Matty Wilson sat down on a crate and lit a cigarette. His eyes flitted along the bare walls of the studio. The end of the cigarette glowed, illuminating the dark room. It was a lonely place. Rainwater dripped down through cracks in the roof. Matty closed his yes for a few seconds, savoring his cigarette. He had no inspiration for new work. To think, only five years ago he had been famous, selling works left and right. Now he was lucky if he could afford to go to a museum, let alone buy all the supplies he needed for a good piece of work. The man let smoke trickle out of his mouth in a thin line. He had hit rock bottom and there was no way of getting up.
It was raining. Matty swore when he looked out the window. There was no way he was going to go out. If the man got sick, he wouldn't be able to get medications. His fists clenched. Matty looked away from the window. It was only going to depress him, and he didn't need anymore of that. The artist put out his cigarette against the leg of his cords. Cigarettes were probably screwing up his lungs, with the asthma and all, but he couldn't give a damn. There were other things, better things to worry about than the state of his lungs. Matty debated lighting another cigarette, but decided against it. He needed to save them for later.
"Might as well get out of this dump for a few hours. Fresh air could do me some good." His jacket hung on the doorknob. Matty tugged it on and walked out of the dingy studio. The fresh air might do him good.
The rain battered the man's body. It soaked his light hair. An umbrella would be nice. Not very many people were out in the rain. Even the buskers and beggars who normally lined the streets were gone, probably seeking shelter indoors. Matty made a face. This was the reason why he never went outside in London. It was a rainy hell on earth. A car raced by, splattering the man with water. Matty swore at the driver, but the car just kept going. His leather jacket was soaking. Coming outside wasn't worth it. It was too late now. He might as well go and buy himself a coffee at Café Nero or something. God knew Matty need it.
"One coffee, please. And one of those blueberry muffins, heated up. Thanks. To go." Matty pulled some coins and a crumpled bill from his pocket and handed them to the barista. It was cheaper to eat to go. Anyway, he could still sit and eat in the café.
"Here's your stuff. Get out." The skinny, acne-scarred boy shoved the drink and muffin towards Matty. They were wise to him around here. Most businesses were. It was impossible to save money.
Matty walked quickly, savoring his hot coffee. Even before money was short, it had been a weekly ritual. Now, it was a rare treat. The hot drink warmed the man's thin body. At thirty-five, not much could warm his blood like a hot coffee. The drink was bitter at first, but the man could care less. He had forgotten how good it was, the buzz it gave. Matty smiled to himself. The coffee was worth going outside for. It was nice to leave the studio, with its bare walls, for a little. Matty licked a thin line of coffee from his lip. He had finished it off with a sigh. There probably wouldn't be any coffee for quite some time. Matty sighed and closed his eyes for a few seconds. He needed to get another job or something.
Matty froze in front of the Tate. He loved the Tate. As a kid, he'd spend hours wandering around, looking at the art. The Tate had inspired him to start to draw. Matty felt around in his pocket. He might have enough money to be able to get through the door. It was nice to go up into the main hallway, grab a map, and just lose yourself for a couple hours. Matty didn't have anywhere to be. He didn't even have any painting supplies. There might be something nice to look at in the museum. Matty inhaled sharply. He loved the smell of museum, with its paint and marble. One day, his stuff would hang here with all the greats.
"Have you ever visited the Tate before, sir?" A pretty docent touched Matty's arm. She sent him a coy look, or Matty was going crazy from lack of human contact. He opted for the latter.
"I've been here before. Thanks." Matty gave her a kind smile and turned down the main hall. He knew the Tate like the back of his hand, even though he hadn't visited for years. This was the place where he spent his childhood; every single time he had skipped school. The Tate taught him to draw. Even the Louvre could not compare to the Tate.
"If you need anything, I'll be right here." The docent winked at Matty. He smiled again. She was a pretty girl, if a bit too skinny for his liking. Beggars can't be choosers. Any girl would be fantastic.
"Alright. I'll remember that." The girl giggled as the man turned down the hall. She had never seen such an interesting guy, so rugged yet so gentle. Maybe she should break it off with her boyfriend.
Matty felt like a ten-year-old again, awed by the great masters. If he could get inspiration, sell some work, he'd be happy. Hell, even doing some work would make him happy. It was horrible, sitting around in the studio all alone. Going out was good for him. Matty stopped in front of a painting of two boys and a girl. He never went to art school or bothered to learn about art. It wasn't important to him. Just seeing the paintings was all that mattered. Matty smiled as he noticed the thin brush strokes and use of light. It wasn't his style, but it worked. Oil paintings were hell to do, he knew that from experience.
