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Art at the Eye of the Beholder

   “And… Done!!” Astra Mesky smiled as she held her sketch up to the light.  She finally reached success, creating a landscape that was perfect.  Astra moved her light brown hair out of her eyes, and reached down.  She pulled out the small drawer in her desk with her pastel stained hands.  Shuffling the contents inside, she pulled out an ink pen to sign her name.  She started to put the tip of the pen on the paper, when she stopped.  There; a little blemish on the tree’s trunk, irreversible, and forever stained.  Slowly she began to see other mistakes, tiny errors, that were made.  She felt her face slowly getting hotter, as she stared at the, now, hideous landscape.
   “RAAH!!” Astra yelled as she tore the piece apart, and threw the scraps in her recycle bin.  It fluttered softly inside, and found it’s place with the other mountains of ‘ruined’ artwork.  Astra growled once more, and started banging her head on her desk, that was stained with pastels. “Stupid, art show!!”  Her scarlet beret slowly slid down her head, as she rested her pounding head.  “I hate you Saturday.” she mumbled.  She had been working for ages, and her efforts were turning out to be fruitless!!
   “Astra?” Mrs. Mesky opened the door to her room, and Astra turned her head to her.  “I heard your screaming from downstairs, and considering that your father’s pottery wheel is always making a racket….” She trailed off, giving Astra a pointed look that had her grimacing.
   “Sorry Mom, it’s just that I’m exhausted for the art show tomorrow.  I haven’t got any inspiration yet, and I had thought that if I put it off, I would get some.” She sighed, and fingered her beret.
   “Well, I hope you finish it soon.  I would love to see what my little artist has done.” Mrs. Mesky smiled. “Although, I wish you would use watercolors instead of those acrylic paints, and pastels, it would be better, beautiful and-”
   “Mom.” Astra groaned.  “We had this conversation.  I don’t like working with watercolors-”
   “But it’s what I have done, like your grandmother, and it’s in your bloo-”  Her mother insisted.
   “That’s not what I want to do.” Astra glared at her mother.  “And I have told you numerous times.  So, if you want me to actually finish this, leave my room, now.”
   “Fine.” Her mother sighed, and started to close the door.  But she paused. “If you ever change your mind...”
   “Trust me, I won’t.”
    The door closed, leaving Astra alone, with her pile of art, her pastels, and her brushes.  She groaned, walked over to her bed, and flopped onto it.  She stared outside her window.  Why couldn’t it be Monday again, when she was carefree, and not worrisome half the time?
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   It was a beautiful Monday.  Astra skipped into the art studio with glee, holding her art binder tightly to her chest.  She was jumping with joy as she took her seat.  Her friend, Sarah, a brunette, walked slowly behind her, rolling her eyes at her antics.
   “Astra, we’re the first ones here.  It’s not as if someone is going to bar you from entering.”  Astra giggled lightly, as Sarah sat down next to her.
   “I know!  But today’s gonna be a great day, I can feel it!” She squirmed in her seat, as the other students started trickling in. The room was slowly filled with happy chatter.  Sarah and Astra kept on talking until a loud bang sounded. 
   Everyone jumped, and turned to the source of the noise: Ms. Ives.  Astra sunk down in her seat a little bit, as she paced briskly around the large desks in the art studio.  A 25 year old, tall woman, with dark brown hair, and green eyes, she posed as someone who was friendly kind and sweet.  However, those who knew her, either as her students, or as neighboring teachers, she was competitive, and had high expectations for all her students, especially for Astra.
   Ms. Ives finally reached the teacher’s desk and stood up on it. She looked at the students with sharp green eyes.  “You need to stop talking so much.  This is a studio, not a cafeteria: You’re expected to act like professionals.”  The class nodded slowly.  She huffed, and turned around, rummaging through her desk.  She appeared to have found what she was looking for, and held up a flier with a familiar competitive look in her eyes.
    “There’s an art show on Saturday, and we’re going to participate in it.  There are going to be other schools entering this show as well, so I want your best artwork.”  She said boldly, as she gestured with her hands.  She turned to where Astra was sitting, and pointed at her.  “Especially you Astra.  Your parents are amazing at the field of art, and they both entered this same contest when they were your age.  Don’t let me down.”  Her gaze hardened as she said this, and Astra slowly sunk down in her seat. 
