Story & Characters © 2018 Lewis Smith. All Rights Reserved.
Every Picture Tells A Story
It was about the time she took her clothes off that Aaron knew his bluff had been called.
Before that moment, the notion that a woman would agree to pose for him seemed like a reach at best, and impossibility at most. He’d been polite, he’d been cool, and he’d been professional. He’d asked Anna if she would be interesting in posing for him, and that he wanted to practice his life drawing.
She’d smiled and said “yes,” quite flattered about being asked, and she said she’d be at his dorm room, ready, at 8 o’clock. Despite recalling all this happening during lunch, on some level it hadn’t seemed to Aaron that it would actually happen.
But now it was. Here they were, in his dorm room, and here she was, undressing. And he was going to have to hold up his end.
Anna slid out of her clothes with feline ease—not making a show of it, but with the natural elegance of one who had no shame. Suddenly everything seemed a heady mix of the hyper-real and the unreal. Aaron gripped the edges of his lapboard, keeping his eyes on the blank sheet of paper clipped to it as she stepped out of her shorts and her underwear.
Aaron felt flushed, as though all the blood in his body were in his face.
Ye gods, he thought. This is so crazy.
Anna was gorgeous, and not just because of her alabaster skin, her dark red hair, and her curvaceous figure. No it was how she carried herself that was the most compelling. There was a casual elegance to her movements, a sense she was comfortable in her own skin, and moreover, she knew it. Perhaps that was the story behind the way her dark eyes seemed to twinkle and the gentle smile that always seemed to be pulling at the corner of her lips.
“Where do you want me?” She said. Her voice was quiet, but in the silence of the room, it jarred Aaron a little.
“Wh-wherever you’d like,” he said, smiling a little. Without intending to he’d been staring at her.
He smiled a sheepish half-smile and reached for his pencils and his eraser and watched as she padded towards his bed.
She put her hands on the mattress and looked over her shoulder at him, still smiling. Aaron found he wanted to smile too, but held one of his pencils in his mouth to stop himself.
“Is it OK if I lie down?”
“Perfect!” Aaron said, a little louder than was necessary. The heat that warmed his cheeks has receded a little, but he felt very aware of where he was, where she was, and the space they shared in this moment. As she climbed into his bed, he could almost have sword he could hear her skin against the surface of his comforter.
She rolled over to the far side of the bed, lying on her side and crossing her right leg over her left, her right arm following the contour of her body as her left hand cupped her chin. She frowned for a moment and brushed her hair from her face, brushing it behind her ear so her face was un-obscured.
“Can you see me okay?” She asked. Aaron had to admit she looked terribly at home on his bed.
“Is this good?”
He nodded and took his pencil in his hand. The tension and awkwardness of the moment was receding a little—he was still very aware that he was blushing and very anxious, but now there was another, weightier, issue to think about: The blank page in his lap.
If he were any good, when he was done; Anna would see some impression of herself, filtered through his eyes on that page.
If he wasn’t, then he was going to stand revealed as the biggest jackass that ever lived.
So, he thought, closing his eyes for a moment.
Aaron took a deep breath as he began roughing out the pose she was in. Nothing major at first—just a stick figure. He grimaced from time to time as he made sure his perspective was correct, erasing gently here and there when his lines didn’t go quite where they should.
From time to time he glanced up at her. She kept her eyes on him—sparkling, dark, and inscrutable. For a moment, Aaron wondered if he weren’t being studied at the same time and smiled a bit, as he changed pencils, forming shapes around the stick figure on the page. Bit by bit, a shape formed around the rough stick figure—arms, legs, a face—as though his image of her was coming into sharper focus in his mind’s eye.
He erased the stick figure underneath the body and then proceeded to fine-tune the proportions, to better capture her body language. He wanted to get across the way Anna seemed so cozy, how languid she seemed to be, lying there, as though it were her bed in her room, and this was the most natural thing in the world.
Aaron found his softer lead pencil and began picking out delicate features that he found interesting, making the detail finer. Her body seemed to rest in a very natural gentle “S” shape, from her hips to her shoulders, and he wanted that to get that fluid nature across.
From there, he rendered the pleasant curve of her stomach in soft, fine, lines, using bolder lines to indicate her right leg—it seemed “right” to Aaron that the further away from his eye, the “softer” she should feel, though he never made a conscious decision to draw her so.
