Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: Both
Title: I Watched The Candles Burn
It took all day to draw the sketch and I still wasn’t happy with it. It left so much out. So many feelings, so many details. The color of her eyes, the texture of her hair. It left out all my feelings, my emotions. The excitement I felt, the way her eyes drew me in, I wanted to get lost in them. Lost, and never find my way back.
That first kiss. That day we stood beside her car, amid the morning rush of people getting breakfast on their way to work. That day I looked at her, into her eyes, oceans of hazel, and couldn’t look away. That day her fingers touched my cheek, and the world was gone. That day she leaned forward and her lips touched mine for the first time.
I’d tried for weeks to capture that moment, that breath, that heartbeat of my life. Sketch after sketch, day after day, failure after failure. I’d lost count of the hours of sleep I lost trying to capture that moment on a sheet of paper. The days I’d gone to work at night, wondering how I’d drive home the next day without falling asleep as I drove.
Still I tried. Another day of lost sleep. Another failure.
I closed my eyes, tried to imagine what I’d missed on the paper. What I’d failed to capture with my pencils. If I’d missed any details. Any moment. Anything at all.
I worked in the dark, the curtains closed, the lights off, my music playing. The only light came from the candles I’d set on the table. Candles nearly burned away, all that remained were small fragments of wax with wick. I watched them burn, the tiny flames flicker, the light they cast shift as the flames moved.
What had I missed? What had I done wrong?
How do you capture a feeling? How do you draw it? Bring it to life? Put it on paper?
I’d tried everything I knew. Every technique. Every skill I’d grown over the years. None of them worked, none of them did what I wanted, none of them showed that moment. That first kiss, burned into my memory forever.
As the candles burned, I pulled out another sheet of paper and once more drew my pencils. If I couldn’t capture that moment, perhaps I could do something simple. A simple sketch of the candles, before they burned away.
Lines appeared on the paper, shadows, reflections. How do you capture a full color, burning candle in shades of gray? How do you capture its color when you have no color? How do you capture the flickering flame in a static image?
One hour, then two. I stared at the sketch I’d made. Three candles, burning away to nothing. Flames clinging to wicks, light reflecting off glass. It was all there. Every detail. The way the candles made me feel was on that paper.
In only two hours, I’d done it.
In a simple sketch, in shades of gray. I looked at the sketch, then at the candles. They looked so different, though they were the same. I shook my head, I’d left so much detail out of the sketch. Missing shadows, missing wisps of smoke. It wasn’t a photograph. It was a sketch. A drawing.
And I knew, in that heartbeat, I knew how to bring the sketch of that first kiss to life.
I erased details here and there, removed background images, highlighted key details, her eyes, her lips. Nothing but the her, and the kiss mattered. The rest was secondary. The rest was detail, distraction, useless.
I looked at the finished sketch and knew I’d done it. I’d found the way. I’d captured that moment.
I watched the candles burn away, and waited for the door to open, and her to come home. So I could give her what I’d created. Share with her what I’d felt.
The moment she first kissed me.
The moment my heart sang.
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Mark woke up in 2010, and has been exploring life since then. All his doctors agree. He needs to write.