When Sweetheart of the Rodeo posted about artwork by Henry Clive, I just knew I had to do a story on one of his paintings. They're exactly the kind of artwork I love, gorgeously colourful and romantic; they seem to have a sense that the artist was completely caught up in the world he was imagining, which I think is important in any kind of art.
This is what I wish I looked like when I'm writing, although the expression on her face is probably pretty accurate :p
"Sultana" 1925, the picture the story is based on.
I wrote this in about 15 minutes in a rather manic mood, so it's a bit different to my normal style. This was one of those stories where the character takes control of your fingers and won't let go until you've finished. I don't know why this specific character developed; I suppose it was just an amusing contrast to the elegant serenity of the picture ;p
I've always liked art. Silly, I know, for a girl in my position. Art's not really something I should be interested in; it's for ladies of more money and taste than me. But such beauty, such colours, elegance, romance; it makes my life better. I visit the museums on a Sunday afternoon (when I can afford it) and just sit and watch the paintings. It's proper calming, you should try it.
I'd heard of Henry Clive, of course - who hasn't, these days? Not in the big fancy museums, but on the front of practically every magazine cover you see. Don't see why that makes him any less of an artist, though, whatever people say. He picked me out in the street, you know. Said he needed someone with long blonde hair, and was finding it difficult these days, when everyone's having their hair bobbed right, left and centre. I was thinking of it myself, but of course I'm glad I didn't now.
I got to his studio place, excited - I was going to disappear into a wonderful world of colour and romance and beauty, I was sure. He told me he wanted a nude - it didn't bother me, what with no husband or family to care. I don’t think it’s that scandalous, anyway, you see all them ladies in the museums with no clothes on. If it didn’t bother the great painters two hundred years ago, I don’t see why we should bother about it now. It’s only a painting anyway, no-one would know it was me.
But what do you know, it was quite boring! I was a bit disappointed - it wasn't at all glamorous. Hours sat in the same position, not a comfy one neither, with only a silk drapey thing covering me. I was bloody freezing. One arm was out stretched to the side, and he said he'd paint a dove there, perching on my finger. I was supposed to be an Eastern princess, or maybe a harem lady - I'd sort of tuned out, he kept banging on about the context so much. I was wearing some pretty sandals though, so I suppose I must have been rich; I thought they were all barefoot out there in the colonies.
My muscles were aching for days after each sitting, it was that hard work. Who'd have thought it, just sitting around being painted like a lady was so tiring? I'd always thought it was lazy way of making a living, personally. Give me a decent floor to scrub any day.
I saw the final picture, in the calendar, and it was gorgeous - all colours, and flowing drapes and such. He'd put a beautiful palace in the background through the window, and made it all mystical and magic. I certainly didn't look bored or uncomfortable. He'd made me a proper beauty.
He gave me one of the little sketches he'd made at first, but coloured it in and such until it looked like the actual thing. It's pinned on my wall now. Who'd have thought, me, a pin-up?
The calendar's proper successful, too. I didn't tell anyone I was in it - I don't know what they'd say. They don’t know about my liking for art neither. They’d probably laugh at me for being such a wet blanket over a bit of paint. I know people’d talk about the painting, some might say it’s shameful and undignified, and I might lose my situation. It’s probably best to keep it to myself.
Caroline stabbed a fork into the roast potatoes. It screeched across the plate underneath, and her mother flinched.
“Caroline, dear, please,” she said, under her breath.
There was silence for a few moments, until Caroline’s grandfather attempted to lighten the mood.
“So, Caroline, what are you planning to do with yourself now you’ve left school?” he asked, looking enquiringly across the table.
“I’m going to university to study physics,” she told him, with a quick glance at her mother. Her lips were pursed, but she said nothing.
“Physics? What’s a girl like you going to do in a physics lab full of men? It won’t get you a job, you know,” he said, grinning.
“Well, times are changing...” she replied, trying to ignore the irritation she always felt when speaking to her grandfather. She knew he didn’t really mean it, was only saying it to tease her, but still... She wasn’t six years old anymore. “I’m going to go to NASA, in America. They say they’ll be the next to get a man into space, the Russians managed it in ’61, and last year they sent a woman up. She wasn’t – didn’t really do any of the proper work though, she just won some kind of competition...I’m going to work on the moon rockets with them, actually help them build them.”
“Really?” he chuckled. “Mary, you don’t look happy.”
Caroline let out a short, derisive laugh. “That’s an understatement. She thinks I’ll go to NASA, get rejected, then stay in America and become a showgirl or something...”
Her mother blushed. “That’s not what I said, Caroline. You’ve just got to be realistic. I know you’re good at school, but a girl like you is never going to get near any spaceship. Leave it to the professionals, dear.”
Caroline tightened her lips, knowing that if she let her anger spill out it would not go well. Her mother refused to believe that her daughter would do anything remotely unusual with her life. She was so conservative, so backward... There’d even been a fight this morning when she’d told Caroline it was disrespectful to wear trousers to visit her grandfather. What was this, 1930?
“Caroline, dear, don’t look like that. You know I’m only thinking of your future...” said Mary, soothingly, although Caroline took it as more patronising than soothing.
She stood up and pushed her chair from the table, another screech emanating from the rub of its legs against the floor. “I’m going for a walk,” she told them, and strode out before they could call her back.