A New Workshop

He dipped his paintbrush into a pot, pulling it out again with a quick, broad, confident motion. Amateur artists are careful with all of their tiny brush strokes, but the greatest artists work quickly and confidently. Before any paint had time to drip off, he thrust the paintbrush at the canvas above him, leaving a streak of soft purple cutting through the middle of the canvas.

The painter took a moment to admire the color. It only took a few short moments for the color to begin to change, from a soft purple to a warm pink and then a hot orange red. He smiled as he saw the change.

He continued his work. He kept one side of the canvas close to pure white, adding paint that would change to yellow and then enrich itself to a striking navy. The other side he painted a color that started like a robin's egg and gradually darkened to be a speckled black.

His canvas was enormous, and he had to walk or run to get fully from one side to the other. Sometimes he dragged a particularly long paint stroke with him as he walked. Sometimes it took hours to reposition all of his pots of paint. But it was all a joy to him. The long walk across the canvas felt more like a dance. Throwing the colors across the canvas felt like giving a gift. The way his arm raised up to complete the stroke felt like waving hello to a friend.

He paid special attention to the speckled black that started on one edge of the canvas but, as the colors changed, eventually formed a great streak across the whole center. He loved making patterns in the little dots that speckled the blackness. He had made the same patterns in all of his previous paintings too - patterns of brilliant white dots that rotated and ebbed and flowed and did their own kind of dance across the canvas as the colors slowly changed.

He thought back to the time, long ago, when he had first started to paint. As a child, he had made awkward attempts like all children do. His parents had encouraged him even though he had never felt like he had much special talent. He got better paints and bigger canvases and eventually he had found a niche painting portraits. He loved trying to capture the essence of a person with just a few strokes of paint. He loved that he could take a passing moment and make it live forever in his paint.

He felt like he had just recently graduated to this new workshop, though really he had been here for many years. He loved his workshop: loved its great size, loved the endless supply of canvases that his boss gave him, and loved the special paints only available here that changed colors as if by magic. His paintings were seen by millions and he felt like he could participate in something wonderful every day.

His boss walked in just as he was finishing the last strokes. The painter took a few steps back, stood next to his boss, and together they looked at the canvas as the colors slowly changed: some parts shimmered with brilliance, others invited with softness, and others paused for brief moments in colors they both felt like they may have never seen before. The boss smiled, and the painter felt like he had done well. He looked at his boss's smile and wondered how a man so old could look at a painting with all the amazement of a young child seeing art for the very first time.

"You've done well, again," the boss said. "I knew you would. I love everything about this painting." He paused, still smiling like a child.

The painter was glad to be done with another day's work. "Remind me," he said, "where is it that you take all my paintings? You told me once that you take these paintings and show them to millions of people. Where is it that you take them?"

His boss looked at him, as if thinking how to respond. "Yes," he said. I take all of your paintings to the same place, and I show them off so millions of people can see."

"Is it a place I've ever been?" the painter asked.

"You've never been there. They speak a language you've never heard, though they look the same as you and me."

"What is that place called?"

The boss paused again, wondering why the painter was suddenly so curious. "It has many names. The people who live there call it Earth."

The painter nodded. "Earth. That sounds like a sensible name. It sounds like a good, sensible place." He paused, thinking some more. "And they like my paintings there?"

"Yes," the boss answered without hesitation. "They are entranced by them. They fall in love while looking at them. They write poems about them. They look forward to each new one, knowing that it will look like the last ones and it will also be indescribably unique. They love the way the colors change and darken. They love the richness of the hues and the dazzling brilliance of the bright parts and the deep mystery of the speckled blackness. They even make smaller copies of your paintings, though they don't have your special paint that changes over time."

The painter was pleased to know all this. "I suppose if they like my kind of painting, they must have a name for it. What do they call the kind of painting I do? And where do you put my paintings so that so many people can see them?"

The boss seemed glad to answer. "I put your paintings high above Earth, hanging from the sky, so the whole world is enveloped for a moment every day by your reds and purples and oranges and blues and the bright pure white and the patterned speckled blackness."

"And what do they call my paintings?" the painter asked.

The boss smiled again. "They call them sunsets."


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