Flash Fiction #3: Artistic Expression

Tina of All These Prompts plays a game on her Tumblr every Sunday, and I finally had time to participate.  (I’ve been meaning to, Tina, but somehow it never worked out until now!)

She picks a prompt from her massive collection (seriously, she should be crowned the Writing Prompt Queen) and challenges her readers to tell her what’s going on, then reblogs what she gets sent so everyone can have fun reading the (widely varied)(sometimes bizarre) stories that result.

So here’s my contribution for the prompt, What did you say about eyes?

Lisa always tried to be early for figure drawing so she could get her favorite easel, the one halfway back from the model’s stage and a little to the right, where the lighting always seemed perfect, and the models themselves never seemed to look at her.

Staring at someone naked was bad enough without knowing they were staring back at you.

But the art building was diametrically opposite her dorm, all the way across campus, and her rice-burner of a car didn’t handle snowy roads with any amount of grace.  She left early, but apparently not early enough, so she wasn’t the first one to the studio, as she usually was.

She also didn’t usually walk into the middle of an argument.  She’d heard Matt and Isaac chat sometimes while they were setting up, but when she walked in, they were almost shouting.

“Wait, what did you say about eyes?” she asked, interrupting.  Her inner introvert was screaming to not get involved, but being alone in the room with them while they fought was hardly less awkward.  And maybe, just maybe, the distraction would deescalate the situation.  Because she knew Matt’s temper was volatile from the months he’d been dating her friend Eric, and though they’d broken up ages ago, somehow, she and Matt were still sort of friends.

Isaac, on the other hand, she only knew in passing.  For art majors who both spent tons of time in the same building, somehow the only class they’d ever had together was this one, and she hadn’t spoken to him often.  She knew his work better than she knew him, from student exhibitions around campus.

“I said the whole ‘eyes are windows to the soul’ thing is bullshit,” Isaac answered.  “Matt disagrees.”

Lisa turned wordlessly to Matt.  She’d seen some of his portraits in the past, and he always showed the subjects’ eyes staring straight out of the work, in that way that they always seemed to follow the viewer.

“Eyes are the most important thing about anyone’s appearance,” Matt shot back. “Why do you think girls spend so much money on makeup to get you to notice their eyes?”

Lisa nearly choked on a giggle at Matt’s slightly bewildered tone.  As if girls did anything for him, which she already knew they didn’t, so he classed their behavior as strange and mysterious, immune as he was to their wiles.

“It’s not the eyes that are important,” Isaac went on heatedly.  “It’s the skin around the eyes.  Eyeballs are just orbs with a black spot and a little color, expression is about the whole face.”

Lisa felt inclined to agree, but Matt was steaming, and while he could tolerate critique from the professors, he had a long way to go in being gracious with his peers.

Which was undoubtedly how this argument had started.

As if sensing Lisa was on his side and needed a little push to say so, Isaac pulled a small sketchbook from his bag and flipped through until he found the page he wanted.  With a step toward Lisa, he pressed it into her hands.  “Look.”

The two page spread was filled with facial studies, miniature sketches of every expression imaginable: the wide smile of childish glee, the furrowed brows of disapproval, the slack jaw of surprise.

Isaac leaned over her shoulder to tap one sketch in the lower corner of the page.  “You can’t even see this one’s eyes, because they’re closed, but you can still tell he’s relaxed.”

Lisa nodded.  She heard Matt stomp away to set up at an easel on the far side of the room, but she kept her eyes on the sketchbook.  So much emotion with so few lines, she though.  Isaac drew clean sketches, much cleaner than hers, which were always littered with extraneous scribbling from her attempts to get the image to match what she saw.

“May I?” she asked, lifting the edge of the page to turn it.  She didn’t get to see others’ sketchbooks often, but she always enjoyed it, like getting a peek into their brain.

“Yeah,” Isaac answered, still hovering over her shoulder.  “Sure.”

After a few pages, it became clear to Lisa this was a doodle journal, not a formal book for one of his classes.  The facial studies gave way to grids of one-inch boxes filled with repetitive patterns in blue ink, then to pencil sketches of wildflowers, then to five pages of drawings of the same hand in different positions.  A right hand.  Is Isaac left-handed? I never noticed.

She turned the next page just as Isaac suddenly said, “No,” and reached to pull the book from her hands.

“Wow,” Lisa breathed.  She was looking down at herself rendered in black ink.  The portrait was face-and-shoulders, filling the page.  Paper Lisa looked to the left and wore a dreamy expression, like she was staring out a window.  The only splashes of color were her irises, filled in with a stormy gray-blue, and the stripe of purple in her hair that ran from crown to tip, where the ends brushed her shoulder.

But that was how she’d worn her hair last year.  She was sporting a pixie cut now, and the streak was gone, replaced with her natural dark brown.

“You did this from memory?” Lisa couldn’t keep the hint of wonder out of her voice.  She’d sat for fellow students before, but never for Isaac.  He’d never asked.

Isaac reached for the book again, and she let him have it.  He didn’t answer until he closed it and returned it to his bag.  “Some.  I did most if it that first week of spring when the weather got nice all at once, and you’d eat your lunch on the quad.  I could see you from my window, I was on the first floor of Bexley.”

“Oh. That makes sense.”  She hadn’t known where he’d lived, but the quad was an open stretch of grass dotted with benches and walled in on three sides by dorms.  She had spent a lot of time there in the warm weather, and she would have been easily visible to anyone in rooms that looked out onto the space.

Her matter-of-fact tone startled him into a smile.  “I was expecting you to be…I don’t know, mad? Embarrassed?”

“Isaac, I draw people I see sitting outside all the time, that’s half the reason I was spending so much time there!  This doesn’t creep me out.  But why didn’t you want me to see it?”

He bit his lip and looked away.  “Because it doesn’t look enough like you.  I didn’t want you to think you looked bad…”

“It’s gorgeous.”  Lisa paused and laughed.  “Can I say that about a piece of art where I’m the subject? Does that make me vain?”

Isaac sat down hard on his stool, laughing.  “No, it doesn’t.  At least, not to me.”

The sound of voices came from the studio door.  Two minutes to class, so in came the flood of students who weren’t early and were never early.

Lisa watched Isaac pull himself together, though a twinkle of humor still showed in the crinkling of the skin at the corner of his eyes.  “Will you sit for me, sometime?” she asked abruptly.

Isaac seemed to stare at her for a long time before he answered, while the chaos of class getting started whirled around them.  “Yeah.  I’d like that.”

After class, with her headphones on blasting K-pop as she lay on her stomach in bed, she tried to draw Isaac from memory, capturing that look that wasn’t quite surprise, or happiness, or anything else Lisa could put a name to.  But she wouldn’t forget it, even if it didn’t come out right on the page.

It’d be easier when she had him in front of her again.  And even if it wasn’t, she’d keep trying.

3 thoughts on “Flash Fiction #3: Artistic Expression

  1. You’re the sweetest ♥ And I was so happy to see you participate in the game 🙂 I’ve been meaning to message you about that but you got around to publishing this before I had the chance to write you a message.

    I love your story! I really like the conversation between the three characters; you can tell they’re really passionate about their art and opinions. And the last two paragraphs are just wonderful.

    Thank you for participating and everything. I hope you get the chance to do that again, because it made me really happy.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I suppose it depends on when I’ll post the right prompt to inspire you XD (I have the next 5 weeks scheduled but I myself don’t remember what’s in there…) But I’ll be looking forward to your participation in the future 🙂


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