In the first installment of this collaborative storytelling photography venture, our lovely Ann @Miss_Feklista started us off with the tale of James, an artist on his last dollars. Rather than buy food, the creative dreamer bought a painting that enthralled him with its mystery. But the intensity of the subject brought nightmares, and James was having trouble getting back to sleep with the painting looming in his one-room flat. Let’s see what happens next.

Wide awake now, James stared at the painting, trying to grasp what about it bothered him. Electricity seemed to fill the space between himself and the image of a fierce Asian beauty. Although her dress was demure and the surrounding details peaceful, the intensity of her expression promised that no one and nothing would stand in the way of what she desired.

It made his blood run cold.

How did the artist achieve that? James wondered. His stomach growled, and he silenced it with a few bites of old, dried bread, hard and tasteless. Washing it down with a swallow of cheap wine, he then took a cloth and wiped away the dust and accumulated grime on the painting, examining the brush strokes and colors. Ah, I see...

James looked at his own work, aimless and unfinished as it was. He just didn’t know what he was trying to do, most of the time. But this old piece of art gave him a new idea. A bold idea, although some might even call it sacrilegious.

Rather than allow the fierce gaze of the painted woman to give him further bad dreams, he would paint over it. He would remake her in the image of someone else. Someone he would want to see out of the corner of his eye in the wee hours of the night. Mixing his own work with that of another was against every rule of art James had been taught, but he no longer cared. He had purchased the painting, and it was his to do as he liked.

James worked, matching colors and mixing new ones, as the calls of night birds turned to the sounds of dawn and the light grew outside his windows. Every stroke of paint was a thrill, mixing his fresh vision with that of a long-ago artist that he did not know.

At last he stepped back and put down his tools. It was finished. She was… beautiful. No longer fearsome, but welcoming. Yet still with an air of mystery about her.

Exhausted, he fell into bed and immediately went to sleep. He had thought not to dream at all after all that effort, but he was mistaken. In his dreams, the two women of the painting chased him through the streets of the town, up alleys and down avenues, past shops and homes closed up for the night. At last he reached his door and rushed inside, bolting it behind him. Panting, he waited, but heard no sound outside the door. They were gone.

Relieved, he went into his studio and turned on the light–only to see the new woman he had brushed over the old painting pushing her way out of the canvas and reaching for him!

His heart crashing about in his chest, James fell back and rolled to get away. Then, with a jarring thud, he fell out of his bed–and out of his dream.

A dream, a dream, it was only a dream!

He crawled to his feet and rubbed his face with his trembling hands. Scowling, he picked up the empty bottle of wine and tossed it into the trash bin. No more of that after midnight!

James filled a mug with fresh water, and sat in his favorite chair, savoring the sound of birdsong and the light coming in the windows. He finally turned his eyes upon the painting, and was pleased to see that the woman remained flat on the canvas, holding a cup of tea and smiling. Perhaps he could find more pieces of old, abandoned art and breathe new life into them. The thought pleased him.

But first, I must see if I can find a buyer for this piece!

This was a fun challenge, to finish a story that someone else started. Another way that I pushed myself during the creation of this piece was in the merging of LEGO photography and using Photoshop to combine elements to fill in the background.

In a way, James’s experience using someone else’s art to create his own is a reflection of what I did with the photos here. I took stock photography from a site called Unsplash, which offers free images for personal or commercial use. The background of James’s flat is not part of the original photo I took.

Next week, we will see what type of story Ann has written to complete “The Artist’s Mystery”!

What About You?

Have you combined photos or used software to edit your photos? What was the most ambitious adjustment to a photo you’ve done?