Painter and Apprentice [Ekphrasis and Zeugma] PDF Print E-mail
There once lived a painter and his apprentice. The painter’s talent was enormous, but his motivation lacking. The apprentice was well versed in art, but his talent wanting.

“What will you paint next?” asked the apprentice, eager to behold the painter’s next masterpiece.

The painter solemnly replied, “Nothing, because I have nothing to paint.”

Dismayed by his idol’s state of dispassion, the apprentice furiously scrawled upon a piece of paper and handed a roughly sketched panda to the painter. The master studied the sketch and, newly inspired, delicately stroked the panda’s fur, intricately fashioned a bamboo grove, and ingeniously illustrated the panda’s peaceful slumber.

When the apprentice saw the painting near its completion, he praised his master, “The colors are wonderful and the brushwork fantastic,” but, when others observed the painter’s unfinished work, they focused on his inexperience and trivial mistakes.

The painter’s lack of instruction conceived the panda’s feet misshapen; his fatigue marred the bamboo with smudges; and painting with raw emotion, he overused several shades of red.

The apprentice admitted, “The ancillary aspects are easily altered, but the core is one of beauty. And besides, everyone has trouble with feet.”

The next day the painter progressed no further; sensing an air of despair, the apprentice inquired, “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know,” mumbled the master, “I’m just not in the mood. Maybe tomorrow.” The critics’ cruel comments and his own waning verve arrested the painter’s development.

The apprentice visited day after day, but the painting remained unfinished. “You’re so close,” said the apprentice, “just a few touch-ups and it will be complete.”

“You can finish it if you like; I really don’t care,” surrendered the painter in frustration.

Though the apprentice lacked talent, this role he could fill; he fervently worked for three weeks straight to reveal the majesty of his master’s unfinished gem. The apprentice’s knowledge of brushstrokes healed the panda’s deformed feet; his fresh hand freed the bamboo of smudges; and his calm awareness tamed the unbridled red.

The feckless painter returned from his hiatus and, unaware of the apprentice’s insight or intent, complained, “I do not approve of your changes to the feet, the bamboo, or the panda’s peaceful red teeth.”

“Those were the oversights at which the critics complained; my art book says to do it this way. There are rules to painting, and I am fairly certain that red teeth don’t illustrate peace,” explained the apprentice.

“He was eating a peaceful quandong,” posited the painter. “Did you ever consider that?”

“No one did. If you want your art to speak to people, you must speak their language, otherwise your audience is left uncomprehending,” pleaded the apprentice, but his audience left, uncomprehending.

The critics continued their unrestrained criticism. The painter, unwilling to appease the critics, yet condemned to feel their denigration, ceased painting. And the apprentice, failing in his attempts to inspire and instruct, wrote a story.
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