   Ms. Ives turned to the rest of class.  “I want all of you to show me a sketch of your final piece by the end of today.  If you don’t have a sketch, you won’t come.  Do you understand class?!”
   “Yes Ma’am!” The class chanted.
   “You’ll have the rest of the class to work your sketch.  Make good use of it.”  She got down, and strided towards the art supply closet, probably to sort the mess inside.
The class was silent, until she left.  Then the commotion started again.
   “What are you going to do Astra?” Sarah grinned, ear to ear.
Astra was about to respond when a yell came from inside the art closet.  “What did I just tell you about talking?!”  Once again, the class was silent.
   Astra turned to her friend, and whispered softly.  “I might do a landscape, or a still life.  My mother told me it’s what she did when she took art.” She looked towards the door.
   Sarah looked affronted.  “Are you really going to do what your mom did twenty years ago?  This is your art project, Astra.  Not your parents, not Ms. Ives’!  You can do whatever you want!”
   Astra exhaled, and leaned back in her chair.  “Alright, alright, I get it.  But enough about me, what about you?”
   Sarah smiled. “I’m going to be doing a watercolor still-life , because I’m passionate about it.” She look pointedly at her, clearly not wanting to let the subject go.
    Astra groaned.  “Fine, fine, I’ll do what I want love,  okay?  Let’s just get started.”  She got up from her seat, and went to the art supply closet to pick up some supplies.
   Ms. Ives looked up.  “Hello Astra!  What are you going to be doing for your masterpiece?”  She turned around, to look at Astra while Astra was gathering her art supplies. 
   Astra moaned in the inside, and after loading her arms with supplies, turned to her teacher.  “Well I was thinking of doing a collage. I haven’t really done one before but-
   “Wait.” she interrupted her.  “You’re planning to do showcase an art piece that an infant can do?”
   “No but-”
   “Listen here.”  Ms. Ives growled softly at her.  “I will not have a collage  in the center of my masterpieces.  Your piece has to be the best, and it will. Or else
   “Or else what?”  Astra squared her shoulders and looked up at the teacher.  “What can you do that will make me-”
   “I will tell your parents.  They’re the main reason you keep coming here, right?  What would they think if their daughter suddenly stopped coming to art class?  What would they think, if they found out that their daughter had failed in art?”  She had a sinister smile on her face.
   Astra’s eyes widened. Her parents were big on her art, because it was ‘in their blood’.  “You wouldn’t.”
   “Oh I think I would.”
    Astra looked down.  “Fine.  I’ll make a pastel landscape.”
“That’s my little artist.” Ms.  Ives used her mother’s term of endearment, in a sinister way, and ruffled Astra’s hair slightly.  “Now it’s time to go! Don’t want to waste anymore time!” She pushed her out of the art closet, and waved.  Then she turned back to her work..
   Astra slowly sat down in her seat, her vision going blurry.  What could she do?
   “Hey you alright?  What took so long in there?” Sarah looked at Astra, her fingers tapping the desk rapidly.
   “Oh, nothing.” She managed a tight lipped smile. “I was just asking the teacher for tips on choosing a medium.  Let’s get started.  Besides,” Her eyes darkened as she finished her sentence. ‘We don’t want to waste anymore time.”
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   Astra blinked, slowly coming back to awareness.  She shot right up from where she had fallen asleep on her bed. What time was it?!  She could see the sun starting to set over the horizon through her window.  She set her chin on her hand, and glanced at the recycle-bin, filled to the brim with unfinished sketches, and torn up paintings.  “I. Hate. Landscapes!” she growled as she did a faceplant on her bed. Astra sighed, and looked around her room.  Her room looked like a tornado ran through it, because of all the stress she had this week.  She stalked over towards her desk, and sat with a huff.  She was out of ideas. ‘Can I call in sick?’ Astra mused as she started twirling a pencil. 
   Astra was torn between the two decisions: Make her own art, or follow the traditional art.  If she followed the ‘rules’ set by her demonic teacher, then she could actually gain approval of parents, and get her teacher off her back.  But, if she did what she preferred, then she would have to face the wrath of her parents, and her teacher. 
