Art and Nature

He was painting the sky. Not painting images of sun and clouds on canvas—no, slapping paint across the sky itself. It was a painting en plein air on plain air.

There was a theory behind it, of course, a theory so big it didn’t matter anymore, a map the size of the territory.

Go tell it to the birds, he would say. But the birds didn’t care. They were flying nonchalantly through the sky, and he would paint them, too, the redbirds blue and the bluebirds red.

Of course, the paint would drip everywhere. But didn’t it always? That’s what the rag was for, and the little blade. As someone said: If art was not difficult, it would not be art.

The critics hadn’t found the right word for it yet. Not exactly realism, and not quite surrealism—not even subrealism. But he couldn’t wait for the critics to make up their minds. He just kept painting, while the sun was out.

At the end of the day, his work was done. He put away his paints, and the sun put itself away, and the clouds likewise. It was so dark he couldn’t see the grass around his feet, no longer green but a ground of many colors, still wet, like some kaleidoscope of dew.

Ah, what would he paint tomorrow? A seascape? He thought of the water, wave after wave, and his small brush dabbling in the shallows, stroking out into the deep.

Copyright © 2018 Elton Glaser. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Winter 2018.