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By , Paris, France
I stared at the blank white canvas.

For weeks, I had envisioned the painting in my mind. I had not known what colours or medium I was going to use, but I was certain that I wanted to create a painting of a face. The idea was instigated by a viewing of the Mona Lisa during a recent trip to Le Louvre. The subject’s inquisitive look and mystifying smile perplexed me and I became fascinated with the painting’s ability to show such a variety of emotions. I was determined to create my own Mona Lisa so that I, like Leonardo Da Vinci, could express human feeling in a two dimensional space.

A wave of exhilaration flowed through me as I picked up a brush and dipped it into the paint I had prepared on my palette. It had been a long time since I had last painted, at least six months. School, extra-curricular activities, and social outings had consumed most of my free time and I hadn’t had the time or energy to pursue any artistic endeavors. Yet the desire to paint had never left me and now, at this moment, nothing seemed as important to me. I had planned my painting well by studying the proportions of human facial features and the oil painting technique of Sfumato, yet had been unsure of the emotions I wanted to portray. I assumed that it would be determined as I was in the process of painting.

I moved my brush along the canvas, filling the white area in with black paint. I didn’t stop until the entire canvas was black. After the paint dried I grabbed a piece of white chalk and began to outline the structure of a face. Once I felt that the proportions were accurate I took a step back from the painting and examined my work. I closed my eyes and tried to visualize exactly what I wanted to portray, but I couldn’t see anything. I became exasperated. My mind desperately searched for ideas, but true inspiration eluded me. I wanted to create a perfect piece of artwork that flawlessly displayed human feelings, yet I wasn’t even sure of the emotions I wanted to depict.

Nothing seemed to be going as planned. I decided to take a break from painting and listen to some music on my iPod. I scrolled through the classical genre and came upon Elgar’s Cello Concerto 1st Movement, performed by Jacqueline Du Pre. The magnificence of the concerto had always sent shivers down my spine, so I clicked play.

The cello is the first instrument to enter, erupting passionately. After a few seconds the orchestra emerges, responding to the cello with a feeble and half-hearted tune. The cello reenters, increasing in pitch as if pleading with the orchestra to continue. Suddenly, both the cello and orchestra roar with power as they play the main melody of the piece, a melancholy tune that is both haunting and epic. As I listened to the concerto, an unexpected sensation of understanding flowed through me. The strong emotions of passion and sorrow that I felt while listening to the song were exactly what I desired to portray in my painting.

I instinctively reached for a brush and commenced work on my canvas. I began with using a white pigment to create the face’s shape and give it structure. I then used a large, dry bristle brush to soften and deepen the shadows of the brows, hallowed cheekbones, and eyes. Lastly, I refined the face and sharpened the details of the lips and jaw-line with white paint. Elgar’s 1st Movement continued to thunder as I fervently created my desired portrait. I worked nonstop until I finally felt the painting was complete. I stepped back, placed the brush on my palate, and wiped my ink-stained hands on my smock. I was done.

I stared at the canvas, no longer blank.





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