"Amazing, isn't it? The way the artist captures emotion with the brush. I love it. It must be so hard to do." A middle-aged man looked at the painting, head slightly cocked to the side.
"It's nice, yeah, but anybody can get the bush to do that. There a re little kids who can do it with those crayons. It's not that difficult." Matty barely looked up at the man. People were idiots if they thought that painting was something all mysterious.
"Excuse me, but you don't know anything about art, then. I'm an art broker, and trust me, painting with emotion is very hard to do." The man sniffed, offended.
"I'm an artist. It's not that hard. And this painter, whoever he is, put nothing onto that canvas except paint. I don't see one whiff of emotion. Sorry." Matty turned away from the man.
"What's your name, then?" Matty didn't understand why people never believed him when he said he was an artist. It might have been due to his unkempt appearance or attitude about life.
"Matthew Wilson, known as Matty." He stuck his hand out. The man looked at it and started to laugh. It was humiliating to be mocked and ignored. He couldn't be blamed for hating people.
"You, Matty Wilson? The painting prodigy who hasn't painted for five years? I don't think you even know how to hold a paintbrush." The man pulled off his glasses to wipe his eyes.
"Really? I think I know." Matty pulled a paintbrush out of his pocket. He held it loosely, pretending to paint with it. That shut the man up all right. Matty put the brush back and left the man.
Five hours later, Matty was pretty sure he had seen everything the Tate had to offer. The rain had stopped. It was still cloudy, but a little dry. Matty hummed to himself as he walked. Most people probably thought he was high or drunk, or both. The man didn't care. He had been to his favorite place on earth. He couldn't help smiling at the little kids walking home with their parents or the cat on the stoop. This was life, for Matty.
"Sir, are you drunk?" A policeman touched Matty's arm. Matty turned around and gave the cop a smile. He felt crazy. This is why his career had come to an end.
"Just drunk on life, art, and culture. I'm sorry." Matty sobered up quickly. Getting arrested again wouldn't do him much good at all.
The studio was dull compared to the vibrant beauty of the Tate. Matty looked around. There was a small canvas and a few tubes of paint. It wasn't much, but it was what the man needed. He'd been painting for twenty-five years. It was his release. The man squirted some paint onto a cracked palette. He dipped his brush in, mixing the colors. There was red, black, and white. That would work. Quickly, Matty flicked his brush over the canvas. Lines connected into a face. It was a self-portrait. Matty didn't know why he kept painting self-portraits. He splashed some red paint on for hair. It looked nice, to his eyes. The art critics would probably hate it. They always did.
"Now that's done…" Matty knelt and took a photo of it. When he had time or remembered, the photo would go up on his website, with a bid. Maybe somebody would actually see it and like it.
Matty looked at the painting and smiled. The red and black style really did work out. It reminded him of splatter art, in a funny way. The man smiled, put down the painting, and went to lye down on his bed. Matty kept his bed in the studio. It was his home, after all. There was a small puddle of water on the bed, dripping down from the ceiling. Matty looked at in and swore. He dragged his mattress towards the center of the room. There were no leaks there, he hoped. It wasn't that late in the day, only about seven, but the man was exhausted. He kept funny hours.
The numbers of Matty's alarm clock flashed three-thirty. Matty rolled over to wake up. This was his time of day. He loved early in the morning, when nobody else was awake except for him. Matty opened the window and looked out. There weren't any cars on the street. It was a peaceful time. Matty rubbed his eyes and stood up. The man only wore sweats, sowing off his muscled, if lean chest.
"Early morning. Might as well go back to sleep." The man lay back down on his mattress and closed his eyes. Sleep didn't come. Matty's mind started to wander. It did that far too often to be normal. He wanted a girl friend. Actually, he needed a girl friend he hadn't dated for six years and hadn't kissed anybody for about three. That was pathetic. Matty made a face. He could shower and go hit a club. There would be plenty of hot water in the bathroom and hot girls in the club. Matty smiled. That seemed nice.
The man pulled off his pants and let a jet of hot water hit him between the shoulder blades. It was sinfully warm. Matty closed his eyes. Hot water was a rare treat in his eyes. Maybe the club wasn't necessary. Matty rubbed shampoo into his scalp. He had bad dandruff and even worse skin. It was tough, not having a job or money. The shampoo felt very nice on his skin. Matty rinsed it out, closing his eyes. He had forgotten how nice it was to have a hot shower. The man rubbed soap over his body, trying to clean it off. Perhaps he should shave his face as well.