Her legs tapered to elegant, petite feet, and Aaron sketched them in, taking care to round off all the angles and put in enough shadows to indicate depth, but not make them too dark or too harsh. The light was all wrong for heavy shadows, anyway—the fluorescent light above them lit the room well enough, but didn’t allow for much in the way of darkness.
Besides, given her snow-white skin, darkness just sort of slid off it anyway. Aaron went with it, turning the lapboard to work on her upper torso. He concentrated on her right arm—using light pencil strokes to convey the casual way it rested against her body, and how her hand cupped her hip. It was easy to make something so natural look very unnatural when the time came to sketch it out (a mistake he’d made many times before), and Aaron was determined not to make that mistake.
From there, he roughed in her shoulders and her left arm, leaving only the briefest cool grey shadows to indicate depth, then did the same with her breasts, paying close attention to how they rested against the bed, and how they swelled in a graceful slope. Aaron glanced down at the drawing and took it all in for a moment, noting how light and cool she looked, sleek and alabaster. The body language looked right, the pose “felt” like her.
So far, so good, he thought.
But there were still finer details to put in. He glanced up at her, his eyes focusing in on the position of her head, and her expression. Her dark eyes met his, still sparkling, and her smile was a little wider now. Aaron scratched his head with his pencil for a moment as he looked at her.
What was she thinking? Aaron wondered, returning to the drawing, using fine, elegant strokes of the pencil to render her eyes. He wanted to catch that twinkle in her eyes; that sense that she was thinking something but he would never know and she would never say.
In a sense, drawing her was a conversation without words, asking questions that there weren’t words for. How do you ask someone what’s behind that mysterious smile they only show when they’re with you? Can you ask someone what they see when they seem to be looking through you?
How do you look through something that’s totally opaque?
Words didn’t describe things like that, Aaron believed. Only images and impressions did that.
With a single deft pencil stroke, he rendered her nose. The face was the most important part of the drawing—certainly of this one. Aaron found himself focused on her expression to such an extent that the fact she was naked and that this was completely awkward . . . didn’t seem to matter anymore.
He drew in her smile with a few brief lines, making sure to detail in the way the corners of her mouth seemed to turn up into a smile. He went back with a darker pencil to emphasize her lips and her eyes. While the rest of her was light and elegant, the slightly darker details that co-existed in her eyes suggested more just behind that golden-green gaze.
He switched pencils again and sketched in her hair, suggesting more than detailing. It framed her face and her dark, dancing eyes, a shadowy halo that framed her face in a way that made the rest of her even brighter somehow.
He looked at the drawing for a moment as he reached for his eraser. Being careful to only remove a stray line here and there, he wanted a chance to clean up his work before he finished the picture. As he brushed off the eraser shavings with the brush on his desk, he felt a nervous tug inside him.
It looked good. One of his best.
If I don’t mess it up here in the home stretch, he thought, reaching for the darkest lead in his pencil set.
He began sketching in darker shadows behind her, creating contrast with the silvery white of her form. One the heaviest shadows had been put in, he used a slightly lighter pencil to shade in the area surrounding her. Somewhere in Aaron’s mind he thought of the stars in the sky, how they shimmered against a dark sky, and somehow, that felt like the right way to go with the picture.
When he was done, she appeared to be relaxing on a bed of midnight black, standing out like a diamond on a black velvet pillow.
It looked great.
She looks great, he thought, looking at the picture.
And I suppose I did OK by her.
Aaron set the lapboard on the desk, sighing as he stretched himself out of the hunched-over posture he’d been drawing in. He glanced at the clock on his nightstand.
Ten O’clock? He thought. I didn’t think it had been that long . . .Dear God, she’s been here for two hours, buck naked, and . . .
Aaron took another look at her. The time wasn’t the only thing that had gotten away from him. Anna had drifted off, and if she was bothered that she’d drifted off in some strange man’s bed, it certainly didn’t show.
He smiled. She looked so tranquil he frankly hated to wake her. More than that, she’d shifted her body into something less posed and more relaxed. It was different to the way she’d been in the picture, but . . . very interesting.
Maybe I should try sketching her again . . .?
He chuckled under his breath and shook his head, walking back to his desk, unclipping her drawing from his lapboard and turning back toward the bed. He didn't want to wake her, but he wanted to know what she thought of the picture.