Conversation: Julian Howard and Slade Montague
Nov. 18th, 2006 @ 04:02 pm
Thursday, February 20th
It's 10:15 in the morning, and I'm running late. I've already been up painting for hours, trying to finish off August's portrait. Penelope was not pleased I hadn't finished it. I am not sure she understands how long it takes to create a half way decent work of art. Maybe if I hadn't been so distracted by trying to scrub paint and semen off my floor I would have had more time to paint. But I could never tell her that, so I made my excuses and told her it would be ready soon.
I spent far too long trying to get clean after painting. I had to go all the way home then come back after I finished my work, since I've not got anywhere to wash in the studio other than my paint-streaked sink, which is currently only producing cold water. I seemed destined to be without warmth in one way or another all winter long.
I huff down the street, my breath blowing out in big clouds of steam. I hate being late, normally I'm so punctual.
I push my way into Slade Montague's shop; a little bell jingles.
"Hello?" I call to the empty room.
As eclectictastes7: Ah! I'm so sorry it has been so long. School &tc. are trying to eviscerate me of any sort of free time.
Damn, Sorry. I don't get on LJ nearly enough anymore
"Hello?" echoes a distant, somewhat muffled voice.
I set down my graphite and push myself slowly away from the desk. Lightly my fingertips trace over the surface of my desk, chair, doorframe, and counter as I round the corner. A smile lights across my lips as I take in the ruffled figure of Julian Howard. His angelic hair is tossed slightly around his shoulders. The bitter February wind has bitten his cheeks a rosy hue.
"Hello" I reply smoothly, crossing my arms.
"So sorry I'm late," I say. "I was painting. I'm sure you know how that is."
He's smiling at me. I must look a fright, all wind-blown and panting. He, on the other hand, looks quite composed, though his fingers are smudged by charcoal or graphite - I can't tell which from across the room. When I use the stuff I always get it on my face; he's managed to avoid that pitfall.
"Yes, yes I know how that is" I smile politely.
I step into the back room and gesture toward the staircase winding up to my apartments.
"Are you ready?" I ask, picking up my sketchbook and graphite shards.
"Of course," I say. "Always." I love modeling,for who cannot help but love the admiring eyes of another as they glance across your body, whether they are using you or as inspiration or just simply looking.
I cross the room and smile; I can feel his eyes already. I know how to walk to catch the seasoned eye. "After you," I say when I am maybe a hair too close to him. Then I almost laugh at myself. It's too cold to walk the streets; I've not practiced my seduction in weeks, and it seems to be leaking out around the edges.
"Alright" I nod and smile simply, amused.
I trail my way up the black iron staircase that spirals to the top floor. The landing is slightly colder, but opening the door to my private room unleashes a small heatwave. The room is as wide and long as the shop underneath, with a polished black floor, and sparse furniture. A few aged, overstuffed chairs in weathered forest green sit adjacent to a large creme coloured couch. My futon bed, piled high with black and grey blankets, takes up the far corner, under the right front windows. Second hand mahogany tables, stools, and lamp stands sit in random intervals, looking dusty and archaic. Still, Home is home
I step inside and remove my outer jacket and scarf. Underneath I've chosen a clean white cotton shirt, with long, delightfully bohemian sleeves, and a pair of comfortable sienna pants.
"I usually keep a heater running in here, lest my paints coagulate in their tubes." I say, warming my hands by the heater. "Besides," I begin, biting back a smile, "The frigid cold would demean your features
I turn away to organize my materials, and hide my grin
. Moving to the easel, I take down the canvas and replace it with a stack of bound, thick paper.
"Please, make yourself comfortable, anywhere you like."
"Very good," I say. I put down my coat and jacket on a table and choose a rather large, lumpy, and oddly comfortable chair by the heater. I loosen my tie a little and smile at him, though he's concentrating on his easel.
"How would you like me?" I ask, assuming he'll know what I mean. I do hope he doesn't say nude, as I'm still frozen to the bone and really don't want to be undressed yet, even in the warm room.
"Comfortable" I murmur gently.
