Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!
This Sunday’s prompt is: Festival
This week’s story is about a young wannabe artist in a medieval-ish setting and his struggles at an art festival. I wrote most of this on paper and typed it up as I’ve been sick this week and am still not 100%!
This week’s top tip is:
Onto the story!
The wind rustled the leaves of the only tree in sight for miles. On the edge of a rocky riverbank, a young man sat with an easel in front of him and a paintbrush tucked behind his ear. He sat, poised, on the edge of a tree stump and stared out across the water, still where the waters were chaotic with the winds of spring.
In a flurry of sudden movement, he grabbed the brush from behind his ear. His long fringe fell to cover his eyes as he dipped forward to select a colour from his pallette. Grey to match the colour of the early morning skies.
He began to paint, a series of quick movements on the canvas. His hand darted back and forth between colours. Clear blue eyes flicked up from the canvas and back to the water as the scene before him materialised in paint.
The sun moved across the sky, in and out of the clouds, and by the time it began to dip below the skyline his canvas was filled with beauty. A single tree by a river, which wound its way through a landscape of barren fields and over a ridge in the distance, illuminated by the weak spring sunlight that peeked through grey clouds.
The young man groaned as he stretched his arms above his head towards the sky, and he smiled as he faced the setting sun. He basked in it for a moment, before he turned to pack up his things and head home, to the castle in the village.
By the time he reached the village, drying canvas held carefully in front of him and pig skin bag on his shoulder, night had fallen. The village was lit by torches. They illuminated every small wooden shack and one lone stone castle. Home. He trod the familiar path to the village square, where a large fire burned and children danced.
The shrill excited cries stopped when he came to stand nearby, and one of the kids broke off to run towards him. He held the canvas high just in time.
Warm arms wrapped around his waist. ‘Greg! Did you finish it?’
Greg smiled and lowered the canvas. ‘What do you think?’
His younger sister took the canvas with grubby hands and her face lit up. ‘It’s beautiful!’
‘Be careful with that Jess,’ their mother called as she strode up behind them. ‘Your brother worked hard on it.’
Jess glared at her. ‘I know. Isn’t it great?’
‘Most talented young man in the village,’ their mother agreed with a smile.
‘I’m not that good…’ Greg replied. He glanced at the canvas and took in his painting with a critical eye.
His mother raised an eyebrow. ‘You are. Tomorrow will prove that.’ Greg felt warm fingers cup his cheek. He looked up slowly. ‘Have a little faith in yourself. It’s in your blood.’
Greg turned back to his painting. ‘I guess. I’ll know tomorrow if I’m good enough for him.’
‘Father’s coming to the festival?’ Jess asked from beside them.
‘Of course. He’ll meet us after the judging,’ their mother replied, but her smile didn’t reach her eyes.
Jess looked away and wrapped her arms around herself. ‘Will he stay this time?’
‘I don’t know dear. I always hope, but he has a busy schedule.’
‘Why can’t we go with him?’ Jess asked.
Greg rolled his eyes and mimed his mother’s next words along with her.
‘A life on the road’s no life for the children of a lord.’
‘Come on, let’s sit by the fire,’ Greg said when his sisters face fell. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and led her to sit on a log.
Once the fire burned low they retired to the castle, and before he knew it Greg blinked open his eyes to greet the new day. He crept from the house and stood by the river, against the only tree, eyes closed as the morning breeze tickled his face. No sun today. Just like the last time he’d seen his father.
He’d been a year younger then, but enthusiastic without fear of failure. He’d run to his father with canvas in one hand and paintbrush in the other. Greg grimaced at the memory.
‘Daddy, look! I painted the trees!’
A large hand reached down and plucked the canvas from his hands. His father frowned.
‘Don’t you like it?’
His father pointed up. ‘Look at the leaves, how they flutter in the wind. Try to capture that, life, in your painting, and you might stand a chance in the festival competition.’
His father shook his head and turned away.
‘Teach me, please!’
His cries had fallen on deaf ears, and his father was gone when he got back to the castle. Greg sighed and opened his eyes. Today was the day. At the festival, in front of everyone he knew, he’d make his father proud.
The festival tents were bright with colour, a sharp contrast to the drab greys and browns of the village. They’d travelled half a day to get here, by horse and carriage, to the outskirts of the nearest town where the festival was held.
Whilst everyone else was focused on the people who’d come from far and wide, Greg kept his eyes on the town, where the college of art stood tall and aloof. Where his father worked, a mere half a days journey by horse and cart and still he found no time to visit.
‘Greg,’ his mother said, with a nudge to his shoulder. ‘There’s the tent.’
Greg tore his gaze from the college and followed her pointed finger. The judging tent, where artists of noble blood would leave their work to receive judgement. With a quick nod Greg tucked his canvas under his arm and slipped inside the tent.
