Once upon a time there was a man who loved to paint. He studied the art and craft of painting for many years. He chose to invest his time and energy into creating the most realistic portraits that he could paint. For him the joy came not from completing the paintings but the process of recreating the real world with the strokes of his brush.

For many years he continued to study the art of painting. He learned new techniques for abstracting from reality but he always favoured the realism above all else. Meanwhile, his friends and family mocked him and said that he would always be a poor boy who loved to paint but could not make money from it. He had no answer to this criticism, the satisfaction he gained from applying the brush to the canvas was to great to worry about whether his paintings would be finished or not.

Despite this, news came one day from a faraway kingdom of a king who wanted a landscape painted so that his subjects might know and love the land from which they came. The boy packed his paints up into a small bag and borrowed some money to get to the capital city so that he persuade the king’s council to let him paint the painting.

Sure enough he managed to persuade the king to commission him to paint the landscape. It was the happiest day of the man’s life. He sighed contentedly to himself and said “Finally, I can call myself a painter! I will dedicate myself to creating the most amazing painting of the kingdom so that all who see it will love and understand their king and country!”

He borrowed yet more money and took up lodgings on the periphery of the capital city. However, when he showed up to court and asked to be taken to the view that his patrons wished painted he was told that he could only paint the landscape as it was described to him by others. He thought this was very strange for how could he paint something true to life without sight of the landscape that he was being paid to paint?

He sat despondently in his chair, slumped in front of the easel with his brush hovering in the air over the canvas. He tried but could not paint. All the joy of painting was taken from him as he tried to contemplate the task of painting another person’s perception of reality, all without sight of it.

Soon a kindly looking old man wandered by and said “you look sad, have this!” The older man passed the confused painter another canvas with a magnificent scene drawn upon it in lines. There were symbols in the spaces between the lines to show the colours that should be painted there. “This isn’t what you have to paint” the old man said “but it is a start.”

“Of course, you’ll need completely different colours to those mentioned here as well but I am sure that now I have given you this you’ll have your landscape completed in no time at all!”

The painter smiled. It certainly was a start. Perhaps it was not the one that he would have wanted to make but it certainly helped him to feel less despondent. The idea of simply painting between the lines after all the time and hardship taken to learn his craft was a little humiliating but feeling insecure around those who had walked the corridors of the palace so long, he felt that he had little choice but to accept.

“If I change this scene and its colours as you suggest, I doubt it shall look very realistic and realism is my passion, the very reason for my painting” said the painter to the old man. “Well”, the old man replied, “you can always paint a more realistic version of this painting once you have done your colouring in”. The old man scratched his nose and pointed toward the throne. “After all, it is best to show them pretty quickly what it is that you can do.”

“OK, I agree” said the painter, “thank you for your help.”

(To be continued)

Photo by Helico from flickr.