My eyes barely flick up from the paper as I feel myself already spiraling headlong into the throws of inspiration. My toes curl unconsciously around the rungs of the stool I sit on, as unconsciously as my teeth sink into my lower lip. I look up every few seconds to recapture the image of this proud, beautiful creature. My hand moves in quick, rough strokes. The faded, light lines of graphite cross, slope, and intersect in a basic sketch. Every few minutes I tear the paper away and toss it to the floor, starting a fervent new sketch. I feel my brow furrow and eyes narrow as I map the highlights and shadows of my Adonis.
I sit for a long while, just watching him sketch. I feel rather detached watching him; is that how I look when I sketch, so concentrated and far-off? My eyes drift like his papers down to the floor; he's very good. A much faster sketcher than me, to be sure, and good at what he does. My sketches are far too exact to be run off like that; I blame the family history of obsessively reviewing accounts. I have no head for numbers, but I am exacting.
I shift about, and he doesn't seem to mind. Finally warm, I strip down to my shirt-sleeves and take off my cuff links, dropping them in the pocket of my jacket. I stretch my arms. Much better. If I weren't so attached to my suits, I'd wear shirts like his, all loose and comfortable-looking, but then I'd get even more paint and charcoal on my cuffs than I already do.
I suddenly wish I had my sketchbook. I'm not used to watching someone else create.
I stretch and yawn; the warmth is making me drowsy, it's very nice.
Even his breathing is beautiful.
I wonder if my mystification is evident in my eyes. Switching materials, I remember mouth has long run dry, and I failed to forsee it. That is my fault, but the thunder coursing through my veins is not. Oxygen expanding and relaxing his rib cage has muted my thoughts and captured my attention. My numb left wrist flickers over the page deftly, I can barefly feel it move. The raw beating of my heart is sketching the charcoal lines on the paper.
I watch his eyes as they fall on my body. I may be wrong (I have been before), but I think I recognize that gaze. It can be a brief glance on the street, an eye caught by the motion of hair or the glint of skin, or a long look of appraisal, or of desire, or even love. It is a taking in of the finer points of the human flesh, a level higher than the look you give any everyday form. I remember once thinking that the Greeks must have had it in their eyes at all times, so great was their love of beauty.
I shift and sigh. The only question is if I want him to look at me that way. It had been known to lead to trouble. From this new position I can see out the window.
"It's snowing," I say, breaking the silence of creation. I pause and watch the flakes come down. It's only a flurry, but it looks very nice. "How very odd to be an Adonis in the depths of winter."
"Odd?" I murmur, pausing to look up from my drawing.
A gentle, solemn smile wipes across my lips. I look over to the window, watching the flurries spiral in mid air. I've been compared to those. I push my hair behind one ear, conscious of the swipe of charcoal I drag across my cheekbone. Conscious, but uncaring. I turn back to my model and smile, though he has changed position, the light on his profile is remarkable.
"I don't find it so odd," I remark, drawing a few new lines "Perhaps Adonis was first born of snow and ice"
"Oh no," I say. "From what I've read, Adonis was born of the desert. He sprang from an incestuous girl who got turned into a myrrh tree. And he's meant for the fertile months, for spring and summer."
I throw my head back and look up at the ceiling, which is very high and doesn't appear to have been painted in a good while. I start finding the shapes of continents and bunny rabbits in the chipped layers of paint as I muse out loud. "I suppose I'm an odd sort of Adonis, though. I don't think I would have liked Aphrodite that much. And I would never get myself gored by a boar. I can't stand the idea of the hunt."
I smile with unfocused eyes and a stilled hand.
"That's not what I meant"
Falling silent I ride the race of images through my tunneled mind. Beautiful young men carved of marble, swimming in the Aegean, tempting nymphs of Poseidon. The gods with their luminant skin and unchallengable power. The pride of Arachnia and the daring of Tantalous. My eyes alight and sharpen on the thouroughly bored looking face of my model. A stab of cynicism runs through me like an icy current, but I warm immediately to the fire in his eyes. I smile to myself, and put forth, in jest, a false challenge.
