• Published 2nd May 2016
  • 1,755 Views, 79 Comments

The Last Impressionist - CrackedInkWell



On the way home one night, Fancy Pants discovers a painting of extraordinary quality being thrown away in the trash in the poorer part of Canterlot. Curious, Fancy discovers a depressed artist who's down on his luck named Acrylic Brush.

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Chapter 4: A Self-Portrait

It’s been hours later that Acrylic Brush has been cleaned, fed, and has been measured for his hoofcolt uniform. So far, he has been acquainted with the staff that was conducted by Gustave, given him what was to be expected of him and the house rules that he has to follow.

Dinner has already been over, and in my study, I’ve already prepared a test for the stallion. In front of the open window is a canvas, a little table that upheld acrylic paints of a wide range of colors, a paintbrush, a pencil and a cup of water. My butler was thoughtful to place newspapers over this work area in case any of the paint would drip on the wooden floor.

It is now seven-fifteen when there was a knock on the door before Gustav stepped out, “Sir, Mr. Brush is here as you requested.”

“Let him come in,” I got out of my chair. Going around the desk, the artist I wanted to see stepped right in. Even without the uniform, I daresay that he looked tremendously better after a bath, shave and a mane cut, “Good evening Mr. Brush.”

He nodded, “Good evening Mr. Pants.”

I snorted, “Now, now, you’re not on duty. Fancy would do just nicely. I daresay you look tremendously better than when I found you.”

Acrylic looked past me and over to the blank canvas that stood on a tripod. “What’s this?”

“Ah, right to the point. I like that,” trotting over I bid him follow. “Since I was very impressed with the sun over the sea painting, I was hoping to see first hoof of what you’re capable of doing.”

Looking over, I saw his expression grew to worry, “Uh… y-you mean you want me to paint? Right now?”

“Well, that’s one reason why I asked you up here, and the other is I wanted to get to know you.”

The fellow walked up to the table where he observed the varieties of color jars before him “Are you sure?”

“I’m curious to tell you the truth,” I turned to my desk to the flask of brandy was. “May I offer you a drink?” He shook his head, but I poured myself a glass. “As I’ve said, you’ll still have the job and the lodgings, even if your painting turns into a disaster. But while you’re painting away, I want to have a friendly chat to get to know who you are.”

He looked at the paints before looking back up to me, “And… all of these are acrylic paints, right?”

“Just as you’ve asked, they have the finest quality that I could find. I will stay true to my word that you can paint whatever you want with them.” I returned to my cushioned seat, “Begin whenever you’re ready.”

Acrylic looked around the room, deep in thought. I could see, like a general that his mind was carefully planning out and considering what options he had within the room. He looked out the window but shook his head, and then he scanned the study from the books, the busts of historical figures, and the fireplace until he looked at me.

“Fancy Pants,” he asked, “would you mind if I did your portrait?”

I raised an eyebrow, “Have you done portraits before?”

He nodded, “I have… although I don’t think they’re any good. But… maybe this time I could…” the fellow looked at me, went left and right to view me at several angles. Looking, studying me, “It might work. Mr. Pants, would you allow me to paint you?”

Chuckling, I took a sip from my brandy, “Why sir, I’m flattered. I would love to pose for you. Would you like me sitting here or standing up?”

“I don’t think you’ll have to stand. I could paint to your withers up.” Acrylic tilted his head, “I could use the color of the wooden walls behind you as a backdrop. Fancy, if you could move to the side- no! Too far, move a little towards me… a little more… a little more. There. Just keep your face forward and look at me…” When I did this, he looked at me for a moment before nodding. “Yes… Yes, this can work.”

Immediately, he began his work. Adjusting the tripod until I could only see the backside of the canvas, Acrylic picked up the pencil, studied me once more before he started to sketch me down. From what I can hear, there’s an inconvenient rhythm as his pencil drew out the outline of me. This went on for about two minutes before he placed his pencil down.

Then he selected several jars from the table: smoky gray; eggshell white, titanium white, dark violet, royal blue, light blue, charcoal black, Dijon mustard, Alizarin brown and deep crimson. He first unscrewed the gray, dark violet, black and brown and immediately began to paint.

“How old are you sir?” I asked.

“Me? I’m thirty-one. My birthday won't happen until February. What about you?”

“Thirty-seven, although I think that the mustache helps me look a little older than that, wouldn’t you say?”

“Really? You’re actually about five years older than me?” he leaned over from the canvas, “No offense, I thought that you were somewhere in your late forties or so.”

I chuckled, “Yes, I often to do get the impression from other ponies. Perhaps it’s the stress of the job that makes me older than I really appear.”

“I have the opposite problem,” he said, “I remember others telling me that they thought I was in my twenties. I don’t know what it is through that makes ponies think like that.”

“Perhaps you have a bit of a coltish face that gives you that youthful appearance. I’m a bit jealous at that.” He hid back behind the canvas, moving onto another color. When he didn’t respond, I decided to change the subject, “Why do you favor painting in acrylics?”

“To be honest, I hate painting in oils,” Mr. Brush popped his head to the side, “I tried it several years ago to give it to my two sisters for Hearth's Warming. The moment I started painting with them, I immediately despised the stuff.”

I laughed, “How come? Oils are popular in the art world.”