A glance around led him to a few empty easels at the back. Greg hefted his canvas up and lifted the sheet which covered it. Scrawled at the bottom was his name, his right to enter. For a moment the leaves of that lone tree on the canvas, stood beside the rough waters of the river, caught his attention. They appeared to flutter, just like his father asked for. Greg left the tent with a determined smile.
His mother and sister were stood in front of a stage adjacent to the tent when he emerged.
‘Father says he’s too busy to see us till after the competition,’ Jess said, as they watched a couple of young men bring each covered canvas from the tent out onto the stage.
Greg shifted from foot to foot and his eyes darted back and forth.
‘You’ll be fine,’ his mother said, and she tugged him to her side.
His father strode onto stage to reveal the first painting and the name of the artist. Greg bit his lip as his father stalked around the canvas. After a moment of critical contemplation, he shook his head and moved on. Two judges followed him, a man with a scar on his neck and a woman with a hooked nose, frowning as they commented on each work as they passed.
As the next few paintings were revealed his father scribbled notes in his notebook but made no comments aloud. Finally, he stopped in front of a canvas in the middle of the stage. When he read the artists name he sucked in a breath and turned wide eyes on Greg.
Greg smiled a wobbly smile and waved. His father grimaced.
‘The artist has courage to enter such a competition, but it’s no where near the standard we’d expect,’ the hooked nose woman said.
‘Gregory Fitzgerald. That your boy, Morty?’ the scarred man asked with barely concealed amusement.
Greg’s father met his eyes with a stern glare. ‘Yes. Continue to rate the paintings.’
The crowd shifted and began to mutter. The other two judges shared a look. Greg caught some of their words, (‘Not as talented as his father,’) and turned away.
‘Oh! This is fantastic!’ the hook nosed woman exclaimed.
Greg turned back to see his father had revealed another contestants painting. It was beautiful. The sun sparkled off the sea. A dog played in the waves, each hair carefully painted. It was so lifelike.
‘It is indeed a fine specimen. Morty’s son could learn from the artist,’ the scarred man replied with a sly grin at Greg’s dad.
The hook nosed woman frowned at the name on the canvas. ‘Matthew Goldson? Isn’t that your footman’s son?’
Greg watched as his father turned on a tall man by the side of the stage with a glare. ‘It is. His father should have made it clear he was forbidden to enter.’
The crowd began to murmur. Greg caught a few snatches of it. ‘But his work’s so good…’ ‘Just because he’s not rich…’ ‘Disgusting…’
Beside Greg, a good looking boy with deep brown eyes and dirty blonde hair stepped forward. ‘I don’t think that’s fair. Your son got to enter, and he doesn’t have talent. Why should someone with my skills be left by the wayside like common trash?’
Greg flinched, and the glare he sent the newcomer matched his fathers.
The scarred man shook his head. ‘Fair or not, those are the rules. You’re disqualified.’
The boy narrowed his eyes and glared at them all. Greg saw his father’s footman shake his head as the painting was taken down and handed to him. The boy fled into the crowd.
The rest of the competition passed in a blur. Greg twisted his hands as the judging concluded, and fled into the streets of the city rather than face his father.
He didn’t return until after dinner, when he was sure his father would be long gone as usual. His face fell immediately when he spotted a familiar figure outside their tent.
‘Father… I didn’t expect to see you here.’
‘What were you thinking? You humiliated me in front of everyone in my circle!’
‘I just wanted to surprise you. I got the leaves right!’
‘You should’ve spoken to me first. Any idiot can see you’re not ready. Even my footman’s son-‘
Greg scowled. ‘Well if you were around to teach me, maybe I’d be better!’
‘I travel too much to have time for that!’
‘Then let me stay here, in the city. I can learn at the college,’ Greg said. He raised his chin and stared his father down. ‘Please. All I want to do is paint!’
His father paused and raised a hand to his chin as he eyed Greg up and down. ‘Fine.’
A smile split Greg’s face. ‘Thank you. You won’t regret this!’
‘See that I don’t.’
The grin did not fade from Greg’s face as, with a clap of his father’s hands, the footman and his son appeared.
His father addressed the footman. ‘Take my sons things to my house in the city. He’ll be staying with us for a while.’
The footman quietly entered the tent with his son. When they emerged moments later, his son glared at Greg as he carted a box away. Greg recoiled and glanced at his father.
His father shrugged. ‘Ignore him. Kid’s just jealous. Say goodbye to your mother and sister.’
Greg nodded, and he smiled as his father walked away. He was going to be the best painter the festival ever saw. He’d take after his father and make him proud.
Thanks for reading!
In my mind there’s more to this story, so I’ll add it to my pile of things to expand on later. My artist has a long journey ahead of him, and through him I could experience the art I don’t find time for myself!
Each week I encourage other writers to write a short story around the weekly prompt. The prompts for the rest of this month are:
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See you next week!