The palette clatters to the floor, and he watches it sullenly, running around his stockinged feet in impotent circles, before finally settling in the dust with one last, loud, sour note.
He scratches his beard, quietly irritated. The offending palette lies flat on its face like a sulking child beneath him, its imagined tantrum his own childish doing.
His gaze drifts back to the table, upon which sit the sunflowers he had carefully picked earlier. His rough painters hands, each fingertip a grimy variant of the rainbow, had twitched excitedly when he had happened upon the flowers, with their sunburnt petals of amber and spun gold.
The palette couldn’t provide him with the shades he needed, couldn’t conjure up the sunflowers fragile stems: an unidentified sickly green that filled him when he gazed at paintings he couldn’t hope to imitate in skill. He couldn’t replicate the sun drenched yellow he knew belonged atop the sniggering heads of the women that scorned him, nor could he borrow the ruddy brown from the weathered cheeks of the art collector yesterday, his cruel mouth like a torn pocket as he bared his lopsided sneer at his latest efforts.
He buries his head in his hands, his auburn hair poking out haphazardly from in-between his fingers, like errant flames, as he weeps.
“What have you drawn, Emily?”
The nursery assistant asks incredulously, turning Emily’s efforts this way and that in a blatant attempt to make sense of the scribbles Emily had sat at her small desk and painstakingly created, only ten minutes before. Emily casts her eyes downwards, her wispy copper curls forming a fragile curtain around her flushed face as a fat tear slides out of the corner of her eye and dribbles down her quivering cheek.
She watches her teacher carelessly toss her immature depiction of the schoolyard sunflowers, onto the growing pile of drawings underserving of praise, and begrudgingly shuffles back to her seat to start again.
Just outside the window, the canary bouquets wave at her mockingly from their perch, jeering at her inability to capture their radiant likeness with her scuffed crayons.
The next day, Emily’s dad takes her to the art gallery. Emily ogles the imposing building, with wide eyes, and imagines that this must be punishment for being so utterly lacking in artistic skill. The inside is not much better, surrounded as she is by famous artists. She doesn’t belong in here. An elegantly dressed lady is giving a talk for those surrounding her latest framed work, her trembling red lips moving at a rapid pace, spittle flying as she grasps her scarce few seconds of fame with gaudily painted talons.
As soon as Emily enters the second room, however, her eyes at once find familiar blonde clusters and green stems waiting for her at the back, and she snatches her hand impatiently from her father’s grasp, to race towards her newfound goal, her tiny, excited feet, squeaking unabashedly in the otherwise silent room.
Emily comes to a screeching stop before she can collide with a gallery worker, gesticulating wildly beside her target. She vaguely registers his impassioned speech as she gazes, awestruck, at the faultless imitation of the very flowers she had tried to replicate in her grubby workbook. Emily tunes in to the gallery worker, his rasping voice made beautiful by the things he says.
“….A truly remarkable work of art. Painted by a visionary, driven mad by the hidden splendour only he could see.” Here, he paused. “The real tragedy, of course, is that his genius was recognised only after his death. Scorned whilst alive, he is now regarded as one of the most brilliant painters to have ever lived….”
Emily gasps, and stands on her tiptoes, straining to see through the legs of the gathered crowd.
“Van Gogh” She lips, through the gap in her two front teeth, reading aloud from the plaque above her head with a secret smile.