“For two reasons, they have a weird smell that lingers on for weeks, and they take forever to dry. Why I started painting those two pictures as soon as winter hit, but by the time Hearth's Warming came around, they were still wet even when I thought they were dry!”

“Oh dear, I hope those paintings weren’t altered in any way.”

“I don’t think they were. However, I haven’t really seen either of those since that day, so Celestia knows what became of them now.”

“Where are you from, if you mind of me asking?”

“Originally? I’m from a town that chances are, you might never hear of. It’s on the shores of the South Luna Ocean called Lightning Falls. The place has an opal mine which is pretty much how that town is still going. By the time I’ve left, there was talk about whether or not it should make itself part of Equestria. So in other words, I’m kinda a foreigner here.”

“So, I’m guessing you came here for economic opportunities?”

I heard him sigh, “Well, yeah. That was the original idea. I heard about this thing called the Equestrian dream that was told in the town. Where over there, you can be anyone you want if you just worked hard. A place where the fields are bursting with grain, the cities have streets that are paved in gold, and no matter what you wanted to do in life, you can have it here.”

For a long moment, the only sound in the room was the clopping of hooves from the open window and the frantic brushing on the canvas.

“So what happened?” I asked.

“When I came here, I had a dream that I could make a name for myself if I just worked hard enough. I came here and used so many of my bits on canvases, paints, and brushes. From Applewood up to here, I painted away at everything I saw. From the rolling fields to ponies that was once kind enough to let me stay for the night. I’ve lost count how many I’ve painted, but the more I did, the less I was noticed. In fact, I think I’ve told you that I was able to sell only one painting in this country didn’t I?”

I nodded, “You said something on those lines I believe.”

“Could you guess how much I was paid for that one painting?” I shook my head, “Twenty bits. After all the work I’ve put in for, I got enough to pay for a single lunch. That was it. As I neared here, I came to realize a sad truth, that the whole ‘work hard until you succeed’ is a myth.”

“Well, I beg to differ. Since I was a teen, I had helped with my father run his business tha-”

“Was your father successful?” he interrupted.

“Of course he was. What does that got to do with anything?”

“You see, Mr. Pants, by the time I ended up at that apartment in the poorest side of the capital when I’ve talked with other ponies who are in the same situation as I am, we’ve all came to the same conclusion.”

“And what is that, pray tell?”

“Unlike me, you have to be invited to success,” he told me. “I’ve often found that the most successful ponies in history are often times invited to be successful. Tell me, did you in your life have to work long hours, or have to conserve a good portion of your bits so you could have a place to sleep, or found that whatever job you worked at will never pay your way to the good life? Or did you happen to know somepony that is successful, like your dad, for instance, to become the well-respected, wealthy pony that you are?”

I… I couldn’t say anything. As much as I don’t want to admit it, he was right. I never had to work long hours, nor conserve my money, nor had a job that didn’t pay the bills.

Another sigh escaped from him, “Don’t think of me as belittling you Fancy Pants, it’s just… I’m jealous of you. Forgive me, but you have the very life that I know now that I can never have. You’re respected, you have a bodyguard, a mansion full of servants, and you have a job of doing what you love and getting rewarded for it. You, sir, are perhaps the luckiest pony that I’ve ever met, and I’m… just a stupid pony that hardly knows how to paint.”

“So I take it that you’ve never taken an art class?”

“Look at me; do I really even look like the kind of pony that could afford to go to an art class, least of all a university? Yeah, I’ve quickly found out that nopony would consider hiring you unless you have a piece of paper that tells everyone that you’re smart.”

“You mean you’re uneducated?”

“No. I can read, write and do some arthritic. But that’s as far as it goes. Like if you asked me what seven subtracted by four is, then I would tell you it’s… it’s three. But if you asked me something like… what lead Luna becoming Nightmare Moon? Then for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you because I don’t know. Besides, I’ve always leaned to making art anyway… even when it’s not that good.”

“I’ll be the judge of that.”

All of a sudden, he stopped painting, “I’m done, sir.”

I blinked, “Already?”

“Well…” Acrylic’s ears folded back and his cheeks took on a reddish shade. “Is that a bad thing?”

“I’m not sure,” I got up from my chair, “Let me see it.”

While the artist stepped away, I went around it to see the still wet painting. What I found… astonished me. Against a background of a swirling chocolate brown, dull gold and crimson, it was me that although my face was angled away, my eye looked towards the viewer. Fluent lines like ripples of a puddle waved about on my suit of black and gray strokes and curved along my gray and white face. My mustache, eyebrows, and mane were in several hues of violet, blues, and white that tumbled about like river water. There was also a thin line of blue, no doubt part of my monocle, gracefully drifted down to my breast pocket. But the most captivating part was the eye that stared right back. Oh, it was as if one was looking at a miniature picture of a sea around the iris.

I must say it’s… wonderful!

Beautiful brushstrokes!

Intense colors that unite in harmony!

A ma-

“Is it not good?” Acrylic’s voice snapped me back to reality. I was taken back at the question as I looked up to him; his expression was drowning in uncertainty. “How bad is it?”

I could only look dumbfounded between the portrait and him, looking back and forth at what he had created. But, I was able to give him my answer, “Acrylic, it is miraculous.”

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