"Shall I depict you as someone else then? Narcissus perhaps?"
"Oh, for the love of every heathen god, no!" I exclaim. I roll to a sitting position from where I had been, with my legs and head flung over the arms of the chair.
I cock my head and look at him; he's smiling. He's been riling me up. "And you?" I ask. "Who in the all the stories would you choose to be?"
"The twins" I reply, smiling.
I set my charcoal down and pick up a stick of white conte. Gently I brush the edge into the powdery shading around the eyes. I blend the colours with the tip of my finger, smoothing the shadows against the highlights.
"Apollo, for his cast of muses, his endless fairness, his radiant intellect, his sway and aptitude for beauty. I am not attracted to his power, raging temper, or extremist followers."
I begin a new page for his new posture, pausing to admire his misleadingly boyish exterior.
"Artemis.." I pause, sighing "She is my favourite. Her mind and conviction sharp and painless as her arrows. Her love of the earth and inhabitants, pure and natural. Her beauty unquestionable, unattainable, and yet.. irrelevant. Yet to me she remains as perplexing and fascinating as the moon itself."
I pause again, biting my lip. I turn toward Julian but do not really see him, so much as a hazy impression of him against the backdrop of my musings. I breathe slowly and choose my words carefully.
"I am awed and humbled by the idea of someone with immaculate beauty and endless love choosing a life of solitude."
I pull slowly back inside myself, wonder fading from my expression and mind, and ground myself in the earthly practice of sketching.
"I have always liked Artemis," I say to his bent head. "Though I am more attached to Athena." I give an exaggerated sigh. "If only we could resist lovers as well as the Greek goddesses, mm? Think of how simple life could be."
"But how misspent" I reply, pushing a lock of hair back behind my ear.
"The gods have eternity to do as they please and to draw up whichever ideological schemes and practices they see fit. We have short, fleeting lives."
I drink in the sight of him. Eros, Adonis, Apollo, Perseus,... who is this Julian anyway? I smudge a few lines of charcoal and shape the shadows around his jawline.
"The gods envy us, our frailty is beautiful, our moments count because they are our last. We are beauty without purpose," I sit back a bit and smile "And that, to me, is fulfilling."
That is a beautiful icon.
Thanks! It's of a John Singer Sargent watercolor... one of my favorites. The same piece is the header in my journal, check it out if you want to see a bigger version.
"Well said," I respond. That was an impressive statement, really. He's thought this out.
"Beauty for its own sake... It could be the story of my life. And I am not complaining." I smile. "I do like to think all beautiful things have purpose, though. They give us joy to look on, and isn't that enough? That has always been my argument for art. I suppose it could also be my argument for existence."
I've contributed little else but beauty to this world. But I have made a number of people happy in the process, so that must be considered good.
I have been staring into the air with my musings, but I refocus and look at him where he sits, half-hidden by his easel. He's stopped his sketching, and is looking straight at me. It's slightly disconcerting; he has a very dramatic gaze. I return the look, though I let a little smile seep in before looking away to the window to watch the snow fall.
alice: could he be ANY MORE of an ambiguous tease?
"Do art or existence need arguments?" I ask slyly.
I set aside my materials and scoot my stool back from the easel. Cocking my head first to one side and then to the other, I scan the drawings, both on the floor and on the easel.Not bad, not the best. At least a ground has been laid.
"I'm famished, and in dire need of a cup of tea. Would you care for one?" I ask, approaching my small stove.
as eclectictastes7: Maybe...?
"Tea would be lovely," I say. I stand and walk towards the piles of drawings around his easel, but stop midway across the floor to respond to his earlier comment.
"When it comes to arguing about art and existence, it all depends on who you speak to. At university I met people who were willing to argue life itself away if it meant a good debate; and I've had to argue for art more than I'd like to. But with me... no, you do not have to argue for existence or for art. I love both a good deal, so much that they are sometimes indistinguishable." I motion at the sketches of me lying scattered on the floor. "May I?"
Aah, well at least we agree on that.