Forty-five minutes later, the man tripped out of the shower. The hot water had finally ran out. Matty looked at himself in the mirror. His dirty blond hair was more blond than dirty and his face somewhat smooth. It would charm a client. Clients needed charming. Matty yawned. The hot shower had drained him of all energy. It was still far too early to be awake. Matty flopped down on the bed, buck-naked. He was exhausted. His eyes flipped shut for a couple minutes. It was nice to be able to sleep for as long as one wanted. Matty figured that was the only good thing about not having a job.
"Now this is a normal hour. God damn it, it's bright out. Better than rain." Sunlight flooded into the room. Matty blocked his eyes as he looked for clothes. The man pulled on his usual black cords and button-down. It was eight in the morning. People were bustling around beneath the studio. London could be a beautiful place when the weather was nice and there weren't too many tourists or pimps. Matty headed down the stairs. He fit into the working class group, with his leather jacket and broken motorcycle boots. A couple men nodded to him, cigarettes tucked in their mouths. Matty pulled out a cigarette of his own and lit it.
"Going anywhere, Matty? We're going to get some breakfast. Care to come?" George Thompson, one of Matty's friends, nodded to the man. Matty removed his cigarette from his mouth.
"Sounds good. What day is it, anyway?" The man ran a hand through his long hair. George rolled his eyes. It was just like Matty to lose track of the days. H was a crazy artist.
"You're a crazy artist, Matty-boy. It's a Wednesday, if you cared. Thank God you don't have a job." George clapped Matty on the back of the head.
"I've got a job. It's painting. For myself." The other men laughed. They liked the crazy artist, even though he wasn't one of them. Matty smiled and took a drag on his cigarette.
"Get an honest job, Matty. " George shook head. The men left. Matty flicked his hair from his eyes. It was true. He needed a job. For the past five years, he'd been living off of royalties and lends from friends like George.
Matty did what he did every Wednesday, going down to Piccadilly Circus to watch people and sketch them. With a sketchbook and charcoals tucked under his arm, Matty walked down the streets of London. He smiled as he watched mothers take their kids to school. There was something so enjoyable in drawing small children. Matty smiled and waved at a set of five-year-old twins. They giggled and waved back. The mother looked at the unruly man suspiciously and wrapped her arms around her children. Matty groaned. Of course people assumed he was dangerous and insane. It drove him crazy.
Piccadilly Circus was a bit too touristy for Matty's liking, but the drawing was great. Matty found a nice bench, sat down, and looked for something to catch his eye and inspire. A pair of young women, standing and talking while eating out of Chinese cartons interested him. He marked out lines for their bodies, faces, and cartons and started to sketch. Sketching really brought him to life. Matty bit his lip as he shaded in one woman's jacket. Women were easy to draw. Men were the difficult ones, with their square builds and awkward proportions. Matty looked up at the women, trying to capture last details before they moved on.
"You lurking us, mate?" One of the women taped Matty on the shoulder. He dropped his charcoal and swore loudly. The other woman looked on, smiling slyly.
"No. Why'd you get that idea?" Matty stood up. Two women didn't scare him, even if they were wearing terrifying pointy and tall stilettos.
"How come you're drawing us, then?" The woman pointed to the sketch. Matty reached down to grab his charcoal. The woman narrowed her eyes at the artist.
"I'm an artist. I sketch what catches my fancy." Only after he spoke did it hit Matty. It sounded sexual. Both of the women looked shocked.
"So we caught your fancy then, mate? Got your dander up?" The other woman came forward and glared at the man. Matty looked down. Why did women never trust him?
"No. I didn't mean it like that. Eh, sorry. Really sorry. I'm not trying to harass you or anything." The woman glared at him, but left. Matty groaned and put his head in his hands.
Sketching people was out of the question. Matty started to draw a statue. That was the nice thing about London, all the statues. Any artist could have a field day drawing every single statue and memorial. Matty worked the detailing of a World War Two memorial. He was perfectly happy to sit in a park, drawing things for the rest of his life. Pity food and money were necessary. He really would have to sell the painting he had done to somebody soon. Matty closed his eyes. A busker played the Beatles near by. It may not have been good, but it was enough. Matty opened his eyes and started to draw.