The Artist’s Studio

by susankda


You have to take the back stairway, the one in our mudroom to get up to the artist’s studio. There is no other way. He doesn’t want people passing through. He wants to work in peace. Sometimes I go there, while he is painting. I tiptoe on stocking feet up the staircase made of cherry wood.

I bring him coffee and the smell of it makes him turn to me with a smile. It is warm in my hands. He lays down his pallet and the long handled brush to take the cup from me. I stay with him for a minute or two, just long enough to absorb a little bit of his world but I don’t want to distract him from his work.

He smells of turpentine and oil paints and sometimes, wet watercolor paper. They are the smells of work for him. They are the oily stench of toil and struggle and frustration on some long afternoons and on others they are the fresh aromas of a masterpiece completed. For me, they are the pleasant smells of him, of home.

His clothes are splattered with burnt sienna and ultra marine blue, the colors he is most fond of. I sit on his knee to more closely observe his work and he wraps one paint-smudged arm around my waist and pulls me near. I lean against his chest, smelling his warm coffee breath and laugh because I know he has made me dirty on purpose. There is no keeping clean with an artist upstairs. He lets me have a sip of his coffee and I cringe at its bitterness, just the way he likes it.

I tell him the shadow is perfect in his painting and he grumbles his dissatisfaction. In the end he will love the work as I do. Months down the road he will look at it with fresh eyes, when it is out of his studio, in someone else’s home or on the gallery wall and he will say that it works. And I will smile and remember that afternoon when I sat on his knee up in his studio, offering a bit of inspiration. And coffee.