The Finished Painting

I don’t know what happened to the summer, but it’s already October, and Sabrina’s finished the painting she was doing of me. Sabrina’s a famous artist who asked me to sit for her when we met when we all were invited to a weekend party up in Santa Barbara last May. I’ve been sitting for her at least twice a week since June, and, last week, she said painting was ready for me to see.

I had no idea what to expect, especially as she didn’t let me have even a peek at the picture while she was working on it. It took quite a few more sessions than she’d said it would to get the painting done. Part of that was because she changed her mind a whole mess of times about painting me shirtless or in a shirt. She said she’d settled on shirtless, then, a couple weeks later, she changed her mind one more time, and said she wanted me in a baseball jersey after all. So I brought my old Crawdads jersey over again, and she hated the colors (red and black) even more than she did the first time she saw it. Candy Crawdad sure as heck didn’t feel that way about how I looked in it…but you can’t expect any kind of consensus where chicks are concerned lol.

So Sabrina surprised me the next time I came over to sit with a brand new Corey Seager jersey – the kind with a red number 5 on the front – and asked me to put it on.

“You might as well get something out of this,” Sabrina said. “I hope you like it. I called Luke and he said Corey Seager was your favorite player. He also said he thought Seager was hot, but that I wasn’t supposed to tell you that he has gay appeal.” She laughed. And I don’t care how hot Luke thinks he is. Seager’s still one heck of a shortstop.

“It’s awesome, thanks.” I slipped it on, and she said she liked the effect: the blue writing was gonna catch my eyes perfectly. The only problem is that I really didn’t want to be painted in the jersey of a team I wasn’t on. It took Sabrina a little while to get that, then she came to a solution:

“How about I paint ‘Crawdads’ instead of ‘Dodgers’ – in different lettering. And we’ll put your number instead of 5. What was it?”

“23.”

“That sound good to you?”

It did. So I finished buttoning up the jersey, then she stopped me.

“I want the shirt unbuttoned. And hands in pockets like before. No…no…hands on the other side of the jersey tails, so that they’re pulled back…” She had to come over and show me. It took forever every time I sat for her to get the shirt the way she wanted it, but she’s the artist and by this point she clearly did know what she wanted.

When the day came for me to see the painting – October 1 – I had no idea what to expect. And I had even less of an idea what I was going to say…especially if I didn’t like it. I wasn’t even sure what it was I should be looking at, me or Sabrina’s artistry. Ok, y’all know me: I was gonna be looking at how she made me look lol.

And she made me look great.

There was nothing in the painting that I would have wanted to look different, even the open jersey, which I was afraid would look gay. It didn’t; Sabrina was right. It also looked nothing at all like her portrait of Luke. I was glad about that. I was hoping my painting would look original, and not just be one in a series of pretty boy portraits by Sabrina.

So I was dang pleased and I told her it looked great.

“You mean you look great,” she said, smiling as she signed the bottom corner of the canvas.

“I…”

“Admit it,” she said. So I blushed instead of nodding. “It’s ok. Every model is like that. There’s no way you can see it objectively. Still, I like for my sitters to be happy with my work, even if the public is going to see the painting from an entirely different angle.”

Sabrina said was pleased with the finished work as well, and that she wanted to have an unveiling of it for some close friends. She said she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with it long-term, but she definitely wanted other people to see it. It turned out to be very few people when we all got together early this week, just Jonas, Joyce, Luke (who was curious enough to make the trip down from Santa Barbara just to see the painting) and two other dudes, both friends of Sabrina’s who are involved in the art business. I think one of them runs the gallery that represents her; I never got what the other dude did.

I’ve never been to an unveiling of a new painting, and I was pretty nervous about what they’d all think of the picture. There was a bottle of champagne and a couple beers on ice for both me and Jonas. The painting was on an easel standing on the little stage that I’d posed on with a cloth over it. I reckon Sabrina likes a little drama lol, but that’s probably an artist thing.

She got everyone’s attention, pulled away the cloth, there was a little applause….

…and the first person to say something was Luke.

“Shit, she made you look hotter than me!”

“He’s right, you know,” the gallery dude said to me. I didn’t know that I agreed with him and Luke, but he looked like he would be a good judge of if a dude was hot.

“I…I’m afraid I can’t tell,” I said, feeling like I was blushing pretty bad.

“Straight guys always say that,” said the gallery dude.

“Oh…he knows how good-looking he is,” said Luke. Gay guys usually aren’t as into giving other guys shit the way we straight guys are, so I was a little surprised. Although I guess that was some pretty gay shit to give me lol.

“Like you’ve never looked in the mirror,” I answered.

“I thought you said you couldn’t tell whether another dude was hot,” Luke said.

“Whoa,” said the gallery dude. “I don’t think I can handle an argument between you two over who’s hotter.”

“Good-looking and hot aren’t the same thing,” I said, maybe a little defensively. “I can tell Luke’s good-looking. Any honest straight guy can do that. But hot’s another story.”

“He’s got a point,” said Luke. “And we’re really making him blush way too much.”

That only made me feel like I was blushing more.

Luckily, Sabrina came over to us and changed the subject back to her painting.

“So what’s the verdict?,” she asked.

“I think it’s very good,” said the gallery guy. “But Luke here thinks you made him…what’s your name again, young man?” He meant me, so I told him. “That you made Hunter look hotter than him. And I think he’s right.”

“Did I?,” Sabrina seemed real surprised. “That’s peculiar. That’s not what I had in mind at all. But the brush has its own ideas.”

