The Artist Who Lost Himself and Stole His Own Painting
“And what do you want to be when you grow up?” the teacher asked.
“I’m going to be an artist,” Oscar solemnly declared.
“And what else?”
“Just an artist, nothing else.”
Oscar loved to paint since he was very small. He especially loved drawing on the walls, as high as he could reach. When he drew on the wall, his artwork was still there the next day, making the world beautiful.
Of course, his parents tried to hide the pens and pencils and crayons and markers. Oscar always found something to paint with. If he couldn’t find paints, he’d draw with make up. When that was hidden, he painted with ketchup or soap or shampoo or deodorant or toothpaste.
His parents gave up. “When we move out someday, you are going to help us paint the walls.”
Oscar grinned. “That sounds wonderful. I’d love to!”
“We’re going to be painting them white.”
“Just white. Nothing else.”
Oscar was horrified. “Who would want plain white walls? I’d be happy to paint something much, much better.”
When he finally finished art school, Oscar went door to door selling portraits. Despite his talent, it took a long time to be successful. He persisted. Eventually, he saved up enough money to have a studio to paint in.
He didn’t have to go door to door to sell his paintings any more. People came to him asking to buy them. He finally had all the time he wanted to paint. And so he painted a lot.
He painted beautiful, realistic still lifes. He painted apples and partridges, pears and playing cards, water glasses and plums. He painted lovely, inviting landscapes. He painted deserts and mountains and oceans and forests. He added cows and geese and camels and elephants. He painted on canvases and walls of all sizes and shapes.
“Maybe you were right about this art thing,” his dad said one day on a visit to his studio. “Some of these are really good. Do you ever paint anything for advertisements?”
His mom looked at the walls, all covered in paint and shook her head. “You never did grow out of that, did you?”
“Out of painting?” Oscar asked.
“Out of painting on the walls.”
Oscar sighed. “They’re murals, Mom. People pay me to do them, so I have to practice somewhere.”
And then one day, Oscar wanted to move on and paint something grander. Something that was better than anything he had ever painted before. He wanted to paint his magnum opus.
Right away, he was faced with a difficult decision. Would he paint a still life or a landscape? After some thought, he made a decision. Why not both?
He painted a room with large windows. The windows looked out on a lovely forested hill on the edge of a charming village. Friendly animals peered through the branches of the trees. The room was filled with all the things he liked best. Art supplies and canvases, photo albums and his favorite paintings. Food and flowers.
It all looked lovely, beautiful, realistic, and inviting. Just like Pygmalion, Oscar fell in love with his art. He spent hours staring at the perfect room with the perfect view and sighing.
He couldn’t paint anything else. It was a crisis. His parents and friends and customers and teachers all visited, but Oscar refused to look at anything but the painting.
And one day, when he reached out to touch a perfect pear, his hand met empty air. The canvas was a door instead of a window. Oscar stepped inside and made himself at home.
“Oh look, Oscar painted himself inside his last painting,” his mom said. “I wonder where he went.”
“We’ll leave him a note,” his Dad said. “I think he should paint some pictures to advertise that new toothpaste. Mint fields in the sun or something. I’ll include it in the note.”
But Oscar stayed in the painting. He was declared missing, and eventually, his parents came and collected his things. They sold his painting to a museum. Oscar was not pleased.
The moment the painting left his studio, Oscar hid out of sight when people were around. He didn’t think he could sit still long enough to fool people into thinking his painting was normal. If they knew they could come inside, everyone would want to come of course. It was his magnum opus. But, he really didn’t want any company.
In the museum, people were around all day. They were noisy and pointed and took pictures. Even worse, some people scoffed and said that his painting was boring. Oscar sat out of sight and fumed. The museum didn’t deserve his painting.
One night, he slipped out of the painting, plucked it off the wall, and left. He took it back to his parents’ house and hung it in his old bedroom. They returned it when they finally noticed, but he just stole it again. And again. And no one seemed to notice it happening.
They finally gave up. Left in peace, Oscar could finally start painting again. He left his new paintings in his old bedroom. The museum was thrilled to buy paintings that didn’t steal themselves. Everyone lived happily ever after.