Spot o' Paint
By Linda Jo Hunter
All morning the wind had plagued Kelly. At one point, her palette knife blew away in a gust, leaving a big spot of just-mixed paint hiding in the grass. She had mixed this color from a glimpse of sky among the ever-shifting clouds, and she rather liked it. It had just a vestige of green, like you see in breaking waves.
Kelly stepped away from her work for a few minutes. When she got back, the painting was gone. She thought at first it must be a prank. Kelly was confused. Briefly, she wondered if she had put it somewhere, but since the paint was still wet, she wouldn’t have done that. No, the painting was clearly gone.
Kelly tried to decide if she should scream and make a fuss, or just quietly look for it. All around her, painters were hard at work, mixing colors and brushing scenery. In their concentration, they wouldn’t have seen a thing. Kelly walked towards the lodge with the loose idea of finding the owner, and asking if she knew how a painting could disappear.
On the path, she found a woman with a camera. “Excuse me,” Kelly entreated, “did you see someone carrying a painting?”
“No,” the photographer said, “but be careful of that glob of wet paint on the path. Don’t step on it.” Kelly looked down to see her recent mix of blue-green shining up at her.
“Oh,” she exclaimed, “that’s from my painting!”
They found another paint spot leading away from the house. As they walked closer, they could see little dots of the color smeared on the stones. These clues led them to the road, where a man was unlocking his car. They asked him if he had seen the missing painting.
“No,” he said, “I’ve just been for a walk with my dog.” The dog in question came bounding up and jumped up on Kelly. She looked down to see a dollop of blue green oil paint on her pants.
“Well,” Kelly said, “you might not have seen my painting, but your dog has.”
The man looked puzzled as Kelly picked up the dog’s paw and showed the man the color oozing out from between its toes. “Oh,” he said and turned vermillion with a touch of burnt sienna. Sheepishly, he opened the back door to reveal a still-wet, slightly smeared oil canvas on the seat.
“I found this in the weeds,” he claimed.
Kelly had no reason not to believe him and explained that her painting had probably blown there in a gust of wind. The man reluctantly handed it back. The photographer put in, “It’s probably for sale if you really want it.” The man considered. Taking into account the smear, they negotiated.
As the dog continued to decorate the world with paint, the first sale of the 2008 Plein Air Painting Competition was made.
Linda Jo Hunter is the author of Lonesome for Bears, A Woman’s Journey in the Tracks of the Wilderness (Lyons Press, 2008). She is also a tracker, naturalist, guide, and an artist who works in watercolor and acrylic. She lives in Stevenson, Washington, with her husband, Mike McHugh.