I really wanted to stop blushing, but I couldn’t make it happen. I also wanted to know what Sabrina meant by saying that making me hotter wasn’t what she had in mind.

“Are you embarking on a series of paintings of absurdly good-looking male models?,” the other art dude asked Sabrina, coming up to us. I must have been the color of a raspberry by that point, although I felt a little better when I looked over at Luke and caught him blushing a little too.

“I’m not sure,” Sabrina said. “I’m getting the feeling I’m getting upstaged by my sitters.” She laughed. But I could tell she knew better: if I was ‘hot’ in the painting, it was because of her. Or her brushes, if they really do have a mind of their own. I knew that much. This was my first experience with a famous artist…but don’t artists usually choose good-looking models anyway? It’s not like choosing me and Luke was so weirdass an idea.

“You haven’t told us what you think,” Sabrina said, getting Joyce’s attention. “And you too, Jonas.”

“The gay consensus is that it’s a very hot canvas,” said the other art guy. “What’s the straight woman’s opinion?”

“It’s wonderful,” said Joyce. “You really captured him. It was a great idea to have him wear the baseball jersey.” Joyce heard a lot about Sabrina’s changing her mind about the shirt at the beginning of the summer. “And you certainly made him look hot.”

Now even Joyce was making me blush. All I could think of was getting to the bathroom so I could put cold water on my face.

“I don’t get it,” said Sabrina, “I really don’t. I don’t like to talk about my own work, but I really thought that I was making Hunter look like the athletic Apollo and have Luke be the Dionysian stud.”

I mumbled something that I’m sure was incoherent. I mean, I know my mythology from Shakespeare, but I didn’t understand what she was getting at.

“It’s simple,” said Jonas. “It’s the difference between a gay sitter and a straight sitter. Not that I’m accusing you of having a thing for your model, my dear.”

“There are painters who need to sleep with everything they paint,” said Sabrina.

“You should watch out if she keeps choosing such hot guys,” warned the gallery dude.

“I’m not the jealous type,” Jonas said. “Besides…then she’d have had to paint me…and we agreed before we got married that she’d never do that.” He laughed. “But it is very well done. These boys do seem to have inspired you.”

I knew she was gonna say something that would make me blush again. And she did:

“Look at the two of them,” she said. (I was standing next to Luke at this point.) “They’d inspire anyone.”

The blushing was getting so silly that I finally broke out laughing. So did Luke.

“Give us a break,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said, unable to look up at anyone, “please.”

“Ok, we’ll spare you further discussion of your beauty,” said Sabrina. “Sorry if it got out of hand.”

I was still laughing too nervously to say “no worries.”

“What are your plans for the canvas?,” the gallery guy said. I was wondering the same thing. I reckon it’s hard not to wonder what’s going to happen to a painting of you.

“I think I’m going to hold it for the show next year,” said Sabrina. I know nothing about galleries, so I needed more of an explanation. Luckily, she gave me one: “I’m having a one-woman show next summer. I’ve been saving up canvasses for that for a while. Yours’ll be one of those. I definitely like the painting and want it shown.”

It wasn’t at all like she was asking my permission to show the painting…not that I had any right to tell her what to do with it anyway. Besides…it was a good painting…and I don’t mean that just because it looked like me and, apparently, made me look hot lol.

So it looks like ‘Portrait of a Baseball Player’ (which is the current title of the picture, although Sabrina said she might change it by next summer) is going to be in a gallery show. Y’all should keep tabs on that if you’re interested in buying it.

“She did a great job,” Joyce said to me as I was driving us home. “Lucky for my bank account the house is all decorated and there’s no room for a big painting.”

“Would you have bought it – the way Justen bought the one of Luke?”

“Would you want me to?,” she asked.

“Naah,” I answered. “That would be a little weird. It’s a little creepy that Justen has the one of Luke, although he’s also got that huge gallery…”

“…and one of the great collections of modern art in Southern California,” said Joyce, finishing my sentence. “I like having things on the walls, but I’m not going to start exhibiting original oils, especially by famous artists. Besides, I’m sure it’s going to cost a fortune.”

“How much do you think? I didn’t want to ask.”

“I have no idea. Do you care?”

“Fuck yeah,” I answered, being totally honest, even if I probably should have said I didn’t care. “I mean…it’s not like they’re putting a price tag on me…but, on the other hand…”

“We’ll have to wait until summer to find out,” said Joyce. “The good thing is that the picture is a success, Sabrina’s pleased with it…and so are you. Admit it: you even like it that everyone said your picture turned out hotter than Luke’s.”

“You know me and Luke aren’t having a beauty contest, right? I mean…he’s gay, so we’re not in competition with each other.”

“Of course not. That’s why y’all” – Joyce has taken to saying ‘y’all’ lately – “spent two days in the pool seeing who can hold his breath longer underwater. There’s no spirit of competition between the two of you whatsoever.” Ok, so maybe there is. “If it were a beauty contest, though, I’d vote for you.”

Dang it. I was blushing again.

“The real question is did you enjoy the experience. I said you should do it, remember.”

“Yeah,” I said. “It was cool. I’m glad you encouraged me to try it. And you know what I liked best about tonight?”

“What?”

“That nobody made a Dorian Gray joke.”

“Good thing you said that,” said Joyce. “I was about to make one.”

“Wait 20 years and tell it to the picture.”

We laughed as I pulled into the driveway.

 

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