid has been turned green by her fake tan. X
Is it bad that I can't even feel bad for her because the image is too funny? 😂 x
Harrison- All us groomsmen have been pissing ourselves laughing. We've now been banished to another room. There's food in here though so I'm not complaining. X
You never complain when foods included
I should be going in soon. The nerves are kicking in x
Harrison- Don't be nervous they're going to love you! They'll be amazed by your talent just like I am everyday. I love you x
😭 love you too x
I looked up from my phone to find the blonde lady with her clipboard smiling at me.
Oh thank god.
I quickly gathered my things and followed her down the hallway into a small classroom. Along with the blonde lady two other people were in the room. One I recognised as Rebecca, the woman I'd met at Ander's art studio last week. As soon as she saw me she laughed.
'Well what a small world! I should've put two and two together when I saw your name on the list. Tom, Danielle, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Evie at Ander Blake's studio last week.' Rebecca explained to her confused colleagues.
'I can't say I'm surprised Ander's taken you under his wing from looking at your work.' The man that was introduced as Tom said.
'Please take a seat Evie.'
I did as I was told, taking a seat directly in front of the three of them.
'Evie, I'd like to start of by saying you have no reason to be nervous. This is a casual conversation.' Tom explained.
'Both Danielle and I were born and raised in the Uk and Rebecca has been teaching with us for the last two years.' The more Tom spoke the more I heard a Mancunian accent that I guess had softened over the years of living in London.
Noticing my own accent we spoke a little bit about my background, sharing stories about living in London and then to moving here last September.
Then the conversation moved onto the competition and the artwork that is submitted.
'You should be incredibly proud of yourself for getting to this stage.' Danielle said.
'Out of the 1000s of applications we received you are in the top 20 so that's a massive achievement. We'd like to start off with asking you a few questions about the art pieces you submitted to us if that's ok?'
I nodded for her to go ahead and we spent a good 15 minutes talking about old projects of mine.
'Now, the piece you brought with you today, light or dark. It's very impressive. Can you tell us where you got your inspiration from?' Rebecca asked and I could tell she was trying to hold back a smile.
As portraits were my strength I didn't want to deviate too far from that, but I also didn't want to look like a one trick pony. So in the end I decided to go with a self portrait but with a very personal message.
I painted myself in a kneeling position looking into a flashlight. The flashlight was creating a shadow onto the wall behind me, showing a different more broken version. A hole was showing where my heart should be and my shadow looked warped.
'Last year for the first time in my life I battled with the emotion grief. I wanted to create a piece with a message everyone could relate to but also make people understand in their own way because of their own personal experiences.
I wanted to show the feeling where on the inside you feel completely battered and broken even when on the outside you may look no different from your usual self. I also wanted it to be a reminder to check up on your peers. You never know what struggles people are going through, even if they seem like the happiest person in the world.'
After a few seconds Rebecca spoke.
'Thank you for sharing Evie.'
Tom shared a look with Danielle and Rebecca before leaning forward slightly.
'I'll be honest with you Evie. We are all really impressed with your work. We like your style and in particular we loved your collaboration with the photographer....' he glanced down at his notes before looking at me again.
My heart swelled with pride at the fact that they saw Harrison's talent too.
'We only have one more question we'd like to ask. It's a general question that we ask everyone. Can you tell us why you think you deserve this scholarship?'
All three of them sat forward, showing their interest in knowing my answer but my mind was blank.
Huh, good question.
I hope you're all well and staying safe if you're in quarantine.
Woah, that was a long chapter! I hope it wasn't too boring! It was a lot of description but I tried to add some fun conversations in to break it up a bit.
Now on to sad news...we only have a few chapters left 😭
I've been toying with the idea of a second book but I don't know. Is that something you'd want to read? If I did I'd definitely take a break as I've started writing another story but I had the idea of doing a shorter second book maybe about a trip in the summer with Evie taking Harrison to the uk.
I loved writing the Christmas chapters showing the girl's adventures in London and it sounded like a lot of people loved reading them too. Some people were disappointed Harrison didn't get to go so maybe this could be a chance to write that trip?
Let me know what you think! I love reading your thoughts and feedback!