"Please do" I reply, gesturing toward them.
I turn back to the water and steep a ball of tea leaves into the steaming water. I let it sit for a while, and busy myself pulling out mugs and napkins. Watching him kneel and leaf through the drawings is a bit unnerving.
It wouldn't be so unsettling if he were not an artist,... but then, the daring and intrigue in that aspect may well be my favourite part
I pour the tea into two mugs and set the kettle on the back burner. Walking slowly forward, I offer a mug to my crouched counterpart.
"Please, help yourself to sugar and milk. This may be a bit informal, but I prefer it that way."
I sink into the soft white cushions of the couch and sip my tea slowly. Closing my eyes I smile as the familiar warmth fills me.
"Are they to your liking?" I ask, without opening my eyes.
I get up carefully, trying to keep the tea from sloshing all over his work. I pour some sugar in the steaming mug and go sit back down.
"They're very nice," I say. "You have a very different style from me, and I appreciate how well you execute it. Where did you train?"
"Train?" I ask, raising an eyebrow.
The question actually catches me off guard. I had not taken him for a student of art. Would he think me one, if he had not been one himself?
"I didn't." I reply simply.
I curl my legs, crossing my ankles beneath myself. I take another long draught of the hot, soothing tea and look up, smiling.
"I've drawn as long as I can remember, and thank you. I spent many years emulating my favourite artists, and now I am trying to combine their genius with my own ingenuity to develop a style entirely my own."
I nod. That explains his rather unorthodox approach. No over-drilled art student would have let me laze like that, or spoken philosophically while drawing, or let his sketches fall to the floor.
"You're very welcome," I say. "It's refreshing to see other artists who do not approach their work with academic rigidity."
Seeing his casual pose, I too curl up in my chair, tucking my legs beside me. I sip at the tea; it's very nice, but then it would be, since he's formed a whole shop around hot beverages.
I finish my tea and set it to the side, curling my palms round my ankles. I flick my head, tossing my smooth hair to one side, and smile warmly at Julian.
"How do you approach your art, Mr. Howard?"
Hopefully not as formally as you approach modeling
"Oh, that is hard," I say. "I suppose that... I don't. It just comes. I was taught to be neat in my art, but I never follow the rules. I'm always covered in paint when I work." Some days more than others,
I add silently. I hide my face behind the teacup, afraid I've blushed, and take a long sip of the tea.
"I respect certain traditions, but I do like to think I have my own style."
I am soSOSORRY. I have been having severe technical difficulties. In about a week I get high speed wireless, so.... hopefully this will NEVERHAPPENAGAIN. I missed this, oh.. and I drew Julian. [;
"How much we have in common, and how unplanned our similarities are." I smile, sipping my tea.
"One would think we had rehearsed a dance. I could say my favourite colour is crimson, but then, you had it in your hair the first day we met." I muse, grinning a bit wider.
I finish the rest of my cup and set it gently in the sink, before turning back round to my model.
"Well, Mr.Howard, are you ready to begin the sketches of form and shape? I'll need to memorize your anatomy to appropriately capture you on canvas."
It's cool! I'm glad you're back. And I'd love to see the drawing!
I finish my tea as well and stand up. "I think so, yes. I've finally warmed up, so I can stand to take off my things." I walk over and set my teacup in the sink beside his. He is standing very close to me now; I look up at him and smile. "We do have much in common, Mr. Montague," I say. "For example, it has been a long time since I met another man with gray eyes." He bats his eyelids once. His eyes, I note, seem darker than mine; but that might be an effect of the darkness around his eyes and his pale skin.
I turn away and go back to my chair, where I begin unbuttoning my shirt, my back turned to him. "Where would you like me now? Still seated?"
Haha I'll upload it soon, I get wireless internet on Friday, so.. <33 ps. Slade's eyes are actually a really pale silver, so we'll suppose the darkness can be accounted for with dim lighting and shadow?
"Actually, I'd prefer you standing" I murmur, walking over to my easel.
I tear off the last sketch and lay it atop the pile of discarded drawings. I nod toward the soft yellow light streaming in through the smoky glass, cut by the shades in asymmetrical shadows.
