Paul Cezanne, “Harlequin” 1890 – Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington
Cicely held her paintbrush aloft as she stared at the model dressed in the harlequin costume. Hmm… What scene should I put him in? I can’t believe I’m having so much trouble with this assignment. It’s been at least twenty minutes and I haven’t thought of a thing. It must be his eyes… they’re so sad.
He glanced at her. She blushed, quickly averting her eyes to look at her blank canvas. Oh, he caught me staring! That is so embarrassing. What do I do now? She tapped her brush against the easel. Mr. Kanton cleared his throat. She stopped tapping and peeked around her canvas. The model was looking back at the floor again.
Whew. What am I so worried about anyway? Staring at the model is what we’re here for, right? To look at and paint the model. Well, maybe not stare at the model. And maybe do some actual painting. She chuckled softly.
“Something funny, Ms. James?” her teacher croaked, arching a furry eyebrow at her.
“Um, no, sorry, Mr. Kanton.” She blushed again, and stared back at her blank canvas.
Cicely parked her brush between her teeth, folding one arm under the other. I wonder if he does this a lot. How can he stand there for several hours in the same position? Do his legs cramp up? I wonder if he has another job? Maybe he’s a student too, like me. The model caught her again.
This time she did not look away. Instead, she stood a little taller and dipped her brush in paint. She glanced at the canvas and made a black stroke. Then she glanced back at the model. Harlequin winked. She made another stroke on her canvas, this one smearing sideways. She grabbed a paper towel and tried to swipe away the paint. Her face burned. Did he just wink at me?
She peeked around her canvas again.
“Ms. James?” said Mr. Kanton from behind her. She jerked, putting another glob on her canvas. Holy cow, I didn’t even hear him walk up behind me! “You seem to be having a problem today. Can I help with anything?”
“Um, no thanks. I’m just trying to figure out which scene to put him in.”
Mr. Kanton cleared his throat. “Well, from the look of this canvas, it appears you’re going to be sacrificing him on a cross.” He raised his eyebrow at her.
Quickly thinking while trying to save herself some humiliation she answered, “Yes, yes, I am.”
She glanced at the model. Harlequin smirked at her. She dropped her brush. Paint spattered across the floor.
“Ms. James. Why don’t you go ahead and pack up for today. You are causing quite a distraction to my other pupils. We will see you again on Thursday.”
Cicely dropped her brush in the mason jar half filled with water, and then wiped up the paint from the floor. Her face blazed as she packed up her paints. Wasn’t even any reason to unpack them today. What is wrong with me? She could feel all eyes on her, especially Harlequin’s. She dare not look at anyone as she walked to the locker wall where she stored her items. She turned the lock back and forth until it clicked open, thrust her apron and paints inside and clutched her bag. Turning abruptly around, she smacked into Harlequin. He slipped a card into her bag.
“Mr. Thomas! Get back into position!” roared Mr. Kanton.
Harlequin winked at her and turned away.