He had only lived in America a few years, and during that time he had lived safely nestled in the warm cocoon of a university fine arts program, so he didn’t know much about the cyclonic pace of life outside the art world’s walls.
He got up early, around 6 o’clock, which on the outside looked industrious and disciplined. The reality was much more romantic. Instead of putting on a crisp pair of pants and a neatly ironed white shirt and immediately beginning work on his drawings, he would sit with a cup of coffee and listen to the doleful calls of the mourning doves that lived in the magnolia tree outside his rented room’s one window. Once sufficiently revived from the ruthless and unrelenting shadow of sleep (he always dreamed in full-color lucidity), he would walk over to his drafting table, pick up a nub of graphite, and begin. Some days he would walk to the university art studio after a late breakfast, where he had claimed a corner table, his pencils and small bottles India ink lined in the order that they appear on the color wheel. Since he was a graduate student, and almost thirty, most of the undergraduates regarded him with a sense of awe and respect; they didn’t disrupt the ordered peace of his space.
He created his drawings slowly, for he had not been taught anything about avidity, ladder-climbing, or glory under bright lights. He worked without a final goal in mind, only caring about the graphite, the paper, and the drawing that was being born beneath his fingers. His work was singularly beautiful, but his mind didn’t work like an assembly line. All he wanted was to make something that hadn’t existed before. He didn’t care about mass-production or mass-appeal and didn’t know the definition of terms that art critics and hangers-on used and enforced. Avant-garde, Art-brute, Dada, and Op-Art sounded like shop names to him, and he would roll his eyes when the art history professors would try to dissect great pieces of art into evenly divided puzzle pieces. He knew better.
His drawings were breathtaking, really. Small, intricate masterpieces in cross-hatch graphite and dotted with pinpointed stars of silver-leaf. In person, detached from the studio table, he was almost singularly square. Quiet. Dull, even. At parties he sat and looked at his hands and away from all of the pretty girls wrapped in tight sweaters. If you went to speak to him he might talk about the weather or sports in a soft, but broad Irish accent, but not much else. The brilliance of his work and the novelty of his accent drew people toward him, even if they were left with a bit of a crestfallen feeling after learning that he was a bit boring. But, if you caught him alone and saw him sketching, he was an angel straight from heaven. He smiled to himself, his thin arms bent at the elbows, his face bent in concentration. He was lit from within, and away from the world. That was how Justine found him, late one night when she couldn’t sleep and had come to the studio to paint.