"If that's alright with you." I grin, picking up my charcoal.
I turn my head lightly to one side and begin a few simple, form and figure strokes, to get my hand and wrist back into the motions of sketching.
Whoooops. Ah, well. Yes, let us assume so.
I look over my shoulder at him and smile, knowing it is a flirtatious look, one that a few men before him have appreciated. He blinks and I think he flushes a little; it seems that smile has caught his attention, too. "That will be just fine," I say before I kneel to untie my shoes.
Soon enough I'm in the nude. I stretch, feeling the air on my skin. I've always rather liked posing like this. I turn and grin happily at him. Flirtation is only for before the trousers come off.
"Thank you kindly" I murmur.
I watch with a trained eye as he slowly slithers out of his clothes and discards them on the chair. He appears more comfortable in the nude
I drink in the sight of him, and smile inwardly at the way the sunlight highlights the soft hairs dusting his pelvis. His skin seems to ripple with every breath and eventually his goosepimples fade and his body adjusts to the temperature. I put down my charcoal and take a thick stick of graphite. Slowly and carefully I begin to block in the contours and shades of his posture.
sorry it took so long.
I watch him draw for a long time, wondering what he's thinking about. Is he like me - does the act of creation make bothersome thoughts flee? It always focuses, centers me. But this - this is just relaxing. I don't have to consider anything except keeping my body still; I'd forgotten how nice modeling is. There are any number of works featuring my form scattered across Rome, but none here. I've been seeking models, not being sought, for a long while now.
I'd speak, but I cannot think of anything worth saying, so I let him concentrate, and content myself with watching the way his strange hair falls and sways as he works. I let my eyes drift over his living space, too. If it weren't for Penelope's insistence on giving me a flat, I'd be living in my studio; I wonder if I'd buy some furniture, then. I've not really felt the need.
"Do you look forward to sketching me Mr Hallward?"
I break the silence with a sly grin and a flashing look at his eyes. I turn for a moment and search for a spare stick of black conte. Finding one, I grip it and look again at him, my hand immediately resuming it's work.
"You seem at ease modeling, but I suspect you're more so behind the canvas."
I smile at him. "Yes," I say. "I rather do, and I rather am. I like modeling, but I love creating." I like being admired, but I love admiring.
I think I blush a little when I think of him modeling for me, and imagine him nude just as I am now. Ah, well, the time I will come.
"And do call me Julian. I think the time for formalities has passed," I add, giving my naked body a short but pointed look.
"I do believe you are right, Julian" I reply in earnest.
I drink in the sight of him. The pure aesthetic genius is enough to knock me off my feet and back into my emulatory notebooks. For now, I satisfy myself by memorizing the way the shadows and highlights accent your figure as you move and breathe.
"Keep very still" I murmur, more for my own gratification than your aquiescence.
"I look forward to being your subject, your model,..." here I pause,
I grin a bit but keep my eyes on the canvas. Challenge
I laugh, but do not throw back my head like I wish; I really should try to keep still, even if he hasn't commanded it. I hate fidgety models.
"I'm sure you're no one's puppet, Slade
," I say, slowing down at the end to try out the feel of his intriguing name on my lips. "Though I can be a very good puppetmaster if need be."
I've strung up many a man, and a few women, with my smiles and charms. They may want to take me and control me, but the power is mine during those infrequent nights on the street.
"I will be a marionette" I reply slyly, edging and darkening the lines around his eyes.
"Only for a worthy puppeteer" I purr.
I set down the conte and step back from the drawing, taking in the sight.
"Yes." I grin, almost satisfied.
"Yes." I repeat looking up at you with all the wonderment of an artist.
"I cannot wait
to paint you."
I smile at him. I recognize that look, that satisfied look of fulfilled creativity. "I'm glad," I say. "I can't wait to see it... I'm rather narcissistic that way. Oh, I love making art, but I just love being art, too."
Now that's he done I stretch like a cat then throw myself down into his chair. "Your furniture is more comfortable than mine," I comment.
