Painting from Life
  "lyrical, fluid and quietly unsettling ..." [Ephemera at Rainbow Reviews]

Painting from Life - Reviews

  • During a trip to try and reconnect with his wife, a painter discovers a new muse, in the guise of an elderly man on the beach ... More emotions are evoked in this short, haunting story than many longer works I’ve read in recent months. It gets classified as a love story, or a GLBT piece in many places I’ve seen it discussed, but I’m reluctant to so easily define it. The relationship between the painter and Peter, the elderly man, isn’t nearly that cut and dry. The narrator, a young man who remains unnamed as the story is told in first person, presents at the top of the story as desperate to save his three-year marriage. There are a lot of brewing emotions just packed within that relationship. His wife is the primary earner, and resents her husband’s lack of contributions. She’s jealous of the time and energy he devotes to his art. She’s hungry for contact, and the list goes on. There’s certainly nothing easy about it, and then, when he spies Peter on the beach and his muse is infused as it hasn’t been in years, the situation only gets worse. But just as his relationship with his wife isn’t simple, neither is his relationship with Peter. It grows from a simple agreement of a single sitting to something far more complex. Nothing sexual ever occurs, but the narrator finds energy and passion in his work with Peter as he never has before. Peter, in turn, cannot bring himself to characterize their relationship as anything familial (when asked if he trusts the narrator, Peter responds with, “Like a son ... No, better than a son.”). The give and take between the two satisfies needs in both of them. There is some dark subtext, however, suggesting that the narrator (as artist) is draining away Peter’s life (as muse), but in all honesty, it didn’t overshadow the relationship as I read it. It felt far more symbiotic to me, as Peter is already elderly when they meet. Each is hungry for what the other offers. Peter's health might be failing as the narrator continues to work, but the paintings will give him an immortality he wouldn't have otherwise had if they'd never met in the first place. The complexity of the relationships is served amazingly well by the lyrical, edgy prose. It offers just the right amount of clear, original detail to paint a picture with words, without getting excessive or too artsy, and intrigues me into pursuing more of the author’s work. Strong, original voices are like gold. This one pays off.” [A review from BookUtopiaMum on the Book Utopia site]

  • Painting From Life is not a love story in the traditional sense. It is the story of an artist in a suffocating marriage struggling to achieve perfection in his work. While strolling on the beach with his wife, he meets an old man he’d like to paint. After a brief conversation, the old man agrees to sit for a portrait. The more time they spend together, the more his model, Peter, inspires creativity and instills passion in his art. The gorgeous and vivid prose captures the essence of the sea, the beauty, frailty and loneliness of old age, and the deep, spiritual love between the artist, his model, and his work. Very highly recommended.” [A review from Nancy on the Goodreads site]

  • “I adored this short story of love as we seldom examine it; that love has many forms and many uses, fulfilling a variety of needs, all different, all necessary to our well-being. The first thought to strike me hard was that Anne Brooke paints beauty into a lined, lived-in face, and I’m very grateful that she does in a world where beauty is so often marked not by time but the skill of a surgeon. This very fact gives the story a depth right from the start that is missing in many books. The second thing to strike me was how descriptively she illustrates the problem all creative people face between living their day-to-day lives and spending time with their muse...and, in some cases, preferably with their muse. There’s a quintessential eeriness to this story reminiscent of the unfounded belief that the camera steals our souls along with our likenesses...for why else does an old man grow weaker as the artist paints him, except from human frailty and life, of course. This story leaves a disturbing, bittersweet taste, yet is undeniably haunting and memorable. Well worth the read!” [A review from author Sharon Maria Bidwell on MySpace]

  • “While on a vacation to rejuvenate a failing marriage, an artist encounters an unlikely muse in the form of an older man. An obsession quickly develops as the differing needs of the artist, his wife, and the object of his attention collide. This short story is haunting, intense, and unlikely. At just about 15 pages, the author has delivered a stunningly gripping story about an artist and his obsessions. From the hints of the past such as the history between the artist and his wife and the wife’s caustic comments, the author suggests that the unnamed artist may often find these unlikely muses and devote more time than is healthy to them. Similarly, the artist slowly and inevitably becomes the sole caretaker of an older man, Peter, while using the man as a model for his work that is only now gaining success. The author manages to use just a few words and descriptive phrases to convey intensity and emotion that is clearly felt. The impact of the artist’s need for Peter is surprising yet chilling in phrases such as, "There's no need for him [Peter] to see or speak to anyone else but me." The artist realizes that Peter fatigues easily while sitting for him, but the rush the artist feels is too addictive, too much to let go. He counters this by taking care of Peter yet knows he will paint the older man to his death. The implications and subtle meaning go far beyond the obvious and continue to resonate well after the short story is done. Crisp, vivid prose works incredibly well with vibrant characters all uninhibited by the short length. For those that enjoy a fabulous short story that truly makes you think and leaves you wondering well after it’s done, I highly suggest Painting from Life. The themes of art, death, obsession, love, selfishness, and need are all played out beautifully in this complex and complicated story.” [A review from Kassa on the Manic Readers site]

  • A five-star review on the Rainbow Reviews Site

  • A review from Daisiemae on the Goodreads Site

  • A review from Val Kovalin on the Obsidian Bookshelf review site

  • A review from Ann Somerville on the Outlaw Reviews site

  • A review from Kassa 11 on Livejournal

  • A review from Elisa Rolle on Livejournal

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    Painting from Life - Extract

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