   ‘Is is what I prefer to do, or what I love to do?’ She thought to herself, as she tapped the pencil against her desk.  She remembered what Sarah had said what felt like a decade ago: “This is your art project, Astra.-”
   “I can do whatever I want.” Astra’s eyes widened, as she whipped her head towards her sketch-book.  She darted over, and ripped a couple of pages out..  “I’m doing something that I love.  And I won’t let others tell me what to do!” She exclaimed to herself.  After sketching a couple of ideas, she held them up to see which one was better.  Astra grabbed a big piece of canvas paper for her collage, but paused in the middle of her excited rush.  What would she make it out of? A collage is usually made up of scrap materials, but she didn’t have…  ‘Wait a second.’
   Astra kneeled down, and dumped her recycle bin out onto the floor.  The scraps were perfect!!  She sat on her desk chair once more, and brought out a glue stick.  She was ready.  She started to glue her first piece to the collage: the hazel colored part of a tree trunk.

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   ‘It’s showtime.’ Astra thought, as she set foot into the building where the art show was being held.  Her collage was in a special bag, designed to keep the it safe.  She hadn’t told, or shown, anyone what she had done yet.  She wanted to keep it as a surprise.
   “ASTRA!” A shout came from across the room.  Astra winced, as she headed over the where Ms. Ives was standing.  As she walked, she heard the whispers start.
   “Is that her?
   “She doesn’t look that tough.”
   Astra was about to lower her head, when she realized she needed to be confident is she wanted to get approval..  She raised her head up high, and walked to where her teacher was waiting for her.
   “Finally!” Ms. Ives smiled a sickly-sweet smile.  “I saved the best spot for you.  Only the best for my student!” She grinned.  Astra re-adjusted her beret, before speaking.
   “Where are all the other students?”
   “Oh, them!” Ms. Ives laughed hesitantly.  “It doesn’t matter.  What matters now is your art piece!”  She reached out to take the bag, and Astra pulled back.
   “Um.. Don’t you want to see it with the others?  The big finish!!” Astra smiled, hoping Ms. Ives wouldn’t try do that again.  She wanted to present this at once, and get it over with.
   “Sounds good to me!!” Ms. Ives grinned.  “Let's uncover it now!!”
   “Wait what?!” Astra flailed as Ms. Ives brought out a previously, unseen, microphone behind her back.
   “Hello Whiterocks Art Show!!”  Ms. Ives shouted into the microphone.  All eyes turned to the pair.  Ms. Mesky clapped her hands, and Astra exhaled.  Here goes.  “My art student, Astra Mesky, the daughter of two amazing artists, is ready to present her art piece!”  A crowd gathered near the place where the collage was supposed to be put on the easel.  Ms. Ives glowed.     “She made a-”
   “Ah- Ms. Ives, I think I can do that.”  Astra took the microphone into her hands and started to speak.  “This art piece is not your ordinary art piece.  I made it with love and pride, so please no harsh critics.” Astra cringed.  ‘I just signed my death wish.’ She thought. Placing the collage on the silver easel, she gently pulled off the bag covering it.  Shock rang through the crowd.
   The collage was an eye.  She knew people thought that it was a boring idea, but in reality, it can become the gem of an art collection if created correctly.  The eye was in a petal shape: the iris of they eye was an amber color, and the eyelid was a peachy color.  The rest of the collage looked like it was popping out of the canvas- the colors looked outstanding.  Ms. Ives was gaping, and the crowd was murmuring.  Astra’s mom looked shell shocked.
   “What,” Ms. Ives said in a surprised tone. “Is this?”
   “This is a collage, teacher. Something that is unique from other pieces here.” Astra turned to look at the crowd.  “I know that you were all expecting something like a landscape, or a still life, but I love making collages.  It’s my passion.” She looked to her mom.
   “But, if you think that this piece is stupid, it’s ok.  Art,” She gestured around her. “Is truly at the eye of the beholder, not what others think.” She put the mic on the table.
   All was silent, until someone started clapping.  Soon, the entire building was filled with applause.  Astra smiled proudly, but she flinched when Ms. Ives grabbed her arm.
   “Never come back into my art class.” She snarled.
   “Don’t worry.” Astra said, as her teacher released her. “I won’t.”  Astra walked towards her mom, who immediately hugged her.
   “I’m proud of you my little artist, you’ve come so far.” She smiled. “We won’t bother you anymore about your decisions either.”
   “Thanks mom.” Astra was relieved. “I’m just happy,” She closed her eyes, smiling. “That I’m finally free.”




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