"So, when shall I have you as my model?"
You may have me as more than a model... any time you please.......
"At your earliest convenience." I smile, sitting on the nearest couch corner.
"Julian," I begin, fixing my eyes on yours.
"How long am I to have the pleasure of your company today? You are most welcome, to stay as long as you wish."
I touch my fingertips first together, and then to my lips, making a small cathedral of wrist and knuckle, waiting.What will you make of this day? Carpe diem.
I pull my watch out of my coat pocket and tap at it; I'm never too sure if I've remembered to wind it or not. It still seems to be running, though, so I open it to see that the day has already some around into the early afternoon. I sigh and shut it again.
"Unfortunately, Slade," I say, "No matter how much I would prefer to stay here and model for you into the wee hours, I need to remember that I have an unfinished commission waiting for me back in the studio."
Penelope wants the thing done by this weekend, so she can show it to ickle July after the premier of Alleyn's - I refuse to think of it as July's
I rub at my eyes and sit up, but I don't want to look up at him, so I stare down at my bare feet. My toes are curling a bit against the cold of the floorboards. He'll surely be disappointed, and I am, too. I sigh again and run my hands through my hair. Penelope and her people do manage to complicate everything.
I can't help but drink in the sight of him. His skin seems to be composed of cinnamon and honey, the waves of his hair pour over his features and brush dangerously at his collar. The light hugs his angles in appreciation, accenting highlights and shadows. He's the most stunning model I've ever worked with
"You must name the day I can reciprocate this honour, else you shall not be allowed your clothes, and not be allowed to leave."
I grin and stand, slinging my weight to one hip. I cross my arms and smile.
Wow, ooooops. I thought I was done with this convo. Geez, it's been a while.
I laugh. "If it weren't so cold, Slade, I might have to test you on that." His eyebrows raise a little, and I smile. "Shall we say next Wednesday, then?" I pick up his sketchbook and a pencil and turn the pages without really looking until I find a blank sheet. "Here's where my studio is..." I say while I sketch out a little map. Then I stand. "Would ten or eleven be alright? I would like to be able to use at least some of the morning light."
I wondered to where you had gone! Almost done. I wonder if anyone else in the community is still alive.
"Ten oclock, next Wednesday." I repeat, taking the sketch from him.
I fold it once and place it on the easel. Gathering the drawings from the floor I arrange them in a pile on the table and clear away the remaining materials. By the time I turn back to you you're on your last button and about to slip into your shoes.
"Thank you so much for your time today, it was an honour to sketch you" and glancing at the pile of sketches I add, "and very productive. I look forward to our next session, Julian."
I savour the sound of your name in my mouth and cross my arms behind my back, simply admiring your beauty.
I give him my broadest smile, looking up from my shoes. I tie them then stand up.
"Until then." I reach out my hand, and he seems to recognize the gesture, because he offers me his. I kiss it lightly, then look up with one last smile for him. He's blushing a little, and his pale hair makes it look far more striking than it would otherwise. Impressive.
I drop his hand. "I look forward to having you as inspiration, Slade." I slip on my coat and begin putting on my gloves.
I feel the heat in my blood rise as he presses his perfect lips to my flesh. I blush noticably, but feel no shame in this. As he lets go of my hand I brush a lock of hair out of my eyes and smile.
"You flatter me. I am under pressure now. Pressure to please."
I lead the way out of the studio and down the staircase to the back of the shop.
I flex my fingers inside my tight leather gloves, watching the way the gray skin reflects the light. They were a Christmas gift from Penelope, and I've yet to really wear in.
I look up at him and smile again. "There's no pressure," I say. "I'm sure you'll do well." He opens the door for me. "Until Wednesday," I say with a small bow, and then I'm out on the cold street.
I give my scarf one last tug to tighten it against the rising wind; I've still not gotten used to this weather. When I look back as I round the corner he is still at the door, letting the cold air blow in although he is only in his shirtsleeves. I smile to myself and start walking faster; I must get back to the studio before I loose all my light. That damn painting still isn't done.